Real Faith: worry, trust, and priorities

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we continued our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount, we turned to Matthew 6:25-34.

This passage speaks right into one of our most personal and constant issues as human beings: worry. I explore what worry is and what it does and doesn’t do. I also spent time talking about the power of creation in relation to our life with worry and our life with God. Ultimately, this is one more teaching that relates to the overall good life that Jesus outlines for His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount where God is the center and life is unified around God’s kingdom and righteousness. That is summarized so powerfully in one of the most memorable verses from the entire Sermon on the Mount, which is found here:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Why Worry? (6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34)

  • What is worry?
  • Why do we worry?
  • What does worry accomplish?
  • The difference between worry and work

What Preoccupies Us? (6:25)

  • Preoccupation with food and clothes (6:25-34)
  • Preoccupation with treasure (6:19-24)
  • Preoccupation with human reward (6:1-18)
  • The disciple is not preoccupied, but occupied with something else

Take a Good Look at and Learn from the Birds and Wildflowers (6:26, 28-30)

  • The well-provided birds
  • The best-dressed wildflowers
  • The care of God the Father
  • If that is true for them, then what for us?

Disciples’ Faith and Priority (6:33)

  • Living by faith in God the Father
  • Prioritizing God’s kingdom and righteousness

Making It Real

  • Perspective: the uselessness of worry and the power of faith
  • Provision: trusting God the Father for what we need Priority: living for God’s kingdom and righteousness first

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into Jesus’ teaching on real spirituality in one or more of the following ways:

  • Consider memorizing Matthew 6:25 or 6:33 this week.
  • Take some time this week to go on a walk or sit outdoors. While you do that notice the beauty of creation around you, especially the birds and the wildflowers. Let your consideration of them lead you into prayer, laying your worries down and choosing to trust God with your life. Perhaps you could use Philippians 4:6-7 as a basis for your prayer.
  • Consider exploring some of these articles on themes related to this passage:

Jesus’ Six Examples of Surpassing Righteousness in Matthew 5

In my message at Eastbrook this past weekend, “Real Righteousness,” I utilized a chart that helped show how Jesus’ teaching on “righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law” (Matthew 5:20) is worked out in six examples. I’m including that chart here for those who asked to see it.

Again, Jesus is not replacing the Law but offering a teaching that fulfills the Law and surpasses the deficient righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (see “Contrasting Forms of Righteousness in Matthew 5: how Jesus’ way is different from that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law”). This is a righteousness that comes from inner transformation by God that leads to outer transformation of life with others. It is grace from start to finish, but we must let grace have its way in us. Understanding this righteousness is the key to what Jesus outlines in the rest of the chapter.

Theme & text“You have heard it was said…”“But I say to you…”
Murder & Anger
(5:21-26)
Don’t murderDon’t be angry toward others; instead seek reconciliation
Adultery & Lust
(5:27-30)
Don’t have sexual intercourse outside of marriageDon’t look at others with lust in your heart
Divorce
(5:31-32)
If divorcing, give the necessary certificateDon’t divorce in this way
Oaths & Vows
(5:33-37)
Don’t break oaths or vows used to convince othersDon’t use oaths or vows at all; just speak the truth about things
Retaliation
(5:38-42)
Repay injuries on par with what has been inflicted (lex talionis)Instead of harm, help the one who inflicts harm on you
Love for Enemies (5:43-48)Love neighbors and hate enemiesLove and pray for your enemies

Contrasting Forms of Righteousness in Matthew 5: how Jesus’ way is different from that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law

This past weekend in my message, “Real Righteousness,” I focused on Jesus’ striking statement in Matthew 5:20:

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

While this statement has often plagued interpreters, I believe Jesus is redefining righteousness for his hearers by offering a stark contrast between His agenda and what people often viewed as righteousness. This new righteousness is different than the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law was old and deficient. Jesus is bringing a new and surpassing righteousness that is real on the inside and outside.

