Our Father in Heaven

Although they seem almost exclusive, two elements merge beautifully in the preface, or invocation, of the Lord’s prayer in the first part of Matthew 6:9. They are the majesty of the King of heaven and the loving concern of your Father. “We should not miss the balance in this opening to the prayer. We address God intimately as Father, but we immediately recognize his infinite greatness with the addition in heaven.” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 144)

Pray to your heavenly Father. This is how you should pray. Christ gave you this prayer as a model. Jesus gave this prayer (in slightly different language) in response to his disciples’ request that he teach them to pray, Luke 11:1-4. The language Jesus uses in Luke 11:2 suggests that these words be used, while the introduction in Matthew 6:9 implies a model. Those are not contradictory. Use the prayer, but don’t let it become an empty form. Remember the summary which the Lord’s Prayer presents. The invocation is followed by six comprehensive petitions. The first three deal with God’s name, reign, and will. The final three deal with our bread, debts, and foe.

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First Things about Prayer

We live in a culture full of labor-saving devices. We expect our coffee to be instant, we want fast food. But prayer can be hard work, and it certainly does not provide instant gratification of our desires! In Matthew 6:5–8 Jesus teaches you first things about the hard work of prayer.

Pray secretly. Do not pray to be seen by men. Don’t be a hypocrite in your prayer. Some pray to be seen of men, as did the Pharisee were in the habit of doing. I have seen a Muslim’s formal, public prayer is an example of that. The hypocrite prays to be seen by men, and as soon as he prays, he has his reward. His prayer has accomplished all it was intended to do! Don’t pray with an eye to an audience. This sin can be subtle. Beware of the pride involved. Don’t ask, while you are praying, “What are others thinking of me?” Beware of the way that sin can affect your heart—even while you are speaking to your Father in heaven! Sin can intrude even into your prayer, even as you come to God’s throne of grace. Christ’s warning is needed because you and I are self-centered by nature. We tend to take our eyes off of God and focus on ourselves.

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Whose Honor Are You Seeking?

Do you want to know what a person is like, what his priorities are? We used to say, look at his checkbook, but now it would be his online banking statements! But the point is the same. Where you spend your money, and in particular, how you give money are important. In Matthew 6:1–4 Jesus tells you to seek, not your own honor, but the honor of your Father in heaven.

Give because you are children of your Father in heaven. The God who redeemed Israel provided for the poor. In Deuteronomy 15 God ordained sabbatical years in which debts were canceled. God also provided for the poor through gleaning (Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz), Deuteronomy 14:17–21. “Whenever Jesus speaks of ‘your Father in heaven’ . . . he has in view the exclusive relationship between the Lord and those who will share in the bliss of the kingdom of heaven, and share in it now already.” (Herman Ridderbos The Coming of the Kingdom.)

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John on the Witness Stand

There is nothing more important that you can do today or any day in 2020 than to listen to and believe in the testimony of John the Baptizer. Listen to his words and see, know the One to whom he points in John 1:14–34.

Pay attention to the voice. John testifies. John the disciple, the author of the Gospel, introduced another John, John the Baptizer, back in verse 6. He was sent by God, he came for witness. His purpose was to give testimony. That is what he does, see verses 15, 19, 32. Significantly he testifies, verse 15 – present tense, as some translations reflect. John the Baptizer had been executed during the public ministry of Jesus, long before John the disciple wrote his Gospel. The testimony of John continues. It is relevant. The text repeatedly identifies John’s speaking as testimony. It is objectively true. Our post-modern world tells you it’s all about you. If you find peace in Jesus, fine, just don’t try to insist that anything is objectively true or universally valid. You have your way, I have mine. Yet even today, our court system refuses to bend to that kind of subjectivity. John is giving true testimony. He is a faithful witness. He is testifying not about earthly things, but matters with eternal consequences.

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e Children of Christmas

Children and Christmas celebration seem to go together. In John 1:10–13 the Apostle makes the point that the Word coming into the world gives to those who believe in him the right to be children of God.

Understand the world’s rejection of Jesus. The world rejected its Creator! In v.5 John hinted at the conflict between light and darkness. Now the world’s rejection of Christ becomes explicit. “World” occurs three times in v.10, first in its clause each time, and with a progression from a neutral reference to the creation to identifying the body of sinful rebellion against God. Although he was in the world, the world which he had made, it did not know him. The world refused to recognize him for who he is. It refused to render him the honor and worship he deserves. Matthew details the murderous intent of Herod. The people, by and large, simply ignored the greatest event to that point in the history of the world! Men still ignore it. Yes, I am disturbed by efforts to root out of public life any mention of Christ at Christmas time. But the self-centered complacency of our culture is an even more serious rejection of the eternal Word.

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