So today we continue this teaching on Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount…and I have to tell you, for me this has been a huge deal on a personal level. Jesus is literally laying out a foundation of how we are to live our lives as His followers and here’s the deal, it’s a better way to live. Think about where all just the first chapter of this sermon has taken us and what our lives would look like if we could live this out. Now I know that is what we say as Christian’s right? We are going to live out God’s word each and every day, but I am telling you that if you ACTUALLY would live out these words from Scripture out in your everyday life, it would completely change things for you. It is simply a better way to live. This is real, and by taking this teaching into our hearts and allowing it to be part of our everyday lives we can live in a freedom and peace that we I’m not sure we could even dream possible. Don’t believe me? Well let’s just think about a few of the places where we have been so far.
You remember how Jesus started this sermon right? He didn’t start it with a personal story or a funny joke to warm up the crowd, no he just went for it! He starts this teaching by rattling off 8 very challenging statements. We call it “The Beattitudes.” Basically Jesus makes these very challenging statements where over and over He says,
“Your blessed when __________.”
The interesting thing is that in these statements we learned just how opposite Jesus’ looks at things and just how opposite He thinks. I mean just think about how opposite these statements are compared to the way you and I would actually feel blessed! I mean for me I can’t say that I’m feeling blessed when I’m at the end of my rope, or when I have lost what is most dear to me, or when my faith provokes persecution. How about you? Do you feel really blessed when you are mourning, or when you are hurting, or when life is hitting you the hardest? Yeah me either…but let’s think this through. What if Jesus’ way of living and teaching became part of our lives? That would mean that in every challenging situation that arises in your life, it will push you deeper into God’s arms. Think about that for a moment. When you lose something that is most dear to you in the pain and hurt of that it can literally draw you deeper into God’s arms. All that mess can help your relationship with God grow. You would be blessed. I have to tell you something…this is a very different way to live. Frankly it’s a better way to live, and it’s what Jesus asked of us early on in this teaching. It’s something real…this teaching can absolutely be part of your life. You will walk through challenges in your life, can you imagine what your life would look like if in all those challenges it actually pushed you deeper into your relationship with God. Think of the peace, of how untouchable you would be if all of life, the good and the bad just led to more God focus. You would be blessed! Do you see how real this could be for your life?
How about last week as we jumped into the idea of Jesus raising the bar on love do you remember that? I mean as Chapter 5 came to a close we saw some unbelievable statements. If you remember in that last section Jesus says some huge things like this…
Vs 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. NIV
Which is a very important moment where Jesus explains a lot about why He came to this Earth. He then pushes in on us hard, by taking the law as we know it and making it even harder to live out. Do you remember that? He takes six commands that these people would have known well, and makes them even hard to live out with a statement that comes out this way.
“You’ve heard that it was said _______ but I say _______.”
He takes things like murder and adultery and makes them even harder to live out, equating murder to anger, and adultery to looking at a woman lustfully. What is He doing? He is pushing in on the heart and motive behind each action. Remember that? So he is really pushing in on our inside worlds…saying that anyone can follow that list of “Do’s and Don’t Do’s” that we talked about over the last few weeks. He doesn’t want us just jumping through religious hoops, Jesus wants us to live transformed lives. Life change! This is what it is all about. Then last week we wrapped up Chapter 5 by looking at how Jesus makes one of those “you have heard that it was said…” statements about love. He literally raises the bar on love. This was huge moment and it has real implications for our lives as Christian’s. If you remember we looked at just how important Jesus makes love. He said the most important commands are to love God and love others. Then we looked at the new command that Jesus gave us in the book of John where He literally told us to love one another…stating that people will know we are His disciples because of the love we have and show for each other. Then he ends Chapter 5 with this…
Matthew 5:38 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41 And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42 No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. 43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. MSG
Imagine living this way. You and I both know that not everyone in your life is all that easy to love…and here is Jesus giving us a way to live where every moment can be a blessing even the tough moments with people! This is a very different way to live…and frankly it’s a game changer for us Christians. Imagine living this way!
What would your life look like if you began to treat others the way God treated you?
What would your life look like if you looked at the challenging people and situations and you saw those moments as an opportunity rather than a hardship?
What would your life look like if the next time someone gave you a hard time you actually responded with the energies of prayer?
Now let’s take a step back for a moment before we move into Matthew 6. In this first Chapter of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has given us a new way to live in so many ways. In following this teaching we will respond differently to adversity. We will respond differently to people stuff. We will be blessed in pain and tough moments. We have been given purpose and a mission so that our lives can serve a greater purpose than just crossing off days on the calendar until we go to heaven. We also can truly understand just how much we need Jesus to handle things in our lives, and all that we can’t when it comes to the law and the Scriptures…and it ended with a statement that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for the last few weeks and that is this statement.
Matthew 5:48 “…Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” MSG
I’m to treat others the way God treats me…wow. This means that I will love as God loves me, regardless of all my issues and mistakes. This means that I will forgive as He forgives me. This means I will serve as He serves me…that has just really impacted my heart as I walk through life with that thought in my mind. This means that when I have that challenging moment with a family member, or someone inside the church, or someone around the children’s sports fields…I respond very differently because I am a follower of Jesus. Do you see the importance of this teaching? Do you see how much He stresses love? Do you see how much it applies practically to your everyday life? This is why we pray that the scriptures will come to life for us…because everything changes when this is part of our lives.
