Living Authentically-part 2
Praise the Lord and greetings on this Thursday, well we’ve almost made it to another weekend and I pray that you have had a Blessed week so far, as I mentioned on Monday we are going to pick up part 2 of our study on Living Authentically at Identi-fying The Human Bondage-Hypocrisy, so without further delay here it is.
- IDENTIFYING THE HUMAN BONDAGE—HYPOCRISY
By giving the old covenant, God sought an authentic relationship with His estranged creation. Sadly the Law served to illustrate both the way to relationship with God and the greater depths to which people could sink when they tried to use tools of righteousness for their own advantage. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount opened the door to living in His kingdom. Kingdom living would not be automatic. Such living would be rooted in the Incarnation and would require new birth and faithfulness to Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 28:18–20).
In Jesus’ day, the religious elite only acted as if they were in a holy relationship with God. Using masks of righteous practices (as seen in giving alms, praying, and fasting) could bring only temporal rewards. In receiving accolades from others, they lost any hope of eternal blessings from the Father. Spiritual practices must flow from a response to God’s invitation to right relationship with Him. Everything else is mere hypocritical stage work meant to impress people. Jesus’ teaching still challenges us today.
- Hypocritical Almsgiving
Students of human behavior in our modern world try to understand how people are motivated. The old covenant removed motivation of appeasing vengeful gods and goddesses by showing God’s loving call of Abraham. While the covenant relationship called Israel to respect God, it sought to demonstrate God’s preference for grace over destructive punishment.
Almsgiving is a Kingdom test Jesus instituted. The way of a hypocrite is to give alms for recognition or self-justification rather than out of relationship with God. Fallen motivation is the acclaim or respect of people. Pragmatic care for the poor, elderly, disabled, and others in need suggests we should use forms of motivation that work. Such care then motivates givers by connecting the giver’s desire to be valued by superiors, respected by the less fortunate, or to appease a guilty conscience born from conspicuous wealth generated by questionable economic practices instead of giving out of gratitude or a relationship with God. While children may be fed, the givers have substituted the King’s eternal gratitude for the momentary acclaim of mortals. The givers fail to remember they serve as stewards of God’s bountiful resources. When they have given only if others notice, they have exchanged heavenly regard for a brass plaque.
- Hypocritical and Heathen Prayer
Spiritual leaders spend considerable effort trying to get people to value prayer. They hope they can motivate people to love to pray and look forward to prayer meetings. Jesus’ kingdom test explores spirituality by contrasting Kingdom prayer with hypocritical and heathen prayer practices. “Just doing it” is not enough in Christ’s kingdom.
Hypocritical people who pray will fail the Kingdom test in a way similar to hypocritical giving. They pray because others notice rather than viewing prayer as a relationship with God in which He invites us to participate with His eternal design. Kingdom citizens bear fruit in prayer because they abide in Christ and His words abide in them.
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
Jesus called His followers to a life of faithful prayer that begins in private. Jesus did not teach against corporate times of prayer, which we see in the early church’s response to persecution (Acts 4) or in an effort to see God’s mission fulfilled in them (Acts 13). Rather than rejecting corporate prayer life, He reset the motivation to be a relationship with the Father.
In the Kingdom prayer test, Jesus used a contrast with heathen prayer, something He did not do with almsgiving or fasting. The Mount Carmel contest between the prophets of Baal, and Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah, illustrated this distinction. Baal’s worshipers spent most of the day in escalating prayers to no avail. They prayed louder than before, jumped higher than before, and cut deeper than before, yet Baal did not respond. In contrast, Elijah’s powerful prayer was recorded in just two short verses (I Kings 18:36–37). Fire fell as God consumed the sacrifice, stone altar, water, and dust. God won the contest.
Jesus taught Kingdom praying to keep His disciples from such heathen prayer forms. They did not need vain repetition because they lived in relationship with the Father. Authentic prayers may be demonstrative at times, but their exuberance is a result of relationship rather than an effort to get God’s attention. Lengthy, wordy prayer is no substitute for consistent relationship with God where prayer is rooted in Kingdom vision rather than personal need or vindication.
Peter and John were on their way to a normal prayer time when God healed the lame man. Since they already lived in relationship with Jesus, they did not need a lengthy or notable prayer to get their Master’s attention on behalf of the disabled man. They simply prayed, Peter took the man by the hand and lifted him up, and immediately he was healed. “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8).
