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The Practice of True Religion

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
February 19, 2021 7:00 am

The Practice of True Religion

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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February 19, 2021 7:00 am

When we think of practicing religion, we tend to envision a list of obligations- give to the poor, pray, fast, read Scripture, and so on. But the Pharisees in the New Testament fulfilled all of these requirements and Jesus still referred to them as hypocrites. Today we’ll learn how God’s definition of religion is often different from our own.

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When we think of practicing religion. We tend to envision a list of obligations that give to the poor, pray, fast read Scripture and so on.

But the Pharisees and the New Testament fulfill all of these requirements and Jesus still referred to them as hypocrites. Thanks for tuning into the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce today will learn how God's definition of religion is often different from our own to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically is religion more about outward actions were about the heart Scripture tells us that the answer is both.

Let's listen in as Dr. Boyce teaches on the importance of living a life of righteousness both inwardly and outwardly way return today to a study of the sermon on the Mount, if you've been thinking about it or if you have been following our studies for a while. Perhaps it should be undergone a new as it does with me as I study at that. It really is a comprehensible whole or Steinway rated especially if we go through it in a scattered kind of why the thoughts themselves seem to be scattered. Jesus is just ringing together a lot of moral teaching, but it's not like that. It's very carefully organized and all we have to do is think back over the fifth chapter point which we come now in Matthew six to see what's happened Jesus has been teaching about righteousness and he's been saying that if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven were to be saved.

We must have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees labor.

The most righteous people of their day. As human beings count righteousness, but it was all a superficial external thing and Jesus is talking for something deeper and better than that. If that points people would say well, exactly what does that mean give us some examples goes back and he talks about various laws of the Old Testament shall not kill any begins to explain laugh and you shall not commit adultery. And he begins to explain matter shall not swear deceitful AME begins to explain that any shows that in all cases, the standard is a standard that has to do with the heart is not merely the outward performance according to some conformity to high standard but is something that has to come with in the course at something that has to be done in Austin by the power of God and then having done all of laddie comes to the end and must we say well you know that's just too high a standard emails are down by saying well here it is the perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect. One of us are going to do that in this life. What he saying is that that's the standard we need a man's being satisfied with something external, but rather that which is internal and begins to appropriate approximate the character of God. Six chapter he moves on to talk about these internal things that we begins to talk about that which is external what we would call probably the practice of religion. The word that introduces it is translated in the new international version is acts of righteousness. That's because in the Greek Texas Lord righteousness, but it's plural. It's a little hard to translate that sound like if what we read here is about righteousnesses is really what it means, but the NIV is trying to indicate here that it's something more than that is actually what we do. The examples follow. We might say piety the way the word used to be used. Practice your piety before God and before men, but the problem is with us, that word has become so distorted and we normally think of piety having to do with a pious attitude hypocritical attitude and what Jesus is saying here is, it is to be exactly the opposite. Or we might say practice your devotion before God, rather than before. Man, that's a proper use of the word.

But then again we've limited selection our own vocabulary for us. Devotions usually means reading your Bible and praying and it's more than that religion isn't bad. That's why I said practice your religion that's all right but may be acts of righteousness is best, especially because it follows on what's just been sent is what Jesus was talking about his righteousness when he says it's internal it must be a matter of the heart, but real righteousness is never merely internal begins to express itself in outward ways. Begins to talk about the practice of those things before God gives three examples. One example is giving to the needy, almost giving some of the old translation say second example is prayer. And he talks about that a greatest length. This is the point of Matthew where we have Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer.

What we call the Lord's prayer very end he talks about fasting so you have those three examples. Those were the three.

She ways in which Jewish people practice their piety, you really were a godly man or a godly woman you gave the prayer you prayed regularly and you fasted from time to time.

