Three Areas of Discipleship
Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18
Matthew records three things that Jesus said that we must do as Christians. It is not optional. You can say that you never heard it before and that is fine, but after tonight if you HEAR and do not DO, you are walking in willful rebellion. Following Jesus in complete obedience shows that we have put all of our faith and confidence in Jesus and that we believe without a shadow of doubt that God will do everything He has said and promised that He would do. Failure to obey is rebellion…Either out of personal preference or lack of confidence or lack of faith. Either way we do not believe that God will deliver on what He has said in His Word. How can you serve someone or call yourself a follower of that person if you do not believe in what they say?
We are going to cover three things tonight that Jesus said we must do as disciples. The first one is giving. Verse 2. Jesus said when you give. Not when you think about giving, not if you choose to give, WHEN you give. People act like giving is painful. They do not want to part with any of their money or their stuff. They believe it is theirs and all theirs. What is wrong with giving? Why do we treat it like we have to cut off an arm to do it? We would rather give a kidney than $20. Why? This is not about tithing. I do not even believe that you should pray about tithing. Why should you pray about something that God has commanded us to do? If you want to pray, pray about how much God wants you to give. The Bible says that anyone that does not tithe is a thief. God does not answer the prayer of thieves. You cannot rob God and expect to have your prayers answered. Giving. Giving of yourself, your time, your things, your money, is what giving is all about. Anything you do above your tithe is considered an offering. You are offering yourself, your time, your money, your stuff for God to bless it and for Him to be able to use it in a way that He wants to use it. Giving is also considered planting seed. Your money, or your stuff or something that you did that God told you to do could be used to help someone come to know Jesus and that person could be saved because you gave. Giving is not a money issue. It is a spiritual issue.
If you are not giving, you are walking in disobedience – willful rebellion.
Luke 6:38 says: Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over,will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
God blesses us so that we can bless others. However, this does not mean He will give it to you on your time or your terms. You cannot expect to throw money in the offering plate as it is passed and expect there to be money under your pillow when you get home. God is not the supernatural tooth fairy. God works on the idea of seed time and harvest or sowing and reaping. When you give, you plant seed. The more seed you plant, the more you will harvest. Corn illustration.
The more seed you plant, the more you will harvest. The second thing we are to do as disciples is pray.Verse 5. When you pray. We love to talk about God but when is the last time that we really talked to God? We may all think that we know how to pray. Some of us get discouraged because we do not think that we can pray. It is not about using big words or trying to be holier than thou. It is about going to God and talking with Him and letting Him know what is on our hearts and praising Him and thanking Him for everything that He has done. Prayer is not going to God as the Holy ATM machine. God wants to give you good things and bless you but you must pray in the right way. Everything you ask must be in God’s will. People get mad when they ask for something and do not immediately receive. God looks at your heart when you pray. Are you sincere, what are your motives for asking? What is your relationship like with God? A relationship is more than one-sided.
Prayer is also a two way street. There is also a part of prayer that many people do not think about. They go to God and deliver their praise, their petitions and they clock their time in, and then they leave. When is it God’s turnto speak to you? How is God supposed to speak to you if you are too busy to listen? You are all wrapped up in your own plans, life is flowing, you are cool with it, and the only time your relationship with God matters is when you go to Him with what you need. Maybe God is telling you to slow down. Listen.
God has things to tell you too. God’s plans are always better than anything that we can come up with. Listen to what He has to say. God knows what direction He wants us to go. He is not going to tell you in flashing lights, or shout it out with a bullhorn. He speaks in a still small voice. If you are not quiet and still, you will never hear Him.
Fasting. Verse 16.
Fasting is not about Oh Woe is me! Fasting can be adventurous. It does not have to be painful. Fasting is not dieting. It is not Weight Watchers. Fasting is a spiritual discipline. It is redirecting our appetite heavenward. We are taking our focus off material things and focusing on the things of God. It is a discipline. We are taking our focus off the things of this life and focusing on the source of life. We do not fast to get what we want. God is not a genie. It does not work like rubbing the lamp and out pops God. Therefore, it does not mean that when we fast, God gives us our new house or our Lamborghini. Fasting is not about getting. When we fast, we will end up wanting what God wants. God wants us to want what He wants.
Our appetite is not always about food. You can have an appetite for greed, lust, power, knowledge, and sex,whatever. If you hunger for such things, than your appetite is out of control. What do you focus your appetite on? Jesus said, I am the bread of life and I am living water. Psalm 37:4 says, Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Fasting is our part. When we fast, we are able to get on the same page as God. Our thoughts become His thoughts. Our desires become His desires. He will give us the desires of our heart because they will be His desires. God can speak to us through fasting. Breakthroughs and revelations can come through fasting. God goes into your spiritual kitchen and cleans out the pantry. He throws out moldy stuff, get rids of toxic garbage, chunks the transfat. We go through a spiritual detox. God’s wants for us are far greater than any want that we can come up with by ourselves. Our convictions come into light. God shows us what is really important. In Numbers 11, the Israelites have been under the leadership of Moses for a long time. God has been providing them with Manna from heaven every day so that they could eat. The Israelites went to Moses and complained that they wanted meat or that they wanted to go back to Egypt because it was better when they were slaves. So, God sent quail. Tons of quail. There was so much quail that they were stacked three feet off the ground. The people thought they knew better than God what was best for them. They ate quail and ate quail and ate quail. Quail burgers, quail stew, quail hash, quail mac and cheese, quail everything. Then God sent a plague on the Israelites to the ones who complained about not having meat. They all died. Thousands of them died. They never made it into the promised land. They ate themselves out of the promised land. They missed the blessings God wanted them to have. Why? Because, they focused their appetite on what they did not have instead of what God was giving them. Matthew 5:6 says, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled. We can be on the same page as God as long as we keep our focus on God. Give. Pray. Fast.