Sermon Notes: Matthew 6:1-4; 16-18

Reject showy and embrace hidden.

Because God loves me, for the past few years the Holy Spirit has been continually whispering to my soul, “stay hidden”. In other words, don’t seek to be big in man’s eyes.

Where we live being Christian is assumed in most circles. This is not good. 

Often “Christians” are praised for their degree of devotion or perceived devotion to the latest and greatest trend in the Christian subculture. 

NOTE: Every human being needs to be seen, valued, and heard. We are not talking about the good need every person has because they are valued and loved by God. We are talking about an unhealthy desire for fame disguised as a need to be exalted to places only reserved for God.

Where we live, it’s common to be praised as spiritually elite for perceived seeking after God, or for flocking to the latest cool place where God is thought to be doing the most external “showing up” and thus that’s where the crowds are. We need to be on the front end of that trend to be known as the spiritually elite.

Because, after all, God can’t be present and at work in that little fellowship on that back road where there is an unknown pastor with no social media platform who has been faithful for 30 years and never makes the news or does an event for the city.

It would be easy to hear this as some rant, and I supposed it might sound that way. 

I hope this introduction highlights our culture as a contrast to Jesus’ words to us. 

I’d commend to everyone’s heart Jesus’ teaching on popularity and trends and external displays of “righteousness”. 

Jesus flat-out rejects all of that rigamarole. 

We as a Christian subculture tend to run to it. 

Who buys the Christian book few read because it’s difficult and the author is not a star? Why do we point people to rock star preachers and Bible teachers rather than taking them to church with us? Why is Craig Blomberg not one of the top-tier “preachers” on the Christian walk of fame? 

We like a flash. We think it makes Jesus look better. As if he does not carry his own praise well by himself. 

Jesus is not the problem. The Bible is not the problem. I am the problem. 

Jesus begrudgingly turns the water into wine, and John tells us that many believed in his name, but Jesus did not entrust himself to them. Why? Because he knew them and what was in their heart. 

On the outside, it looked like the wedding guests were for Jesus, yet their hearts were really for the miracle show and the wine. 

Jesus is proved right in John 6 after these same crowds who “believed in him” at the wedding and drink his wine then eat his multiplied bread and fish. However, they abandon him when Jesus tells them the truth about why they came after him. 

He exposes their desire for showy spirituality by inviting them to feast on him alone (his flesh and his blood). 

These crowds who loved the miracle of wine and fish and bread leave Jesus because Jesus alone without any show is just not what they were looking for. 

Peter and the others affirm their faith when Jesus asks if they want to leave also, and Peter responds, “Where else will we go? You have the words of life.”

“The desire to be popular was so ingrained in the culture of the first century that Jesus publicly called out the Pharisees and teachers of the law by telling them that they did everything they did to be seen by people (Mt. 23:5). Jesus’ disciples were to reject a showy spirituality with the goal of impressing other people.”  – Taken from Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship”, p. 67 

Satan used Psalm 91 to try and entice Jesus to misuse the Psalm’s intent by jumping off the temple’s highest point so angels would swoop down and rescue him, people would believe, and he would be recognized for who he is. Jesus rejected that. 

Jesus rejected, and he rejects today, anything that had any inkling of looking for admiration or approval from people. 

If we are going to be disciples who follow Jesus, we are going to have to practice Christian disciplines for God’s attention not man’s empty praise. 

READ IT: Matthew 6:1-4; 16-18

So, what do we need to know and learn about practicing the disciplines for maturity from God’s word?

