"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Conclusion to Ch. 6:14-34 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

By James Fire

We now conclude chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, picking up where we left off previously in vs. 13. The LORD Jesus just finished laying out the model prayer for the disciples to pattern their own personal prayer after, incorporating worship of the Father, petitioning for His kingdom’s arrival, for our personal needs, forgiveness of sins, protection from evil, and a worshipful declaration of the glory of God as elements of prayer.

Once He finishes this lay out, He returns to a crucial point about forgiveness:

MATTHEW 6:14-15
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Why would the LORD reiterate this point? Perhaps because He knew that we would have difficulties in forgiving each other?
To forgive in this context is to allow dismissal, to forego any offense afflicted; when one wrongs another, they are indebted to them for the wrong-doing, and the offended party holds them until rectification is accomplished, but there are times when no apology is forthcoming and so rather than ‘holding a grudge’, we release them for their wrong against us personally.
What is significant is that when we harbor unforgiveness, it is we ourselves that are bound up by it, and not the one who committed the offense. This is spiritually dangerous for many reasons – for one, such unforgiveness can deepen into bitterness (Heb. 12:14-15), resentment and cynicism in general. Another even greater reason is explained in our text above: “…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Does this mean that if we don’t forgive others, we lose our salvation? That isn’t what the text indicates, because while the trespasses of one who harbors unforgiveness is themselves not forgiven, the LORD states that God is still their Father. Obviously we don’t maintain fellowship with one that we hold unforgiveness towards, and the Father responds in kind. As long as we have unforgiveness towards others, our Father distances Himself from us in fellowship.

We experience fellowship with our Father in worship, and previously the LORD gave us instruction in regards to unforgiveness:

MATTHEW 5:23-24
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift
.

Certainly this places the responsibility on the one who caused the offense, but the principle applies both ways – we cannot expect to worship the LORD and carry on in fellowship if there is unforgiveness or ill will among the brethren. There is specific instruction for church government regarding the continued unrepentant attitude for trespasses committed against another saint (Matt. 18:15-20).

In the next passage in Matthew 18 Peter asks the LORD how often he should forgive others (The religious leadership determined through Talmudic exposition that three times is sufficient); he offered seven times as a number (more than twice the estimation by the establishment), but the LORD went far above and beyond:

MATTHEW 18:20-21
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven
.

An interesting number, seventy times seven, which of course is 490 times; we know this specific number in a different context, that is the 70 weeks of Daniel which translates to 490 years, at the conclusion of which, our LORD Jesus Christ shall arrive on planet Earth during His Second Advent. What I derive from the LORD’s admonition to Peter is that we keep forgiving others until the Judge of the whole Earth arrives and let Him officiate over any and all offenses committed against us, His saints. He then illustrates the vital importance of forgiveness we must exercise towards one another as forgiven sinners, now saints in the last passage of Matthew 18:23-35 in the parable of the King and his servant who owed him a debt beyond what he could pay back.

A pastor I knew was fond of saying that he lived his life in a state of ‘forgive-readiness’, that is, before any offense occurs from anyone, he arose in the morning prepared – for the sake of Christ Who has forgiven him all his trespasses – to forgive others as he himself has been forgiven; very wise words to live by!

Our Father has forgiven us all trespasses and sins through the LORD Jesus Christ; how then can we withhold forgiveness from others when we ourselves are forgiven so VERY MUCH?

See Mark 11:25; Luke 17:4; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13; also 2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 78:38; 85:2; Mark 2:5; and Col. 2:13.

MATTHEW 6:16-18

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly
.

The same conduct is to be employed as we serve the LORD in fasting as with alms (Matt. 6:1-4) and in our prayers (Matt. 6:5-6). We are not to allow our service to the LORD to be seen in such a way as to draw attention to ourselves or with improper motivation (to receive praise from others, to be esteemed more highly than we ought to be).
Its by keeping such alms, prayers, and fasting intimate and concealed from eyes that would render us praise rather than our Father, we are promised to be openly rewarded by Him, rather than mere human beings – vastly greater rewards and weightier and blessed!

Fasting is often coupled together with prayer and is readily demonstrated in the New Testament. This should silence those who would protest such exercise, assuming that such things were Old Testament, and no longer practiced (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27).

PSALM 35:13-14

13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
14 I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother
.