- Hypocritical Fasting
Ironically the underlying motivation for all forms of hypocrisy is to cover one’s sins by misusing religious practices. In actuality the hypocritical actors compound their sin by trying to deceive others about their real spiritual state and by accepting the glowing assessments of others who do not give as liberally, pray as fervently, or fast as consistently as the actors do. Consequently the actors and possibly the audience wind up further from Kingdom living than before the act of devotion began.
Jesus’ critique of hypocritical fasting actors was that they succeeded in making people think they were authentic. They wore their fasting masks so well that everyone noticed. However, Jesus called for Kingdom reality of contrition before God rather than people. He suggested extra efforts in appearing normal on fast days so only the Father would notice.
Fasting does not manipulate God into doing what we want. Forgoing our own pleasure for the good of others advances Kingdom living far more than trying to make God do our bidding by missing a few meals.
3. THE TRANSFORMING INITIATIVE—MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM WHO SEES IN SECRET
Throughout His life, teaching, miracles, suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ modeled right relationships that all can follow. As we follow Jesus’ kingdom teaching, we worship Him as Lord and are transformed by the relationship.
- Right Attitude
The Hebrew mind frequently looked for the great commandment out of the 613 old covenant commandments. On one occasion a lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
Attitude toward God. The key beginning point in Jesus’ model prayer is having a right relationship with the Father: “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus’ followers pass the Kingdom tests by rooting their spiritual disciplines in the Father’s care.
This correct orientation removes the possibility of finding satisfaction in hypocritical acting. The Father always knows. His children live to faithfully obey.
Reordering life around attitudes and relationships to God happens with new birth (John 3:3) and by adoption (Romans 8:14–17). These two key Kingdom descriptors convey critical realities. Kingdom citizens come as new babes in water and spirit. They come in simple faith, must be discipled, and are expected to mature beyond being milk consumers.
No wonder Jesus spent so much time teaching on right praying. Through their prayers, Jesus’ disciples would be empowered to continue their fruitful ministry for the Father’s good pleasure. Worship reorders priorities and opens the doors to eternal reality. Hypocritical play-acting may convince the audience and even the actor that spiritual things are happening, but nothing has changed.
Attitude toward others. Authentic living is not just between the Father and worshipers; authentic living always includes the worshipers’ relationship with others. Jesus’ incarnation repositions Kingdom living as a call to service. All spiritual disciplines will lead the worshiper to be more concerned with ways to serve others rather than the appraisal of others. Those who claim to love the unseen God while not actively loving seen neighbors are not living truthfully (I John 4:20–21).
Attitude toward self. Reorienting Kingdom tests of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting will bring about a significant change in Kingdom citizens’ self-awareness. In Luke 17:1–5 we see the disciples’ assessment of this Kingdom challenge. When commissioned to heal the sick and cast out devils, they did so without a second thought. When commanded to forgive as they had been forgiven, they begged for greater faith!
Finally, authentic Kingdom citizens live on behalf of the world. God’s covenant invitation is always given to help people live their lives so the world can know the One they serve. They seek to live as salt and light in a fallen world (Matthew 5:13–16). They live out covenant purposes in a way Israel could not because Kingdom citizens have a better covenant established on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). Jesus Christ was a better sacrifice and a better high priest. (See Hebrews 7:25–27.)
- Sincerity and Humility
Stripping away hypocrisy’s stage masks leaves people vulnerable before God and others. Since Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden, human beings have tried to cover their shame. But only in Christ is all shame finally removed. Jesus’ kingdom tests in Matthew 6 open the door for His followers to live in honesty without the need for pretense. The grammar of Peter’s call to humility shows he included casting all cares and anxieties on God (I Peter 5:7). Masked, hypocritical behavior is exposed when we fail to disclose and cast those cares on the Master.
Internalizing the Message
Living in the Kingdom creates a new set of norms. Rather than comparing ourselves to surrounding society, Jesus calls us to evaluate ourselves against authentic Kingdom living.
While removing masks seems foreign to our existence prior to coming to Christ, authentic living liberates all who take the risk. Repentance becomes a common trait in Kingdom living. Turning from hypocrisy provides an opportunity for authentically moving into God’s purposes for us as both individuals and local congregations of believers. The consequence of surrendering our masks to the King is joy and confidence in being sons and daughters, princes and princesses with authority to live out His mission in the world.
Those who have practiced faithful almsgiving, praying, and fasting have already begun living in the Kingdom here on earth. For them, the Kingdom’s final arrival is a forgone conclusion that brings peace and rest. Conversely, mask wearers have no choice but to face the King’s return with fear; they know all will be revealed on that day.
So that will conclude our study on Living Authentically, we will start our new study on Monday on “Seek First The Kingdom”, until then have a Blessed weekend.