Perfect Decoys (Matthew 6:1-18)

Sunday 08/11/2020

Operation Bodyguard was a part of the Allies’ plans to invade Nazi-occupied Europe on D-Day in 1944. Operation Neptune was the overall plan for D-Day, but Operation Bodyguard was a deception plan. It was intended to mislead the German military leadership over the time and place of the invasion.

From December 1943 to March 1944, while German forces were stretched along the European coast expecting an Allied attack, British and American forces deployed decoy boats and aircraft, inflatable tanks, and dummy parachuters to deceive their enemy. The plan worked. When D-Day came, the Germans were taken by surprise and their scramble to redeploy troops allowed the Allies victory.

At the end of Matthew 5, Jesus concludes the first section of the Sermon on the Mount by saying “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v48). If we are His followers, our character is not measured against the people around us. The standard Jesus gives us is God Himself, who is perfection itself.

We might see others around us and conclude that we’re not so bad. But when we’re compared to God, all but the least self-aware would realise that we cannot be perfect.

But we might be pretty good at fooling others. Like Operation Bodyguard, we can deploy dummy compassion, cardboard prayers, and bogus devotion. It’s decoy perfection. And people might fall for it.

Or, even if people do see through it, at least they won’t call our bluff. And Jesus warns us that this decoy perfection doesn’t work. Instead of receiving the reward our Heavenly Father gives, we’re left with an empty shell: human approval, which is here today and gone tomorrow.

So, what can we do? Jesus takes off our masks. He exposes our decoy perfection, our hypocrisy. But He doesn’t tell us not to worry about giving, or praying, or fasting. And He calls us to act out genuine devotion from a heart that knows the living God.

  1. Take Off The Mask (v1)
  2. Hide Your Giving From Yourself (v2-4)
  3. Pray Simply In Secret (v5-15)
  4. Fast So No One Knows (v16-18)

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The Perfect Life (Matthew 5:33-48)

Sunday 01/11/2020

If you asked 100 people what a perfect life looked like, what answers would you expect? And if you asked the same people how they could get a perfect life, what would they say? Will a perfect life just come to us? Will working hard get us there? Or do we have to take it?

Some might think that fate or karma will bring them good. And more might believe that determination will get you where you want to be, that “if you have a go, you will get a go.” But if we look carefully at how our world works, we’ll see that good ideas are overlooked and hard work isn’t rewarded. So, it seems that we won’t get ahead unless we push ourselves forward.

Instead of thinking of others, we find ourselves asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’

Instead of choosing what’s best for everyone, we say, ‘What do I deserve?’

And instead of asking, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’, we think, ‘What can I get away with?’

When we think and act like that, we’re saying that the only way to get ahead is to trample over others. And what do we find when we get there? It’s lonely at the top. That idea of the perfect life is all around us. But it doesn’t add up.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what a perfect life is like: It’s living as citizens of His Kingdom (v1-12). It starts when we realise that we’re spiritually poor (v3), that we can never provide the right relationship with God that we desperately need (v6). And Jesus promises that, if that’s us, then the Kingdom of Heaven is ours and His righteousness will satisfy every spiritual need we have.

So, how does Jesus challenge those attitudes we see around us and find within us? Asking ‘What’s in it for me?’, ‘What do I deserve?’ and ‘What can I get away with?’ Jesus answers those attitudes by showing us the perfection of God’s Law, then by embodying that perfection Himself, and giving His perfection to His followers.

  1. Echo Jesus’ Perfect Honesty (v33-37)
  2. Practice Jesus’ Perfect Submission (v38-42)
  3. Cultivate Jesus’ Perfect Love (v43-48)

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Lust: Adultery in the Heart (Matthew 5:27-32)

Sunday 25/10/2020

You’ve probably heard someone claim, “Jesus hardly said anything about…” and then name something about human sexuality. Usually, that means people distrust what God has said about sexuality and intimate relationships. So, people reject it, ‘God can’t tell me what to do or who to love!’ And we can have questions about where relationships and sexuality fits in God’s world. It’s all around us and hard-wired into us. But have we got the idea that God is only interested in our spiritual life, but not our relationships? We might think, “It’s just not that important to God.” If we think Jesus doesn’t say much about sexuality, we need to listen again to Matthew 5:27-32! Jesus says so much in just these few words! We need to accept it. So, what does Jesus say and how should that shape our thinking about intimacy and relationships?
  1. Jesus Exposes Lust as Adultery (v27-28)
  2. Heeds Jesus’ Drastic Warning (v29-30)
  3. Honour Marriage Like Jesus (v31-32)

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Anger: Murder in the Heart (Matthew 5:21-26)

Sunday 18/10/2020

Jesus said that He didn’t come to do away with the Law but to fulfil it (v16-20). And here, Jesus exposes the depth of God’s Law. We might think of the Law as a list of things to do or not do, but Jesus shows us that it is about what we love and hate: He says, “21 ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

  1. Jesus Exposes Murder in the Heart (v21-22)
  2. So Jesus Urges Resolving Anger (v23-26)

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The Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-20)

Sunday 11/10/2020

What do you think about the Old Testament? Do you think of yourself as more of a New Testament believer? Do you think the NT is more about grace, and the OT is more about rules? And isn’t Christianity all about love, not law?

Well, Jesus did speak a lot about love. In fact, later in this chapter, He summarises the Law by quoting two statements from the Old Testament about love:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all you soul, and all your mind, and your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself,” (22:37, 39). That’s a description of total obedience, stated in terms of love.

Jesus tells us that our failure to obey the Law is a failure to love. We must love to keep the Law. But His demand that we love does not replace the requirement to keep the Law. Obedience to the Law is how we love God and love our neighbours. So, it’s wrong to set the Law against love and say that love wins. Love is keeping the Law.

In Jesus’ day, it was expected not that the Messiah would abolish the Law but that He would add to it. But here, Jesus tells us He didn’t come to do that either. Matthew shows us:

  1. Jesus Fulfils the Old Testament (v17)
  2. Jesus Upholds the Old Testament (v18-19)
  3. Jesus Requires and Gives a Greater Righteousness (v20)

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