You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:32, NKJV)
Growing old is natural. The old were once young, and the young will become old. These things are too self-evident to warrant comment. Today’s command from the Law of Moses trained Israel to have respect for the elderly. But more than that, showing respect toward the aged is described as growing out of one’s fear of God. He is “Lord” (YHWH, Jehovah), the eternally-existing one. Ultimately, we do not have power over the aging process, He does. Being disrespectful toward an older people reflects a fundamental failure to respect God , who gives life (both young and old). So, when you come upon an older person in the grocery store who can no longer push the shopping cart as quickly as you, don’t become frustrated. When the older person is driving slower than you think he should, be patient. The “old man” should not be discounted because of his age, any more than the strength of the youth should be discounted by the aged. There is a place in this world for both. “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Proverbs 20:29). Whether young or old, we must fear God because He is timeless.
13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13–14, NKJV)
It is truly sad that so many people say they believe in Jesus, yet they refuse to believe and do what He said about salvation and heaven. We must come face to face with whether we truly believe what Jesus said about going to heaven, or whether we are content to deceive ourselves about our faith. Jesus said few find the narrow gate and the difficult way that leads to life. Saying, “Lord, I believe” will not be enough on the day of judgment (read Matthew 7:21-23). We must do the will of the Father and not practice iniquity to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easy to go to eternal destruction (hell). But the way to heaven is confined to doing the Father’s will. Doing my will or your will or someone else’s will is the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction. Jesus said many are on that path. Honestly ask yourself, “Which path am I on?” Then, believe the answer Jesus gives in His word and do the Father’s will to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-41; 10:34-35). We will not go to heaven if we will not do the Father’s will on earth. That is what Jesus said. If you believe Jesus, then do what He said and you will have found the narrow gate and the difficult way that leads to life.
16 Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16–18, NKJV)
Spiritual pretenders do not prosper. The law of Moses required fasting only on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27). The Jews also fasted at other memorable anniversaries (Zechariah 8:18-19). The temptation to show this deprivation of food in the devoted service to God was too great for some. They let everyone know when they were afflicting their souls with a fast. How we portray ourselves to others as we do the Lord’s work is the lesson we must take from this. Do we make sure others know how much we have “suffered” for the Lord? Or, do we simply do the work the Lord gives us to do, unassumingly and diligently? The Lord sees your service and He will not forget it (Hebrews 6:10). That’s all that really matters to the faithful citizen of the kingdom (not how many “likes” you get on social media).
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. (Matthew 6:9, NKJV)
Once our motives for prayer are pure we are prepared to learn how to pray. The manner of our prayers matters to God. If how we pray is of no consequence, then when His disciples asked Jesus to “teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples,” He would have simply said there is no need to do so (Luke 11:1-2). Yet, He fulfilled their request and taught them to pray. Like them, we need to learn to pray. Jesus offers this model prayer to help us learn to pray reverently and acceptably (Matthew 6:9-13). Prayer is not a liturgical, ceremonial event. It is the disciple’s communication with God. So, Jesus said our prayers must show respect and honor for God’s paternity (“Our Father in heaven”). We are His children, and we trust Him as our Father. God’s holiness defines Him, and our prayers must also acknowledge His sanctity (“hallowed be Your name”). Acceptable prayer is respectful of God. When we pray we praise God’s greatness and admit our lowliness. Recognizing God’s holiness brings us before Him with humble dependence instead of bringing prideful demands before Him.
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)
A repeated prayer is not automatically a vain repetition. In Gethsemane, Jesus “prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44). In today’s text the Lord again drills down to the motive of prayer as He draws attention the method in which we pray. Prayers offered to gain attention and renown are useless to the Father. Excessive words prayed to fill space, lengthen prayers, or to display one’s ability to supplicate deity do not deceive God (even though they deceive the one praying as well as those who hear their wordiness). Neither is prayer a ceremonial recitation of words without thought. Prayer is the earnest expression of the heart to our Father, who knows what we need before we ask. Therefore, when we pray we remember we are communing with an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Vain repetitions do increase the likelihood of God hearing us – just the opposite. He hears and answers those who depend on Him and honor Him in their prayers, not those who use prayer to exalt themselves in the eyes of others.
