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Aug 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 23, 2015 – John 15:14-15; Luke 22:28-30; Mark 14:32-24

Solitude, Community and Companionship

Intro: We begin with highlights from Jesus’ last night with his disciples

First, right after finishing the meal and the new covenant in the bread and the cup

You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:28-30

– Luke reports more examples of Jesus’ table fellowship than the other gospels
• relations are forged (and broken) around the table (Lk. 7:36-50)
◦ communities are formed around the table (Lk. 5:30-32; 15:1-3)
• instances of him eating and drinking with others anticipates his future kingdom (Lk. 13:29)

Second, before Jesus and his disciples left the upper room

You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:14-15

– Jesus changed the disciples’ status
• slaves did not need to know their masters’ plans, but only to obey
• as friends, Jesus brought the disciples to a new level of trust and intimacy

Third, on the Mount of Olives

They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. Mark 14:32-35

– Jesus’ ordeal of grief and suffering isolated from everyone else, even his closest disciples
• in this hour, he needed to be alone with God
• his work began with his ordeal in the loneliness of the wilderness (Lk. 4:1-13)

In these passages we see Jesus’ activity in three socially defined environments
– to consider all three environments requires three different texts
• there’s no example where Jesus is seen in all three at the same time
◦ that’s the nature of these environments; each one is distinct and only rarely overlap
• we may observe transitions from one to another
◦ but every story unfolds within a single, specific context
– socially defined, the environments are solitude, community and companionship
• God gives us these gifts to assist us in our spiritual journey
◦ three unique spaces where God meets us — each one meeting specific needs
• this week’s travel tip for our spiritual journey:
◦ know these spaces, settle into them and discern when you need to move into one of them

Let’s consider solitude

From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus sought solitude

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying there (Mk. 1:35)

– this became his regular practice

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Lk. 5:16)

read more…

Aug 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 16, 2015 – Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Contemplative Prayer, Part Seven
Praying Non-stop

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of you house and on your gates.
Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.
 Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Intro: Do you see what God is doing here?

People, as individuals and in society, need a stable center
– a center enables us to orient the diverse pieces of our lives in a cohesive whole
• in a narcissistic culture, each person things, “I am the center of my universe”
• you cannot construct a healthy society around a center like that
– God’s first gift to Israel, after their liberation from Egypt, was his law
• the goal was to use the law to implant himself in them as the stable center
◦ he was to be everything to them — all your heart, all your soul, all your might
◦ through daily practice of specific activities, they would write his words on their hearts (v. 6)
• two key concepts emerge and we need to see how they’re fused
◦ “love” – that to which person commits his or her whole life — evidenced in behavior
◦ “fear” – the natural human response to the sacred (deserves the commitment of one’s whole life)

The plan is easy enough to understand, but its achievement is near impossible
– it is a precarious process, to fix belief, love and commitment in human consciousness
• and to do this without the use of force or violence
• the risk: before these are firmly set, the person forgets to follow, or abandons the process
◦ Israel had to place reminders everywhere and observe them
◦ otherwise, God’s place at center would not hold
– Israel’s history was a record of the collapse of this program
• cf. Ps. 78 and 106 — “they forgot . . . did not remember . . . they forgot God their Savior”
• in forgetting who God was, they forgot who they were

We tend to think of memory as “information storage”
– in scripture, to remember is to bring into awareness
• God knew he would be remembered on special occasions — festivals, weddings, death, crises, etc.
• what he wanted was for Israel to live with a continual consciousness of him
◦ over and over again he reminded them, “I am with you”
– and this brings us to our a last look at contemplative prayer
• we want to take our experience in prayer everywhere and into everything we do
◦ to maintain a constant mindfulness of God’s presence
• before we explore this constant state of prayerful awareness, I need to tell you something
◦ I am not there – I wish this was my experience, because I could serve you better
◦ but let’s be content to begin where we are and go forward together

read more…

Aug 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 9, 2015 – Luke 10:38-42

Contemplative Prayer, Part Six
The Distraction of Many Things

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
 Luke 10:38-42

Intro: Toward the end of the fourth century two young men went into the deserts of Egypt

John Cassian and his companion, Germanus, visited monasteries and interviewed monks
– the first of those interviews Cassian’s recorded was with Abbot Moses
• they asked him what was the goal that inspired him to suffer the deprivations of the desert?
◦ he said his ultimate aim was the kingdom of God, but his immediate goal was purity of heart
• since it is the “pure in heart” that see God (Mt. 5:8), he wanted to hold himself to this goal

“. . . let us direct our course as straight towards it as possible, and if our thoughts wander somewhat from this, let us revert to our gaze upon it, and check them accurately as by a sure standard, which will always bring back all our efforts to this one mark, and will sho at once if our mind has wandered ever so little from the direction marked out for it.”
He later explains:
“We have an excellent illustration of this state of mind and condition in the gospel in the case of Martha and Mary: for when Martha was performing a service that was certainly a sacred one, since she was ministering to the Lord and His disciples, and Mary being intent only on spiritual instruction was clinging close to the feet of Jesus . . . [Mary] is shown by the Lord to have chosen the better part . . . .”