PSALM 69:10-11

10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
11 I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them
.

ISAIAH 58:6-7

6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?


(Also 2 Chron. 20:3; Ezra 8:21; Jonah 3:5)
Fasting is a service towards God, coupled with prayer (Lk. 2:35-36).

Utilized in the performance of exorcisms (Mt. 17:16-21).

Conducted with sober-mindedness when seeking God’s will (Acts 13:2-3).

Also used as a means to mortify the flesh and bring it under subjection (self control; 1 Cor. 7:5).

When one foregoes meals, what with the time commitments to buying, preparing, cooking, eating and cleaning up afterwards, that time may be employed in seeking God and in a very real sense, is “seek[ing] first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (with the blessed promise that all the things that we have need of, including food and clothing (1 Tim. 6:8) will be added to us!).

ONE WORD OF CAUTION IS ADVISED: If one proposes to go on an extended fast, there are certain precautions you must take:

First of all before you begin a fast, it is advisable to consult your primary caregiver; then you must prayerfully determine what sort of fast to take: there are essentially two kinds:

~ An Absolute fast which means no food or liquids (other than water to remain hydrated; the body cannot survive lack of water much longer than three days without suffering damage, sometimes permanently).

~ A Simple foods fast: typically the bread and water type of fast; this requires minimum preparation and consumption time, so that one is not distracted by more delectable foods (which requires more time in preparing, cooking and eating).

~ Either of these can be a fast to exclude food consumption for a single meal, a single day, or a typical three day fast or even the long term 40 day fast.

For a three day or 40 day Absolute fast it’s best to reduce food intake by eating smaller meals for about a week prior. This will give your body time to condition itself to the fast once begun.

Once the Absolute fast has started, avoid excessive physical exertion, extended times in sunlight when the temperatures are warm enough that you perspire, do not consume beverages like coffee or other caffeinated drinks, energy drinks, or beverages containing greater quantities of sugar, including fruit juices. Unsweetened fruit juices and water (mixed with Powerade or Gatorade but at a 80% dilution rate than what’s called for in the directions; better yet, purchase some concentrated Aloe Vera juice and mix this in with chilled water) are best.
Do NOT take vitamins for any fast lasting 3 to 40 days because your system has shut down and will not be able to process any such supplements.

Once the Absolute fast is completed, especially for extended fasts lasting from a few days to 40, DO NOT go back to your regular diet because your system has shut down and cannot process the digestion of food. Eating solid foods after an extended fast could actually kill you, and so you must start out with some broth for the first day, and afterwards add some crackers and other easily digested carbohydrates. By day three you should be able to consume vegetables and fruits, and within another day or two a normal diet, albeit with much smaller portions can be consumed. By the end of a week, you should be able to proceed with your regular diet and normal portions.

As with any kind of fasting it’s essential to consult your Medical Health Practitioner for advice and supervision, especially if it’s your first fast. You do not want to go on a fast if you have a medical condition or health issues, serious or superficial.

For more on fasting see the following: What Does The Bible Say About Fasting?


Also refer to these medical precautions before engaging in a fast

MATTHEW 6:19-21
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also
.

The world is consumed with amassing treasures or possessions by the acquisition of wealth, if not in the pursuit to be wealthy, then at least to be very well off and enjoy perhaps an early retirement. These are the things that the Gentiles seek after, that is, the people of this world (vs. 31-32), but for the church of Jesus Christ, we are encouraged to seek after the LORD of Heaven Himself – the genuine Treasure of treasures!

Consider the parable of the rich man whose barns were full of the fruit of his labors:

LUKE 12:15-21
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
Scripture states that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt. 12:34), and so if one wants to know what’s in a person’s heart, listen to what they love to talk about the most; this may be a strong indication of what motivates their life, what sort of objectives and goals they hope to obtain
.

Since the chiefest joy and treasure for us saints is the LORD Himself, Jesus should figure prominently in our conversation as children of God.
Then what sorts of treasures are spoken of here in this passage, which our Chief Treasure addresses?

I believe they are those works that have been ordained of the LORD which we are commissioned to fulfill in His Name, by His Spirit. Those works, if done ‘Jesus-style’ will be rewarded and those works which are done contrary to the ‘Jesus-style’ will lack any reward. And what is this ‘Jesus-style’? This is answered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, and that is the agapeo of God Himself as the sole motivator and actuator of those works ordained by God (See Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 3:9-15).

