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The Genuine Follower – Part 1 (Matthew 6:5-18)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“The Genuine Follower: Part 1”

(Matthew 6:5-18)

Series: God’s Fulfilled Promise [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

January 6, 2019

Introductory Comments:

Illustration: When I was in middle school, just down Highway 60 at Mulberry Middle School, I was into dressing like a skater kid; like a skateboarder. I had the shoes, the clothes, even the haircut. Here’s the thing, never in my life have I successfully used a skateboard. You see, I was a faker. I may have dressed like a skater, I may have had the haircut, but I was not a skater. I was a faker. I was not the real deal. 

Today we’re picking back up our series in the book of Matthew. We’re in chapter 6 verse 5. 

Last time, we finished at chapter 6 verse 4. Jesus has just finished telling us in verses 1-4 how someone who is giving money to help the poor can give in a way that truly honors God, or they can give in a way that seeks to show off in front of others. 

Remember, Jesus started off this section by saying this in chapter 6 verse 1: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven.”

He spoke first about giving. Today’s passage is focused on two more key areas of practicing our faith: prayer and fasting. In verses 5-18 Jesus is going to compare and contrast how some pray and fast for the approval of man, and how we can pray and fast for God’s approval. He’ll also address forgiveness in this passage. 

We’ll see that some people are genuinely seeking after God and some are just fakers. 

Also, in this passage is one of the most famous passages in the Bible: what we’ve come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. 

We’re going to do something a bit different with these verses. We’re actually going to look at the same passage for two weeks. So, this is part one of a two-part sermon.

Today we’re going to look at Jesus’ comparison of the two types of motivation for prayer and fasting, and next week we’ll actually look more specifically at the Lord’s Prayer. We’ll be jumping around a bit, so stay sharp. 

Let’s dive into it, now. Let’s look at the entire passage together. 

Read the Passage

Read Matthew 6:5-18

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.

“Therefore, you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,

your name be honored as holy.

10 Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And do not bring us into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.

14 “For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

As I’ve mentioned, Jesus has already spoken about giving to the poor. These three acts of a follower of God; giving, praying, and fasting; we’re very familiar to all the Jewish people and would have been something that all of them would have done in their worship.

Yet, Jesus says that many are wrong in their motivations for why they do these acts. 

Remember, in Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus is giving us His sermon on the mountainside. He’s telling us how to really live as a follower of God. 

As aspirational followers of God today, we should pay attention to what Jesus is saying. When it comes to prayer and fasting, we should pay attention to what Jesus is saying. 

So, we’re going to look at just two points today. They’re really straightforward. Something we shouldn’t be, and something that we should be. 

First, . . .

I. Don’t be a faker [on screen]

Jesus speaks in the passage about hypocrites.

We covered this last time, but remember that a hypocrite is someone who is one thing, but acts like something else. 

In Greek theater, a hypocrite would have been associated with an actor. 

Jesus gives us four examples of fakers in this passage. 

First, look at verse 5. 

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.”

Jesus says when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. Don’t be like those who are one thing and act like another. 

We see that they are acting like they are lovers of God, that they are followers of God, but they are not. They are hypocrites. They are fakers. 

Notice what their true motivation is: “to be seen by people.” 

They want the approval of man. They want people to see how much they pray. They’re all about impressing others. 

We’ve all heard people pray this way, and it’s not really that impressive, and we should not pray to impress others. 

The second example is found in verse 7. 

Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.”

Of course, Gentiles refers to non-Jewish people. Many of the non-Jewish people of the day would pray to their false gods with repetitious babbling prayers. Saying the same thing over and over again. 

They would pray their prayers louder and faster, saying the same thing repeatedly in a ritualistic fashion. 

Jesus warns us not to pray like this.

The irony is that many of us learned to pray this way, right? “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” That’s one of the first prayers that I learned. However, it was just a ritualistic prayer out of habit, not out of devotion to God. 

This is how godless people pray. This is how fakers pray: with nothing from the heart and no true thought of the One to whom they are praying. 