Jesus follows the same pattern as he talks about each one which is a reason why they really should be taken together, the pattern goes like this. First of all, he gives us a warning as we do these things not to seek praise from other human beings. And secondly, he gives us some assurance that those who do seek praise from other human beings will get the praise but that's also get thirdly, he gives us a command to perform those acts privately, but before man and women but so they might be seen by God and by God alone, and then finally he promises that if we do that God, who sees in secret will reward the disciple openly think about each of those three things.

First of all, how about this matter of giving to the poor, almost giving verses one through four law talk about it.

Old Testament law said there will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and the needy in the land of texts are like that.

That verse was from Deuteronomy 15 verse 11 but is also expounded at length versus 7 to 11. In Exodus 2310 and 11.

In Leviticus 1910, Psalm 112 verse by all those verses say that your to be generous in your care for the poor rabbis picked up on Rabbi said things like this.

Greater is he who gives Alm's and he who offer sacrifices again.

He who gives him secret is greater than Moses.

Jesus is introducing this is a new religious duty.

This is something the Jews well understood that they should do and that many of them didn't do. He's assuming his disciples will be doing it.

What is concerned about here is the attitude with which it's done and what is concerning them is hypocrisy is that we pretend to be more holy than we are that we that we do are almost giving our our giving to the poor in an open and visible way because what were really concerned about is neither God or the poor, but the kind of praise were going to get from other human beings are most of the giving of the world is that way.

That's why when you have fundraising organizations soliciting donations to schools and universities are fine arts groups and so forth.

They published a list of all those who given the even divided up indicate how much you give so you really make the top your lifetime member you give $100 or more during the presidents club for a century club and their patrons and their friends and so forth. Sometimes that kind of giving also erupts in religious circles because there are people in certain churches like to be known as those who are the big givers. Where would we ever be without them while Jesus is concerned about that what he says is don't announce your gift with trumpets follow the scholars read that and say well does that mean that when they gave their gifts they actually blew trumpets in support. I don't think so. That's just like we would say blowing your own horn right this is call attention to yourself when you do it. People call attention to their giving because they want to be praised by other people. And Jesus says if that's why you're giving you got it you do a lot of money to get your name published their list of patrons or lifetime members or whatever it may be, but is that all you're going to get. So if you're going to give in a way that pleases God and was rewarded by God to give it quietly give it secretly. The I Carson says the way to avoid hypocrisy is not to cease giving to do it was such secrecy that we scarcely know what we have given of the second thing Jesus talks about his prayer and he does this, the greatest length and I think probably with a very good reason. Prayer is difficult us much easier to give a little bit of money to the poor that matters much easier to give a lot of money to the poor always rather give money, give ourselves, and it's even harder to pray than to give ourselves. Prayer is a spiritual battle and Jesus takes a great deal of time to talk about it only does exactly the same thing here as he did when he was talking about giving to the poor. He warns us to seek men's praise. He assures us that if we do that were going to get an earthly answer. He commands us to perform our prayer privately. He talks about doing it in our closet with the door shut and he promises that if we do a God who hears in secret will reward us openly.

Now, there's a preface to this discussion of prayer, particularly to the example of the Lord's prayer in this preface he deals with two wrong notions of prayer talks first of all about ostentatious prayer that is prayer that is honored in visible places in order to attract the attention of other people.

Have a great example of that in Jesus story about the Pharisee and the tax collector, or how the Pharisee prayed, he stood up in a public place. Jesus told the story said he prayed about himself use the word God.

He said oh God is really praying about himself and what followed were God is how great he really was. So God I thank you that I'm not like other men like these adulterers and thieves and only not like this tax collector over here because I live, I worship. I all the things that you're supposed to be Jesus that it prayer wasn't even Hartley got his reward. Oh yes, he was standing up there. I suppose there were people who looked up and said all yes look at the Pharisee.

What an important person in the years but he had not been a reward from God over there quietly in the back so we could leave and be heard was a tax collector who said God be merciful to me a sinner and Jesus said that man went home justified as he is warning against that kind of ostentatious prayer does that mean you can never have public prayers. Oh course not always at prayer in the worship of God you have in the Old Testament examples of the New Testament, Jesus prayed so they heard him as I listen to him. I said, Lord, teach us to pray, and that's all he began to teach the Lord's prayer.

