We are on our fourth part of a walk through the Sermon On The Mount! In the Beatitudes, at the beginning of this series... Jesus spoke to a culture (very much like ours) that built their holiness and merit before God on their works in the Law...Jesus opened His sermon by making it clear the exact opposite was true...He told them (and us), the only starting place with God is to realize that we CAN DO NOTHING... That we are hopelessly sinful... And there is no good in us! And that all we can do... ALL HE WANTS us to do...Is desperately, humbly seek HIM with all our hearts...
This is what the meat of the Sermon is expressing! Then in a series of examples about sin...
Jesus taught us the worth we place upon others in our hearts...Is far more important than simply refraining from outward appearances of sin against them! And that heartfelt worth is the only true measure of love we have for Him and others! Now... Jesus is about to explain that not only can our outward abstinence from sin be hollow and fake...But even our good and expected acts of righteousness (and seeming love) towards Him and others...Can be completely useless and unrewarded by Him...Those good works CAN ACTUALLY prove that our hearts even hate Him in comparison to other things in our lives!!
In this society in which we are all a part of today... I feel VERY STRONGLY...THIS is where the majority of Christians... Even in this room...Struggle and fail most in their walk! Listen to an assessment of one of our biggest modern social stigmas, from Psychology today... For a clue as to WHY!
Narcissism has been labeled a modern epidemic! You’ve heard me say it before… Here is the rest of the story. This has been repeated by numerous modern experts and studies...
"The term (narcissist) refers to an inflated view of the self, coupled with relative indifference to others. People who are high in this trait fail to help others unless there is immediate gain or recognition to themselves for doing so...
For the past three decades or a little more, researchers have been assessing both narcissism and empathy using questionnaires developed in the late 1970s...
The changes are highly significant statistically and sufficiently large that approximately 70 percent of students today score higher on narcissism and lower on empathy than did the average student thirty years ago..."
- Peter Gray Ph.D., Psychology Today, Why Is Narcissism Increasing Among Young Americans?, Posted Jan 16, 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans
Possible reasons given for these changes here, and in other studies were: The "misguided self-esteem movement"…Which has been used to build esteem through a focus on frequent praise and bragging placed upon children by teachers and parents... To an unhealthy level! And a protection from correction or discipline because they are special… Above those correcting even…
Which has begun to create an, "I'm better than everyone else!" mentality... Increased pressure to look, achieve and perform better than everyone else...(Because that is the measure of success they are given!) Has made other people enemies, competitors and those who may be manipulated in order to succeed...Rather than people to be loved and cherished! Social network sites have powerfully fueled this trend!! They are strongly linked to narcissistic behaviors and low self-esteem in the people that overuse them! - Peter Gray Ph.D., Psychology Today
By causing users to believe their opinion is expert, and desired in almost every topic...By causing users to become completely self-aware of what others think of them & what THEY are doing... Rather than focusing on and caring about others! If you wonder how this particular section of the Sermon on the Mount pertains to such a topic... Listen closely to what our God, Jesus Himself...Has to say about WHAT HE THINKS of our acts of kindness, holiness and worship! Jesus speaks of three different acts of kindness and worship which each of us probably does on at least a semi-regular basis...And then He tells why each one is a tell-tale sign of our hearts!!
Doing and Giving!
The first of three things for which Jesus warns us, is our motivation for doing good and giving to others! The reference to "Blowing trumpets" has no historical proof in actuality...And is no doubt being used by Jesus as a clear illustration of one who does everything with the desire to be acknowledged for their good deed!
Church with plaque or acknowledgment of ever penny given to build anything! Resentment of some when our church did not call media during Hurricane Katrina aid...Bragging about ability to teach or minister...Jealousy or anger over others teaching and ministering...Quitting when not enough recognition is given...Heard someone recently say, "I pat myself on the back for the ministry I've built... And then I look at theirs and say, 'My goodness look at theirs!'"
Many must be acknowledged for everything they do or they are disheartened and angry...They must socially telecast every good action they ever do! Some things can be done before men to motivate and encourage others...(Let your light so shine... That they praise Christ… Not YOU!)
It quickly becomes very obvious when someone simply wants constant attention and affirmation of their good works and deed! Jesus says every good deed, every message taught, every penny given...
With the focus of what others will think of you...WILL NEVER BE ACKNOWLEDGED OR PRAISED BY GOD! BUT He also says... They are probably ok with that...Because, "They have their reward!"
Because their goal was not to please their Savior in the first place... But to lift up self before others!
Jesus says when you do a good thing... When you give or work for Me...Do it in secret, without all of the open show and expectations...And He will reward you openly! Here's what's so powerful and important about this act! To act secretly before HIS EYES only...Shows that you have REAL concern and love for those you are helping or teaching!!
EXAMPLE: Selfie while giving money, or even CPR! #helpinoutmybrokehomie!
It's exactly what we do... We just change the timing a bit! To do and give secretly, shows you know HE is real! Or it's a waste of time!!! This alone is the reason for much attention-getting! Shows that you trust that He will really reward you!! And thereby you don't need or want men's rewards! Couldn't stand in comparison, right?! Shows that what HE thinks of you is more important than any other!
EXAMPLE: I often tell Brenda, "Besides God, her thoughts and opinions mean more to me than anyone else!" Why? Because I hold her worth so high! Where do you hold HIS worth? Your motivations prove it!
