BE A GIVER, BUT DO NOT PUBLISH YOUR GIVING HABITS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.     

BE A LIGHT TO ALL MEN BY LETTING THEM SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

What a clear word from our Lord! “Let your light shine.” We have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this matter of letting our light shine. He has placed the light in us, but we must choose to shine. Many times I have heard God’s people say, “I know what I should do,” but then they struggled in doing it. I remember one time I was very angry at an individual. My dad reminded me of my responsibility to forgive. I told my dad, “I know, but right now it feels good to be angry.” Our emotions can snare us and keep us from being the kind of light God has ordained us to be.  A few hours later, I chose to forgive that person and be a light of forgiveness.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray in secret. There is a time to do business with God in secret, but here He says let your light shine before all men so they might “see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Witnessing is not simply about speaking words, but it is more about how we live our lives. The first week I was in the Army, I asked God, “How can I live for you in this place?” He spoke a surprising word to me. “Be you!” That meant, continue to serve the Lord, pray, read the Word of God and share when I can. That is what I did. I had the privilege of leading many men to Christ with the evidence of changed lives. Letting our light shine is a lifestyle lived out. It is in the living out of our faith on a daily basis that others will glorify our Father in heaven. When people begin to acknowledge there is something different about you, they are recognizing the light that is shining. God is glorified!

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you good works that cause the people around you to glorify your Father in heaven. Ask Him to quicken your mind regarding how you should respond in any given situation. He will show you your responsibility and give you the ability to reflect His nature. He will give you of His wisdom and His power in order for you to carry out His good pleasure.

YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Matthew 5:14 – You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

The light in the world is the Lord’s church. Imagine what it would be like if the church was non-existent in the earth. Try to imagine America without the effect of the gospel on the Constitution and her laws. In fact, America would not exist as we have known her. As Jesus produces light in individual lives, whole nations are changed for the glory of God. “You” are the light of the world. Your world is where you have the opportunity to influence others for righteousness. Somebody asked the question, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I hope so! If so, it would mean that you are a shining light for the Lord.

As the oil of the Holy Spirit is poured into our lives, it fuels the flame that emits the light from within. That light is manifested through your personality, the way you take care of yourself, and reaching out to others in the name of the Lord. His light is demonstrated by your unwavering conviction and obedience to God’s Word, and your faithfulness to God’s people through committed relationship. A life of service and humility demonstrates the work of the gospel in your inner man. Through the ministry of “Halloween Harvest,” which was created by my friend, Mick McCoy, a pumpkin would be used to illustrate the need to first repent and allow the Lord to remove the sinfulness in our hearts, so the Holy Spirit can “light our candle.”

Ask the Holy Spirit for fresh oil. We are leaky vessels and need to be filled afresh regularly, in fact many times in a day. He is present to fill you with His oil so you can keep the light burning brightly.