  1. We must understand and practice Christian disciplines. 
    1. Jesus is assuming we know and practice these things!
      1. “Whenever you give…”; “Whenever you fast…”
    2. The Bible teaches various practices that are to be definitive in a disciple’s life.
    3. I’m calling these practices “Christian disciplines” because the language used in many circles of “spiritual disciplines” comes off as immaterial and not involving physical realities beyond the disciplines themselves, and that implies that material existence is somehow less than spiritual existence.
      1. I reject the idea that physical is less than spiritual 100%. 
    4. Jesus teaches disciplines that are whole-human in nature. 
    5. Christian disciplines are the practices found in the Bible that promote maturity for the Christian practiced in fellowship with the local church.
      1. Christian disciplines are habits of devotion to God and his way that help us to experience a robust and living faith in Jesus and grow up into maturity in Christ. 
        1. Disciplines are means, not ends. 
        2. Disciplines are being and merely doing.
          1. That is they are actions that flow from who we are and whose we are.
          2. They are actions we don’t have to “make” happen. They flow out of identity as naturally as our innate personality.
        3. Disciplines are promoted and modeled in the Bible.
          1. It’s in the Manual.
        4. Disciplines are personal and corporate.
          1. Hidden does not mean never practicing with others or practicing in front of others’ eyes. 
          2. Hidden does mean not seeking to be revered by others as being something we are not.
            1. If others witness it, it’s because they chose to look not because you were trying to be seen.  
  2. Don’t do Christian disciplines in order to be seen by other people. 6:1
    1. Engaging in the disciplines for God’s eyes is Jesus’ primary point.
      1. Jesus assumes that the people of God are doing these things, and his instruction is not introductory.
        1. Jesus’ instruction here is corrective.
    2. AND Jesus’ instruction is not a blanket rejection of the public exercise of the faith. 
    3. We should live out our faith in public with public effect.
      1. To reject the public exercise of faith outright is the same error of the Scribes and Pharisees in the opposite direction.
        1. The Scribes and Pharisees did it to be seen. 
        2. The other error is to be so fearful of being seen that we either don’t do the disciplines or we lose our salty light that is there so others might see Jesus rather than us.
        3. Jesus’ point is that our aim must be to worship God and live for his approval whether seen or unseen by people
    4. NOTE: Jesus is addressing primarily the individual’s practice of their faith in public NOT the corporate exercise of the same disciplines as a whole fellowship. These are different things.
      1. How to practice these disciplines as a whole church is gleaned from the whole of the Bible and that is not Jesus’ point here.
      2. We want to keep a narrow focus on Jesus’ instruction to the disciple following him as part of the local church, not how to corporately give or fast.
    5. Having said this, there is a place for the corporate exercise of Christian disciplines and this should be done with each person making sure they are not putting on a show to make others believe they are something they are not.
      1. Acts 4:23-31 is a good example of the local church praying together on mission. 
      2. Acts 4:1ff is a good example of giving in order to be seen and the consequences. Ananias and Saphira. Ouch.
      3. From the Old Testament to the establishment of the local church, God’s people gather together to worship with all the Christian disciplines in play.
        1. Public and corporate expression of our faith is not only good, it’s part of the global witness of the church to Jesus. 
      4. We don’t reject the public practice of our faith. 
        1. We discipline our public practice as the church gathered through the disciplined private practice of meeting with God, listening to God, and being aware of his continual gaze and reward. 
      5. We should be careful with our private practice done in public.
        1. I do this sometimes by reading Scripture at the coffee shop, and when I do, I am super aware of my motives and who is around me. Sometimes I do it on a digital device so as to not be “showy” as I’m aware of my heart’s intentions.
          1. Sometimes I carry my Bible when meeting with some guys because I can’t see digital too well. 
          2. And I’m aware of that and careful.
            1. Don’t get all funky with this. 
            2. Know your heart, and do what you need to do in order to honor God and get what you need, and stop worrying about it. 
        2. Jesus is not prohibiting the personal public exercise of the disciplines, but he is telling us to evaluate our motives and strive for his attention, not man’s. 
  3. Give for God’s eyes, not man’s approval. 6:2-4a
    1. Giving in the Bible is so rich and robust, that I fear I’ve not done it justice over 20 years of teaching for fear that people would see me as one of those money guys who are charlatans and false teachers.
      1. God called Israel to the tithe which was a 10th of every single thing not just a 10th total of everything.
        1. It could end up working out to 25+ percent.
      2. Giving is the only time God tells his people to test him.
        1. Malachi 3:10 (CSB) 10 Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the LORD of Armies. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.
    2. Giving is woven into the fabric of what it means to be created by God for God’s good purposes. 
    3. Jesus’ aim is not a full theology of giving. That is found in the whole of the Bible. Jesus is assuming we give and is teaching us to give so that God sees rather than man.
    4. Jesus’ point, however, is to make sure we give and do so with a heart set on him knowing and the mission going forward not man knowing and us being seen as spiritual.
  4. Fast for God’s eyes, not man’s approval. 6:16-18a
    1. Jesus assumes we are engaged in fasting.
      1. Fasting is a discipline for seeking the will of God, empowerment for God’s work, and seeking God’s help when difficult times arise. 
      2. The Bible teaches that fasting moves the heart of God and is accompanied by prayer. 
      3. Fasting, in the Bible, is primarily withholding food and water for limited amounts of time. 
    2. Like giving, the aim here is not to do a full study on fasting.
    3. Jesus’ aim is that we make sure we fast for his eyes only.
      1. And, we can’t miss the fact that Jesus assumes that when it is necessary, we would be a people who fast. 
    4. Jesus fasted at the beginning of his public ministry for 40 days and nights. 
    5. Jesus taught that there would come a time when his disciples would fast (Matthew 9:15). 
  5. Expect to receive reward from the Father for disciplined obedience. 6:1b, 4b, 18b
    1. Living for present and future reward from God for doing what he says is no sin.
      1. Jesus would not have taught us to do it if it was wrong. 
    2. The internal resistance to living for the future grace of God’s rewards is a false humility rooted in an idolatrous view of humility.
      1. It’s simply replacing a potential idol of reward with an idol of humility. 
      2. Live with robust anticipation of God seeing what is done in secret and rewarding us openly. 