This is not a discouragement or command against public praying! There are many times public praying is appropriate, necessary and worshipful! Jesus is saying that many times even public praying is done with the sole intent of being heard and praised by men!! This is sometimes the case, even when the public prayer was in the proper place and time! Some people, maybe even with good intentions in their heart, feel that to make many public prayers is to inspire others...
We are not called to do anything with the purposeful, mindful intent to first be an inspiration to others!!
If that is your conscious goal, you are already misled!! Everything you do should FIRST be with the single, heartfelt intent to reach and please God!!! If you inspire others while pursuing God that is great and appropriate! But if your actions are not personal and devoted to God first, they will be seen for what they are by others... Superficial!!! And they will not inspire anyone to be closer to God... They will deter them further by seeing the insincerity of your actions! This includes friends, acquaintances, media, even family and spouses!
Look for these patterns in your own actions as warning signs you may have the wrong motivations in prayer: You change your voice and even your way of speaking in public prayer! Suddenly using King James English or repeating Jesus' Name every other word!! You feel you must be heard or seen on a regular basis during prayer, so you may inspire others... (Majority of prayer is public!) For them to know you are a praying person is enough...It is not your primary goal to regularly share your private talk with Christ to the world! And it actually removes the Scriptural effectiveness of your prayers according to these verses! You are always worried about how you sounded to others when you pray!
(Or you always have to write prayers down before praying publicly)
God sees our prayer time with Him as intimate! It is our time to pour out our heart and feelings! Our time to listen intently to His heart! According to Jesus' Words...We often times even turn this opportunity into a public show!
EXAMPLE: Taking selfie in the middle of a private, intimate counseling session with someone! #privatetimewitmyhomie!
Next, as a show of contrast to how the hypocrites pray...Jesus gives an example of prayer! It is called the Lord's Prayer...But it is Not His Prayer! Does HE have to ask for forgiveness? NO! It is for teaching us! We cannot delve into a study on this prayer, it is a sermon in and of itself! But in a summary it is this:
PRAYER THEN, IS SIMPLY THIS:
Prayer for others is a joining of hearts in a sincere, combined, intimate request to One whom you love and trust dearly! It is not FIRST and foremost a time to be focused on teaching others, inspiring, or being seen! Those things are a side result…IF and ONLY IF the prayers have been sincere and proper! Not a goal!
There was only one day of required fasting for the Israelites even then...The Day of Atonement! Yet Pharisees fasted twice a week in show! And we are not even required to keep this Feast today...So there are no required fasts for us at all... Why? Because Jesus doesn't say "if" you fast, but "when" you fast...That is because a fast is absolutely voluntary as to if and when...But is a very natural act of passion...When a follower deeply desires to know God's will...And feel His Presence in their lives!
No need to be legalistic and militant with this...But fasting should probably be one of the MOST secret and intimate times before Christ of all! Except for those who are joining in the fast...
Or must know about it because it effects your time with them...There is no reason for anyone but God to know what you are doing! BECAUSE IT IS A LITERAL, PERSONAL, PASSIONATE ACTION FOR HIM ONLY! To show your desire for Him in your life!
To simply tell someone how long you have been fasting for a prayer... Even if it was for them personally...Is to take away the secret intimacy and trust that it will be seen and felt by your God!
It is to instantly change the entire reason for the fast to impressing people or getting glory!
EXAMPLE: Man in sackcloth and ashes in Israel! Look haggard for media selfie: #sufferingformyhomie!
Experts agree that much narcissism can be traced back to...A deep insecurity and need for acceptance that has not been met in the past...Or I feel strongly sometimes, a need to continue to fulfill the over acceptance and praise given in the past, that created unbalanced expectations and desires! Either way, the person who does everything with the desire to be seen and praised above others...Is living in disregard for, manipulating, and hurting other people...Is living in constant anxiety and pain as they are regularly and easily broken when not fulfilled as expected...Is ignoring and hurting the One Who gave everything for them... And deserves to be their Number One in return!
Will remain in emotional conflict and pain until they can recognize the true balance God created in our very souls!!!
Our culture is completely eating itself alive by thinking WE deserve everything, at the expense of anything or anyone else!!We live with a constant awareness…Of whether or not…You notice us... Please us... Agree with us...If not... We are grieved and offended!!
How about trusting the One that created you??!! And realizing that life is all about giving yourself for the worth of those around you! That's where real joy is... Regardless of what Hollywood...Our culture...Or your upbringing tells you!!
How about realizing that if the Creator of the Universe could make Himself of no importance to save and love you... Because of your incredible WORTH to Him!!!! That maybe His opinion is the only one you need to be worried about anyway! Maybe His favor, His praise, His approval, His intimate attention is the most important thing you could possibly strive for anyway! And maybe He is worthy of you working to lift HIM above your own notoriety and fame... Since He, as GOD, became nothing for YOU! Since you would not be here...Would not have any of the things you have...Would not be worthy of even being saved...Were it not for HIM ALONE anyway!
Everything that any of us have, was given by God anyway!!!! So it is not what we have or give that impresses Him...THAT...Is simply trying to get glory using what He gave us anyway...Instead… It is how sacrificially we give...And most importantly, with what heart we do so! It is using what we have been given anyway...To selflessly serve Him FIRST! (And others genuinely!) In love, not legalism!
THIS IS THE HEART OF THE ENTIRE SERMON ON THE MOUNT!
THIS IS THE HEART OF THE ENTIRE MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE!
JESUS IS TRYING TO BRING US BACK TO THIS HEART!
IS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS SO MANY OF YOU IGNORE!!
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