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STORE UP FOR YOURSELVES TREASURES IN HEAVEN

Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The Holy Spirit has come to connect us to heaven. Most of the time, the human goal is survival, to hopefully achieve amassing as much money as possible for security in this life. Multitudes around the world are oppressed and not able to realize that human desire. On the other hand, there are those in this life that have amassed great fortune and have no issues with security as it relates to substance. The Holy Spirit wants to help turn our attention toward a greater treasure than the wealth of this world. Whether one is poor or wealthy, the true treasure is in the storehouse of heaven. The fundamental issue is choosing from where one derives their security.

The development of relationship with the Holy Spirit causes us to grow in our confidence in God’s Word and all His promises. I am grateful for how my heavenly Father has blessed me. I realize though, that in the same way my possessions have come they can also all disappear. It is an absolute of God’s Word that temporal things will vanish. The Scripture declares, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire” (2 Peter 3:7).

One of the great treasures in life is found in relationship with family and friends. Many have acquaintances, but fewer people have real friendships. Lasting relationship comes from the work of the Holy Spirit who restores us to the Godhead through the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus, the Christ, is the “Pearl of great price” spoken of in Matthew 13:46. He is the true treasure! Let us seek the Lord for His grace to let go of anything that we might be holding on to as a wealth other than the Lord. It is fine to have possessions. In fact the Word of God promises material blessings in this life. It is not okay for those possessions to possess us in any way that runs interference with our relationship with the true treasure, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is present to help us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you grace to store up treasures in heaven and to be freed from bondage to the possessions of this life “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Father, I ask you to give me a heart after your will and a right viewpoint about possessions.

FAST SECRETLY BEFORE YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER

Matthew 6:17-18 – When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 

Fasting is a practice found in many religions. When I was in Pakistan some years ago, I experienced Muslims fasting during Ramadan, one of the most important religious times among Muslims. Fasting would take place from sunrise to sundown.  Christians could not eat in front of Muslims during their fasting time. At night, those practicing fasting during the day would gorge themselves at night. This went on for a whole month.

The fasting that Jesus was speaking about was not for the purpose of trying to impress God or man, but to humble oneself before God. In the discipline of fasting, one is helped to focus on areas that can be easily neglected. For example, sexual appetites are being brought under control. Eating and sexual activity are both connected to needs of the flesh. They are not sinful practices in the context of God’s Laws, but are appetites of the flesh. Paul connects prayer and abstinence when he says to the married, “Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Fasting is good, sexual relations within marriage are good, and both are related to self-discipline. The sexual relationship is the most intimate relationship and is confined to the marriage covenant. Fasting is part of an intimate relationship with God our Father. It is never to be flaunted before men, but done secretly before God.  Fasting is an act of humility and carries the purpose of humbling oneself before God. The biblical exhortation is to discipline the flesh and learn self-control.

The practice of fasting is a discipline of kingdom-minded people. Jesus said, “When you fast,” not if you fast. Act as if you’re not fasting by preparing yourself to eat so men do not know that you are fasting. Your Father in heaven will notice and He promises His reward for your humility before Him.

If people do notice your fast, it is neither a sin nor a cancellation of God’s promise of reward. The issue belongs to the heart. In other words, your motivation for fasting is the crucial factor. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in a fasting lifestyle. All we do before God should be the work of the Spirit in us, and not our own religious drive.  

BE A GIVER, BUT DO NOT PUBLISH YOUR GIVING HABITS

Matthew 6:2 – So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so they may be seen by men.

Finances, for the most part, have been seen as a private affair. Typically, you do not ask a person “How much do you earn” or “How much money do you give to charity?” In this passage, Jesus is dealing with the “religious heart,” a heart that is more interested in the praise of others than the need before them. In America, because our Founders gave us laws that were built upon eternal laws, they chose to reward people for “charitable giving.” There is a time to report giving to the government and receive a break on your taxes. This is wisdom, because it gives you more to give.  On the other side of this subject, I have watched pastors parade hundred dollar bills in front of God’s people so that all knew how much they are giving. Some believe this helps the people be inspired to give more money.

Many times it is the work of the Holy Spirit that leads one to give. It is also the evidence of a good heart. What another does or does not do in this regard should have no bearing on my giving practices. Jesus states clearly in verse 2 that a show of our giving is “hypocrisy.” Jesus used the word hypocrisy, because it was not a motivation of a good heart in their giving, but a show so others will think well of them. Jesus calls it being “honored by men” (Matthew 6:2). Jesus said that when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. This is what is known as “oriental hyperbole.” It is an extreme statement in order to make a point. Give in secret, because it honors God. He will be your reward. A perspective which a good friend would teach and I have followed for years is, “to give, to get to give more.” The Lord is my supply. He is my source and the one who honors me in my giving. Jesus said, “That your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:4).

