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Beware! Religious Performance Now Showing, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
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March 16, 2021 7:05 am

Beware! Religious Performance Now Showing, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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March 16, 2021 7:05 am

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Today, from Chuck Swindoll, a warning against religious performance. Stop following those who are show-offs. Stop being enamored of those who love to display their piety. Don't follow leaders like that. They're not walking humbly with their God.

I don't care how famous they may be. Be discerning. Men and women, learn from Jesus. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a stern warning to those who parade their piety.

That's a fancy way of saying showing off. Our Lord was not impressed with narcissistic behavior. In fact, Jesus likened a public display of holiness to sounding a trumpet or tooting your own horn. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll helps us understand the implications of Jesus' rebuke.

It's not only a warning to those who show off, but to those who are impressed with Him as well. In either case, it's a convicting decree from Jesus. Chuck titled today's message, Beware, Religious Performance Now Showing. It was the prophet Jeremiah who exclaimed in an ecstatic moment, your words were found and I did eat them and your word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart for I am called by your name, O Lord God of hosts. It's a beautiful picture found in the Old Testament eating the word of God. It's a picture of personal assimilation. Wasn't interested just in admiring it and tasting it here and there, but I wanted to consume it.

I wanted it to become a part of my nourishment and my energy, my drive. Paul writes over in Romans 15, for whatever was written in earlier times, referring to the Old Testament, was written for our learning that we through comfort and patience from the Scriptures might have hope. Often we think of the New Testament as being that special part of the Bible that really addresses where we are, but you know, those who lived in the days of the New Testament didn't have a shred of the New Testament. The only Bible they had was the Old Testament. And that is what Paul refers to when he refers to that portion of the word that gives us hope and reassurance.

We want to look at both today. I'd like you to take the outline from your worship folder, pull it out, place it at Micah chapter 6. Micah is one of the least known of the books of the Bible. It's the seventh book from the end of the Old Testament working back, Micah chapter 6. I'll begin my message there.

So I want you to have that ready with the outline available. And once you locate Micah 6, leave your outline there and then turn to Matthew chapter 6. Interesting, we'll look at Micah 6, 1 through 8 and then Matthew 6, 1 through 8.

You find the passage in Matthew, I'll be reading from the New American Standard Version. Jesus' words, beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them, otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving will be in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men.

Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.

So, do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. And now the message from Chuck titled, Beware, Religious Performance Now Showing. Biblical prophets never mess around. They said what they meant and they meant what they said. False priests were not like that at all. As someone else has put it, the false priests had a way of comforting the afflicted, not the prophets.

They afflicted the comfortable. In fact, they would tell the truth regardless. And even though the gullible are always ready to listen to the lies which fly like lightning all over, the truth stands, the truth stays. Prophets are great about standing for truth and declaring it. They were rough and rugged men. I think that's why J. Bernard McGee said that it's no surprise the lions never ate the prophet Daniel. He was three-fourths gristle and the rest backbone.

What's left to eat? Telling the truth, speaking it, declaring it. And there's something intimidating about being around a man of God who declares the truth of God without any apology, especially if he is, as the original prophets, the very mouthpiece of God. They wouldn't lie. In fact, there was a statement made in the Old Testament that if the prophet lied, you are to stone him.

So when that's written in the job description, it tends to get your attention. And you know there's one thing you cannot do, and that is lie. Even though lies are always more popular. I read this past week that Mark Twain wrote, a lie runs around the world while the truth is still putting on her boots.

If you stand for the truth, stay there. That's what prophets did and it certainly worked for them. As God's mouthpiece, the people heard what they often didn't expect and didn't want to hear. Take Micah's message, for example, in Micah chapter 6.

Look for yourself. If you wonder if Micah spoke as God's mouthpiece, the very opening line of verse 1 tells you, hear what the Lord is saying, not what I've heard him say and now I'm passing on. This is what the Lord is saying so prophets spoke ex cathedra. Open their mouth and from their vocal cords came the voice of God in human terms and tones. You look again at verse 2. The end of it, because the Lord has a case against his people, and with Israel he will dispute. Then you see quotation marks beginning at verse 3 in the version I'm using and at the end of verse 5 they close. So from verse 3 down through verse 5 we hear the indictment from the Lord.

He doesn't stutter. My people, what have I done to you and how have I wearied you? Answer me. Then he reiterates some things he's done for them. I brought you up from the land of Egypt. That would be the exodus. Your forefathers came from bondage out into the wilderness because I broke the walls of bondage and brought you out of the land of Egypt and I ransomed you from the house of slavery.

