Saturday, 24 October 2020
“And when you pray ………...” -Matthew 6:5
Matthew 6 is part of Jesus’ discourse, the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ where He laid down Kingdom principles to be followed by everyone who chose Him as their Master. Our reading focuses on two important aspects in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ- Prayer and Fasting, important in the lives of Jews too. Though it was an integral part of their lives, it soon became a religious activity showcasing an Outward Act without an Inward Change.
How did something so powerful become so meaningless? Jesus states in Matt.15:6 quoting Isaiah 29:13 that, they invalidated the Word of God for the sake of their tradition and their worship became a set of rules taught by men [paraphrased]. Many believers struggle in these two areas – their prayer and fasting reduced to mere traditions! Let us look at the root cause of such an attitude:
All through Jesus’ walk on earth we see Him associate with sinners rather than the people from the religious rank. The only reason he kept away from them was because they never practised what they preached. We see Him address them in Matthew 23. He hated their hypocrisy and confronted their pseudo beliefs and practices in which their hearts were inclined to wickedness and their mouths spoke error. (Isaiah 65:5)
Even today hypocrisy plagues the church. We do seem to be doing a lot of things for God; saying the right Christian Clichés, but are they done because of our deep love for Jesus? This was the problem with the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7). It had become loveless, so all its work was not produced out of love for Christ but out of a habit. That’s what happened to the Pharisee. Will Jesus call us a Pharisee today? If yes, let’s repent and get back to our first love for Christ so that our walk and our talk will be an expression of His love in us.
This has resulted in many lives being ruined spiritually and physically. Jesus taught the importance of forgiveness in His model prayer and later explained the consequences of not following it. Man’s greatest need was forgiveness— forgiveness from sin. Sin separated man from God. God fully knowing that man could never earn his forgiveness, sent His Son to be punished in our stead that we would receive His Forgiveness. This was the reason Jesus cried out to God to forgive his perpetrators who crucified Him – this includes you and me. Now having received His forgiveness He expects us to do the same. Freely we have received, freely give. The wicked servant in Matt. 18 though having received much grace and forgiveness from his master failed to do likewise to his fellow being. He had received undeserved forgiveness, yet he did not value it, rather brushed it aside, to get even with his compatriot. This resulted in his punishment.
This is how you and I behave when we hold a grudge against somebody who has offended us, forgetting that God had to sacrifice His own Son to forgive our sins against Him. Paul warns us in 1 Cor. 6:10 that revilers will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Who is a reviler? Somebody who hates and holds grudges and is unforgiving and bitter. This was what we were before we knew Christ. But God forgave us in Christ Jesus even though we had reviled him.
We will struggle to forgive others and love God with a sincere heart all through life. But we will earn God’s punishment, if we take the settled position of not wanting to forgive others and living in hypocrisy even when God confronts our sins! Christ’s death and the resurrection have won our victory! May all of us experience His resurrection power so that we no longer live in the flesh but in His Spirit, that through our lives His Kingdom would be established.
Quote for the Day: “You can have all of your doctrines right - yet still not have the presence of God.” ~Leonard Ravenhill
Listen: 'The Lord’s Prayer’