Examine your heart today. Give the Holy Spirit control of your finances, giving and trusting your heavenly Father to be your reward.

JESUS LIFTS THE BAR FOR LIFE LIVED IN HIS KINGDOM

Matthew 5:48 – Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In Matthew 5:21- 47 Jesus deals with relationships on many different levels. The Law forbade murder, but Jesus said, don’t be angry with your brother. If you remember when giving your offering someone has something against you, leave your offering and go get reconciled to your brother. Read through these laws of the kingdom of God and ask the Holy Spirit to help you rise up to the life that our Lord has called us to live.  The higher bar is what Jesus calls us to, even the perfection of our heavenly Father. This sounds impossible, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

The word perfect translates “mature.” The Lord is looking for mature sons and daughters, those that will allow the life of Christ to be released in them by yielding to the Holy Spirit. We have been led by our flesh for so long that it is strange to think about being led by the Spirit. The only way we can consider being “perfect” is as the Holy Spirit takes control of our mind and we submit to Him in everything.

My experience is that I have to take one situation at a time. This means I must pray about every relationship and submit it to God. Through the Spirit’s empowerment, choose to keep short accounts with people, forgiving quickly, not letting the sun go down on my anger. These things are not easy, but the Holy Spirit will help us if we will stop and ask for His involvement.

In 1 Corinthians 14:20 the apostle says, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” Paul is communicating the same view that Jesus is declaring in Matthew 5:48, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The New Creation is all about a new way of thinking, God’s way of thinking. It is possible to be mature and live in righteousness, because we have been redeemed from our sin condition to a life of righteousness in the Holy Spirit.

Let the Holy Spirit search you heart and reveal any areas that are childish and not mature. Repent of childish views and attitudes. Then receive His infilling power to grow as a son or daughter of God.

RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT SURPASSES THAT OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS

Matthew 5:20 – For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

This is a powerful statement by our Lord that draws a line in the sand regarding righteousness. Jesus came to establish righteousness as God intended. The Holy Spirit was sent to produce His righteousness in each one that puts their faith in the work of Christ. Titus reminds us, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The “surpassing righteousness” of which Jesus is speaking became established in the work of the cross as He bore our sins. Our Father in heaven accepts the righteousness of Christ on our behalf. A believer is accepted by God as one fully fulfilling the Law of God, and its entire requirement for dealing with the penalty of sin. The Holy Spirit raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11), and He is now given as God’s gift to all who trust Christ. He washes us, causing “regeneration” that is, He makes alive what was dead. The Holy Spirit “renews” us to the original purpose of God when He had created man.

As soon as we receive the work of Christ we are ushered into the kingdom of God. Some think that the kingdom is a future event. The Scriptures make it clear “the kingdom is now, in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). In the future, there will be a greater manifestation of God’s kingdom. Presently, each believer is to live under the reign of King Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was teaching two important principles. First, it takes a righteousness which exceeds the attempt of keeping the Law. This righteousness is connected to entering Jesus’ Kingdom.  Second, in the Romans passage above, Paul teaches that we enter the kingdom by receiving the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit of God supplies the grace of righteousness and only the Spirit of God can usher us into the kingdom where Christ Jesus reigns as Lord.

Be renewed today in the righteousness of God. Let go of your own attempts to please God. Fully trust in Christ, that is in all He has done. Enjoy His kingdom rule, and walk in His righteousness through the power of His Spirit.

THE LAW AND PROPHETS ARE FULFILLED IN CHRIST

Matthew 5:17 – Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

Some teach that the Law has been done away with in the sacrifice of Christ. Some teach that the Old Testament is not relevant because we are now living in New Testament times. “Fulfilled,” does not mean done away, but to accomplish the purpose. The Ten Commandments are eternal truths. That means they cannot be put aside and neglected. It took the righteousness of Christ to fulfill all of the intent of the Law of God. Under the Law, the Sabbath was kept on prescribed days that were sanctified by God. Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath by becoming our Sabbath. Our rest is found in His Work, “For the one who entered His rest has himself also rested from his works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10). The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest …” (Hebrews 4:11).

God began His Sabbath rest in Genesis. He then established it in the Law and the Prophets, and found its completion in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why Paul told the early churches not to let anyone act as your judge concerning food, drink, festival, new moon or Sabbath days (see Colossians 2:16). The whole second chapter of Colossians addresses this freedom that Christ purchased for all of us. The Holy Spirit has been sent from Heaven to be our Comforter and to bring forth the life of Christ in us. He enables us to enter into God’s Sabbath Rest and live out the life of Christ fulfilling the Law and all that the Prophets had envisioned. Today, the people of God can live in obedience to God’s commandments, not through religious works, but by the grace and rest of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you are burdened with religious works and guilt, release them today to the Holy Spirit. In faith receive the rest of Christ. Be free to obey the Word of God, not by your works, but by His grace and power supplied in the Holy Spirit.