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)
Just as with alms, our motive for prayer is crucial. Jesus stresses the “why” of our prayers. We have denied the power of prayer and elevated ourselves instead of God when we turn prayer into an opportunity to be seen and praised by others (Luke 18:9-12). We are hypocrites to think God accepts us when we pray with motives of self-importance. Public praise is not the reason to worship God. When that is our motive, that is the only praise we will receive. Jesus is not indicting public prayer given in reverent worship (see 1 Corinthians 14:15-16). It is needed instruction that helps us examine why we pray. When we pray to be seen by God, He will reward us generously and obviously. Let us check why we pray so our Father in heaven will hear us and answer us.
1 Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (Matthew 6:1–2, NKJV)
Giving to those in need is nullified before our heavenly Father if our motive for giving is impure. Charity given from a desire to be seen and praised by others will not be rewarded by God. When recognition from men is one’s motive for giving, that is the only reward the giver will receive. The trumpet of the hypocrite is sometimes heard on social media, where it has become rather routine to “share” the charitable deeds one does. The trumpet is heard in boastful announcements of what one has done or how much one has given to a worthy cause (see the contrast in Matthew 6:3-4). We must have pure motives when we give, for even “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,” if I “have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Pride warps our motives for doing good. Yes, it is possible to pretend righteous motives when we give, but God knows our hearts and He will reward or withhold His blessing accordingly. Let us purify our hearts and do good to others so they will be blessed and so God will bless us, too.
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10, NKJV)
Love obeys God’s law. By doing so it fulfills law. It is indeed futile to try to separate our obedience to God’s law and our love for Him and for our neighbors. Obeying God’s commands grows out of loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Loving your neighbor means loving him as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). Just as we do not seek to harm ourselves, love does no harm to its neighbor. Love does not commit adultery, does not murder, does not steal, does not bear false witness, does not covet, or do anything else that harms another person (Romans 13:8-9). Love actively does good instead of evil. Obeying the will of God from the heart is love in action (Romans 6:17; 1 John 3:17-18). Love is not set in contrast to obeying the law of God; It is not one or the other. Instead, love actively fulfills (accomplishes, obeys) the law of God.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (2 Timothy 3:13–14, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1599) we learned the gospel teaches God’s people are no longer identified by their flesh, but by their faith (Romans 2:28-29). Now, let us apply what we learned. God’s word of truth informs us that the physical nation of Israel is no longer the chosen people of God. Therefore, any religious doctrine that elevates the nation of Israel to “chosen” or “promised” status is necessarily mistaken. For example, a widely held view is that Christ will return to earth and return the nation of Israel to its promised land (even though God fulfilled that promise long ago, Joshua 21:43). Scripture says we will meet the Lord in the air, not on the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Another doctrine some teach says every nation will be judged by God based on how it treats the nation of Israel. The judgment of the last great day will be individual, not national (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). False doctrines concerning Israel deceive many souls. Today, it is one of the nations of the world, but the word of God gives it no superior standing among the nations. Every nation is under the rule of Jesus Christ, and every person who rejects Him as Messiah is lost in sin (1 Timothy 6:15; John 8:23-24). “In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28–29, NKJV)
The gospel of Christ makes no fleshly distinctions when identifying the chosen people of God. The text before us is very clear. The gospel of Christ does not identify a Jew by outward circumcision, but by the inward circumcision of the heart. In Christ “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God’s “chosen generation” today is His church that is composed of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile in the flesh, it makes no difference to God (1 Peter 2:9; Acts 15:9). Scripture says, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). Any doctrine that elevates any race of people above another has distorted the gospel of Christ and the salvation it extends to all, regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 1:16-17). Fleshly Israel was told to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). In Christ, it is the circumcision of Christ – the cutting away of “the body of the sins of the flesh” (which occurs in baptism) – that identifies a person as a child of God (Colossians 2:11-13).