– the motive for Christian service is not always devotion to God
• it is possible to do right things for wrong reasons (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3)

Abbot Moses, “You see then that the Lord makes the chief good consist in meditation, i.e., in divine contemplation . . .”

• although every other activity is useful and good, this is the heartbeat of our spiritual life

I have a reason for beginning with John Cassian’s writings
– a number of Christians are self-appointed watchdogs
• because they do not understand contemplative prayer, they condemn it
◦ it has been described as New Age, Eastern Religion and Roman Catholic
• but it’s hardly “New Age” if monks were practicing it as early as 380 AD
– early in Christian history, devout believers realized they had a hunger that was not being met
• Christianity had been legalized, but Roman society in general was still corrupt
◦ from the time of Constantine, the church entered politics and internally became more political
• monks felt they had to leave their pagan cities and the institutional church to be alone with God
◦ they devoted long hours to scripture reading and private and communal prayer
◦ eventually they became recognized as guides to a deeper spiritual life

Cassian’s writings demonstrate the importance of the contemplation of God in Christian prayer
– it is a practice that was largely lost to the hyper-rational, modern era Protestant churches

Our topic is expressed well in a question Germanus raised

“How is it then, that even against our will; [yes] and without our knowledge idle thoughts steal upon us so [subtly] and secretly that it is fearfully hard not merely to drive them away, but even to grasp and seize them? Can then a mind sometimes be found free from them, and never attacked by illusions of this kind?”

The struggles of those saintly followers of Christ were the same as ours
– distraction is one of most common and most difficult challenges to prayer

read more…

Aug 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 2, 2015 – Matthew 16:13-20

Contemplative Prayer, Part Five
The Soul’s Mirror

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”Matthew 16:13-20

Intro: This is the fifth week in our study of Contemplative Prayer

Today we are going to venture into one of its personal difficulties

You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret in the light of Your presence. (Ps. 90:8)

Some remarkable things happen in this story of Jesus and his disciples
– we notice the unfamiliar Aramaic expression Bar-Jona–most likely Jesus’ actual words
• that Matthew did not translate this into Greek draws more attention to it
◦ Jesus referred to Peter as “son of Jona” — it was an insight into his identity
• previously, Jesus referred to himself as the “Son of Man”
◦ an insight into his identity (his solidarity with humankind); he was that, but more
◦ that Peter saw the more is evident when he identifies Jesus as “the Son of living God”
– Jesus congratulated Simon for the insight that had not come through “flesh and blood”
• that is, Peter could have learned or made this discovery by any natural means
◦ it is not the sort of knowledge that enters us through our intellect (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6-8)
◦ a person receives it in his or her soul through an encounter with the truth

Jesus went on to tell Peter, “I also say to you” – why “also”? I see two possibilities:

  1. “I’ve told you, you’re blessed, I also say to you . . .”
  2. or, “You’ve correctly identified who I am, I also will tell you who you are”

– in effect, Jesus was saying, “As I am Son of Man, yet more, so you are the son of Jona, yet more”
• this step up required a new identifier, so Simon son of Jona becomes “Peter the Rock”
• Jesus has revealed to Peter his true self – the “new creature” he is in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)
◦ Peter’s challenge is not to act like a rock, but to become this person
◦ his destiny requires him to slough off the old self and become his true self
• and this is where Peter immediately screwed up

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

◦ the old self thinks like everyone else, but the new, true self is God-minded

read more…

Jul 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 26, 2015 – 1 Corinthians 2:12, 14-16

Contemplative Prayer Part Four:
Listening to God

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city. (Acts 18:9-10)
It happened when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw Him saying to me, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.” (Acts 22:17-18)

Intro: From its infancy, Christian experience took this for granted: God spoke to people

Besides the verses above, the book of Acts provides many instances (e.g., 10:9-16; 16:6-10 & 23:11)
– notice that it was frequently while in prayer that people heard from God
• the means God used varied–in visions, by angels, in community and through his Spirit

We know Christians who seem to have open channel to God
– as though he talks to them all them time – even about trivial issues
• others of us feel like God never talks to us
◦ at least not audibly or all that clearly
• does God want to communicate with us? Does he talk to people today?
– Jesus’ promised to disciples:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. . . . He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (Jn. 14:18; 16:12-14)

