Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
I have to admit it. I am a lousy Pharisee. I tried to be all holy once, to perfectly live so my outward behavior would be a representation of God’s ability to change the human heart. I failed at it and truth be told I continue to fail at it. I am not saying I do not want to live a Godly life, to keep Jesus commandments and to do good works – as the fruit of a new obedience to God. I do pretty good for a while then I do or say something – often say something in jest – and blow it all. Other times I let my emotions get the better of me.
Basically I stink in the Pharisee department. But maybe because I am lousy at it and know it I have a chance of not really be one. Perhaps that is my saving grace. Were I better at keeping the outward appearance of a holy guy (all the while failing inside) I could become a “joy” to be around (not!). In the end I know I am a failure at being holy and so all I can do is rely on Jesus for my forgiveness. All I can do is have Jesus as my righteousness – as I have none of my own.
I know there are those who do not think I am “saved” or a plethora of other holy things (maybe even not much of a pastor) because of the failed and sinful flesh encasing the heart – a heart that wants to live for God. Oh well! All I can do is my best, which isn’t much. That is all anyone can do and ask for God’s help and forgiveness. We we have done all we can, cry out to Jesus, “I am a sinner. Save me.”
Lord God, I try but I fail, miserably so. I want to live for you and be a shining example of your love in this world, but I am weak, prideful, thoughtless, self-centered, heartless, in a word “sinful.” By your grace in Jesus Christ, save me, for I cannot save myself and help me to live as you would have me live. AMEN.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The Gospel message for Ash Wednesday is somewhat perplexing in the context of the usual way people observe this day. Perhaps the fashion has fallen out of favor, but when I was a kid it was not uncommon to see people walking about “wearing their ashes,” as Ash Wednesday services were at noon. In many places this is still the case, but wait! How does this square with Jesus telling us to “beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them”?
Does this mean that what we do as Christians should be hid from the world for fear of being like the hypocrites or the Pharisees? Are we never to tell anyone of what we have done for the Lord? Some would certainly say so, but I say No! Doesn’t Jesus tell us in Matthew 5 that a lamp is not lit and put under a basket but rather is put on a lamp stand in order to illuminate the whole house. He tells us that we are to let our light so shine (I say this includes our faith) before others so that they see our good works and give glory to God.
It is all about context. Walking around with ashes on your forehead once a year to show your piety is what Jesus is speaking against in Matthew 6 – showing up to church a few times a year to be seen like some washed-up actor appearing at the Oscar just to say, “Look at ME!”
Jesus wants us to live a life in him all year, exhibit faith and do good works, not for our glory but for God’s If you have been disconnected from the Body of Christ for sometime there is no better time than Lent to come home and begin living for God, rather than self.
Heavenly Father, how foolish we are to think we can be Christian without being part of the body of Christ. How can an arm call itself part of the body without being part of the body. In its detached state it is useless; it will wither and die. By the power of Your Holy Spirit , spark new faith in those who have strayed, or have never believed, so they might live a life for You and for others. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.
What unclean spirits live in you? Does one have to be possessed as the man in the Gospel account was to have an unclean spirit living inside of them? Does one need to have an unclean spirit in order to exhibit the fruits of an unclean spirit?
The God-given gift of free will allows us to make the choice between doing the things that God commands or those things that Satan tempts us to do. We can either invite the Holy Spirit in us or allow (often through passive disregard for God’s Word) another spirit to be our influence. Free will does not operate in a vacuum. It truly is like the old cartoon with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
So what is our defense against the influences of Satan – that little devil on our left shoulder? The sure defense is prayer and the Word of God being an active part of our lives, rather than an after thought when convenient or when we need something. As it says in Ephesians 6:10-18 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil.”
Lord God, send your Spirit upon me that I might turn to you in times of temptation. Fill me with your Word so I might be made deaf to the whisperings of Satan. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN.