The Greatest Sermon in History Part 13
Doing the Right Thing the Right Way
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 2, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)

 

Serena Williams won the Wimbledon Tennis tournament for the first time in 2002. And after the victory, a reporter asked her if she was upset that some of the English spectators were rooting against her. And she told him, no, she had had people cheering against her all her life. She wanted to win for herself. Then she added, “Besides, my dad was sitting in those stands and I knew that he was rooting for me, and I wanted to please him.” (illustration from Bob Russell)

We’ve reached a section in the Sermon on the Mount… the Greatest Sermon in History… where Jesus encourages the people to perform for an Audience of One. It doesn’t matter what others think of you, because there will always be some who are cheering for you and some who are cheering against you, but God the Father… the Audience of One… is always on your side. And He’s rooting for you. And ultimately, it’s His opinion that matters.

Starting in Matthew 6:1 and going all the way down to verse 18, Jesus instructs us to do the good things we do not for the approval of others, but for the approval of God. Specifically, He talks about when we give money to the needy, and when we pray, and when we fast. And He tells us that when we do these things we should be willing to do them whether anyone else ever finds out about it or not. John Ortberg, jokingly, says…

“I know I’m supposed to be humble, but what if nobody notices?”
~ John Ortberg

Jesus is saying, it shouldn’t matter if anybody notices. Do what you do for God, not for the approval of others. And He adds that a great way to make sure that what you’re doing is for God is to do it in secret. So with that in mind, let me give you the secrecy test this morning. Three questions, based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:1-18.

 

The Secrecy Test: (from Bill Hybels)

A. How much money would you give Kingdom causes if the only one who knew about it was God?

If you didn’t receive a tax receipt and if you weren’t worried about your spouse thinking you were cheap and you weren’t worried about your kids growing up to think you weren’t generous… how much would you give? If no one else ever noticed that you put money in the offering box or that you gave to someone in need, would you still do it?

 

B. How often would you pray if no one else but God was keeping track?

Would prayer be that important to you if you couldn’t use your fancy words in front of everyone to gain their approval? How much do you pray when there’s no one there but God?

 

C. How important would fasting be in your spiritual development if no one but God knew you were fasting?

Now let me explain something here, because this isn’t so common today. In Jesus day, the religious leaders, in an attempt to show how spiritual they were, would go without food for long periods of time. That’s fasting. Believe me, fasting can be a wonderful thing. We’re going to talk about it in a few weeks. But the thing with these religious leaders was that when they would fast they wouldn’t shave, they wouldn’t wash their hair, they wouldn’t change their clothes… all in an attempt to let everyone know they were fasting so others would look and marvel at how spiritual they were. So people would look and say, “Wow, there goes Joe. He looks terrible… like he’s been dragged behind a pickup truck. He must be fasting. What a mature, spiritual, Godly person.”

So Jesus steps on the scene and asks them how committed they would be, and how committed you would be to fasting if the only one who ever knew about it was God?

 

Those three questions cover what Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:1-18. We’re going to get to the sections about prayer and fasting in the weeks to come, but this morning we’re going to focus on the first four verses. In these verses, Jesus instructs us on how to do our good deeds, such as giving of our resources, in a way that honours Him. So we’re going to look at those four verses and draw out of them Four Keys to Doing the Right Thing the Right Way.

 

Keys to Doing the Right Thing the Right Way:

 

1. Do your good deeds to please God. (Motivation)

Matthew 6:1 (NLT)
“Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

Pop quiz. I’m going to ask you a series of 10 questions and you tell me what you think the answers are.

[Pattern for all the questions: If you work for _____________, where does your paycheque come from?]

Nike selling shoes Nike
Tim Horton’s serving coffee Tim Horton’s
East Side Mario’s clearing tables East Side Mario’s
Holiday Inn Express cleaning rooms Holiday Inn Express
FutureShop selling washers and dryers FutureShop
Allied Van Lines helping people move Allied Van Lines
Midas fixing mufflers Midas
Sobers tuning pianos Sobers
Domino’s making pizzas Domino’s
The City of Charlottetown fixing potholes Work? (trick question)

It’s just a joke. Take it easy. But believe it or not, there’s a point to that little exercise. You see, you don’t work for Nike and expect a paycheque from Reebok. You don’t work for FutureShop and expect a paycheque from Staples. And you don’t work for the applause of others and expect a reward from God.