No course you have public prayers. There's a big difference in attitude you see what you're actually doing is praying together with other people or in a worship service, leading the people of God in prayer so that we might pray together and offer up our petitions to God, or if you're merely doing it for show.

Some years ago a notice appeared in one of the Boston papers about a prayer that had been given on a particular Sunday.

They are New England and it said it was the most eloquent prayer that it ever been offered to a Boston audience course is exactly what it was to go there on the roof of the building. So Jesus warns against that second thing he warns against his repetitious prayers kind of prayer, the things well you'll be hard if you simply say it over and over again. Great example of out of the Old Testament. When the priest of bail or praying.

Remember Elijah challenge them so that a test up on Mount Carmel that reached to build an altar and able to call upon their God to send on fire and the priest bailed and said it over and over and over and over again nothing happened.

When Elijah prayed, he prayed. Once the fire fell heaven.

Jesus isn't necessarily condemning one prayers we talking about here is vain repetition if he were condemning long prayers would be in trouble here attends church, especially Bruce McDowell because he prays very long for the missionaries in the vein but is not talking about that it's it's in vain repetition.

That's a rather fortuitous translation which came into English from Tyndale and one of the old versions of the Bible. The Greek word is actually bottle login logout was words and Bono is probably from the Aramaic word but tile which means I don't babbling bottle Bono bottle bottle bottle at the idea is probably why that's the particular word of Jesus says that's not it, sadly, has often been the case in Christian circles as a matter of fact you know this word that you sometimes hear pitter patter.

No pitter patter that kind of thing that probably comes as an observation by people who speak English listening to the prayers when they were given the Latin Church of ancient day and they usually hear the Lord's prayer, which began patter no spare no pitter patter really is what Potter knows there sounds the people don't know Latin in the here and over and over again. Potter, no stair PS and kindness that sort of thing.

Potter Potter, but if I did mean anything at all. So we have that sort of thing in the church, Jesus is. It shouldn't be that way. Our prayer should be thoughtful they should be directed to gone and I thought should be on God. At that point we say well how should we do that well.

Jesus gives us the example. This Lord's prayer is an example and I hope you understand that it's a model it's not something to be repeated all over the course we can repeat it. We do often church services but he's telling us how we should pray not what we should pray. The very fact that this prayer occurs in two versions, one here in Matthew and the other in Luke indicate something about that. Sometimes installers wrestle with that.

They say you have two versions of the prayer. One of them must be wrong with basic answer to that is probably the Jesus taught this model in more than one occasion. Certainly the settings are different and here he thought it one way and he thought it was slightly different language. Another way the very fact that he did not indicates that it's not to be necessarily memorize the repeated word for word and varied or if that's the case that he only did give it.

On one occasion and it was remembered and recorded with slight variations by the two gospel writers Matthew and Luke. It indicates as well. The lease Matthew and Luke didn't think it had to be memorized and given back verbatim is the pattern. What Jesus says is when you pray, you begin by praying for God and God's honor and after you've done that then you begin to pray about your own concerns your own concerns are important, he says, but begin with God. There are six petitions here, three of them had to do with God. Three of them had to do with ourselves and they audit really directs how we pray at most times. I will well first of all, we address ourselves to God as our father in heaven and we pray hallowed be your name. God's name actually stands for God. So when you honor the name of God, what you're doing is honoring God and the reason for that is that the names of God tell us things about God think of God being Elohim. The most common name for God in the Old Testament Scriptures as the creator of the heavens and the earth because that's the way the Bible begins the beginning God created the heavens and the earth of the word is Elohim, so we think of them as the creator, it's where we begin that's where Genesis begins. That's where the apostle Paul began when he tried to teach the gospel there in Athens for the very first time.