Over 400 years they were in slavery and I came and through Moses and Aaron and Miriam, he says at the end of verse 4, I led you there and brought you into the wilderness. I've done this for you and I've done so many other things and now they get the message and they are feeling the sharp point of the dagger. And so they answer in verse 6, with what shall I come to the Lord?

How can I make up for the way we have acted? What do we have to do to reconcile in light of the long history of our disobedience? We bow ourselves before the God on high shall I come with and they begin a litany of things and the crescendo only gets greater.

They begin small and they get larger. Look for yourself. Shall I come with burnt offerings? Or how about with yearling calves more expensive than the offerings?

Or does the Lord take the light in thousands of rams? How about 10,000 rivers of oil? Will that do it? Is that what I have to do to make up for all of these years and we fail you? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts?

Think of that. Shall we pick the firstborn from our family and sacrifice him? Is that what you want, Lord? And the ultimate, how about the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? You know what that's saying in poetic form? You want my life?

Shall I give it up for you? The questions end as the Lord steps back in the scene through the words of the prophet Micah. He has told you what is good. What does the Lord require of you? If you haven't ever marked this verse, here are words to mark to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly. As we say today, it doesn't get better than that.

Oh, it can be more complicated. It can certainly be more expensive in earthly goods, but when it comes to character deep within, it doesn't get any better than doing what is right, showing kindness, compassion, and care for others, and especially walking in and modeling humility. I love it when the Lord gives simple answers to complicated questions.

Perfect case in point. If you're wanting to begin a scripture or memory program, I suggest Micah 6-8 as the starting point. Don't leave it too quickly, even after you learn it.

Repeat it over and over, I would suggest it, every morning when you rise, and through the day use it as the grid to filter your life. Am I doing what is right? Would this be called showing mercy and kindness?

Is mine a life of humility? When we turn to Matthew 6, we arrive at the greatest of all priests, prophets, and one who would be king, Jesus himself. Interesting, he begins the sermon at chapter 5 by sitting down among those who were sitting around him. Folks often don't think of the Sermon on the Mount delivered while the speaker is sitting, but in those days, rabbis sat as they taught.

And it wasn't long before the teaching turned into the fire of a prophet, especially when you get to the center section of the sermon. And he begins with a word of warning. Beware.

Look at it. Beware. Take heed. Watch out. Caution, you're about to enter the no spin zone. I know what you've been watching. But he really means it.

There's no spin with Jesus. Interesting word translated beware. A.T. Robertson, the great Baptist scholar, tells us that the Greek idiom uses or includes mind, which is understood, though it really isn't a term in the root of the word translated beware. It means, however, to hold the mind on a matter, to take pains, to take heed, to pay attention.

We say mind that. If you're ever on a large ship, you will see at low openings a little sign that reads, in naval terms, mind your head, meaning duck. Watch out or you'll bump your head. If there's something you have to step over, you'll see a little sign that says mind your foot or mind your feet.

Watch out or you'll stumble. Here Jesus says mind your motive. Mind your heart. They don't know what's coming, but he now has their attention. He begins to talk to them about religious performance.

Look at his words. Beware of practicing your righteousness before men, to be noticed by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. If you're a show-off with all your religious piety, you've just at that moment gotten your full reward. Their applause is all you'll ever get from that act. They're being impressed. That's the limit of the reward.

In fact, other versions render this interestingly. Beware of practicing your piety before men, the RSV reads. The New International or the New English Bible says, be careful not to make a show of your religion. J.B. Phillips paraphrased, beware of doing your good deeds conspicuously to catch others' eye.

I especially like Eugene Peterson's The Message. Be especially careful when you're trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. And with that, he moves into the three most public, often public, and the most obvious expressions of devotion.

Look at it for yourself. Verse 2, so when you give, he covers that down through verse 4. Verse 5, when you pray, he covers that down through verse 15. And when you fast, covered in verses 16 through 18. Learn when you read your Bible to observe the structure of the verses. Jesus' words are very logical, begins with giving and I've marked that in a bright color in my Bible so I won't overlook it. I've marked when you pray in verse 5 and I've marked when you fast in verse 16.

Interestingly, following each of those settings, he adds, do not do something. Verse 2, when you give to the poor, do not sound the trumpet. Da da da da, da da.

