Summary: Christ explains the new rules of the Kingdom of God.
Laws of the Kingdom Pt.3
The Secrets of a Healthy Christian
Sunday, May 21st, 2006
We were visiting with my mother a while back and we were sitting around on a Sunday night and someone saw that the Oscars were on. I had never really watched the Academy Awards for any length of time before and it blew me away how proud of themselves the movie industry really is. A ton of money goes into an event like that. Every actress has to have the perfect dress and they spin and smile their way across the red carpet for one purpose only, to be seen and to be told how wonderful and beautiful and glamorous they really are. And people like us eat it up. They have award shows for athletes, for singers, for Christian singers, for country singers, for television, for movies, anything that can be awarded, is. If you have children in school then you’ve been to awards banquets. I can remember loving those things, you’d get a little certificate that said honor roll or merit roll or if they couldn’t find anything else, you get the He’s not real bright but he tries hard award. We love recognition!
When I would take my teens to Delta Lake Camp to work with the Haven Camps, the camps for mentally retarded adults, at the end of the week we would have an award ceremony. We would make them little medals to wear around their necks. The campers looked forward to it all week, they talked about it, they wore their awards from previous years, they tried to guess what they would win this year. We would spend hours coming up with the awards and decorating the medals. We had best dancer, best smile, best jokes, best helper, and things like that. It was the highlight of the week because the campers were being recognized for something, anything, the name of the award didn’t matter as long as they got one.
As a society, we crave recognition for the things that we do. We may act modest and say, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” But most of us on the inside are going, “yes, you should have, finally someone realizes just how wonderful I am!
We’re used to being patted on the back when we succeed. We have come to expect it and for many, they feel that this should happen in our spiritual lives as well. If we give regularly, if we can pray elegantly, if we fast weekly, for many, the approval of God in these areas is not enough and they look to men for affirmation that they’ve got the Christian thing down pat. There’s a lot of Christians who are walking around and their halos barely fit any more because of the swelling of their heads. Jesus turns his attention now to the disciplines of a Christian. The things that ought to be present in our lives for the glory of God and His kingdom, for the deepening of our relationship with God, and not for the way that it makes us look before others. Jesus looks to the motives of our service and sacrifice. Once again, turning the attention from the outside to what’s in the heart.
Last week we looked at a long passage in which Jesus began to lay out the spirit of God’s law for His people. He shared very plainly with them that He had not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it, to give it it’s full meaning and to show the people the heart of their God who had given them the Law. He basically says, hey you think the law is
tough now, you don’t even really understand what it means. You’ve heard it said it’s the act that’s sin, I’m telling you it’s the thought that counts. He took away any hope the people had of being Holy on their own, of being worthy of a relationship with God because even if they kept every last letter of the law, if their lives were perfect on the inside, one stray thought was enough to condemn. So when Jesus teaches that no one comes to the father except through him, the people have already had the spirit of the law laid out for them and they now know that salvation through obedience to the law is impossible. He revealed to them their hopelessness in order that He might share with them their Hope. The One way, a relationship with God through belief in His Son.
Now, He changes gears slightly again and he tells us the secrets of a healthy Christian. A Christian is to keep some secrets in their lives. Now, keeping secrets can get you into a lot of trouble. In a marriage, secrets never turn out well. In a friendship, honesty and openness will always turn out much better than being secretive and trying to keep things from each other. But in our relationship with Christ, the motivation for our actions is to be for the glory of God, not for our glory and because of that, there are some things that we are to keep to ourselves, or more accurately, between us and God. It’s easy to allow our spiritual disciplines to turn into a source of pride. To take those things that God commands and flaunt them before others so that they can see how spiritual you really are and so that you can bask in the attention and adulation of men. This was the case with that troublesome threesome that we have already spent so much time looking at. The Pharisees, the Chief Priests, and the Teachers of the Law. Every aspect of their spiritual life revolved around the praises of men. The wanted only to look holier than everyone else, their motives were selfish. The more perfect that the exterior was, the more that they could condemn the average man for the way that he lived, and the more prestige they would gain in the eyes of their peers. Every complaint you hear about the church and Christianity today was true of these men. They were the ultimate group of superficial, judgmental, self-righteous, self-promoting, hypocrites. Jesus addresses three areas in which these men were using spirituality for their own gain.