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The Struggle to Keep God First

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Vision Moment:

Band of Brothers this Saturday at Jason Harris home
Next Sunday - Mother’s Day and Parent-Child Dedication (reception)
Church in the Park - May 20

Scripture:

Matthew’s focus has been on showing his readers this picture of the way that Jesus taught his first followers what living as a disciple in the kingdom of God looked like.
Jesus taught them “What the life of human flourishing was” in the Beatitudes
Matthew 6:19–24 ESV
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
He taught them that with that understanding of the good life was, that they/we would be salt and light in the world, reflecting the nature and character of God.
That true righteousness was not outward observance to a set of laws, but an inner righteousness. An inner desire to know and do the full range of God’s will.

Introduction

Recap

He taught that even the way we practice our devotion (generosity, prayer, fasting) to God was to flow out of an inner confidence that God as Father knows and sees us.
Matthew’s focus has been on showing his readers this picture of the way that Jesus taught his first followers what living as a disciple in the kingdom of God looked like.
Jesus taught them “What the life of human flourishing really was” in the Beatitudes
He taught them that with that understanding of the good life was, that they/we would be salt and light in the world, reflecting the nature and character of God.
That true righteousness was not outward observance to a set of laws, but an inner righteousness. An inner desire to know and do the full range of God’s will.

Introduction

He taught that even the way they were to practice devotion (generosity, prayer, fasting) to God was to flow out of an inner confidence that God as Father knows and sees all things.
Jesus wants to go deeper with His disciples, he wants to unearth every space in the heart. Not so we could lead some miserable life here on earth and hopefully one day, enjoy a disembodied sphere. Jesus believed that the life of flourishing was the life beginning NOW in the Kingdom of God.
So what’s left to talk about?

Tension

How many of you have ever heard the phrase, “In order to keep the marriage fresh, you need to keep dating your spouse?”
Whoever said it first was getting at the point that after you get married, you’ll be redefining what normal is. You won’t have to say goodnight and then get in your car and go home.
But when you’re married, you do everything together at least at first. As time goes on, one goes and plays softball, the other goes and sings karaoke and you start to actually grow apart instead of deepening the relationship.
What determines whether that happens or not?
Before our family moved to Roseville we lived in Southern California for six months. While we were there, I met a man who had just gotten out of prison and was desperate to get out of the lifestyle that he was in. It doesn’t normally happen this way, but the very first time I met him, God allowed me to share the Gospel with him and he was so eager and excited that he put his faith in Christ.
That next Sunday, I picked him up and brought him to church where he got baptized. What happened over the next six months was nothing short of miraculous. His whole demeanor changed, he was so excited about his new life in Christ, it was almost uncomfortable to be around him. Every week we would meet at least twice so I could show him the basic tenets of the faith. It was an awesome outpouring of God’s Spirit and grace.
He was heartbroken when I told him that our family was moving to Roseville, but was so dedicated to Christ that he ensured me that he would be just fine. And he was for a while. We would chat on the phone once or twice a month. But he had met someone and he really liked her and wanted to marry her, so he began to pick up extra shifts at work and before you knew it, he was not only out of church entirely, he had stopped practicing any of the disciplines he was so eager to learn.
What happened?
What happened is one of the things that Jesus has left to talk about. Jesus knows first hand that the first area that the evil one is going to tempt us in is in our priorities.
We need to talk more about this, but guys, there is a real source of evil in our world, Satan, the devil, the evil one and he hates God and he hates anyone who fears and loves God and he’s after you and he’s after your family and your relationships, he’s on the hunt looking for prey. And he will stop at nothing to get you to believe that as long as the stuff we’re doing isn’t explicitly evil that we’re good.
He would love to keep everyone from becoming a follower of Christ, but if he can’t do that, he’s going to try to keep everyone from moving out of the infancy stage of spiritual growth.
What Jesus is saying to us this morning is totally counter-cultural and perhaps the most demanding words he’s said so far.
So I want to stop and reflect on one thing before we move on...
Psalm 103:13–14 ESV
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Ps 113:
There is a daily struggle to keep God and His Kingdom as the highest priority in our lives, and if we’re not intentional about it, we will be derailed by the lowest hanging fruit.
Matthew 4:9 ESV
And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Matthew 4:8–9 ESV
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Matt 4:9
There is a daily struggle to keep God and His Kingdom as the highest priority in our lives, and if we’re not intentional about it, we will be derailed by the lowest hanging fruit.
So how do we keep God and His Kingdom as the top priority in our lives?

