Self Denial Is Necessary

Preached to the Saints of Riverview Baptist on the evening of February 12, 2019
798 Santa Fe Pike, Columbia, TN

matthew_6_16t34Matthew 6:16-34   Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.   [17]   But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;   [18]   That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.   [19]   Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:   [20]   But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:   [21]   For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.   [22]   The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.   [23]   But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!   [24]   No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.   [25]   Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?   [26]   Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?   [27]   Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?   [28]   And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:   [29]   And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.   [30]   Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?   [31]   Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?   [32]   (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.   [33]   But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.   [34]   Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

If I were to summarize this portion of our Lord’s “Sermon On The Mount” then it would be by saying:

Faith Grows When We Practice Self Denial

In chapter Six Jesus speaks expecting that every believer in him will (1) Give To The Poor:

Matthew 6:2   Therefore WHEN thou doest thine alms ….

Jesus said “WHEN you give”. Not “IF” but “WHEN”. Giving is what Christ Followers do. We who are saved by the wonderful Gift of Grace do not only GIVE, but we (2) Pray For All.

Matthew 6:6   But thou, WHEN thou prayest …

Again Jesus does not say “If” but “WHEN”. When you pray. Christ Followers should pray daily, pray without ceasing, for we live in a dangerously fallen world. But we also (3) Practice Self Denial. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:16   Moreover WHEN ye fast …

A lot of people have no idea what a FAST is. In our day FAST is the name of a movie where they stole cars (FAST and Furious). In our day FAST is how we expect our burgers and “Happy Meals” to be delivered. In our day FAST is how we like to travel down the highway. But FAST used to not mean speedy, but it used to mean to STOP DOING SOMETHING SO YOU COULD FOCUS ON GOD. To FAST is to deprive yourself for a time so that you can focus on God’s Glory. The word:

BreakFAST

something we use for the first meal of the day means that we allow ourselves to eat after an involuntary 8 hours of NOT eating. You “Break the Fast”. Jesus tells His disciples:

WHEN you FAST
Not IF but WHEN

Which means He expected us to Fast. Jesus Fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before His ministry began. Does He expect us to fast 40 days? I don’t think so. But He does expect us to practice self denial, to deprive the flesh for short times while we focus on God.

WHEN We Fast Do Not Do It To Be Seen Of Men, But Of God

Matthew 6:16-18   Moreover WHEN ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.   [17]   But thou, WHEN thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;   [18]   That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Jesus commanded that our Fast – whether it be one meal, one day, or one whatever (for a “Fast” can be a voluntary giving up of one thing while you focus on God.

Let me chase rabbits for a moment…

You can give up a meal while you focus on Scripture and prayer, looking Godward.
You can give up a day (or even a week) of TELEVISION while you read His Word.
You can break down and forsake Sunday and Wednesday night television
… and COME WORSHIP THE LORD.
You can give up a vacation trip home to go on mission oversea for Jesus.
You can give up your fancy Starbucks coffee and give that money to a worthy cause.
A FAST can be anything for any duration where you focus on GOD rather than YOU.

Fasting – a form of self denial – is necessary because the flesh is greedy. If you give yourself EVERYTHING and do nothing that is UNCOMFORTABLE then you eventually will not serve God at all. A Fast does not have to be a horrible or torturous thing, but it is done to draw you closer to God. While Fasting you focus on God, not on self.

The Pharisees and Sadducees made Fasting a show for all to see. They “disfigured their faces” so as to look pitiful. They were looking for the praise of men rather than closeness to God. Jesus said “when you Fast anoint your head and wash your face”. Groom yourselves just as if you were NOT Fasting. Don’t go around telling people “I’m Fasting this week”. Just do it, and do it in secret.

