Message for 6/14: “Acts of Righteousness”

We continue to meet in person at church on Sunday at 11 am. For those joining from home, here is a recording and copy of the sermon for this week.

June 14 Sunday 2020 Sunday Message

Call to worship: Jeremiah 9:23-25

23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts – boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

25 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh.

Tithe and Offering Prayer: Father of all creation, Lord this morning we ask you to sanctify us and by doing so, our gifts and offerings of our very selves to you. Thank you for letting us be a force for good in this world Lord and we pray that you continue to give us discernment in our work for the Kingdom. Amen!

Message: Matthew 6:1-18

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Message: “Acts of Righteousness”

I am excited to talk with you today about a concept that is central to our faith as Christians and members of God’s family. Acts of righteousness accomplished by the Body of Christ is a continuation of our discussion last week as we talked about “Rich and Poor no More”. How our attitudes directly reflect how we look at wealth, what wealth means to us, and then what other people in relation to wealth mean to us.

A major idea that I wanted to get across last week was that when I have allowed the Lord into my heart and given myself entirely over to Him, my attitude changes for the better. No longer am I hoarding what God has provided me, such as;

  1. Money
  2. Property
  3. Intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge
  4. Spiritual gifts
  5. Knowledge of God
  6. My relationship with God and His family

No, now I am trying to identify what people need and then filling that need. This takes more than the wisdom of the world; it requires a relationship in and with the Lord and other Christians to learn and then follow what the Lord instructs us from our call to Worship this morning in Jeremiah 9:23

23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches

Because this is also wealth that has been provided by God, and is to be shared with those less fortunate. What can we express joy in?

24 but let the one who boasts – boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

Understanding in the Lord, and then the logical transformation that takes place from our relationship in the Lord, sets the stage for today’s message “Acts of Righteousness”.

I want to take us back to the first eight Sunday messages of this year, when we looked at the Beatitudes. Remember them? The building blocks that Christ used to grow us beyond the Ten Commandments and the Law of the Old Covenant, into a personal walk with the Lord. Fostering a deeper relationship with God, and a much more enriched perspective of “Our Father’s World” and our place in it. I would briefly like to give a quick summation of on the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), and my take of how the change in our attitudes lead to acts of righteousness.

1). “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

2).“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

3). “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

4). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

5). “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

6).“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

7). “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

8). 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you, and persecute you, and utter all kinds of evil against you, falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Or we could say, The Eight Joys that help us to be closer to God:

  1. The happy are the poor in spirit, because they are humble and will have heaven.
  2. Joy goes to those who mourn, because they regret and repent their sins and they will be comforted.
  3. The meek are elated because they have changed their attitudes and now pursue the good things in life, and they will inherit the earth now that they know what to do with it.
  4. Great happiness follows those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. Because they want to fill up others, they will be filled and their cup will overflow.
  5. That great joy follows merciful people because they are interested in mercy instead of revenge, and God will pay in kind.
  6. All of these things have been grooming us, in order to awake our sleepwalk in the world, to be (more) pure in heart, because purity is a process and a hope for a gift from our Lord, we may now see, and experience
  7. This has enabled us to be at peace with ourselves, other people, and with God. We are now becoming like our Father in Heaven and we are becoming more like God’s children. Peacemakers in this hurting world!
  8. Now that you have learned to be humble (Joy #1), you can see joy in persecution, yours is the kingdom of heaven. Not because it’s easy, but because you now know the way. Not by acting like a walking martyr, but showing grace. And enduring the stuff of the moment is nothing compared to eternity.

Now that the Lord has provided us with a way to grow in him through God’s eight step program of personal development, we are now better prepared to go to yet another level in Christ. Reflected in Acts of Righteousness, as touched upon in our message reading in Matthew from the Sermon of the Mount.

Preceded by the Beatitudes in Matt 5, the Lord illustrates in chapter 6 the following examples of acts of righteousness. By the way, the passage from versus 1-18 is a pillar of our faith with the middle being like Holy of Holies, the Lord’s Prayer.

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

If I were to summarize, these are the highlights:

1). Giving to others

2). Prayer

  1. Asking for forgiveness
  2. Forgiving others

3). Showing grace in hardship even when Fasting

This lesson is kind of a like a Chiasm. A chiasm in literary terms takes you on a trip into and then back out of the crux of the message. Like hiking into and back out of a canyon. When something is written like an in and out hike, it’s easier to remember the passage which is handy especially two thousand years ago when people had to memorize scripture; because there wasn’t a lot of three ringed notebook paper available at Walmart.

So, my thought is the Lord is teaching:

  • To think and care for others (giving)
  1. To think about God (being in prayer)
  2. Asking forgiveness (confessing in prayer)
  3. To think about others (forgiving in prayer)
  4. Thinking of others while serving / fasting (giving)

This pattern helps us to become Christians of the working day, where grace from our Lord enables us to rise to the occasion of service. And, our being in relationship with God and other people are our true intertwined states of being, as we build a future together. As Abraham Lincoln would write in his first inaugural address “The Mystic Cords of Memory”. He was talking our country, we are taking our church that is built in our day to day worship of God through service. Growing us as a family in God and leading to “by the better angels of our nature” a deeper walk with Him.

