[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
“What would make you believe in God?”
The section of the Sermon on the Mount that we began to address from about verse 16 of chapter six even through this section, deals with our dependencies, our concerns, our attitudes in life. These ideas of dependence, concern and attitude are spoken of in a framework of two opposing forces. One is a worldly concern or anxiety about the things we see and experience around us. This concern sees the things of the world, depends upon them, plans within their limitations and can only see those things. The opposite view is one that focuses upon the heavenly. This view sees no limitations on Earth. There is nothing on Earth that can effect God’s eternity, His Heaven or His plans for either. Neither is there any limit to God’s power on Earth in a proper heavenly view. As a believer we are to have this same attitude; we do not permit the things of the world to influence our faith in God or our estimation of His ability. The Christian looks at the things of the world as simply a thing to be tolerated until permanent residence is established in Heaven. The believer sees all things here as tools to serve and glorify God. Ultimately, Jesus is telling us that a Christian walking in faith, living in faith and depending through faith on the Father has no concern for the world or the things of the world. The Christian certainly sees no possible limitation to God’s ability to bless His children.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not just making some blanket or unrealistic “get spiritual” statement in His sermon. Jesus is trying to get everyone to see just how real life happens in an operative faith. Jesus is saying you should apply your faith not just to salvation, but also to every aspect of your life on Earth. We could list many things from the moment we awake and talk to God thanking Him for another day to serve Him here, to the moments before we fall off to sleep as we talk to Him and look forward to another day to serve Him. Jesus is talking about everything in between these two times. When we eat, what we wear, who we meet, how we encourage others, what things we do, where we will sleep, what we might say, where we place our ambitions, the plans we make and how we think. These are all things associated with this passage of scripture. Either we submit in faith that God chooses to provide and orient our mind, body and soul to receive that blessing, or we can look at the world around us and say we have to do it, or we have to see it, or we have to understand it, and deny God the opportunity to bless. Our own pride limits our faith. When we lean on our own limited vision, knowledge and understanding we deny God’s ability to bless because “He resisteth the proud” (Js 4:6a). What a promise is behind this statement though. If we give up our pride and the thought that we know better than God, we can receive blessings and great grace, for “God giveth grace unto the humble” (Js 4:6b).
We could ask some questions though such as:
- Do we just spend all our life in prayer about something?
- Do we spend all our life reading scripture for a specific answer?
- Do we spend all our life fasting?
- Do we spend all our lives doing devotionals?
- Do we spend every waking minute of our life nurturing and cultivating our own spiritual lives?[i]
Folks, these things would make us monks or some such nonsense. Faith is to be lived out before the heathen in order to show them God’s glory.
Therefore, we live life before the world faithfully dependent upon God. That means there is work to do because we have to interact with the world. We have to deal with the limitations and rules of the world. We are bound by physical laws and material laws. We have to work within the economic construct where we live. This is not to say we deny the world’s power over some things we do materially; but it is to say that we do not permit our own perspective to limit our faith. Further, we recognize God can overrule the powers of the world (material, natural, biological, spiritual or otherwise) to effect His will. There is a somewhat crass and rather blasphemous retort that I have heard uttered by atheists when they are asked “What would make you believe in God?” that goes something like, “For a million dollars to suddenly appear in my bank account.” Sadly, many who claim Christ still operate this way. What we do not see is that this is exactly what we could and should expect if it is within God’s will. Unfortunately, most Christians do not have a relationship close enough to God that enables them to determine God’s complete will with something as large as a million dollars, or what those funds would be used for. Additionally, God does not normally make Himself known through such an immediate and extravagant gift. That kind of blessing comes over time in a variety of ways through a variety of sources.
Therefore once again, we open a discussion about our world, about our provision, about our faith and ultimately how these things cross paths. What is God incapable of doing? Nothing. What do we think He is capable of doing? Only things we can envision. That is sin.
Look at Matthew 6, where we will consider verses 26, 28-29, and 31. When we look at these scriptures we again think of food and clothing. However, there is something much deeper and more prevalent being taught here. This is about faith and worship. This is about our relationship with God through that faith and worship. Where verses 19 through 24 deal with worship specifically and special ways that we can develop our relationship with God, verses 25 through 34 deal with more basic and functional ways we can worship God in daily life. In many ways, this form of worship is more practical and functional. The practicality of this faith is intimately entwined in our livelihood.
We are very involved with our lives. Even when we are well to do, we are very involved with life and absorbed in it. Many times we utter the word, “can’t” when we should be saying, “if it will serve to glorify God, we will.” This is the singular focus that Jesus is talking about. We get distracted with life, with the things of life, with the limits of our abilities, with the limits placed upon us, with our own preconceived limitations. What we should be focused upon is His glory, His provision, His strength and His omnipotence.
Today we must answer one question: “If God gave you His only Son to provide you, personally, eternal life with Him simply for His own glory, why would He ever deny you something else that would equally glorify Him?” (Jn 13:32) When we look at things on Earth we often think we have the answer or solution and it must be something that honors God like the widow’s mite. We often fail to realize the opulence that God does provide on occasion. Further, we fail to see how we can be a part of that wondrous gift for His glory. God provides, Christians are to be faithfully dependent. Our problem stems from our sinful heart that wants to be comfortable and not be challenged. We try to talk our way out of things we know He wants for us. We tend to compartmentalize God’s abilities and make them dependent upon our decisions when we should let God decide, use us and glorify Himself through His choices. All of these faults are sinful because they deny God’s sovereignty, omnipotence and power as the creator of all.
God will give you and me everything we need to accomplish His will. Our life and this ministry must be lived in a dependence upon that faith. It is not our place to attempt to engineer any limitations in that way, but to be prepared to receive all that He can give. This really is a simple thing. We discussed some of the animal kingdom in our last discourse on this sermon by the Savior. If God feeds birds when they have no home and wander in the wild, it is because He loves them and had decided that is how they are to live. The questions are why do they need provision, who provides for them and how do the birds collect this provision? We too have the same issues to deal with daily, only we are far more complex than the birds. Continue reading