Self Denial Is The Very Heart Of Our Faith

When we Fast, when we Give, when we Pray and take time looking upward we are practicing self denial. Self denial is the very heart of the Christian faith. In America we don’t realize this because of the number of “Cultural Christians” in our country, but in Christ’s day and in many countries around the world it is dangerous to be a Christian. The Muslim who comes to Christ risks being shunned, disowned, or martyred for the faith. It is easy to be a Christian in America because Christians founded America. But Christians suffered to found America. Of the original group of 132 on the Mayflower, 49 died. Christians suffered in founding America, and Christians suffered in the Revolutionary War. The American Constitution was written in the blood of Christians and those who were friendly to the Christ.

Our country was founded by believers who sought to establish Christ’s Kingdom on the earth. That is what has given us so many freedoms, freedoms that will erode under the tide of sin if we do not stand up for Christ.

Today the Gospel is preached as Easy Believism, but it was not so from the beginning. Jesus did not promise sweet nothings to His followers in order to inflate the numbers at His Church. He told us:

Luke 14:26-33 (KJV) If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Jesus calls His people to Him willing to forsake all. Nothing is to be held back from Christ. Nothing! Our Treasures are not to be the relationships and the things we have on this earth, but our treasures are to be what God has for us in Heaven. That’s what Jesus is preaching. Listen to Him. Listen to Him!

Matthew 6:19-21   Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:   [20]   But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:   [21]   For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

You can tell where a person’s “treasure” is by what they do. For some, the weather has got to be just right for them to come to Church. If it’s too sunny they stay home or go to the Park because, after all, God wants them to rest on Sunday. If it’s too rainy or cold they stay home or go out to eat because, after all, God wants them to take care of themselves.

Does a person treasure God or Heaven?
What they treasure is seen in their outward lives.

Many of those who were in the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount were there because Jesus healed them or someone they knew. Yet it was His disciples that came to Him, who knelt at His feet, who clung to His words, who loved Him more than all else. The crowds seeking blessing stayed in the valley, but the disciple – the truly saved – were willing to brave the mountain and sit uncomfortably in the dirt to hear Christ.

To trade their recliner for a rock.
To trade their bed for a slope.

When you seek Christ and suffer discomfort to get to Christ you are “laying up for yourselves treasures in Heaven”. There will be a Judgment Day for everyone, whether Christian or Unbeliever. The Unbeliever will stand before a Great Whote Throne (Revelation 20:11-15) and the Christian will stand before The Judgment Seat of Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:10  (KJV) For we MUST ALL APPEAR BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Everything we do is laid up in Heaven’s vault. The unbeliever’s actions are stored up – there will be a Judgment Day. The believer’s actions are stored up – there will be a Judgment Day.

On Judgment Day the Child of God will give an account of the things done in his or her body.

On Judgment Day Christ will not ask which denomination you belonged to.

Christ will ask if you acted as if you belonged to Him, and honored Him in this life.

On Judgment Day I do not think Christ will judge how fine a suit you wore to Church.

Christ will ask if you “put off the old man and put on the new” (Ephesians 4:22ff)

On Judgment Day Christ will not ask if we loved others..

But He will ask “how did you SHOW you loved others?” Did people see Christ in you?

On Judgment Day we will not be examined to see how religious we were.

But God will look at our relationship to Him and to others.

Did we behave as Children of God?

On Judgment Day Jesus will ask not how sincere we were,

But we do the truth? Did we go against the crowd and DO what He said do?

On Judgment Day I will not be able to point to someone else to try and deflect my fault on another. On Judgment Day I and I alone will be judged, and each shall give an account to their Savior. Those who lived for Christ and loved for Christ shall have treasure in Heaven. Live for Judgment Day!

Choose Where You Will Focus. Choose Your Master.

Matthew 6:22-23   The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.   [23]   But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

The eyes are the windows of the soul. Yes, I know there are some born blind, but very few. Most people are born with eyes. Where you focus your eyes will effect what happens to your soul.

