Acts of Righteousness Done Right
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘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 today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Are we to manage our behavior from the inside out or from the outside in?
- Righteousness and Your Heart
Human beings act from the inside out. We all have motives and desires that drive behavior. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of what these are!
- Actions proceed from attitudes and desires
We are still judged by our actions
Temptations are from within. James 1:
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
(This part of death is spiritual, it is an ability to connect to God or be sensitive to things of the Spirit.)
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
Romans 8: 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
- We can direct our hearts
I said to my soul…
Psalms 42: 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
And again 42:11 the summary of that Psalm and 43:5 the summary of that Psalm.
Set your hearts on things above.
Set your minds on things above.
Renew your minds.
- Spiritual disciplines will help
All of life is what we do. The issue is that there are things we can do that will move us toward life. Bible study. Bible memorization. Prayer. Giving. Fasting etc.
Three main categories of worldly pursuit.
Desires of the flesh. Cut off your hands.
Desires of the eyes: Gouge out your eyes.
(Jesus just got done in the passage on adultery mentioning cutting off our hands – lusts of the flesh—and gouging out our eyes—lusts of the eye. This goes along with managing out lust issues by controlling the input of our eyes.
The pride of life.
This passage is all about pride. Doing things ostensibly for God in order to be thought better than we are by people.
Spiritual disciplines provoke a confrontation before it jumps out at us!
This is like sports discipline. There are no cones on a basketball court, except in practice. You practice abilities that you will need!
- Spiritual Disciplines Discussed Here
Commonly spiritual disciplines are divided into disciplines of engagement and disciplines of abstinence. Some activities combine both of these pursuits.
- Giving fights greed
Engagement and abstinence
- Prayer fights pride
Engagement and abstinence
- Fasting fights sensuality
There are many things that we can fast from. I suggest that all of us need to be able to fast from our cell phones. Try it and see how agitated and “bored” you become. Agitation and boredom are not signs of peace!
III. Practicing Acts of Righteousness Correctly
- You can make things worse
To be noticed by people. Now, the very things that are meant to develop humility are reinforcing pride!
Prayer is meant to connect us to God and reinforce our humility and need for His working in our lives. And in this prayer we are connecting to people.
Giving is meant to care for the needs of people and now it is used to trumpet our personal goodness.
Fasting is meant to connect us to the ability to deny ourselves pleasure. When we are hungry we will not die! Even thought that is the first three letters in the word diet.
- Consider the reward that you want
It is much easier to see a reward of the favor and honor of people! That is much easier than to see the pleasure of God or to see the development of character.
We naturally reinforce behaviors that we think are good. But we have to separate the praise of people from the praise of God.
Last week I asked you to think of a good thing that you wanted from God and then pursue that in communion. What is really good? What is the best of things? It is to commune with God Himself. This is the ultimate goal of all spiritual disciplines!!
- The reward of acts of righteousness is righteousness
Romans 7: Here is the problem!
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 8 the solution is found in three things:
- Jesus has completely resolved the issue of condemnation.
- The Holy Spirit will empower a new life.
- Our minds are transformed by the teachings of Christ as we trust them and pursue life according to His ways.
Ephesians 4 says it this way:
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.