  1. Live for the rewards of maturity and sanctification that God gives not necessarily what is considered a success in a hyper-materialistic setting.
    1. “Christians who judge successful lives and ministries merely by external statistics such as attendance figures, membership, baptisms, and offerings should seriously rethink their criteria in light of Jesus’ words here. God judges the greatness of his servants by searching their hearts, examining their inner attitudes, and seeing deeds done in secret. Doubtless, his evaluations of who most honors him will invert a substantial majority of his people’s evaluations.” – Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 122.
    2. This will require us to look at what God’s rewards look like and expect those to contrast with what “successism” says reward looks like and reject those.
      1. Successism is the worship or idealization of success. 
    3. What are some of God’s rewards?
      1. Sanctification: 2 Corinthians 9:10-11
      2. The fruit of God’s reign: Healing.
        1. In people: physical, emotional, and spiritual
        2.  In the community and among the nations: Order rules where chaos once ruled.  
      3. The fruit of God’s rule: Salvation.
        1. People hear the gospel and respond in faith. 
      4. Keep in mind we look for real NOT merely numerical.
        1. It’s lasting fruit, not temporary gain. 
  2. Give so that God sees and is pleased.
    1. NOTE: Don’t hear pleased like you have to earn favor with God.
      1. Hear pleased as in mutual delight and joy between God and the justified child of God in a relationship.
    2. The pattern of giving is first seen in God who creates and shares creation with Adam. 
    3. Cain and Abel, even after sin wrecks creation, initiate giving the production of their labor to the Lord.
      1. Giving is woven into the fabric of creation to know we are wired to give. 
      2. It is the curse of sin that causes mankind to hoard and keep for selfish reasons or give for wrong reasons.
        1. Proverbs 11:24 (ESV) 24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
        2. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (ESV) 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
      3. Giving is one of God’s primary tools for sanctifying his people not just supplying for the work. 
    4. If we are not or have not given and we have a job, we are taking advantage of God’s kindness and not acknowledging his goodness to us and thus not living in active relationship with God.
      1. Giving acknowledges God as the source of our supply and it is an act of faith that says we believe God will continue to supply us with what we need and what others may need from us.
        1. Giving should be the first thing we do when we get our due. 
        2. Give on the whole, not the leftover.
          1. This is giving the “first fruits”. 
        3. Believe that as givers we will never be able to outgive God.
    5. We should give first to God’s mission through our local church. 
    6. All other giving should be second and in addition to the primary work of the church on mission as the agent of God’s kingdom.
      1. All giving should be in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves.
        1. We have a box to keep it as discrete as we can for physically giving. We don’t pass a plate or some other means to make a show of giving.
          1. That sometimes results in less in the box, but God knows, and God is faithful. 
        2. We have online giving that is completely discrete.
          1. Most folks give through that means, and it’s a good way to give. 
  3. Fast if you are healthy enough so that God sees and is pleased. 
    1. NOTE: Don’t hear pleased like you have to earn favor with God. Hear pleased as in mutual delight and joy between God and the justified child of God in relationship. 
    2. If you have an eating disorder, don’t fast without some counsel.
      1. See me for some help in that area if you need it.
    3. If you don’t incorporate fasting into your routine of disciplines, just start.
    4. Begin with a meal. 
    5. Move to two meals. 
    6. Move to three meals. 
    7. Move to a couple of days. 
    8. Go on with life and engage in your daily activities. 
    9. Fast with a friend for something specific you need to hear from God about or something you need God to move.
      1. When it’s meal time, feast on Scripture and prayer. 
      2. Stay hydrated. 
    10. Learn to sit quietly and listen and journal when you fast.
      1. You will be amazed at how clear your thinking gets and how clearly you can hear the Spirit. 
  4. Worship!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s