God is the creator we acknowledge them as that is the creator God.

We also remember him as Jehovah. That's is popular or private name unique name of God. It means I am that I am we think of them as the eternal one. Also, the one who is the savior of his people think of God as L hold your own most high God. We think of them as the Lord of hosts, all those different things that tell us something about God.

So when we honor the name of God, what were doing is honoring God and all these various attributes were saying as we did in our him our God is mighty our God is gracious.

Our God sovereign in all his other attributes. Besides, but it is interesting is that in this prayer, where we are told to honor the name of God. The name that actually is given here.

His father is really significant. We are so commonly used to the idea of God being called father that it doesn't strike us as particularly novel, but it was certainly novel in Jesus day note you in his prayers ever called God my father even the word father in relationship to God is infrequent in the Old Testament. It only appears half a dozen times or so.

Even then it never appears in a prayer where an individual Jew prays to God, his father, the Jews would've thought that was improper. God was too high was to exalted it was to majestic. It was to transcend that he was too holy ever to call him by name like that. And so what was happening in Judaism in Jesus day is that they weren't even calling God by any name at all.

They would use circumlocutions to get around it so they would talk about heaven instead of God. Or maybe the most talked sometimes they would say Lord added I would simply was a reference to him as master, but wasn't understood to be a name Jesus overturned all that because when Jesus prayed Jesus always pray to God. His father is a matter fact he did it with a particular word and it was a striking to the disciples who heard it again and again that they actually recorded in its Aramaic form in the New Testament is what Abba several times in the New Testament when you pray, say, Abba father. Abba means father but it's a diminutive.

It actually means daddy. So Jesus prayed to God as his father. His good loving and intimate father and the significant thing is that here and in other places. He authorizes his disciples to pray to God as father as well and yet it's an interesting balance is not on the one hand, where entitled to call God father even that in the moment word daddy but the God to whom we pray is nevertheless the majestic God who dwells in heaven. Our father who art in heaven as he got his personal is no mere ground of being, which is what some of the theologians of sad, but he is also the holy and sovereign God. So the very beginning of this prayer.

When Jesus teaches us about prayer.

What he saying is we have to take God seriously several one with whom we can be flip.

He can't be taken lightly on the second thing he says is that we should pray your kingdom, already given some thought to what that means because the idea of the kingdom was introduced earlier to come do it again in Matthew 13 where we have all the parables of the kingdom. It has a double meaning refers to what's happening here is God rules through his people Church of the people of God or God's kingdom was world has to do with the reign of Jesus Christ is why Jesus said the kingdom is among you, when he was talking about and saw that it also has to do with God's rule at the end of the age when the Messiah returns rules and power so you think of it both ways. You say, well, why doesn't it spell it out is because of the model prayer and suggestive.

We pray that God's rule might be more established in this church increasingly evident the lives of his people, but we also look forward to that day when Jesus will return and everything that is wrong on earth will be set right third request is this your will be done here.

The disciple is asking that he and others might live in the growing obedience to God's desires is there found in Scripture, every thought might be made captive from brought into obedience to Jesus Christ.

We refer to the will of God and people say well yes, but I thought of God is a sovereign God and his will is always done with the work will is used in different ways in Scripture refers on the one hand, sometimes still, what the theologians call the decrees of God or his decorative will is what every decree should happen happens happens because God decrees it is also what the theologians call his perceptive will that is that which is embodied in the precepts of the Bible things we should do. God desires us to do because there right God and his sovereign power doesn't force everything into that he has his own reasons for allowing sin to continuous it does here.

We pray, may your will be done and it's in that second sense that we are praying we know what God's will is because God's will is laid out for us in the Bible as we study it. That's what we finally find what God wants us to believe and how God wants us to act and so when we pray that prayer we pray. May your will be done in median the company of the people of which I am a part that relates to God he comes in the second half of this begins to talk about our own particular needs and he begins with this prayer for daily bread. This is prayer for life's necessities and it has to do with real necessities.

