Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sermon on Matthew 6:19-7:6 (Part of the Sermon on the Mount)

These are rough notes on what I said when speaking on Matthew 6:19-7:6 recently. The talk wasn't recorded, and I wasn't speaking from a script.

If you could have anything you wanted, what would it be? A large house? All the money you wanted? A gorgeous boyfriend or girlfriend? A fast and very expensive car? Instead of all that, Jesus says that we should seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness.

Why should we seek first the Kingdom of God?

Three reasons for this which we see in the passage are as follows:

In 6:19-21, it is clear that everything else passes away, but there is real treasure that lasts in the kingdom. Whatever else we seek after will not last, so it is far more worthwhile to seek God's kingdom and righteousness.

In 6:22-23, we learn that if we seek God's kingdom, we can really see, but otherwise we are in darkness. The picture is that of the body as a room, with the eyes as the only window. If we look at something dark, we are filled with darkness. But if we set our eyes on the kingdom, we are filled with light.

In 6:24, we learn that we are slaves to whatever we seek. People who run after money are slaves to that money. People who run after relationships are slaves to those relationships. People who run after God are slaves to him. So who would you rather be slaves to - some inanimate, pointless and transitory principle, or the loving Father God?

What does it mean to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness?

In Matthew, the Kingdom of God is clearly both now and not-yet. It starts in the Old Testament, is brought in in a new and powerful way by Jesus, but still isn't fully here yet - it gets finally and fully brought in by Jesus' return.

So what it means to seek the now and not-yet kingdom of God is that now we should obey Jesus as our top priority. We should seek for him to be the person who is ruling in our lives now. We should seek for more people to come to see and acknowledge him as their king.

But we should also seek the future kingdom of God. We should be setting our sights primarily on heaven rather than on the here and now. We should be aiming for heaven and for the treasure that is there.

What stops us seeking first the kingdom of God?

In 6:19-24, it is treasures on Earth. v21 tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. It is that way round - our heart follows our treasure. It isn't saying that we shouldn't have money or relationships or whatever - they can be great gifts of God. But it is saying that they shouldn't be our treasure, because where our treasure is, there our heart follows.

In 6:25-34, it is worry about the future. If we look at nature, we see that God is totally reliable - that's what science is about. And we know that he is our Father - he cares for us far more than he does for nature. We should look at the birds and the flowers and see God's providence there far more than we should look at adverts or magazines, which are all about making us feel uncomfortable and wanting more.

In 7:1-6, it is judging. Seeking the kingdom of God is founded on poverty of Spirit - on recognising that we are spiritually bankrupt. Jesus says that we will be judged according to our attitude to others - if we are mean-spirited and nitpicking with others, when we are judged it will be in a mean-spirited and nitpicking way. But we should be wise in this v6. We shouldn't be vulnerable to those who will take advantage of us.

Summary

There will come a day when all of this world around us will have passed away, when our houses will have crumbled into dust, our cars rusted, our friends and relations died. There will come a day when we can see God fully, when it will be absolutely clear that God has always been totally trustworthy, and that his grace is far greater than ours. On that day, will we feel that we have wasted our lives?

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