Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 18, 2014.
Turn with me to Matthew 6:1-4. Today we are, once again, examining our hearts and we are looking at our motivation for doing good deeds. The timing of this sermon could not be better in light of Cornerstone's recent mission trip to Martin County, Kentucky.
As I was preparing for this week's sermon, I ran across a quote from CS Lewis who was responding to a critic concerning his lack of caring for the Sermon on the Mount. This is what Lewis stated,
“As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledgehammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of a man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.”
What a great Illustration by Lewis. The moment in life we stand a little higher and stick out our chest a little more, God's Word comes along and puts us in our proper place, flat on our face before God. God's Word cuts us open like a surgeon's blade and and shows us our sinful flesh. Therefore, with that said, let us read the sharp words of Christ, pray, and let the great physician work upon our souls.
In Chapter 5, we saw Jesus laying out what it looks like to be a real, authentic Christian. Each week as we have unpacked Jesus' sermon verse by verse, it has hopefully led us to one conclusion, we need Jesus. We can see this best in last verse of chapter 5.
Thankfully, he gives it to us freely. We merely have to place our faith in Him, and it is ours. Hopefully, the last three months of preaching on the Sermon on the Mount has expressed that fundamental truth to you, over and over and over again, and you have accepted it.
Having said that, in chapter 6 we see a slight turning of the page. In chapter five Jesus proclaims to us no to be angry with a brother, don't lust, don't get a divorce, don't take hallow oaths, don't retaliate, love your enemies, be perfect, and then Jesus in our text today says. “beware.” Jesus, after pointing out how a true born again disciple lives, warns them. What does he warn them about? Jesus warns them to not to let the righteous pendulum swing too far. Why does Jesus do this? Because he knows the heart of man.
Leaven is an ingredient that is put into dough to make it rise. It is something that is foreign to the bread and works its way through the entire dough, and with the passage of time, this leaven reacts with the dough and produces gas, or air, and the bread becomes puffed up. It is still the same bread, but it now appears much greater than it really is, because it is now full of empty air.
Once again, what a great illustration of what Jesus was warning his disciples about. For the leaven of the pharisees is a man made, made centered, man pleasing religion. It puffs up the chest of a person and makes them look greater than they actually are. It included sitting in the best seat, praying the greatest prayer, giving the most money, hanging out with the right crowd. The pharisees were all about pleasing man, not God, and this was the primary problem Jesus had with the Pharisees. Jesus starts by saying:
In this day in age, I fear our communities are filled with hypocrites, people performing for people. Not only that, I fear that Church is most fertile soil to produce this hypocrisy. We are a people who are told to be like Christ. We are to be pro-life, have a fish sticker on our car, listen to 101.9, and go on Mission trips. All of these things are good things, but the real question that should always be in our minds is why, why are we doing these things? Are we doing it for God's glory, or for my glory.
This question regularly runs through my mind as a pastor, but not often enough. For each minute I spend working on sermons, blogs, and Bible study preparations, is it because I love God, or is it because I love your accolades, the praise of men. Do I read God's word to impress you, or because I hunger and thirst for more of God in my life. I confess, there are times after posting a sermon on the website and sharing it on facebook, I look to see how many likes it gets. Who cares? The only thing I should be concerned about is was God pleased with what I said, and how I said it.
As I was thinking about examples of this in the Bible, the one text that comes to my mind is the scariest set of verses in the Bible. We have talked about them several times here at Cornerstone. Interestingly, it is how Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount. He says this in Matthew 7:22.
They were doing all the right things, for all the wrong reasons. The prophesying, the casting out, the mighty works was for the applause of men, not the love of God. These people were list keepers. You can almost see them reaching into their back pocket ready to recite to Jesus how awesome they were. You almost have to wonder if Jesus was thinking about Isaiah 64:6 when he spoke these words.
So what are we to do? Are we to be ninja Christians, sneaking around, lurking in the shadows, hoping that no one sees you do something nice. Absolutely not. Don't forget that Just several verses earlier, in the same sermon Jesus said this.
Is Jesus schizophrenic. Is he talking out of both sides of his mouth? No. Remember, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is always about the condition of your heart. If you take our text today, and make it a rule to follow, then you are no different than the pharisees. For they were just rule keepers. Every teaching of God, they turned into a rule, and added it to the list. Jesus is not about rules, he is about your heart.
The issue before us today, is not who sees you help the needy. The issue is why are you helping the needy. What is the reason behind what you do? Are you helping the needy for your glory, or are you helping the needy because God's light has illumined your heart and it radiates out into everything you do?
Do not assume that your actions come from pure motives. The heart is desperately sick, nothing good dwells in our flesh. I believe it would be wise if we regularly checked ourselves and asked ourselves some hard questions before we become a good Samaritan to our neighbor. As a Church, I think we need to ask this question before we reach out into the community. Are we doing it because the love of God compels us, or are we doing it because it is good marketing? Don't get me wrong, I look forward to the day when our Church picks up their shovels and their rakes and goes from door to door in this town helping those in need, but I want nothing to do with if it is all about us.
I want it all to be about Him! I do not want the people to come in contact with the darkness of man in the wretchedness of our pride. I want them to be blinded by the light of Jesus pouring out of our hearts and into their homes. I want to them to say one thing and one thing only. To God be the Glory!
With that said, how do we achieve this? What should be our motivation to achieve this? The reward of God.
First let's star with the reward. What is the reward that Jesus is talking about? To answer this, let us look at Jesus himself and see what his motivation was to giving to the needy, specifically giving to the needy by dieing on the cross for us.
The reward for you and for me is for God to be pleased by our actions. This is the greatest joy available to us in the Universe. The joy you feel when someone on this earth slaps you on the back and says nice job, is mathematically immeasurable compared to the eternal joy of the Creator of the Universe saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To exchange the praise of God for the praise of man, is pathetically illogical, so don't do it!
Which leads me to what you exist. By this time, regular attenders of Cornerstone should know what I am going to say. We exist to glorify God. This is why God created us. This is why you breath. This is why you work. This is why you graduate. This is why you get married. This is why you have children. This is why you eat and why you drink, to give God glory. If you don't like what I just said, then you are not a Christian, and Hell is waiting to receive you. God made you to give Him glory.
Having said that, nothing is more glorifying of God, then to live your life with the ultimate purpose to please Him. There is no greater glory that can be given to God than to perform for an audience of One, God. This is why God has cast you in his play. You are created and designed to live for Him. He has placed you on this planet to do His will, not the will of you and not the will of people.
Living for Him, pleases Him, and it not only pleases Him, but it gives you the greatest joy imaginable. So let us examine our hearts this morning and ask ourselves, why are we here? Are we here for others or are we here for the Sovereign God.