It's not a spiritual thing. Jerome thought that what Jesus was talking about. Here was the bread of the communion service but that's was nonsense with saying that all he saying look your creature is a creature you have needs you need to have food to eat.

You need to have close to where you need to have a roof overhead to shelter you from the elements and all those things will pay for it because your God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, and furthermore don't just pray for extra pray for daily because that's what prayer says give us this day our daily bread.

Interesting word that Greek word is up OCR us and for a long long time. There were no examples of that word in any of the ancient literature replaces it ever occurred were in the two versions of the Lord's prayer.

Once in Matthew once in Luke and nothing else invited many of the Greek writers or any of the parchments or anything like that and then not so long ago in the century. I believe lender found a little bit of parchment that seemed to have been a woman shopping list that it had audit all the kind of things that had to be bought for the next day on the word that was used was a Busey offices was the daily list and so we conclude that the meaning of the prayer is exactly what most people thought it meant all along really meant God to give us what we need for the living of our lives. This very day you do that you just assume it and say well I have plenty to eat. Why should I pray about it right you have a nice home. I do have plenty of close to suggesting if you plenty of closure pray for more may be yours right now to get some of those to the poor, especially those that you haven't worn for a while but his radio pray and actually ask God to provide for your daily needs. God is doing it ask for it and then when you ask for. Thank him for doing it. How much this next request, forgive us our debts or our transgressions or our sins reason we have to pray that as it were.

Not only creatures who need food and clothing of all that sort of thing were also sinful creatures violated the law of God and therefore we need forgiveness is an interesting way of speaking because what Jesus says here is this.

We are to pray or give us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors that we put those two parts of the sentence together.

Does that mean that we earn the forgiveness of God by forgiving others know obviously it doesn't because the Bible teaches us from beginning, then we can earn anything with God. Any salvation is of grace when what does it mean well, some people that suggested that what it's dealing with here is the kind of sin that alienates us from the fellowship of God.

We have if we are Christians, forgiveness for all our sins because of the work of Jesus Christ and mermaid righteous in him. But our sins offend God day by day break fellowship and therefore were asking forgiveness to those sentence course may have some truth to it, but I don't think that's what prayer is about. This is such a condensed prayer, that when it mentions forgiveness.

It has to be forgiveness for all sins of all kinds. We can sort of narrow it down that way much better way of handling it is this recognizing that what really is involved here is a profound change of heart by which we who have prior to that, not been forgiving become forgiving and what Jesus is saying is that if you have received forgiveness of God, you're going to have this change of attitude as well. Want to put in a theological language of something like this you don't get justified without being regenerated To be born again as well as justified and if you're born again, you're going to have a different kind of thinking that you're actually going to be forgiving with other people. Why aren't we forgiving with other people is because we think we better when we realized by the grace of God were not better. There's nothing that they have done that we could not ourselves do, and as a matter of fact may well have done and maybe even have done something worse.

We really deeply understand that about ourselves and humbles us, and it's much easier if not absolutely easy to be forgiving. Rickabaugh set it right when he says by forgiving his debtors. The believer shows himself to be a child of God. We mustn't take that lightly, because of the six petitions in the Lord's prayer. This is the only one that is actually amplified afterwards by Jesus because verses 14 and 15 pick up on it again and Jesus says this if you forgive men when they sin against you.

Your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly father will not forgive your sins should impress us with the necessity of forgiving others in the last petition is this lead us not into temptation links with what follows that as we might be delivered from the evil one were beset constantly with temptation were not able to stand against it by ourselves any more than Peter who thought he could because Jesus said all of the disciples would fall away on the night of his arrest. Peter said not may Lord the others may be weak but I'll stand with you to the M but when the temptation came, he fell and so Jesus said worn from Latin pray as you are on your knees before God.