Having an eternal perspective on life, knowing that our time on this Earth is so very finite and that we shall inherit the kingdom of God and worship God for all eternity, will shape our conduct and devalue the riches of this world, and keep our focus on those riches which are eternal (Lk. 16:10-12; Mt. 25:14-30) toiling joyfully for the LORD Who purchased us with His own blood!

MATTHEW 6: 22-23
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!


We are aware of this physical world with our physical senses; the one sense that we seem to acquire most of our information with, is our eye sight (secondly would be our hearing). Our brain analyzes all of our sensory input and interprets it into intelligible information that we then examine with our minds (the mind itself being distinct from our brains as the former is non-corporeal while the latter is; just as a driver is the operator of a car – the former being organic and thinking, the latter functionally mechanical and non-thinking).

That which we perceive and take into our minds will affect our thinking to one degree or another. A sinful mind will be sensitive to perceive methods and means of obtaining desires that will sate their sinful nature; likewise those with a sanctified mind be sensitive to perceive methods and means of obtaining desires that will sate our godly nature.

The idea of “light” and “darkness” being far more than the amount of photonic energy that inhabits a quantifiable space, also represents the idea of that which is good and according to God’s order and its opposite: that which is evil and contrary to God’s order, that is, “unlawful” or that which is considered “iniquity” and its kindred condition of “darkness” (2 Thess. 2:3-10; Rom. 6:18-20; John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35; Acts 26:18 and other verses).

Thus this admonition from the LORD is not only about what we look at, but what we allow into our thought life, into our minds. An article FROM the MIND of FIRE is appropriate at this juncture (as previously shared in another chapter in Matthew) is The Six Lethal Levels of Sin.

I believe it was Martin Luther who said, regarding fiery darts of temptation: “You can’t keep a bird from flying over head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” We all have those random thoughts that are inappropriate for the godly saint, but they are like birds in flight that flit in and out again. What’s dangerous is if we latch onto that thought – or that sight that we ought not to be gazing at (As did King David regarding Bathsheba).
It has also been said, “It’s not the first glance that ‘gets you’; it’s the second!”

What captures our interest and our passions indicates where our heart is at; a dog would perk his ears up if you wagged a juicy piece of red meat in front of him, but it would have no attraction at all to a cow, right?
Who we have pledged our hearts in service to will, generally, direct our interests, and drives and passions, which is why the LORD told us that we really can’t have two masters in life:

Either we will be servants of the KING of Kings, the LORD Jesus Christ, or we will be servants of ourselves, that is, servants to our sinful nature – and by proxy, servants of Satan who would counsel us “to do your own thing!” independent of the LORD’s will for our lives.


MATTHEW 6:24-25
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?


Obviously having food, clothing, houses, furniture, cars, etc. is not a problem for the Christian, nor is a sizeable bank account or niceties that are extraneous to our necessities. The problem is when they begin to usurp an unlawful place in our lives by demanding our servitude to them: when they begin to take a dominant place in our lives and we become consumed with using them, caring for them, bettering them, or getting other items superior to them – all to the exclusion of the LORD Himself, Who should be the Supreme object of our affection, loyalty and obedience.
This is probably why the LORD doesn’t allow me to play LOTTO! If I won, and gained all of that money in an instant, all of that buying power would likely destroy me and my relationship with the LORD.

Yet we need not be wealthy for such materialism to destroy our witness and our walk with the LORD:

1 TIM. 6:9-10
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows
.

Of course it’s not the money itself that is evil, but the love of money – because such a love adores possessing power. The same heart could very well be drawn into the occult, which likewise promises power for the user.
Lust for money or occult knowledge will lead to the same end result: “…many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

Rather than such pursuits, Paul tells young Timothy what we should be content with just prior to the above passage:

1 TIM. 6:6-8
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content
.

Getting back to the sermon given by the LORD in Matthew’s Gospel . . .
He then goes on to illustrate how unnecessary it is for us saints to fret and worry about our sources for food and clothing (because as our LORD, He is in charge of supplying such needs).


MATTHEW 6:26-31
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?


“Take thought” and “taking thought” is mentioned here; so is “take no thought” – and the idea here is to fret, worry, having anxious thoughts, troubled with cares” or even to “seeking to promote one’s interests”.

