Sermon # 13 Series: Matthew
Title: ALMS, PRAYER, AND FASTING
Text: Matthew 6: 1-18
Subject: Sincerity and Hypocrisy in Acts of Worship
Date: Tuesday Evening – September 20, 1994
Tape: # Q-46
In chapter 5 our Lord taught us that while the Pharisees were very good at avoiding outward deeds of lawlessness and wickedness, they understood nothing of heart-sins. He taught us that it is not enough that we avoid evil acts, we must also avoid evil attitudes. “The Lord looketh on the heart.” In this chapter our Savior teaches us that while the Pharisees were very meticulous in observing their outward acts of worship, to be seen and applauded by men, they did not worship God. In all their religion, there was no heart worship. It was all an outward show. They convinced themselves that it was real; but their religion was, nonetheless, nothing but an outward show. He is teaching us the necessity of heart-worship, the necessity of doing what we do from an inward principle of grace, for the glory of God.
In these verses (1-18), our Lord Jesus Christ is warning us to be aware of and studiously avoid hypocrisy in all acts of worship and service in the name of God. Hypocrisy is the leaven of the Pharisees, the leaven of outward religion. If it reigns in us, it will ruin us. So we are warned to beware of it. Hypocrisy is religion that is only skin deep. It is a religion of words and works, but not of grace, heart, and spirit. Hypocrisy is a form of godliness, an outward show of religion, without the life and power of God in the soul.
Specifically, our Lord calls our attention to three areas of religious activity that are easily perverted into mere acts of religious showmanship, three areas of religious service where hypocrisy shows itself – the giving of alms, the matter of prayer, and the practise of fasting. Alms, prayer, and fasting were prominent areas of religious activity among the Jews of our Lord’s day. In fact, wherever men practise religion of any kind, it is most natural for men to make these three things matters of prominence – Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity Protestant as well as Catholic, all religions encourage alms, prayers, and fasting. Man naturally associates these things with religion. By these three things, it is assumed that we serve God with our whole being.
These are the things discussed in this part of the Sermon on The Mount – Alms, Prayer, and Fasting.
In all our acts of worship, devotion, and service to God, we must avoid seeking to be seen of men and seek only to be seen of and to glorify the Lord God.
I. First, in verses 1-4, Our Lord Talks about Alms, The Giving of Alms.
What is said here may be applied to giving in the house of God and giving in support of the gospel ministry. But that is not what is primarily intended. Almsgiving is charity giving. It is giving to the poor. Without question, it is prescribed by the law of nature, the Law of Moses, and most especially by the grace of God experienced in the heart.
· Whenever grace and righteousness is established in the heart, charity flows generously from the hand (Ps. 112:5, 9).
A. All who call themselves the disciples of Christ should, above all other people, be a charitable, generous, giving people.
1. Give to the poor and needy.
2. Give to the church of God.
3. Give to the cause of Christ.
4. Give to the servants of God.
5. In all your giving give as unto the Lord. A giving God is worthy of a giving people (II Cor. 8:7-9).
B. I make this promise to you, as you exercise generosity for the glory of God and the good of your fellowmen, - You will never impoverish yourself by generosity!
1. Do not give by constraint and fear of the law.
2. Do not give to get gain.
3. But you will never impoverish yourself by giving.
· Proverbs 3:9-10
· Proverbs 11:24-25
· Proverbs 28:27
· Malachi 3:10-12
· Luke 6:38
· Philippians 4:19 “According to his riches in glory.” Let every child of God, indeed every man, give according as the Lord has prospered him, according to his means!
The Prisoner in New Jersey
The Old Lady in Illinois
C. The only thing our Lord warns us against is the manner of our giving.
· Don’t be Stingy!
· Don’t do anything to be seen of men! No Publicity!