Align our affections, attention, and allegiance to God and His Kingdom.

When you hear the words: money, sex, and power do you think of them positively or negatively?
Think about the last section Jesus spoke about. Practicing righteousness/Spiritual disciplines, right? There is a continuity to the Sermon on the Mount and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it.
It really depends upon priorit
All of the sections work together to give us a better understanding of what being a disciple of Jesus living in this already/not yet state.
A large part of practicing righteousness or developing spiritual disciplines is working towards this alignment.
Generosity, prayers, and fasting are intended to sort of bend us to God’s will, not bend God towards our own.
If we’re not careful we distort the purpose for spiritual disciplines away from what God intends for them to be.
So let’s look at this set of three heart attitudes we need to develop in order to have this alignment with God and His Kingdom.
The first is affections:
Matthew 6:19–21 ESV
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matt 6:19
Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Where are your affections?
And to determine our affections we drill a little deeper and ask,
“What do we protect, secure, and cling to? What do we get excited or filled with emotion about?”
And we all get excited about something. Whether it’s getting a raise at work, a new bike or toy, a confirmation about a vacation, the news of a child or grand baby. We all express emotion, we all work to protect, secure, and cling to something or someone...
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
The heart provides the value system for our lives. It provides the lenses or worldview through which we make those decisions.
So, Jesus states very mater of fact, but using an intentional literary method (think Proverbs) to say that ultimately there are two paths or two ways that we relate to money and material possessions:
We’re either laying up treasures on earth or we’re laying up treasures in heaven.
The key phrase in His teaching is WHERE we’re laying up treasures for ourselves. Either on earth or in heaven.
What does money and material possessions have to do with our affections?
To “lay up” can also be translated “store up” or in the HCSB “collect”. Jesus is not confronting quantity, He is not saying, “You may not be wealthy (which we all are) and flourish in the Kingdom.”
What he is saying is that “Flourishing — opposite of the wisdom of the day — is not defined by how much stuff we have collected, but if we use what we have for Kingdom purposes.
And what are Kingdom purposes?
One scholar said it this way:
“Direct your actions toward making a difference in the realm of spiritual substance sustained and governed by God. Invest your life in what God is doing, which cannot be lost.”
Another scholar said this:
“Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of His creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and of course  every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrection power of God, into the new creation God will one day make.  This is the logic of the mission of God.  God’s re-creation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted.  It will last all the way into God’s new world.  In fact, it will be enhanced there.”
SO, even though laying up treasures on earth gives the appearance of wisdom, EVEN THOUGH PROTECTING, SECURING, AND AVOIDING ANY RISK appears like wisdom; Jesus reminds his disciples what will happen to those things that are laid up for yourselves here on earth… the moths will eat them, rust will destroy them, and thieves will take them.
The second heart attitude that we must develop is aligning our attention to God and His Kingdom
This is a difficult question for most adults to answer. We might be quick to answer, but if we take the time to drill deep we may be surprised by what our real treasure is.
In the case of a small child they might say a stuffed animal or a blanket because they’ve only been confronted with losing or having those things taken away.
My wife enjoys spring cleaning. She does it year round. According to my (at the time) 5 year old she got “carried away” as she donated their favorite bucket of treasures.
We all have treasures. We all have a value system. It’s that checklist that we go through when we’re making decisions.
Food
Vehicles
Matthew 6:22–23 ESV
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Clothing
Jesus simply continues his teaching on discipleship.
Jesus simply continues his teaching on discipleship.