So today we are going to head into Matthew 6 and I have to say this is going to be really fun. Jesus spent a lot of time on the heart and the foundation in Matthew 5, and now after challenging us to live out our God given identity Jesus will transition into some really good and really practical things. Over the next few weeks we will look at things like prayer, and giving, and even things like fear and worry over what the future may hold. So this is going to be very practical, I mean I like to tell people that when Jesus Christ says things like “This then is how you should pray.” That we should absolutely pay attention to those types of statements. But before He jumps in on teachings on prayer and giving. Jesus says something really important to start this Chapter and it really is where we are going to hang out today and it comes out of this idea of acting or faking as opposed to simply being real and true to who you are.
Matthew 6:1 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. 2 “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure — ‘playactors’ I call them — treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. 3 When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. 4 Just do it — quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” MSG
So let’s just talk for a little bit because I think what Jesus is pushing in on here is the thing that so many people struggle with when it comes to church. We simply can’t be ourselves. I will tell you that growing up and spending most of my life in the church setting I will agree with you that people inside churches often struggle to be real. I also think if I sat down 10 people who want no part of church, and asked them why they aren’t open to church, most of the answers would have something to do with how people inside the church. Something along the lines of they are fake or hypocritical, or that they aren’t real. That they walk into church each Sunday and pretend. I have sat with people that just can’t stand church because of how fake people are, and I will be honest with you…I can agree with that statement. I will say that spending four decades around the church some of my biggest hurts growing up were over this type of stuff. People seemed to act one way all week long, then they would come into church on Sunday and act a whole other way. As a kid I ran pretty far from God…and fell hard in my own life. I struggled for a lot of my teenage years and early 20’s with this very subject. I seemed to have a lot of Christian’s coming around me pointing out all I was doing wrong…and to be very transparent with you, I didn’t need any help there. I didn’t need help understanding that I was screwing my life up. I had that part figured out on my own. But what bothered me was that I would be looking back at them and thinking. Well, you don’t have it all down either. So I would feel judged, and hurt, and like I just was never good enough for all those “church people.” Yet they weren’t all that perfect either…I think this leads to a real mess for so many people around a church setting. I get it, there are people acting inside the church, and it has caused a lot of people who need to know Jesus pain, and maybe that hypocrisy even pushed someone away from God which is absolutely tragic.
But before we go too far bagging on the church I think we need to talk about something pretty important because we seem to focus this on the church. But people outside of the church seem to struggle with this idea of being genuine too. Don’t believe me? Should we check out social media for a bit here this morning? How many real moments of someone’s life are they putting out there for everyone to see? We don’t put the real moments out there do we? No, we aren’t putting it out there like that…we pick the highlight reel moments when the kids are smiling, and everything is going well…then we filter it really well and send it out to the world. Look I like filtering and editing pictures too, it’s fun to do, but is it real? I mean have you ever noticed how hard it is to simply be yourself outside of church? I’m talking in everyday life. We are all created different right? We as people are all unique, yet we seem to spend most of our time acting and working to be like, dress like, talk like and act like everyone else…which is tragic. So let’s not just blame this on church, I think it’s elevated in church but to me this is just people in general. What is interesting to me is we aren’t boycotting the gym, or the school system, or our jobs because people aren’t able to be themselves there! Yet with church we are never going back because people are fake…ha, kind of interesting right? So maybe the church could use a little slack here too because the reality is we are a bunch of imperfect people inside the church and I think this is an important perspective to have. Just because I say I’m a Christian doesn’t mean that I’m perfect it actually means the opposite right? So let’s ask the question and sit in this for a moment.
When I say that I’m a Christian what am I actually saying? This is the question that matters in this area of play actors on a stage and fake Christianity and the view many have of Christians from the outside looking in. When I say I’m a Christian am I saying that I’m perfect or that I have the world figured out? Am I saying that I do not sin and that I never make mistakes? NO! But this is what many who aren’t Christian’s think I’m saying…but I’m actually saying “Hey, I’m an imperfect sinner who God loves enough to send Jesus to this Earth to take care of for me!” Do you see the difference in thinking or perspective? This is so important, when I can just be myself people will pick up on that. And I can just be myself because of God’s unbelievable love, and what Jesus did for me on the Cross! Meaning there is no need for me to be anything but me! So Jesus starts this Chapter with something that is so important…
Matthew 6:1 “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.”
This is so important and frankly it isn’t easy for us to live out. It’s hard to be ourselves in this world. Whether inside or outside the church. So what can we do to just be ourselves? How can I avoid becoming one of these play actors on a stage? Well I have a couple things for us to look at today.
How To Avoid Making a Performance Out of Your Christianity:
- Never forget your salvation.
- Spend time with God.