We should teach children and new Christians to pray, but not in a ritualistic and meaningless way. 

Jesus gives us the third example of fakers in verse 15. 

“But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.”

Now, what do we make of this?

For those of us that remember our study in James, this should be easy to understand. 

Jesus is saying that a lack of godliness in your life demonstrates that you haven’t truly been changed by God. 

Jesus will spend more time on this topic in Matthew chapter 7 where He will talk about good trees producing good fruit. 

You know what’s cool? By God’s providence this same Sunday a year ago, January 5, 2018, we studied this verse from the book of James (James 2:13), “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy.”

Here’s the point: if you don’t forgive others, it’s an indicator that you’ve not truly been changed by God; you’re not truly a follower of God; you’re a faker. 

You might say, “That’s pretty harsh, pastor.” I know it is. I don’t know what to tell you. This is what James tells us, this is what the Apostle Paul tells us, and this is what Jesus tells us. 

So, don’t be confused by this. Our forgiving of others is not the condition of our forgiveness by God, it’s the evidence of our forgiveness by God 

(repeat)

We must not be fakers. If we’ve been changed, we must live like we’ve been changed. 

Here’s the fourth example of a faker. Look at verse 16. 

“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.”

You see, as I said earlier, in that day most people in Jewish culture fasted. 

Remember that fasting is going without food in order to focus on God. The hunger that we experience while we fast reminds us that we need food.  As we reflect upon that need for food, we remind ourselves that we need God more, and we focus on Him. 

However, the hypocrites, the fakers, were not focusing on God; they were focusing on what others thought about them. 

They were making themselves look worn-out and food-deprived in order for people to notice their fasting. 

Then people would look at them and think, “Well, have you seen Ted? He looks terrible! He must really be fasting! He must really be spiritual!”

In each of these examples, the pretenders were all about what other people thought of them, not about their focus on God!

They were not truly following after God! They were fakers. 

Jesus says a couple of times, “They have their reward.”

What does this mean?

Well, again, remember they wanted the approval of mankind, and they would probably get that approval. Humans are fickle enough that they will probably be fooled by this false spirituality. 

However, that’s the only reward that they would get.

They would not get the reward of God. 

They would settle for the lesser reward. 

One day, they would suffer the consequences of their fake spirituality. When they come before the throne of God, He will say, “Depart from me for I never knew you.”

You cannot fool God. He sees the deepest parts of our hearts. 

We should do all that we can to avoid being a spiritual faker. 

Don’t be a faker.

Do be a follower.

That’s our second point:

II. Do be a follower [on screen]

Jesus thankfully doesn’t just leave us hanging. He doesn’t just give us the negative. He gives us the positive as well. He tells what to do. We are to be genuine followers. 

Again, He gives us four examples. 

Look first at verse 6:

“But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Jesus says at the beginning of verse 6, “But.” This could read as, “Instead.” Instead of the way the hypocrite does it, do it this way. 

Concerning the location of our personal prayer to God, we should seek privacy.

Our conversation is between us and God. That’s it. We don’t need to show off in front of anyone else. 

Seclusion helps our attention, our motivation, and our focus. 

This is not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for public prayer. Obviously, we do this several times a week as a church. However, in personal prayer with the Father, the true follower seeks seclusion. 

The second example of what to do is in verse 8. 

“Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.”

Instead of going on and on and babbling like godless people, we tell God specifically what we need, knowing with full confidence that He hears us. 

Jesus says that God the Father knows what we need before we even ask for it. He wants us to ask Him because it demonstrates our dependence upon Him and underscores our relationship with Him as our Creator God and our Heavenly Father. 

He knows our heart. He knows what we want, and better yet, He knows what we truly need. 

Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that we can’t ask God for things time and again.  We see elsewhere in the Bible that persistent prayer is commended. 

However, what Jesus is referring to is meaningless, thoughtless, bantering prayer. 

Here’s a good rule of thumb: think about what you’re going to say before you say it, or as you say it. 