Matthew’s focus has been on showing his readers this picture of the way that Jesus taught his first followers what living as a disciple in the kingdom of God looked like.
This is somewhat of a difficult word picture. Interpreting what Jesus is saying from a 21st century perspective will miss his point because the way that a lamp on your nightstand works today is not at all the way a lamp worked in his day.
Jesus taught them “What the life of human flourishing was” in the Beatitudes
He taught them that with that understanding of the good life was, that they/we would be salt and light in the world, reflecting the nature and character of God.
That true righteousness was not outward observance to a set of laws, but an inner righteousness. An inner desire to know and do the full range of God’s will.
To say “the eye is the lamp of the body” is to say that the way that you really are in the heart (determined by what wins your affections — either God and His Kingdom or earthly treasure) is the way you will see the world.
Paul understood this combination of affections and attention well:
He taught that even the way we practice our devotion (generosity, prayer, fasting) to God was to flow out of an inner confidence that God as Father knows and sees us.
Colossians 3:1–2 NLT
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
Col 3:
So if you treasure God and His Kingdom you will begin to see things in an entirely new way.
The way you see issues that go on around you and in the world, are directly tied to the affections of your heart.
Are your affections and your attention wholly committed to Christ and His Kingdom? Where is your attention this week? What is fighting for your attention when you’re at home, at work, watching the news, enjoying good food with friends?
A disciple is not just someone who has given some intellectual ascent to the idea of Christianity. Like, yeah, that makes more sense the the other ones…
A disciple is constantly-intentionally-checking their affections-checking their attention.
There is no in between here. Jesus guides us with this understanding by making clear marks of the “healthy” eye or the “evil” eye. Our attention is to be solely and wholly upon Christ and His Kingdom.
And this leads to the final heart attitude. A disciple aligns their allegiance to God and His Kingdom
Matthew 6:24 ESV
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
The crowd gathered around Jesus may have well known this idea of having a master. It’s the same word for Lord in other places in Scripture. Although there were some cases where because of a persons debts they were shared by two masters until they paid back their debts.
The point Jesus is getting at here is the it’s impossible to give full allegiance to both masters. So the singularity of attention that comes from the affections is impossible without total allegiance.
Jesus is leading them to a point of decision. Where is your allegiance? Is it to God and His Kingdom and all that goes with that, or is your allegiance to mammon?
Mamona is not just currency. It is the amassing of wealth or materials or really anything or anyone that is not God.
The reason why Jesus uses money specifically is because :
The pursuit of wealth and material goods is always in total opposition to the pursuit of God and His Kingdom.

Reflection

If you are a Christian this morning, you need to examine your heart and think through where the Spirit is poking you.
Do you know where your affections are?
Do you know where your attention is?
Do you know where your allegiance is?
A disciple of Jesus is constantly aligning them to God and His Kingdom.
If you are not a Christian this morning, we want you to know this, the only reason why we’re here this morning is because we believe that Jesus is the only ONE worthy of our affections, attention, and allegiance.
So what’s left? Relationships are left. Jesus wants to go deeper with His disciples, he wants to unearth every space in the heart
That is based on the fact that Jesus (who is God in the flesh) came to earth on a mission. That mission was to show the world what God was really like.
So, how do we know what we treasure most?
So he lived a life of total sacrifice and compassion. He lived free of any sin or harm to anyone regardless of who they were or where they were from or what they had done (total unconditional love).
That unconditional love had it’s apex when he willingly gave up his life so that those who were sinful and those who had harmed others could be released from the debt of sin to enjoy an actual relationship with God if they placed their faith and trust in Jesus.
His answer to that question and the main point of his teaching here is:
That is beautiful, but not over. Jesus died and then he literally rose from the dead. This inaugurated a new movement of God on the earth as people from all over the place began to put their faith in this Jewish carpenter from a backwater town called Nazareth.

Whole cities began to change and 2000 years later we’re still in awe of it. And we’re now on a mission to show and tell the world what God is really like.
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19–21 ESV
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So if you’re not a Christian this morning, there is no reason to leave here without becoming one.
So, think first about our affections. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If you would like to receive the free gift of Christ’s love, while everyone is coming forward for communion, you come and speak with one of the elders or turn to the person sitting next to you and say, “I want to become a Christian.”
Wisdom tells us that pretty much all of life comes from the heart. The heart is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
So Jesus states very mater of fact, but using a very intentional literary method (think Proverbs) that ultimately there are two paths or two ways that we relate to money and material possessions:
We’re either laying up treasures on earth or we’re laying up treasures in heaven.
Now, even though laying up treasures on earth gives the appearance of wisdom, Jesus reminds his disciples what will happen to those things that are laid up for yourselves here on earth… the moths will eat them, rust will destroy them, and thieves will take them.
Instantly, we have some questions for Jesus:
Are you teaching dualism? Are we supposed to chop everything up into either spiritual and physical or good and evil categories? In other words, is Jesus saying that giving money to the church or charity or missionaries is the only type of giving that will have eternal value and all other use of money is
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