7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV)
How do you pray? The volume of words used in prayer does not constitute a prayer that pleases our heavenly Father. Liturgical attempts to approach the Almighty are met with the Son of God’s rebuke and rejection. Jesus likens empty rhetoric in prayer to the attempts of the heathen to move their lifeless gods to action (cf. 1 Kgs. 18:26-27). Citizens of the kingdom carefully avoid useless, purposeless words in prayer. The reason is obvious (yet, Jesus remind us, for we have a tendency to forget) – our heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask Him. Prayer expresses the deep yearnings of the heart to Him who made the heart and who knows what is in our heart better than we do ourselves. Our prayers express our trust in and dependency upon God, not our ability to repeat phrases men have deemed pious and persuasive (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Let us adorn our prayers with simple communication from trusting hearts, not with mindless prattle that offends the One to whom we pray.
5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV)
Why do you pray? What is the driving motive behind your prayers? God, who knows the human heart, knows the insincere motives of prayer. Prayer is not a public display of a Christian’s devotion to God. We are warned not to pray desiring that people praise us for our piety. Hypocrites pretend to pray out of devout dependency upon God, but their motive is to be seen by others. Faithful Christians do not pray for the accolades of others, but so that the Father will hear and help them. They do not make sure everyone knows all about how and when they pray to God; they are content to communicate privately and earnestly with the Father. God promises to hear and answer these prayers. If we pray to be praised by others, men will answer our prayers with their praises. But, God will not answer us, for we have elevated ourselves above Him and trusted in ourselves instead of trusting Him.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:50, NKJV)
Even though Jesus taught plainly that His kingdom “is not of this world” in John 18:36, many souls continue to believe His kingdom will be established as a future world government, with Jesus ensconced on His throne in Jerusalem. However, Jesus said His kingdom would come into existence “with power” during the lifetime of those who heard Him teach (Mk. 9:1). His kingdom was established through the powerful events recorded in Acts 2. His kingdom is His church (Dan. 2:44; Matt. 16:18-19). When Jesus returns on resurrection day, He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, not set it up on the earth (1 Cor. 15:23-26). At that time, with resurrected, immortal bodies, we will enter the heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18). Our mortal, corruptible bodies will not inherit heaven. The kingdom of God is incorruptible and not of this world. Even so, only with resurrected, immortal bodies will God’s people pass into eternal life (1 Cor. 15:52-56). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10–12, NKJV)
Nobody will escape standing before “the judgment seat of Christ.” Therefore, it is essential we do not condemn (judge) or despise (show contempt for) one another over things that are indifferent to God (see the context of Romans 14:1-6). In this context, the apostle urges us to stop the critical condemnation of each other’s personal liberties precisely because we will each give account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12-13). Paul is not advancing unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (the false notion that we can agree to disagree over revealed truth with Christ’s approval, Jno. 17:17, 20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:3-6). The Lord does not grant us liberty to sin with His approval! When it comes to God-given liberties, we are not to bind our personal conscience upon others. Knowing we are accountable to God ought to persuade us to respect each other’s liberties, rather than demanding others live by our conscience concerning matters that are indifferent to God (Rom. 14:3-5). One who binds his conscience on others has made himself superior to his brethren. He has forgotten his own accountability to God. He will not escape the judgment of God.
Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Timothy 4:16, NKJV)
It is much easier to watch others and form opinions about them, than it is to carefully look at ourselves for our own spiritual deficiencies. And so, Paul warned the evangelist Timothy of this temptation. Self-inspection is required if we are to improve our personal faith and character. Just as building inspectors use a building code to test the integrity of buildings, self-examination must be made using a standard by which we test our attitudes and actions. The only reliable standard to use is the doctrine of Christ; the doctrine preached by Christ’s apostles and available in the Scriptures. Timothy was to teach this doctrine, and use it to examine himself. Careful attention to ourselves is not complete unless we actually do the things we have been taught. So, look at yourself through the lens of God’s word and then, do His will. Your salvation is secured as you do this. And, you will be helping save others, too.
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1–2, NKJV)
Let us ask and answer the question posed by the wise men to Herod: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” The Scriptures tell us Jesus arose from the dead and ascended into heaven (Matt. 28:1-6; Acts 1:9-11). In heaven, Jesus is at the right hand of God, having been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:33). At God’s right hand, Jesus is the head of His body, His church (Eph. 1:20-23). There, Jesus sits on the throne of David over His kingdom, just as God had promised (Lk. 1:32; Dan. 2:44; Mk. 9:1; Acts 2:30-31). He is there as High Priest, having presented Himself an offering for the sins of the world. Now, He ministers on behalf of the people of God (Heb. 8:1; 9:24-26; 4:14-16). Where is the King? Why, He is in heaven on His throne, ruling by His truth and blessing with salvation all who believe and obey Him. One day He will return, and judge us all in righteousness (Acts 17:21; 2 Cor. 5:10). The question is: Will you worship Him like those wise men of old? Or, will you deny where He is?
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9–11, NKJV)
Jesus reminded His disciples that now is the time for diligent work in the service of God (Jno. 9:3-4). Now is not the time to rest. God has created good works in which we must walk (Eph. 2:10). So, we must not be sluggish and neglectful, but energetically obedient in doing the will of God. Notice in verse 11 that obedience is equivalent to being “diligent to enter that rest” that awaits us, since not to be diligent amounts to disobedience. Here is another place where faithful obedience is defined as the “work” we do – not to earn heaven, but as our dutiful, faithful obedience to our Master. Death brings blessed rest “from their labors” to those who die in the Lord, and “their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Please do not confuse the diligent work of obedience with an attempt to earn one’s way into heaven. Obedience to the Lord is our faith doing His works, all the while anticipating our eternal rest.