Forgive the voice, it's the best I can do. Do you know that Pharisees would carry with them or bring with them trumpeters who was there on their way with their gifts to the offering box would have the trumpeter blast the sound like ringing a bell. Now today we look at it sitting in this place and we roll our eyes thinking how in the world could a person do that. What a show off. When I was a kid I saw them thump the bottom of an offering plate to make you think that they're putting in a big coin.

I've even seen people kind of wave a large bill before they drop it in. Please. That's all the reward you'll ever get. I don't care if it's a million dollars. When you give to the poor, don't sound the trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets so that they may be seen.

They may be honored by others. Don't do that. Don't do that. In fact there are several do nots.

Do not do that. Verse 2, do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing. Verse 3, do not pray using meaningless verbiage. Verse 8, do not be like the Pharisees. Stop following those who are show offs. Stop being enamored of those who love to display their piety. Don't follow leaders like that. They're not walking humbly with their God.

I don't care how famous they may be. Be discerning. Women and women, learn from Jesus. In fact, he says in verse 16, when you fast, don't walk around in tattered, dirty clothes, making people go, oh my, how much he's been giving up.

Please. We'll know by your life if you're sacrificial. We're not looking at your clothing.

But Jesus certainly didn't. We're looking at the heart. So now, let's go to this matter of giving and let's analyze it a little bit more carefully. Because I don't want you to get the wrong impression. He's not against giving.

Please. God's work is supported by God's people, not by unbelievers, nor should it be. But we who are God's people participate in the financial support of his work. We who have hearts for the poor give to the poor. We who hear of some disaster, how find our hearts unable to remain restful. We're uneasy until we help with that need. It's just part of being a believer in Christ. None of it is to be done to get our name etched in bronze or our picture on some wall or an announcement made that so and so gave so much. That's all a part of what this is about.

Don't sound a trumpet. When we were in Los Angeles for almost 25 years, back when the Los Angeles Lakers used to win, they had a great basketball team and they had incredible athletes. Chick Hearn was the announcer. I mean, you didn't even need a television. You listen to Chick on the radio and it was just like being there. I heard some people say that they have a friend who was without sight and he'd rather hear Chick Hearn than anyone.

He could see the whole game. And every once in a while when those athletes would flash down that court and there'd be that pass break and they'd fire that ball over to one of those great athletes and he'd jump and smash that down in a slam dunk. Chick would say, Showtime! Of course! That's what you do when you send out all the hype about a basketball team.

It fits! It doesn't fit giving. It isn't ever Showtime! Showtime on the basketball court is far different than Showtime in the religious arena. And we're just getting started in this bold warning from Jesus found in Matthew chapter 5. You're listening to Insight for Living and a message from Chuck Swindoll titled, Beware! Religious Performance Now Showing. If you'd like to learn more about this ministry or these messages, please visit us online at Then let me remind you, Chuck has written an in-depth book about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. To learn more about this timeless message from Jesus, we highly recommend you secure a copy.

It's called Simple Faith. When we sit down to read Matthew chapter 5, we're quick to realize Jesus' famous sermon was just 15 minutes or so in length. But his radical words stand as the most influential in history. From his opening beatitudes through his story about building our house on solid rock, the Sermon on the Mount contains a wealth of wisdom for our times.

Among other issues, Jesus urged us to replace hypocritical, performance-based religion with the joy and faith of kingdom living. These are the topics Chuck explores in his classic book called Simple Faith, Discovering What Really Matters. To purchase a copy right now, call us. If you're listening in the U.S., dial 1-800-772-8888 or go directly to slash store. In addition, you might like to add the message called Finding Healing Through Forgiveness.

It's available on CD or MP3. This is a complete unabridged recording of a message Chuck delivered, including a stirring personal testimony from his wife, Cynthia. In this message, Chuck helps us understand what it means to face our deepest insecurities that are often expressed in fear, anger, and resentment.

And then Cynthia describes how she found healing from these damaging emotions through a humbling process of seeking forgiveness. So two resources at your disposal today. First, Chuck's book on Jesus' Sermon of All Sermons called Simple Faith, and then second, a message on CD and MP3 called Finding Healing Through Forgiveness. To purchase either resource or both, call us. If you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888 or go online to slash store. Tomorrow, Chuck Swindoll describes Jesus' bold warning against religious performance. Join us again Wednesday to hear Insight for Living. The preceding message, Beware, Religious Performance Now Showing, was copyrighted in 2015 and 2021, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2021 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-15 13:28:53 / 2023-12-15 13:37:33 / 9

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