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Some notes from the 2005 Bible conference
"Building on the Solid Rock"
January 8, 2005
First study: Matthew 6 (Part I) | Second study: Matthew 6 (Part II) | Third study: Matthew 7 | Order tapes/CDs

First Bible study: Matthew 6:1-21
Second study: Matthew 6 (Part II) | Third study: Matthew 7        Top  

At salvation, Christians are included not only in the Church of God but also in the kingdom of God. These chapters in Matthew give us the Lord's own words about how we should live as subjects of His kingdom (compare Matthew 5:1-3).

Christ's rights as the Lord are especially connected with the principles of the kingdom. His rights as the Head are especially connected with the principles of the Church.

Living for Christ's kingdom The truths of the kingdom and the Church are never in conflict with each other; rather, they support each other. Christians may be using their spiritual gifts for the blessing of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16), and by the same acts they are serving the Lord as subjects in His kingdom. We should consider this well because it makes us realize our responsibility for proper service.

When we become Christians, we are switching masters. We learn to appreciate the rights of Christ in our own lives, and then we also appreciate His rights among His people collectively.

Christ's kingdom will be fully seen when He visibly comes back to earth to reign as the King of kings. By remembering that we are subjects of the kingdom of heaven, we display His kingdom now. What the kingdom is going to be then should be seen exactly the same way now among Christians.

2 Timothy 4:8 uses the phrase "those that love His appearing." The love for Christ's appearing, when He will be recognized universally as the Supreme King, affects us today.

The Lordship of Christ suggests
    ownership, because He is our Creator and Redeemer;
    supremacy, because He deserves the preeminent place in our lives; and
    submission, because we should respond to His rights with humility.

In this part of Matthew 6, there are three specific topics in which believers should show the right attitudes. The first verse calls these topics "acts of righteousness". (Several translations suggest that verse 1 is an introduction, and verse 2 begins the first topic.) The three areas are charitable deeds ("doing alms"), prayer, and fasting. The emphasis in all three areas is on avoiding pride and hypocrisy. Under the Lordship of Christ, our lives will change people and point them to Him.

The first area deals with acts of charity or kindness. Do not do your good deeds to be seen by others We should not do kind deeds in ways designed to bring attention to ourselves (Matthew 6:2). Otherwise, we will only receive a human reward; but the Father sees in secret, and His rewards are eternal. The Father is the One who evaluates our actions and detects whether we really have the supremacy of Christ as our heart's motive.

We should not even dwell personally on the kind deeds we have done, because we will become proud (6:3).

Charitable deeds are not limited to giving money. There are many ways we can give of ourselves to help others. At the same time, it's true that giving money is a very significant way for us to show our commitment to God's kingdom. If we are not faithful in handling material things, God cannot entrust greater spiritual things to us (Luke 16:11).

Our attitude towards prayer is another way to display our discipleship. The hypocrites would pray out of obligation and in ways that would show off their supposed spirituality in public (Matthew 6:5). Public prayer is not prohibited (the Lord Jesus also prayed publically, even in front of unbelievers); but here we are encouraged to value private prayer rather than purposely praying to be seen by others (6:6).

We are not to pray with empty prayers that are frequently repeated by rote, as if we will thereby get God's attention (6:7). The prophets of Baal prayed this way (1 Kings 18:16). Even the model prayer the Lord gave His disciples (6:9-13) is not designed for such repetition; He said we should pray "after this manner" but not that the prayer itself was to be repeated. We never find any of the early Christians in Acts praying these exact words. Yet the principles of this prayer are very helpful.

The Father should be exalted in our prayers, and we announce that we would like to see His kingdom come to earth as soon as possible (6:9-10). We surrender to His will and acknowledge our dependence on His daily supply of our needs (vv. 10-11).

The state of our own hearts is a key aspect of prayer. The forgiveness of others (6:12) is the only aspect of this model prayer that the Lord elaborates upon (vv.14-15).

Fasting is the third specific area the Lord addresses (6:16-18). It always seems to be attached to prayer when it's mentioned in the Bible. The act of fasting is one of self-denial, as if our bodies are joining in to share a burden that our spirits feel.

There also seems to be a moral aspect of fasting that is not limited to abstaining from food. Anna was an older sister who fasted every day, but it's likely she wasn't giving up food on a daily basis. She was exercising self-denial as she waited for Christ's arrival into the world (Luke 2:36-38).

However, the self-denial was not to be emphasized to others (Matthew 6:16). Sometimes today people emphasize what they have given up for the Lord, or speak about the things they would not do because they are Christians. This draws undue attention to ourselves.

We can store up heavenly treasures as we live by these kingdom principles. Proverbs 23:26 says, "Give me your heart." If we give our hearts to the Lord, then He has everything---our wallets, our prayer closets, and our whole bodies.

Second Bible study: Matthew 6:22-34
First study: Matthew 6 (Part I) | Third study: Matthew 7        Top

This part of Matthew 6 emphasizes our priorities. Verses 19-21 asked where we are storing our treasure. The rich farmer (Luke 12:16-21) planned to store up his produce so he could have an easy life, but he forgot his spiritual needs. Only heavenly treasure is safe from corruption and violence, which are two notable features of the world from the time of Noah onward (Genesis 6:11). Where is your treasure?

We should learn how to assess our treasure to be sure it's heavenly. Some things are just earthly; the necessary parts of daily life are not bad in themselves. But if we overemphasize those areas, they can become worldly treasures, which are never profitable in God's kingdom.