You can do the things you do to please others, to impress them, to gain their applause. But understand, if you are working for them, then they are the ones who will be rewarding you. Jesus doesn’t say that you won’t receive a reward, just that the reward will come from the people you’re performing for. So if you’re content to receive a few handclaps and pats on the back, then go ahead. Make a show of it. But if you expect to receive any reward from God in Heaven, then your motivation needs to be to please Him first and foremost.

Look at that verse again…

I want you to circle three important words… “to be admired.” Jesus didn’t say “Don’t do your good deeds publicly because you’ll lose your reward.” He said, “Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because you’ll lose your reward.” The difference is in the motivation. Are you doing what you’re doing to please God or to impress others? If you are doing your good deeds to please God, then it shouldn’t matter if anybody else notices. It shouldn’t matter if you get applauded by the masses, because you’re performing for an Audience of One. And it’s what He thinks that matters. I like the way The Message version of the Bible interprets this verse…

Matthew 6:1 (MSG)
“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theatre, but the God who made you won't be applauding.”

The apostle Paul is known as one of the greatest Christians of all time. He’s the man primarily responsible for spreading Christianity beyond the Jewish community. He wrote half of the books in our New Testament. He is someone who lived to please God.

But that wasn’t always the case. When we’re first introduced to Paul in the book of Acts he was watching and condoning the mob execution of a believer named Stephen. Paul was very much opposed to the early church and made it his mission to arrest or kill as many Christians as he could. At the time, he was going by the name of Saul. And he was a very religious person. He followed all the religious laws and was quite proud of it. And as he travelled around trying to wipe out the early Christians, he gained the approval of many of the Jewish religious leaders and Roman officials who felt threatened by Christianity. And he did all he could to continue to please them.

Plus, he was an up-and-comer among the socially elite. He wanted to be popular. He wanted to be important. He wanted to be first in his class. And he pretty much achieved all that. Just one thing… he had never met Jesus.

"Until the one day when this fellow met the Saviour, and he knew that He was much more than a myth. It was then He gave his life to Jesus, chose to live for him alone." (To tune of Brady Bunch)

From that point on, Paul ticked off a lot of people. In fact, he received death threats, had rocks thrown at him, was arrested and imprisoned, and eventually he was killed for his faith. Check out what he wrote in Galatians 1:10…

Galatians 1:10 (NLT)
Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ's servant.

So you need to decide: When you do good things, are you going to do them to impress others and please them, or are you going to do them to please God? Let me encourage you, do your good deeds to please God first and foremost, whether anyone else notices or not.

And be assured of this: When you set out to please God, even when nobody else knows about it, you also please yourself. Because there’s a sense of inner satisfaction you can gain from serving God in a pure and authentic way.

“I have never met a soul who has set out to satisfy the Lord who has not been satisfied himself.”
~ Watchman Nee

The second key is…

 

2. Set your pride aside. (Mindset)

Matthew 6:2 (NLT)
“When you give a gift to someone in need, don't shout about it as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get.”

How often do we do things just to feed our pride? Just for the injections of praise we get from other people?

Back in Jesus time… now this may be a little hard to believe… but there were lots of religious hypocrites. There were all kinds of people doing all kinds of good things, but it wasn’t real… it wasn’t authentic… it wasn’t from a heart of love. It was from a heart of pride. It was just for show. It was just to gain the approval of all the people around them. So they would brag about what they were doing, they would make sure everyone heard about their generous donations, they would issue press releases and hire sky-writers. Every little thing they would do would be accompanied with lots of fanfare just to impress everyone. Boy, I’m sure glad we don’t have that problem today! (Taste the sarcasm.)

If you were to visit the Temple in Jesus’ day, you would discover that they had offering boxes, similar to what why have here at Sunrise. It was outside of the worship area, and people would give their money when they walked in. Mark tells us that one time Jesus sat looking at that area and watched as many rich people came in and put in large amounts. And he watched one widow come in and put in two copper coins.

Know what that tells me? That tells me that people could see what you were giving. People knew who the big givers were and who only put in a couple coins. And the impression I have is that the rich, religious hypocrites would hang around this area until there was a crowd of people there and then they would put on this big show of how much money they were putting in the box. Their action was good, but their mindset was horrible. They were only seeking to be praised and recognized by everyone who saw what they were doing.