Lord forgive me and deliver me from temptation that I might not fall under the hands of the evil one, and this is last acts of righteousness stock to by giving to the poor is not the greatest length about prayer. Finally he talks about fasting and not talk so much about that because not many of us do it. I'm not sure, something that we have to have urged upon us.

Jesus assumes like he does in the others. We will do it, but it doesn't tell us how often the Jews fasted an awful lot. You know they had fasts for all of the events connected with the assault on Jerusalem, and finally the collapse of the city to the Babylonians.

But in the Old Testament. There's really only one fast enjoying immensely fast on the day of atonement where you're particularly sorrowing for your sins. The issue of whether those flasks should continue came up in the book of Zechariah 1 of the minor prophets in chapter 7 and eight I came in, they asked, should we continue the fasts for the fall of the city. Now that were back in the city and the way that's answered. Zechariah has nothing to do with whether you should fasten those particular days or not. It has to do with what is really the attitude of the heart. What matters is the heart your heart made open and are you in your heart bow down before God is able.

Does that mean that heart attitude should utterly replace anything like fasting in our day know because we have examples in the New Testament of times of fasting were blessed by God and significantly example Peter when he received the vision of the sheep down from heaven, which was God's way of opening his heart and mind begin to preach the gospel to the Gentiles in the house of the Roman centurion was in prayer and fasting prior to the revelation in the 13th chapter about several chapters after that, when the missionary enterprise of the church began, says the Holy Spirit separates Paul and Barnabas to go out on that task. It's as the church was worshiping together and fasting does seem that fasting times is used by God's people is this time apart to settle their hearts and seek the will of God in some particular matter, saying that we should particularly do that or do that at all times.

Nothing in the New Testament says we should, but we may want to particularly as we seek God's will for some important moment in our lives. Those of the acts of righteousness was the acts of devotion. This Christian piety you say to yourself here or it's dealing with that which is of the heart secret before God. Are there really people like this with her doing it secretly before God.

That's not the kind of thing you can verify in a scientific manner doing a before God. We don't know that they're doing it, but I would dare say as you look around the world for hundreds of thousands of Christian people that are doing exactly that their giving to the poor and the doing it in quiet ways that are on their knees before God secretly interceding for one another, seeking to advance the kingdom and the many cases yes also fasting as they seek the direction of the blessing of God for their lives and you want to be a part of that fast Company you're part of the company that does it in the world's way.

If you do your giving so you get attention.

If you go to church so people will know you go whatever you may do if you make a big show of it had to reward here one day there's going to be a vast company that stands before the throne of God's grace and have a 90s going to say well done good and faithful servant because you did it under the least of these my brethren, people didn't even know you did it but you did it you did it for me. That's prayer father. We are thankful for this helpful teaching of our Lord as we begin to examine our own hearts. Even where we've done some of these things. We certainly are praying.

Almost all of us is given to help other people, but as we look into our hearts, we have to confess quite often it's done before other people for their attention. Or maybe we don't do that.

We just do it because somehow it makes us feel good and we think that we are important in our own lives. Father give us the spirit of our Lord, who did not take unto himself the honor that was his due, but rather emptied himself and became nothing being made.

Obedience on the death, even the death of the cross, in whom you have now lifted up to glory at your right hand pray in Jesus.

You are listening to the Bible study hours with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place. Alliance broadcasting includes the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce every last word with Bible teacher, Dr. Philip Reich and and Dr. Barnhouse in the Bible featuring Donald Barnhouse. For more information on the alliance including a free introductory package for first-time callers or to make a contribution. Please call toll-free 1-800-488-1888. Again, that's 1-800-488-1888. You can also write the alliance at Box 2000, Philadelphia PA 19103 or you can visit us for Canadian gifts mail those 2237 Ruse Hills Dr., Scarborough, ON M1 C2 line 9 ask for your free resource catalog featuring books, audio commentaries, booklets, videos, and a wealth of other materials from outstanding reformed teachers in Falluja. Thank you again for your continued support and for listening to Bible study

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