Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Devotional: What Kind of Worship Does God Want? Matthew 6:1-18

Outline of Matthew 6.1-18

In chapter 6 Matthew continues his summary of King Jesus’ teaching about the basic values and perspectives that should rule the lives of his followers. In chapter 5 he focused on standards of righteousness for daily life. Now he moves to what worship should look like in the kingdom of God. Worship that pleases and glorifies God flows from a heart that is fully committed and dependent on God. Worship is any word or action that shows God as he truly is and comes out of real experience of God in his word, in prayer or in daily life. In this section Jesus looks at three examples of religious practice, giving, prayer and fasting, and contrasts their misuse with the way they should be practiced in God’s kingdom. Jesus’ point is that our personal piety should be practiced before God as an audience of one, not for a human audience. Our worship is real when our highest priority is relationship with Jesus and serving him. (6:33):

Jesus begins by discussing what worship is not. (6:1-2) It is not a show that tries to manipulate God or impress people with how spiritual or religious we are. This is hypocrisy. Hypocrites practice religion for their own benefit and promote themselves rather than God. Hypocrites emphasize ritual over motive and titles, control, and power over service. Jesus stresses this because he knows how easy it is to fall into this trap. We need to look carefully at ourselves to make sure our private practice matches our public profession. Would we minister without the title or serve without thanks or notice? Jesus warns us, “Watch out!” for hypocrisy.

Giving is Jesus first example of true worship. (6:3-4) Instead of giving to impress people, true worshippers give the way God gives. They understand that everything was made for God’s pleasure. We recognize that it all belongs to God and we manage his resources to honor him. What does that look like? We should give without expecting anything back because we know our gracious God will meet all our needs. We give proportionately according to how God has blessed us. We should give willingly, joyfully, generously, and sacrificially, with our time and efforts following our money. Our prayers should include asking God and planning for where and how he would like us to give. Our generous giving in church, at home and in every part of our lives should reflect the generosity of our God who has given us His greatest gift. His Son, to reach out to us to meet our every need.

Second, the public prayers of true worshippers flow out of a private prayer life that becomes a running conversation with God throughout the day. (6:5-13) Prayer does not “heap up empty phrases.” it involves bringing your thoughts, needs, hopes and cares to God and listening for his direction. The purpose of prayer is for us to seek and conform ourselves to God’s will, not to convince Him to do ours.  Jesus models this kind of  prayer for his disciples with five requests guaranteed to be in God’s will for you. I would suggest you pray it this way…

  1. May God’s holiness and glory be seen in me and in the world. Pray that Jesus’ character qualities (fruits of Spirit) will grow in your life and that people will come to know Christ and be in relationship with him. Focus in on the qualities that are hard for you and specific people you know that need Jesus.
  2. May God’s will be done in my life and in my community. Ask God what he wants you to do and submit yourself, your stuff, and your daily schedule to him.
  3. May my daily needs be met. Think about your basic needs (healing, finances etc.) and talk to God about them. Thank him in advance for meeting them and then pray the same thing for the needs of others around you. Commit yourself to being God’s servant to help meet those needs.
  4. May I experience the forgiveness of my sins. Confess daily sin, repent and ask him to cleanse you. Discuss wrongs done to you with God and commit to deal with them biblically and “choose not to remember” based on what Christ has done.” Ask God to reveal to you how you have hurt other people and commit to setting those offenses right. Thank God repeatedly for his forgiveness and your righteous standing before him.
  5. My I be delivered from the evil one and evil situations. Thank God that the forces of evil were defeated at the cross. Think through your day, anticipate your temptations and pray for God’s strength. Commit yourself to walking in the Spirit. Pray for others to be delivered from temptation and evil.

Finally, Jesus deals with fasting. (6:16-18) Fasting was one of many types of public acts of worship in the Jewish tradition which included Sabbath, sacrifice, singing, public prayer, special clothing, abstaining from sex, washing, and other rites. The purpose of these acts was the temporary giving up of something in order to take extra time to devote oneself to God. The problem happens when we focus more on what we are giving up than what we should be devoting ourselves to. When the focus is correct these acts become joyful worship that regularly flow from a heart devoted to God.

The point is that true public worship is nothing more than our heart connection to God showing itself in our daily life. Our public speaking for God, whether teaching, prayer or witness, should flow out of our regular private conversation with our heavenly father. Our acts of worship, whether its fasting, singing, or service should flow from a heart that is so dedicated to God that it cannot help but overflow into daily life. The eyes of God are “roaming to and fro through the earth” looking for hearts that are truly devoted to Him. He is looking for true worshippers. 

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