In his very insightful book, Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7, Charles H. Talbert summarizes the contrast between the old and the new righteousness. I have rephrased and summarized here his insights on pages 64-65. The righteousness of the Pharisees and the scribes looked like this:[1]

  • they rely on birth instead of observance of God’s will (John 8:39)
  • they teach but do not practice what they teach (Matthew 23:3)
  • they focus on minor things and neglect major things (23:23-24)
  • they do what they do for human approval (23:5, 27-28)
  • they seek to evade the intent of the Law (23:16-22; 15:1-9)
  • they persecute God’s messengers (23:29-36; 12:14), failing to recognize God’s Spirit or to understand the meaning of Jesus’ ministry

The new, surpassing righteousness of Jesus embodied and taught His disciples was different. It looked like this:

  • instead of formal obedience, it aims for radical obedience (Matthew 5:21-48)
  • this righteousness does not seek human approval, but God’s approval (6:1-18)
  • this righteousness is neither greedy nor anxious but trusts in God’s providential goodness (6:19-34)
  • this righteousness is a lifestyle that walks the talk and is critical, not of others, but of the self as a means toward self-awareness and growth with God (7:1-12)

As Talbert helpful summarizes:

“For Matthew, living with a surpassing righteousness means living faithfully within a covenant relationship that encompasses both vertical and horizontal dimensions, and is only possible if such a life is divinely enabled. Left to our own resources, we cannot be faithful. So living justly is as much a  matter of receiving as it is of giving.”


[1] Charles H. Talbert, Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7 (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2004), 64-65.

What Does It Mean to Live in the Kingdom of God?

Near the end of his magnificent letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls early believers to live fixed on the most important things, not superficial things such as what we eat or don’t eat, what we drink or don’t drink, but true life in the kingdom. This is how Paul describes the Christian life there: 

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

What does it mean to live in the kingdom? According to Paul the Apostle it means at least four things.

Righteousness
As one of the central themes of Romans, righteousness is tied in with the work of Christ that justifies us before God by faith. But in the context of Romans 13 righteousness also has to do with living rightly in relationships within the Christian community. Kingdom living is about righteousness.

Peace
Living in God’s kingdom is living at peace with God through Christ and at peace with others. This is not merely the absence of conflict but the fullness of biblical shalom where all things are right in God’s world as they should be. This is the sort of good life that all human beings truly desire.

Joy
When righteousness and peace are present in our lives we will almost inevitably live with irrepressible joy in our lives. This is a joy that exists regardless of our circumstances, as Paul testifies in his great “epistle of joy,” Philippians, which was written from prison. Kingdom living is joyful living.

In the Holy Spirit
All of these attributes, and kingdom life itself, comes through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enters our life through faith in Christ as both the powerful presence of God and the One who makes the realities of the kingdom real to us personally.

To be made right with God the Father, to live in the peace of Christ, and to walk in the joy of the Holy Spirit—this is what the kingdom life looks like. Doesn’t that sound good?

When we hear Jesus proclaim that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15), He is letting us know that this sort of life is now accessible to us. We can enter it now—not just later when we die—and live in it by learning from Jesus and walking by the power of the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard describes it this way:

By relying on Jesus’ word and presence we are enabled to reintegrate the little realm that makes up our life into the infinite rule of God. And that is the eternal kind of life. Caught up in his active rule, our deeds become an element in God’s eternal history.[1] 

So we must say, ‘yes,’ to Jesus and daily yield to the Holy Spirit. Have you done that? Have you surrendered the little realm of you life to the realm of His life? Have you given your ‘kingdom’ to God for His kingdom?


[1] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1998), 27.

We Cannot Be Silent

victim_collage

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

The church cannot be silent about the current situation. These days have especially brought into focus the reality of racial injustice and taking of African American lives made in the image of God and valuable to him, most recently with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

In our culture an insidious hatred toward others, often in terms of racism and white supremacy, has gripped us.  It has roots that go down deep into the very fabric of our society. We must say aloud that this has no place within the church of Jesus Christ, and that we must stand against it in our society because of God’s Word and our calling as people of the King.

We must repent of these things and not be silent.

We must change, stand together, and work for justice and righteousness, which are the foundations of the rule and reign of God (Psalm 89:14).

We must hold before us the beautiful picture of the church of Jesus Christ we see in Revelation 7:9 is one of “every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” equally heirs of God’s kingdom and equally loved by God.

So, church, this is the time to take our stand for the sake of Christ and the glory of the Gospel. Reach out to others you know, learn about the issues, join in with efforts like those of the Milwaukee Declaration.

Church, this is the time, to live out what we learned from the minor prophets, as it says in Amos 5:24, to “Let justice roll on live a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.”