By contrast, Moses knew how to evaluate the treasures of Egypt as well as the treasures of Christ, and he was able to refuse the worldly treasures even though it brought greater reproach (Hebrews 11:24). Where did he learn this? No doubt it was at home, during the few years his mother cared for him before he lived in Pharaoh's palace.

Our treasure is stored up through the daily choices we make. The scriptures connect this treasure with things like hospitality, financial giving to the Lord's work, attitudes of faith and brotherly kindness, and many other daily activities (Hebrews 6:10; Philippians 4:16-17; 2 Peter 1:5-11; etc.).

In Revelation 19:8, we learn that we are making contributions now to the Church's "wedding dress." The righteous acts of the saints of God form the garment which the Church will display in the future as the bride of Christ.

Further, our rewards and treasure are connected with knowing Christ (Philippians 3:10) and Christlikeness---more about what we are than about what we do.

Storing up treasure is not for our own glory, but for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Therefore we need a "single eye" (Matthew 6:22)---vision that is clear, undistracted, and simply focused on the rights of the Lord Jesus. Then we will be able to discern if our actions are storing up heavenly treasures or not.

As a result of good spiritual vision, our bodies will be lighted and shining. There's a result in our own lives when we focus on heavenly treasure. Compare 2 Corinthians 3:7: Moses' face reflected the glory of God, just as ours will (v. 18).

We only have one heart. That heart has to be dedicated somewhere. We cannot have two master passions (Matthew 6:24).

The longer we serve the masters of the world, the more they take from us. The longer we serve the Master in heaven, the more He gives to us in blessing.

Possessions and riches are not wrong in themselves. Loving them and focusing on storing them up, as if we can depend on them for our future security, seem to be the issues warned against.

Verses 25-34 provide good tests for evaluating our priorities and our treasure. If we are overly anxious about the needs of this life, we have not learned the lessons of these verses. Our Father cares for the birds and flowers, so why be anxious about our daily needs? Worry can't produce any results for tomorrow, and worry probably indicates that my heart is not focused on heavenly treasure.

This is the place to apply the promise, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

These verses do not minimize our daily responsibilities. We may have schooling or jobs or families. Yet these things can all be viewed as being submitted to the rights of our Lord and King, so that discharging those responsibilities properly will actually form part of our heavenly treasure.

Third Bible study: Matthew 7:1-14, 24-29
First study: Matthew 6 (Part I) | Second study: Matthew 6 (Part II)        Top

Matthew 7 emphasizes our relationships with others. The first lesson (v. 1) teaches us not to judge other servants of the Master (compare Romans 14:4). There certainly are times when we should judge, as in Matthew 7:16 or 1 Corinthians 6:1-2. But in this context, we do not judge. God knows the heart

This verse is often applied to judging the motives of others, which we can never do. Motives are not plain to us, and we often make wrong assumptions. Only God knows the heart.

The Word of God reveals to our own selves the intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12), but we are not to try to imagine the intentions of others.

Another connection would be James 4:11, in which we are warned not to speak evil of our brother, particularly about issues that the Scriptures don't address. Doing so shows our pride, as if we are actually judging God's word for not addressing those issues.

In the context of Matthew 7, we are not to judge because the critical standard we apply in judgment will actually be applied to us. Consider the case of David, who had sinned by taking another man's wife and then arranging the man's death. When the prophet Nathan told a parable about it, David pronounced judgment on the selfish man in the story. Then Nathan said, "You are the man" (2 Samuel 11-12).

Romans 2:1-3 warns against judging others and then doing the same things ourselves, which is often the case. We can't judge accurately because we have not dealt with the evil in our own lives. While we are obsessed with noticing the "speck" in another person's eye, the Lord says to us, "Look, a plank is in your own eye! (Matthew 7:3-4). He expects us to be attentive to our own behavior before we try to help others.

The hypocrites in chapter 6 were unbelievers, but here even a believer is a hypocrite (7:5). Imagine the lack of sensitivity in not knowing that a beam is in your own eye! We would not want the help of an eye doctor who himself could not see clearly because of such impaired vision.

This does not mean correction of others should never be done. After we remove the beam and see clearly, we should be willing to help if it turns out there really is a speck in our brother's eye (7:5). Even then, it will not be received well if my only interactions with that brother are to point out his "specks."

Verse 6 talks about keeping precious things away from "dogs" and "pigs." These were unclean animals to the Jewish people, and they represent scoffing unbelievers today. We don't try to force spiritual truths on those who reject them. The owner of these "pearls" is throwing them down; he doesn't seem to appreciate their spiritual value, either.

Next, in answer to the daily worries of chapter 6, the Lord describes a healthy prayer life (7:7-11). We keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. There may be repetition of these requests, but they are heartfelt, not empty as in 6:7.

Prayer is not a blank check. We can count on our Father to give good things to us; and He likes us to ask, as well (v. 11).

The right path is a narrow one, and it may be lonely because not many travel it. Yet it leads to life (7:13-14).

In the concluding words of the Lord's message, we ask ourselves, "Where is our foundation?" (7:24-29). There are many things upon which to build, but only the Lord Jesus and His teachings are solid rock. The key thing is to do what He has said (v. 24).

His closing shows that He had given the final word. Nothing comes after Him to add or detract. Not even the learned scribes spoke with the authority that He had.

At the Lord's birth, there were wise men who came from the East to bring Him their treasures. If we listen to the Lord ourselves, we can be wise men, too (7:24).

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