A Specific Purpose

JULY 6

MATTHEW 6:17_But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head…

Jesus’ reference is not to a priestly anointing – it is more like a personal anointing. I don’t know if oil is used in this anointing. I see set-apartness with Jesus as the issue here.

When oil is used, it is used sparingly and discretely so as not to attract attention. After all, if you pour a bucket of oil on your head and walk around in public, people want to know what is going on. Be careful not to fall into the hypocrite category. 

When Jesus tells you to anoint your head, He is saying, “Get serious about your spiritual life if you are fasting.” There needs to be a specific purpose for this fast. It needs to be about increasing your relationship with Jesus.

Spiritual fasts are not some extreme crash diet in order to lose weight. That is not a good idea even if the fast is not spiritual. Again, this is an adult thing. Children and youth are growing bodies. Seldom will the Holy Spirit lead them to fast.

Fasting has nothing to do with causing you to be saved, or not. Don’t worry about such things. Trust your faith to grow, and the truth of the Bible to free you.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, I trust You to grow my faith and to lead me to freedom. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ calls me to be set-apart for Him—I will!

Top of the Totem Pole

JULY 4

MATTHEW 6:16_Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

Hypocrisy develops in stages. The more you succumb to it, the firmer its stronghold. Hypocrisy strongholds are motivated by life is more about my looking good than God receiving glory. Truth destroys strongholds – any stronghold. When truth fills your heart— there is no room for deception.

The disfigured face of the fasting hypocrite is designed to draw personal attention. As in a theatrical production, make-up and costumes are an essential part. The more authentic the make-up the more believable the character. If the character wants to evoke compassion for great self-sacrifice, the make-up and costume are as important as acting ability. Jesus’ disfigured face descript is about understanding this is not a time for drawing attention. 

More than for strengthening the spirit, fasting to the hypocrite is a time for moving up the spiritual ladder – to the top of the totem pole. Any time God is not at the top of your totem pole – “something is rotten in the state of Denmark!” (check your Shakespeare—Hamlet).

When being the head of your Christian group is more important to you than serving God in the lives of His people, be careful – you already have your reward.

PRAYER

Magnificent God, I don’t want my life to be about me, I want it to be about You. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ should be the head—He is head of my life!

Well, Do Declare!

JULY 3

MATTHEW 6:16_for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast…

Any way you look at it, fasting shows up in the Bible. It appears in the Old and New Testaments as a part of the religious routine. Fasting was a normal part of worship. 

There is something else which shows up. Jesus has a way of spotlighting it – hypocrisy. Hypocrites are always around. They show up in high governmental offices, on sports teams, on the stage, and unfortunately, they show up in churches. 

You’ve already learned how the hypocrites’ giving alms and praying came from a heart of pride, not worship.  Well, do declare, if that isn’t the same motive for their fasting!

Jesus points out they disfigure their faces when they fast. This is not for repentance or somberness of the occasion, but for exhibition. As always when He speaks of hypocrites, Jesus says not to be like them. 

Religious hypocrites are great actors, and their stage is in the midst of the Christian community. They know how to manipulate the emotions of their audience. Their disfigured faces when fasting is more than feeling weak from hunger. It is to show to their audience they are making a great sacrifice for God.   

PRAYER

Father God, I never want to be a hypocrite. I want You to be my audience. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ looks for hearts of worship—I will worship Him!

Our Heart is Exposed

JUNE 3

MATTHEW 6:9_After this manner therefore pray ye…

Jesus taught us how not to pray – the hypocrite in the synagogues and street corners – the heathen with vain repetitions and no heartfelt relationship with God. 

Jesus taught us how to pray. Leave the outside out. Inside, alone with God with the door closed, the depths of our heart is exposed. 

There is another reason private prayer is so important. Regardless of the fact that God already knows our heart, through private prayer we learn what’s in our heart. We have managed to hide some things so deep it requires talking to the Creator to bring them to the surface. We won’t learn that as easily in public prayer.

As in the previous devotion, there is a place for prayer groups and out-loud prayers. There is also a place for sharing prayer requests. If those requests are answered with a yes, you are not the only one praising.

Psalm 109:27 (KJV), “That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it.

If they are answered with a no, hopefully we will not be the only ones thanking. If they are answered with a wait, hopefully we will not be the only ones anticipating God’s will.

Jesus will now teach us a model prayer. He does not teach this as the only prayer to pray. Take heed to the word manner in this verse – it is important. This prayer is a pattern.  

If our prayers are just asking-for-something-prayers, this prayer teaches a better way.

PRAYER

Holy Creator, Teach me to pray. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ is the creator of prayer—He will teach me!

A Specific Commission

MAY 29

MATTHEW 6:7_as the heathen do…

Jesus goes from reproaching hypocrites to reproaching heathens. The word heathen in this verse can be translated as Gentile. Remember, Gentiles are not Jews. They were not under the covenant God made with Abraham. Nor were they under the laws God gave to Moses.

The Jews considered the prayers of Gentiles to be great babblings. Since Gentiles did not serve or have a relationship with the One True God, their prayers were not directed to Him. Therefore, to whatever god or idol they prayed, all they could offer was empty babbles.

After Jesus conquered death and was about to ascend into heaven, He gave His disciples a commission. Mark 16:15 (KJV), “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Jesus gave Peter and Paul a specific commission – to share the gospel of the resurrected Jesus with the Gentiles. Praise God Peter and Paul obeyed the call!

We are no longer heathen just because we are Gentiles. Those of us who answer the call to become salty-lit-up disciples can enter our closet, shut the door, and commune with the Holy God of Heaven!

Hallelujah!

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, Praise You for being the God of all mankind. Praise You for making a way for Gentiles to enter Your presence . In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Christ loves Gentiles—He made a way for me!