What is True Greatness?

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We often hear of people talk about greatness. But what makes something or someone truly great? We learn in Scripture about a man who “will be great before the Lord” (). Continue reading What is True Greatness?

15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

How to Deal with Criticism – Part 1

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We all know what it is like to be critical. Criticism in and of itself is not a bad thing. There is a cautious constrictive criticism and there is a careless censorious criticism. Cautioned criticism is regulated by the desire to be helpful, whereas censorious criticism is regulated by the desire to be destructive. The story of a young lawyer has been told: Continue reading How to Deal with Criticism – Part 1

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

Hypocrite

The word “hypocrite” came from ancient Greek drama. By means of role play, rhetoric or a face mask, the individual was playing-acting. Later, the term “hypocrite” became a designation of someone pretending to be something they are not.

In , the focus is on the Kingdom’s citizen’s conduct in regard to genuine godliness. Jesus begins this section by saying, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (). The conduct of God’s people is to be genuine godliness, which is without hypocrisy. This is seen regarding giving (), prayer (), and fasting ().

Giving ()
Giving to the needy is an important and kind act. However, the danger facing the act of giving is hypocrisy. Despite the kind act of giving, Jesus exposed the motivation of the religious leaders. Their motive was to be “praised by others” (). This pretend piety has its reward – the attention here and now. In contrast to this, Jesus instructed, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (). In other words, give in a way that doesn’t demand attention. God knows your motive and will reward genuine godliness ().

Prayer ()
Prayer is an essential element to the Christian life. Prayer is commanded by the Lord, it deepens our fellowship with the Lord, and is a means that God has ordained in accomplishing His purposes. However, if it is not done with the right motive it is nothing more than pretended piety. Jesus addresses this matter by talking about the motive of prayer () and the manner of prayer (). Interestingly, three times in this passage the Lord says, “when you pray” (vv. 5, 6, 7). This statement assumes that prayer would be a normal part of the believer’s life.

Regarding the motive of prayer, Jesus provides two examples. The first example is of the hypocrite whose prayers are all about them (D.A. Carson refers to this as “play-acting praying”). Their prayers are marked by prideful recognition (Matt. 6:5) and pointless repetition (Matt. 6:7). The second example is genuine and humble prayer. This kind of prayer is marked by private removal (Matt. 6:6) and by plain request (Matt. 6:7-8).

Regarding the manner of prayer, vv. 9-15 are famously known as the Lord’s Prayer. Though it was not a prayer that He prayed, it is His prayer in the sense that He created it. This prayer provides us with a model of how to pray. After the opening words, this model prayer contains six petitions. The first three are concerning God () whereas the final three are concerning us (). This prayer teaches the believer to place their attention on God making it a God-centered prayer. Recognizing that the purpose of this prayer is not to simply be repeated word for word (though that is not necessarily wrong), it provides God’s people with a pattern and model on how to pray.

Fasting ()
Fasting refers to the act of abstaining from food for a period of time, in which the individual would earnestly seek the Lord. In addition to the OT law of fasting on the Day of Atonement, people would fast for other reasons. Sadly, this act of humility and dependence upon the Lord became an opportunity for show (). Jesus commanded that this be done with the motive of honouring the Lord and not man ().

Beware of hypocrisy! Let us serve the Lord with genuine godliness from a heart that is filled with grated toward Him. He knows our motives so let us be warned that hypocrisy is of no eternal value.

6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

How to Pray for your Pastor

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The people of God are to be in prayer for all the saints (cf. ). Such prayer obviously includes specific prayer for individuals. Paul regularly requested prayer for his ministry and evangelistic opportunities (; ; ; ). In taking time to pray for all the people of God, it is important that we are specific in what we are praying for. Included in the broad category of praying for all the saints, it is important for the people of God to be praying for their pastors. Like all believers, pastors are in need of Divine grace and power so as to be faithful in their service to the Lord.

If your pastor is going to honour the Lord and encourage the people of God in his pastoral and public ministry, it is essential that he be a man of God in private. How can you pray for your pastor? There are many things you could and should pray for, but here are a few things.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul had a series of public duties that Timothy was to carry out in the ministry of the church (“the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching). But before he could be faithful and effective in such practices, he needed to first cultivate personal spiritual virtues. He says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity“. This verse provides us with five areas that Timothy is to set an example. Such actions provide the foundation for an effective public pulpit ministry.

Firstly, take regular time praying that your pastor would be an example in his “speech“. Words can build up or they can tear down. Speaking too much can lead to trouble (Prov. 10:19); gentle speech can diffuse anger whereas harsh speech can provoke anger (Prov. 15:1) and it is always important to think before you speak (Prov. 18:13). These principles provide practical wisdom in the use of our words. Our words are a powerful tool and for this reason pray that your pastor be quick to hear and slow to speak (cf. James 1:19).
Continue reading How to Pray for your Pastor

18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

25 Brothers, pray for us.

3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

Replacing Sin

Photo credit: under the Creative Commons license, by dartlee 

In my last post I raised the importance of being able to recognise sin. By doing this, the enemy becomes easier for us to identify. This is crucial because sin comes in many subtle forms, even trying to deny that it is even sin! However, our war on sin must not end with this simple yet necessary recognition. A second strategy for waging war on sin is to replace sin. Sin tries to consume our mind, and once it has done so it then produces evil actions. As a believer, we ought to replace evil with good. Instead of being consumed with unrighteousness, we ought to be consumed with righteousness. The principle of replacing calls for the believer to crowd sin out of their life. If we have a sinful thought, it is not enough to recognize it as sin, as important as that is. We need to replace that sin. What do we replace it with? We need to be filling our minds with the glorious truths of God’s word. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” ().

The notion of replacing can also be seen in the principle of Putting off and Putting on. Once we remove sin we replace it with righteousness. In his letter to the Colossians Paul commanded his readers to put off sexual () and social sins (). These are the garments of wickedness. In place of those corrupt clothes he then call for them to put on garments of righteousness (). Just as the priests in the Old Testament were to put on particular garments for their priestly service (cf. ), every believer is to put on particular spiritual garments for their Christian service.

If we are going to wage war on sin, we must make it our business by God’s grace to be actively replacing sin.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Then you shall bring his sons and put coats on them, and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.