In fact, Lincoln is a great example of how God uses and grows people who have struggled to understand God’s existence, into anointed servants for the Lord’s service through acts of righteousness. One only need read his writings to watch Lincoln grow into a believer.

So, after all of that; what are acts of righteousness?

Well, here is a rapid summery of some random ideas that I have today. A list that is always changing to some degree as my relationship with the Lord develops:

A). Giving or service for others; I have a tithe that the world sees, and an offering that is meant for only God and me to know about. Why two different approaches?

1): The first is leadership through example, when we come together to do Church projects. We do this individually, and also as a Church. When the Church is the Church.

2): The second is serving when it’s only me and God. God through me, using me to serve others and it would be inappropriate to take the credit for something God is doing.

Our Church does this when we assist, pray for, and outright help those in need in which we do not pat ourselves on the back, but just do. In His Holy, precious Name. If we are all about good press, we will drown out the benefits that service provides others and ourselves.

B): Praying to God for ourselves and others; Again, I like you have a prayer time with my family in God, and then time alone.

1): Corporate (Praying as a Family in God) prayer comes in our Worship Services, our Bible classes, Fellowship events, and any time we come together as a Congregation. It also is when we pray with our families at home before each meal and at family prayer time.

2): The times of prayer that Jesus is instructing on in Matt. 6 is that privet time when we are building our relationship in and with God! Hopefully as I grow in my relationship in the Lord, my prayer life will become deeper, and more on-going in nature.

3): All prayer (corporate and privet / group and solo / in sadness and rejoicing) are a confession of who God is in majesty, and what we are not in repenting our defects in sin.

Quite simply, the Lord has given us a template of how we can construct our own prayers to God, and we remind ourselves of this Holy of Holies prayer each and every Sunday in our recitation at the end of prayer concerns:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,  
(Reflecting the simple truth)
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,       
(Simply, God will have His way)
on earth as it is in heaven.                   
(Everywhere)
11 Give us today our daily bread.         
(We rely on God)
12 And forgive us our debts,                       
(To heal us)
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
(As we serve)
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’      
(To hold us true)

The rest of the prayer is Church tradition of fact:

For thine (yours) is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever – Amen!

For many across the Christian Church, this is a prayer that we instinctively recite in the King James translation, because it is the way we learned it as children. For me, and this is important, this is my thought. You have to do the heavy lifting and think and pray for yourselves. For me it is not important that we get all the words right, or use the same terminology across the church. It is the meaning behind it that counts, and the Spirit knows.

When we say:

Our Father who art in heaven –

Or

Our Father in Heaven

Both approaches work. In fact, God is where you are right now, church, home, the mall, work, active duty military oversees, in Congress, on the farm, on the trails hiking or in prison, and in our self-imposed jails. God will be with you, if you let Him. If you invite Him into your life. Don’t get hung up on rhetoric (words). King James is beautiful, so is modern English and German, and French, and Spanish. But none of it matters if you are not in scripture and in prayer. We have a common way of praying in church to make it intelligible to us worshipping, but we do not judge others on translations.

This prayer shows us that God wants to be in our lives and to walk with us. It also reflects just how serious God is about Forgiveness!

C): Forgiveness from God, forgiveness for and from others; The authority and ability of forgiveness is a culmination of all that we have learned from and in the Lord!

We begin with our faith and trust that the Lord does forgive us of our trespasses / debts (our sin). It seems that through our trust in the Lord, we are now better empowered to forgive others, little by little. In some cases, this takes a life time of hard work, but worth the effort. In fact, all of us must be in the hard work of the forgiveness business. No exceptions!

All of the tools that God has given us, help us in our quest to seek forgiveness from God and others, and then give forgiveness even in the midst of our pain. Here is a quick list of what God has given us to grow:

1). The Ten Commandments (Right and Wrong) Genesis 20, Deuteronomy 5.

2). The great commandment from Jesus quoting Torah (Old Testament) Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Matt. 22:37-40.

3). The Beatitudes (what joy is like) a template on how to grow deeper in our Lord Matt. 5.

4). From growth we produce the fruit of “Acts of Righteousness” (Matt. 6), and taking us to places we never really considered before.

This fruit as Jesus explains are:

a). Giving to others

b). Praying to God for ourselves and others

c). Asking God for and also giving others forgiveness

and finally, how to act when fasting, or I would highlight, in our last topic or righteousness today: …

D). How to act with grace while under pressure; Now that I have learned what being humble is by the Lord’s example and instruction, I no longer need to make a show of helping others, or in practicing my faithwalk in Him. It’s enough that God knows what is in my heart.

And so, by our not making a production a show of our;

  • Giving
  • Praying
  • Confessing
  • Forgiving
  • and Afflictions like Fasting:

We are now focused on considerations of others instead of glory or attention for ourselves. Now my mind is more concerned with how my neighbor is getting along than my own shortfalls. Our way of thinking is transformed.

This does not mean that we stop asking for prayers from others. On the contrary, we need prayers and to be in prayer for and from other people as demonstrated in the Lord’s Prayer. Prayer given and received, is our greatest power and gift that we have to give.

It means that we are now joyful warriors of the working day and we realized that how our demeanor and attitudes affect others in their faith walk. This is Grace under pressure, showing our love for each other, and our Lord Savior Jesus Christ.        Amen!

Benediction: Numbers 6:24-26