Illustration: I had a friend in seminary that once prayed over a meal that we were sharing together and when he was finished he stopped and said, “Wait, let’s do that again. I didn’t really mean that.” We all laughed but I was moved by that experience. It was a reminder to me to speak to God authentically, with a proper head understanding and a proper heart devotion.

Jesus continues with this third example. Look at verse 14. 

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.”

Again, the way this reads it seems almost conditional that we have to forgive others in order to truly be forgiven by God. Really, the meaning is reversed. If we’ve truly been forgiven by God, we will truly forgive others.

Jesus is using this strong language to make a strong point. A true follower of God will demonstrate that they are a true follower of God, by truly following God. 

Jesus calls us to godliness, Amen?

Forgiving others is a basic act of godliness, which Jesus calls us to. It’s a great way to measure if you’ve been changed by God: can you forgive others?

The fourth and final example Jesus gives is regarding fasting. Look at verses 17 and 18. 

17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Jesus says to put oil on your head when you fast. It’s important for us to understand that putting oil on one’s own head was a way to get ready for the day in ancient culture. It was a basic cosmetic routine. 

For Jesus to say to put oil on your head and wash your face is the equivalent of us saying today to get a shower, put on some deodorant, brush your teeth, and shave. 

Jesus is basically saying, “Don’t look weak and raggedy. Try to look normal.”

Jesus says why He tells us to do this in verse 18, “ . . . so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others.”

There were some fasts in Jewish culture that required the faster to actually take on this form of weakness and shagginess. Yet, Jesus is so concerned with not drawing attention that He says to do our best to look normal while fasting. 

Again, we’re not shooting to get attention from others. We’re seeking to focus our attention on God. He is the audience, not others. 

God will take notice of this. Jesus says that when we fast in secret, “. . . your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

That’s what we’re going for. We want God and His rewards! 

A true follower of God is going after God and His rewards more than anything that this world has to offer!  

Concluding Thoughts:

Jesus is trying to show us how to follow God.

The question is, are we listening and will we obey?

Will we be faithful followers?

Look at our bottom line this week:

Bottom Line: Fight to be a faithful follower of the Father.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Here are some words that I gleaned from Pastor J. Vernon McGee in my study that I think are helpful. When it comes to practicing these acts of godliness focus on being secret, simple, and sincere. 

Try to avoid showing off for others. Try to avoid trying to prove you’re a super Christian. Just focus with all that you have, fight with all that you have to be a faithful follower of the Father. 

Seek God and His ways and don’t worry about the rest. 

Seek to give (as we saw in verses 1-4 from last time), seek to pray, seek to forgive, and seek to fast with true godliness. 

If you want to learn more specifically about giving, praying, and fasting, I want to encourage you to check out the sermons on these topics on the church website. Go to bartow.church and click on “Resources” then “Sermon by Series” and click on “The Spiritual Disciplines” series. You’ll find a lot more on each of these topics. 

Next week we’ll look in much more detail at this specific model prayer that Jesus gave us, commonly referred to as The Lord’s Prayer. 

Here’s our weekly challenge:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Ask yourself, “Am I a faker?”  [on screen]

Am I just pretending to be a follower of Jesus? Am I really devoted to the Father? Do I really care about the approval and rewards of God more than the approval and rewards of man?

Challenge yourself this week to really answer that question. 

  1. Ask God to give you a heart for true godliness.  [on screen]

Listen, church: don’t settle for the fake thing. Go for true godliness. Be a genuine follower of God. Fight for it!

Pray to God that He will give you a heart for true godliness; that you would crave it more than anything; that you would crave Him more than anything. 

Closing:

As we conclude, let what Jesus said sink in today, this week, and beyond.

Be sure to be back next week as we hear from Jesus about what a genuine prayer to God may look like. 

If you aren’t a genuine follower of God, and you want to be, you can become one today!

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Take My Life and Let it Be

Benediction:

If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or Pastor Richard and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

Join us tonight at 5:30 PM as we conclude our study on the names of God as well as start a study of why we have different Bible translations. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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