II. In verses 5-15, The Lord Jesus Gives Us Very Simple, But Very Needful, Instructions About Prayer.
It is assumed that all Christians pray. As soon as Paul was converted, we are told, “Behold, he prayeth.” Psalm 32:6 declares that all godly people pray. All who are born of God pray. I did not say. “They say their prayers.” Saul of Tarsus did that all his life. I said, all who are born of God pray. Matthew Henry wrote, “You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray.”
This is important – In these verses, our Lord does not teach us to pray. He teaches us how to pray!
A. Do not pray to be seen of men – (v. 5).
· Not in Public Places.
· Not with Pretentious Posture.
B. Prayer is between you and God – (v. 6). Enter into thy closet – shut thy door as much as possible, let your prayers be…
· Unobserved by Men!
· Undisturbed by Men!
· Unheard by Men!
C. Do not use Vain Repetitions – (v. 7).
· Hail Marys!
· Superstitious Phrases!
· Pious Sounds, Tones, and Jargon.
· Much Speaking – God does not need to be informed, or agreed with – Simply acknowledged, sought, and honored.
Illus: Elijah and the prophets of Baal – (I Kings 18)
D. Prayer, above everything else, involves faith – Not posture! – Not Place! – Not Words! Faith!
· It is the acknowledgement of God as my Father.
· It is confidence that he knows and will supply my needs.
E. The Lord willing, we will look at verses 9-15 in detail next week, but notice here how our Lord teaches us to pray.
Here are seven things we ought to seek in prayer:
1. The Glory of God (v. 9).
2. The Kingdom (church) of God (v. 10).
3. The Will of God (v. 10).
4. Daily Provision (v. 11).
5. Daily Mercy (v. 12).
6. Daily Preservation (v. 13).
7. The Praise of God (v. 13).
NOTE: In verse 14 and 15 our Lord declares that our prayers are nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, unless they arise from sincere hearts of love, faith, and grace – Pharisees know nothing of forgiveness, mercy, and sincere love!
III. Now, look at verses 16-18 – Here our Savior gives a Word of Instruction About Fasting.
Let me talk about that for just a minute. The Bible does not say much about it, so I will not say much about it. Fasting is the occasional abstinence from food. It is subjecting the desires of the body and the needs of the body to the burden of the heart and the longings of the spirit in prayer.
A. We read of many in the Word of God who fasted in prayer, when greatly concerned about a specific matter.
· David when His Child was Dying.
· Daniel when He Sought The Mind of The Lord.
· Esther before Going into Ahasuerus.
· The Lord Jesus before He was Tempted.
· Paul and Barnabas When set apart for The Work of The Gospel.
B. But There is no direct command given regarding this matter in the Word of God.
It seems to be left to each believer whether he fasts or not, when he fasts, and for how long. It is a matter about which no man should sit in judgment over another.
· There are poor people in this world who never have enough to eat to satisfy their stomachs – It would be utter cruelty to require them to fast.
· There are some sickly people whose frame must be sustained with a very strict regiment diet – For them to fast would be utter folly.
· If you choose to fast, you may do so freely – If you choose not to fast, you do so freely.
C. The only thing our Lord requires is that no one is to know, but you and the Lord, whether you fast or do not fast.
If you fast, do not “appear unto men to fast.” That is the only rule given in the Word of God about fasting.
What are the lessons here tonight about alms, prayer, and fasting, about all outward acts of worldly and religious services.
1. Do nothing to be seen of and applauded by men -
Yes, we are to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven. But we are never to do anything that they may see and applaud us!
The hypocrite is one who lets his light so shine before men that they cannot see what is going on backstage!
2. Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God! Ever be a faithful witness. But do not ever make a show of religion.
3. In all things, always be aware that you are in the presence of the Omniscient God.
· He loathes hypocrisy and pretense!
· He looks beyond deeds and acts to motives and attitude.
The Lord God cares absolutely nothing about:
· How much money you give.
· How long you pray.
· and whether you fast.
· He is only interested in one thing – Why?
“The Lord looketh on the heart!”