If your eye be single – ἁπλοῦς haplous – SOUND, WHOLE, or GOOD – focused on the Godly thing – then your whole body will be good. This is what television has done. Things could be insinuated on the radio, but are shown on television.

Adrian Rogers said years ago that it is the Television Sitcom that will destroy the morality of our nation. His words have proven to be prophetic. We have let our eyes linger on television sexuality so much so that adultery no longer offends us and homosexuality is just a lifestyle choice. God says such things are death, that the Wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but in America today it is but another word for freedom. Where your eye is focused is what will effect your choices. Sin begins with the eye. In Eden what was that which led Adam and Eve to perdition? The eye!

Genesis 3:6  (KJV) And when the woman SAW that the tree was good for food, and that it WAS PLEASANT TO THE EYES, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

The Prophet Job gave some great advice on avoiding sin. He said:

Job 31:1 (KJV)  I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

This is what Jesus is telling His disciples. Control where your eyes are looking. Look Godward. Look toward the Light of God, not toward sin. If you dwell on the wrong, it won’t be long before you are doing the wrong. When you focus on the evil, you flood your body with evil. No one starts out a murderer or an adulterer or a child molester or a kidnapper. It begins with a look. It begins by giving the devil a toe hold in your life, by focusing on the wrong thing. Then in time what happens?

The light that is in thee be darkness, and how great is that darkness!
Choose to follow Christ

When Moses came down off of Mount Sinai he saw all of Israel gathered around a Golden Calf to worship it. Moses cast down the Tablets of the Law and cried out:

Exodus 32:26 (KJV) …. Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

God’s people came together and stood together with Moses, and so Satan and the Goden Calf was defeated. Joshua would later lead the Children of God into the Promised Land. Joshua told the people:

Joshua 24:14-15 (KJV)  Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.  [15]  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Joshua told the people “Make a choice. Choose who you are going to serve. If you’re going to serve the devil, do so. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.

I recently read of a man who died – Leslie Ray Charping– who when he went his family celebrated. Mr. Charping made a choice – he followed the devil wholeheartedly, so much so that in his obituary (according to the New York Post):

The family wrote that Charping “leaves behind two relieved children,” in addition to “countless other victims including an ex wife, relatives, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses and random strangers.” …. “Leslie’s life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides quick [witted] sarcasm, which was amusing during his sober days,” the obituary read. No services will be held for him. They wrote “Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all”.

The man chose. We should choose who we will serve. Just as Moses and Joshua challenged the people, Jesus challenges those who will hear Him. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:24 (KJV)   No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Some translations change Jesus statement to “You cannot serve God and Money”, but that is not what Jesus said. The word translated “Mammon” is the Greek μαμωνᾶς mamōnas which is the Idol of Materialism. People who worship at the altar of Materialism store up for themselves treasures on the earth while ignoring Heaven’s vault. They are like the rich man of Luke 12 who had much, but wanted more. The man who worshiped Materialism said …

Luke 12:18-20 (KJV)   … This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.   [19]   And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.   [20]   But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

God’s Children are not to chase after and be focused on getting rich, but are to be rich in faith. Material possessions are wonderful, but we are to be careful not to be possessed of our possessions. The Apostle Paul said:

1 Timothy 6: 6–10 (ESV) … godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Be content with what God has given you. What has God given us?

His love.
His care.
His presence.

Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5:10 (ESV) He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

The God of Materialism never satisfies, but the God Who loves you does. This is why Jesus ends this section with …

Matthew 6:25-34 (KJV)   Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?   [26]   Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?   [27]   Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?   [28]   And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:   [29]   And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.   [30]   Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?   [31]   Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?   [32]   (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.   [33]   But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.   [34]   Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. I am looking for the Church. Most of what I see today is not the Church, but clubs, where members sit in padded pews and drink deeply of self. I am looking for a people willing to be righteous not self righteous, serving not served, In short, I am looking and praying for a people who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. I hope I find this people before it's too late.
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