So remember Jesus is talking to us Christians in this teaching and He starts this Chapter by saying something along the lines of “you need to be real.” Don’t set up your faith as a performance. I have to tell you this is so important because Jesus is all about your heart condition. He knows what you are doing and why you are doing it…so motive and heart condition are what is going to matter much more than what you are doing on the outside. Yes it can look good but in the end, it isn’t real and we know by now in this series that Jesus wants this to be real. So I wanted to kind of grab hold of a few ways that I feel we can avoid this play acting that seems to take place in church that hurts so many and it starts with a reality check that should be ongoing in your life every day as a Christian.
- Never forget your salvation. I don’t think there is anything more important than this. Remembering where you were and what God did for you. The reality is that you and I are sinners. There isn’t a person on this planet who is perfect and without sin. This is our reality.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. NIV
Can I tell you something, when we stay in this mindset that we all sin and fall short and need Jesus in our lives…I don’t think there is really any reason to pretend or act like something we are not. This is the beauty of what Jesus did for us…he took care of what we couldn’t. Check out the same verse in the Message version.
Romans 3:23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. MSG
This is where our hearts and minds are as Christian’s. We hold our salvation close. We never lose sight of this idea that we were all sinners, that we all fall short and that God loved us enough to send Jesus to do it all for us. This allows you to stay and remember and focus on the redemption you have found in Jesus. He did it, you didn’t. I think this becomes more than a mindset and a focus, this becomes the fuel and passion for you to push through in life and to keep moving forward when things get tough or you get tired or discouraged as you serve Jesus on the mission of Christ. In fact in scripture when we are flat or struggling, the Bible actually encourages us to go back over the Gospel message to find passion again!
Hebrews 12:2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! MSG
So by holding my salvation close and I stay grounded. I find the ability to just be me because Jesus handles the rest…and I can even find passion and energy in those moments when I have none or when I’m struggling with my faith. This is so important, never lose sight of what Jesus did for you.
- Serve. So this may sound like an interesting thing to add to this idea of working to not be a fake Christian but let’s think about this. Remember that new command that Jesus gave us? He told us that the way people would know that we are His disciples is by the love we show one another. I can’t describe to you what can happen to your own heart condition as you serve but I believe it to be the greatest form of discipleship. I know, I know not many people like hearing me say this, because it requires me to do something in my spiritual growth outside of sit in a class and listen…but it simply changes your heart. There is just something about serving that really changes our focus, and our hearts. Jesus really pushes in on the religious fashion shows in Matthew 23. Really pushing in hard on the religious leaders of that time by saying this…
Matthew 23:2 “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. 3 You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer. 4 “Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. 5 Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. 6 They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, 7 preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’ 8 “Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. 9 Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. 10 And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them — Christ.
I think this is a very important moment here, and what Jesus says next is really why I think serving is such a big step to us being genuine and real.
Matthew 23:11 “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. 12 If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.” MSG
So what are you hearing there? Just be yourself. Just be real. If you want to stand out, just love on people right where they are. You want to be genuine…serve. And then the last thing I want to say about this today is going to be no surprise for you today.
- Spend time with God. I know, I know it always comes back to this for me…but here is the deal. There is no better way to stay grounded in your faith, and in who you are than to stay in God’s presence. The more you do the more peace you have in who you are because you realize it’s ok to just be you. Why? Because God loves you with no strings attached…and you start to wrap your mind around the truth of your faith. That you are not perfect, and you don’t need to be perfect because Jesus is and handles it all for you. The more time you spend with God the more grounded you are in the Gospel truth. I know that I come back to spending time with God all the time, but it is so important. We must stay connected to Him. Remember how Jesus says that He is the vine?
John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. NLT
Look nothing does more damage inside the church than church people acting like something they are not. I have been on the wrong end of that, and it doesn’t feel good to feel weighed and measured by the church and realize that you just don’t measure up to the standard…of people who also seem to fall short of that standard too! Which makes it more hurtful in a way doesn’t it? There is so much hurt and pain in this particular area of the church…but I wanted you to see something today. That it isn’t just in church world where people struggle to be themselves, we all do in everyday life. Our only way to stand as the people that Jesus created us to be is to do a couple of things that I really wanted to focus on today.
The first thing I told you was that we need to hold our salvation close. I think far too many Christians have this amazing moment where Jesus redeems them…SAVES THEM and over time they lose sight of that, and seem to elevate themselves to a place they just can’t be…we all sin, we all fall short of God’s glory and as Christian’s we spend every day walking in a gratitude and a true humility because Jesus does what we can’t do! I also wanted you to see that our inspiration to push through all life throws at us comes from this salvation story!
The second thing I wanted you to do is serve. When we serve things change, we need to stop elevating ourselves and wade right in and help people the way Jesus did! Something happens to you when you serve that doesn’t happen any other way.
The last thing I wanted to encourage you to do is stay connected to the vine. Spend time each day with God without time with Him the focus will absolutely stay on you and not Him. The reality is we need God living and active in us…this doesn’t happen without engaging Him!
So the idea from Jesus here is to get real. To just be you. Once again…imagine living this way. Imagine a church full of people acting this way. I don’t know about you but this sounds fun to me.