Jesus tells us, “Don’t be like them. They’re hypocrites! Whenever they give, they announce it with trumpets! Don’t blow your own horn, do what you do because you know that’s what God wants you to do.”

Colossians 3:2 (NIV)
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Let me tell you something: This prideful pursuit of popularity and approval is an earthly thing. Don’t buy into it. Instead, set your mind on the things of God and seek to please Him.

If you struggle with this, let me share with you…

 

Four Reasons to Quit Being a People-Pleaser:

• People are fickle.

They can applaud you one minute and condemn you the next. I’ve had people tell me they’re with me, and the next week have them turn on me and start spreading vicious rumours about me. You just can’t please people, they’re so inconsistent.

• Most people don’t care about you anyway.

Nice thought, eh? Somebody said that if you care too much about what people think of you, you’d probably be disappointed to discover how seldom they did. And that’s the truth. Why worry so much about what others think when they probably don’t even notice?

• The most popular people are those who don’t try to please others.

Ever notice that the people who try hardest are usually the most rejected, while those who really don’t care are the ones who are admired? It’s a paradox. The less you care about what people think of you the better they think of you.

• In the end it’s only God’s evaluation that matters anyway.

James 4:12 (NLT)
God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has the power to save or to destroy.

Someday, each of us is going to stand before God to be judged. Now, the Bible teaches that it is by God’s grace in response to our faith that we are saved and gain entry into Heaven. But we will also be rewarded according to our works. And when you stand before Him on Judgment day, He’s not going to take a public opinion poll to determine the extent of your reward. There’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s God’s.

 

3. Enter God’s “Secret Service.” (Method)

Matthew 6:3-4 (NLT)
“But when you give to someone, don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”

In other words, don’t brag about the good things you do. Don’t draw attention to the fact that you are praying, fasting, or giving to the needy. Don’t do things just for the recognition you can get for it. Now, sometimes people will recognize what you’re doing, and that’s okay. Jesus didn’t literally do all of His good deeds in secret. But He also didn’t draw attention to them. So I think that’s what He was getting at. It’s okay if people happen to see or find out about your good deeds, as long as that’s not your aim. Make it your aim to serve God out of love and obedience whether anybody else ever finds out about it or not.

You have a choice. When you give to the needy, when you pray, when you fast, when you serve… (and by the way, it’s “when” you do these things, not “if”)… do you do it for the applause you can get from others or do you do if for the applause you can get from the Audience of One?

In one case, you will be awarded by others. In the other case, your reward is from God. So what you need to do is decide which reward you want? Do you want your 15 minutes of fame, or do you want to be rewarded out of God’s glorious riches in Heaven?

“I live before the Audience of One. Before others I have nothing to prove, nothing to gain, nothing to lose.”
~ Os Guinness

 

4. Safeguard your heart with regular “check-ups” (Maintenance)

Matthew 6:1 (NLT)
“Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”

Jesus said, “Take care!” The NIV says, “Be careful…” This kind of stuff doesn’t happen by accident. We naturally crave the applause and approval of others. They’re important to us. And in some ways that’s a good thing, but not when it takes our focus off of serving God first and foremost. So we need to regularly do a heart-check and evaluate if we’re truly doing what we do to please God.

Because it’s easy to fall back into performance mode where you’re more concerned about what people will think about you than you are about what God thinks. So put it on your calendar. Schedule it in your Palm Pilot. Every, say, six months… Do a heart check and ask yourself why you do what you do? Are you doing it to please God or are you doing it to please others? Does it really matter if other people ever find out? Do you need their applause, or are you content hearing the applause of your Father in Heaven who sees what you do in secret and who promised to reward you if you do what you do for Him?

If you discover that somewhere along the way you slipped back into performance mode, then take the time to refocus on the Audience of One.

“When you play to an audience of one, the applause never ends.”
~ Donald S. Whitney

 

There’s a song by Greg Ferguson called Audience of One. I’m going to show the chorus up here on the screen. I want you to read it aloud with me. And as we read it together, take this opportunity to reflect on your life and determine who you’re living for. Are you living for the crowd, or are you living for the Audience of One?

I'll be content to serve an Audience of One
Only His approval counts when all is said and done
And this is my prayer when the race is finally run
I want to hear well done from the Audience of One
~ Greg Ferguson


 

 

Copyright © 2004 SunriseOnline.ca