Five Things Just Between You and God
June 30, 2021
by Dr. J. Vernon McGee
What drives us to do good works? In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He talks about our relationship with God and the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 5 tells us about what makes a child of God righteous.
- Matthew 6 deals with how we can express that righteousness.
- Matthew 7 shows us specifically how to treat others.
Doing good works makes someone look very religious, but many have never come to Jesus by faith. Nicodemus had that religious righteousness, but when he came to Jesus, our Lord said, “You have to be born again.” True righteousness only comes through trusting Christ. Only then does our motive match our practice.
Now, let’s explore five things Matthew 6 says are between our souls and God. These righteous acts are meaningless unless they’re done in the right way. But when we see them in relationship to God, they reveal our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.
Giving Alms: When you give money
Your giving is between you and God, and you should not give in order to be noticed by people. The minute you get a third party involved, then you don’t get any credit for it at all. The Lord describes a scene in a crowded synagogue where a hypocrite drops his gift to the poor in the offering and then blows a trumpet to announce their gift. “They have their reward,” Jesus said (6:2).They were after the applause of men, and they got it. Their generosity wasn’t between them and God and is worth nothing before God. Instead, Jesus said, do your giving in secret. The Father sees it and will reward openly.
Genuine Prayer: When you talk to God
Some of the same principles apply when you pray. Don’t do it so others will see and praise you. Jesus called those who prayed in public hypocrites. In Jesus’ day, the men wore prayer shawls when they prayed. Some men wore them all the time. Jesus says if they boast like that, they have their reward. They may get other’s praise, but their own prayers aren’t answered. Their fancy words never get above the rafters.
Look closely at Jesus’ sermon and you’ll see something revolutionary. He uses the term “Father.” (See John 1:12 to learn how to be a child of God.) In the Old Testament, people never called God, “Father.” No one had a personal relationship with God like a son and a father. Jesus describes a brand-new relationship people can have with God.
The mark of genuine prayer is sincerity. You go in and close the door; it’s between you and the Lord. Then simplicity: You don’t need to keep repeating. Just get right down to the point. Tell the Lord what’s on your mind. Ask Him for help. He hears you. In fact, before you even ask, He already knows what you need, but we’re to ask Him anyway.
Then Jesus gives us a sample of how to pray. It’s called “the Lord’s prayer.” Now this is not our Lord’s own prayer, you can read that in John 17. His relationship to God is different from ours. We can call Him “Father” when we come to Him through faith in Christ; Jesus called Him “Father” because of His place in the Godhead. Jesus carefully used the terms “My Father” and “your Father,” never “our Father.” Also, Luke records, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4). The Lord Jesus had no sins to confess. He was the sinless One (John 8:46). So strictly speaking, this example Jesus gives us should be called, “The Disciples’ Prayer,” and it is a wonderful model prayer.
- Jesus instructs us to pray so God’s kingdom can come.
- He tells us to be dependent on God for our daily needs.
- He prompts us to ask forgiveness for our sins.
- He guides us in asking for help when we’re tempted to sin; “Don’t leave us in the testing.”
This is a marvelous prayer for us to learn how to pray. We can begin with these words until we learn to pray with our own words.
Genuine Fasting: When you remove distractions
Some of the same principles we’ve learned about giving and praying now apply to fasting. If you’re going to fast, don’t tell anybody about it, but do it on your own. There’s value in fasting when you do it between you and God.
Heavenly Stuff: What you do with your things
Some people doubt money is a spiritual topic, but Jesus talks a lot about it. He says your “treasure” can be gathered up in heaven. You can do that by putting it in the Lord’s work. Don’t just give to anything—investigate how your treasure will be used. Make sure you’re giving to something that’s going with you to heaven. You’ll think more about heaven that way, too.
God’s Provision: How God provides for you
If I give to God, who will take care of me? God will. Jesus points our attention to the birds. The little birds trust God to take care of them, and we ought to do that, too. Sure, we should exercise judgment, but Jesus said don’t live in such a way that provisions like food and dress and housing are a burden on us. Our Lord said, “Just look at the flower. Look what God does for it” (6:28-29). As God takes care of the flowers and the birds, He takes care of you. Just as He did yesterday, He’ll do today and tomorrow. Put Him first and let Him care for you.
Jesus taught His Sermon on the Mount with authority rather than familiar, empty sayings. People recognized the difference right away.The Sermon on the Mount is a glorious passage of Scripture. Don’t bypass it, but read it correctly and it will bring you to the person of Jesus Christ.
Download the Matthew Bible Companion for free here.
Read Matthew 6. Then reread Dr. McGee’s article and underline and/or copy here the truth that Jesus’s instruction presses on you about your life in God in these five areas.
- Giving Alms: When you give money
- Genuine Prayer: When you talk to God
- Genuine Fasting: When you remove distractions
- Heavenly Stuff: What you do with your things
- God’s Provision: How God provides for you
Ask the Lord to show you how to apply these five truths in the way you think and feel every day.