Birds are migratory (either locally or regionally) and never in any one place for long (except of course when there are young to care for), but without ‘farmland’ to grow crops or ‘livestock’ (for birds of prey) the LORD feeds them.
Lilies are among the most exquisite flowers of beauty; even our LORD, the Creator of them, told us that Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these! Without royal tailors, God Himself furnished such clothing for grass.
He then admonishes us with a question: Are you not “much better than they?” Some of the more radical environmentalists today would say, “No!” but I would rather heed the words of our heavenly Father, given to us by His Son!

The LORD stated in John Ch. 4 when He addressed the Samaritan woman:

JOHN 4:13-14
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life
.

And so it is with all the physical, material things of this world. They may bring satisfaction and pleasure for a while, but who ever partakes of them, whatever they may be, will thirst again. There is nothing of this world that can bring everlasting contentment and even more significantly, peace of mind and fulfillment.

Even spiritual enterprises will never satisfy; in fact, these will prove far more dangerous than many things from the material world because there are only two sources of spiritual reality: God and Satan (with no third or neutral source) and what ever is not of God spiritually speaking, is by default, of Satan.

We were created by God and for God, but since the human race fell into sin, we’ve been separated from God and so the only way we can know fulfillment is by following God’s will -

1 TIM. 2:3-5
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
;

Once saved, we are able to partake of communion with God, having the sin issue dealt with and no longer in rebellion against the will of God, but repentant and surrendered to the LORD Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior; that communion and its subsequent fellowship with our Creator is what He wanted in the first place in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve! This is a well of everlasting life that provides rivers of living water, well able to quench the thirsting soul in its desperate search for meaning, purpose and fulfillment in this weary world (John 4:14; 7:37-39)!

Again, FROM the MIND of FIRE, another suitable exhortation.

MATT. 6:32-34
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
.

Gentiles here might become a synonym for ‘secularist’ in this case, one who is a materialist, only interested in the acquisition of those things that make one’s earthly life better, or even superior to others.
Where these sorts may pursue the ‘best of everything’ we saints need to find that which is adequate to our needs, functionally efficient for the sustaining of our lives.
Whereas the Gentiles may be passionate about building their own kingdoms of affluence and prosperity, we saints are passionate about the kingdom of God, seeking its best interests – not our own – by serving the King of this domain, the LORD Jesus Christ: with our hearts, our minds, our souls and our strength, loving Him as our chiefest joy and object of adoration.

Note that the LORD doesn’t say that we shouldn’t seek those things that the Gentiles seek; only that we are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness FIRST. Once done, in seeking for these other far less important things, they shall be added to us at the generous hand of our Abba Father, who is certainly not opposed to being generous with His children!

It is a terrible misfortune and a deplorable blight on the church that we should equate such gain and materialism with “the blessings of God” as has too many in the leadership of the Word of Faith movement who themselves declare that “gain [indeed] is godliness” and who “will be rich [monetarily]” (as quoted above in 1 Timothy).

A three part series on this aberration of Christian beliefs known as the Word of Faith Movement was written by Anne Kisly for TTUF. You can read the first part here.

LUKE 16:10-12
10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?

And what are “the true riches”?

COL. 1:27
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
:

HEB. 11:26
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward
.

As Christ is by far the greatest treasure, incorruptible and reserved in heaven for us to enjoy and cherish for all eternity, why not indulge in His grace and Spirit now, rather than being distracted by such earthly and material blessings which at best can become a distraction or at worst, bring hurt and sorrow into our lives?

As Paul said with fervent devotion and passion:

PHIL. 3:9-11
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead
.


If our focus is on Christ, then whether blessing or burden, triumph or trial comes our way, we walk with the LORD daily and “take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil (trouble, trial, hardship, turmoil, etc.) thereof.” ~ Matt. 6:34

We are now finished in our examination of Ch. 6 and will embark on Ch. 7 in the next study! At the conclusion of this next chapter, there is an issue of ‘foundations’ that will be addressed. I am prayerfully considering sharing some insights on foundations from notes I took down during a personal retreat last year when I and my room mate visited Sedona, AZ in an article FROM the MIND of FIRE.

Until then, may the LORD keep us in His grace and peace – the truly blessed treasure and inheritance of the saints of God! Maranatha! Even so, Come quickly LORD Jesus!
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