• the Book of Acts provides examples of the fulfillment of his promise
◦ if God wants to speak to us, when and in what ways can we try to “hear” him?
• God typically speaks to us by his Spirit, through the Scriptures and in prayer
◦ however, we do not want to limit our willingness to hear him by any means he chooses
◦ to hear directly from God is always a gift of his grace

To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 13:11)
I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” (Lk. 10:21)

Contemplative prayer is a moment of focused attention on God with an openness to his grace

God’s voice enters us by way of our spirit, not our ears

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. . . . But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised [discerned]. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:12:14-16

Living in the Spirit deepens our understanding of God — through an “inner knowing”
– God’s work in our lives becomes clearer to us, because “we have the mind of Christ”
• but the process is subtle and mostly hidden from our intellect and senses
• stillness and silence are our best means of developing sensitivity to the motions of God’s Spirit

read more…

Jul 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 19, 2015 – Lamentations 3:19-26

Contemplative Prayer Part Three
One Way To Get Started

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and the bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new ever morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the
LORD. Lamentations 3:19-26

Intro: Almost dead center in this heartbreaking song of despair, a light shines

One minute, the poet’s “hope from the LORD” had perished (v. 18)
– in the next minute he announces, “I have hope” (twice: vv. 21 & 24)
• nothing of his world had changed in his favor
• but he remembered something and realized something (besides his “affliction”)
◦ that God’s mercy and compassion never fail, but are “new every morning”
◦ and the LORD was his “portion” – not things of this world that lay in ruin around him
– in his worst misery, he could turn toward God and find relief — How?

The poet used well-known ways of being with God in prayer
– he knew to seek God and he knew to wait for God
• to be in prayer like this anticipated an encounter and required the soul’s full attention
• it is tempting to think of this as Christianity’s lost legacy of prayer
◦ but Christian traditions, not co-opted by rationalism, have kept seeking and waiting alive
– Contemplative Prayer is very much a matter of seeking and waiting
• here I will suggest one of the possible ways of entering Contemplative Prayer

When you want to be with God for himself

SIT somewhere quiet and peaceful
– it’s not necessary to sit or to have absolute silence
• for some of us, that is impossible, but it is optimal
• think, “When I sit, I situate myself”–in this place, at this time
◦ I am orienting my life and everything in and around it to God
– I want to adopt a posture that is respectful and alert (more on this further down)
• but I also want to relax into God’s presence
◦ when we relax our body, mind is at peace
◦ a stressed mind, tenses the body
• a simple relaxation exercise can be a first phase of prayer

SAY A SHORT, SIMPLE PRAYER — “Call on Me,” God tells us (Ps. 50:15)
– God revealed his name so, by it we reach out to him

In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. (Psalm 18:6)

• this is our objective, to become aware of our connection to God
• I like to say, “Here I am”
◦ but you could also take a deep breath and as you exhale, say, “Jesus”
– begin wherever you are in that moment
• what is your mood? what do you feel? – label like you would a lab specimen
◦ present whatever you have to God, “Here I am and here is what I am feeling”
• when you cannot pray or do not feel like praying, that is where you begin your prayer
◦ we can only give God what we have now and only be with him as we are now
◦ there is no reason to hold back anything, because all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:13), and it is within his power to change us

read more…

Jul 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 12, 2015 – Hebrews 3:7-11; 4:1-11

Contemplative Prayer Part Two:
Entering God’s Rest

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness . . . .
As I swore in My wrath,
“They will not enter My rest.” 
Hebrews 3:7-11 (read also chapter 4:1-11)

Intro: Last week I introduced Contemplative Prayer as a helpful skill in our spiritual journey

Today we’ll go further into Contemplative Prayer
– in it, we learn to rest mindfully in the eternal now
• I realize this statement is too abstract to be really useful, so to simplify:
◦ sitting in silent prayer, we want to rest in direct awareness of God–his immediate presence
– I wanted to begin with the more philosophical or poetic statement
• such statements sometimes touch and stir the soul before the intellect gets in the way
• so “resting mindfully in the eternal now” is not a bad place to begin – it just needs clarification

A brief explanation of the biblical reading

The first reading is a quotation from Psalm 95
– it indicates two historical situations:
• an event – when Israel was prevented from entering the promised land
• and a comment God made regarding that event hundreds of years later – an “update” of sorts
– our second reading (Heb. 4:1-11) is an update on the update: “it is still called ‘Today’” (v. 13)
• in other words, when the Psalm was written, Israel was given another chance to enter God’s rest
◦ and then, when Hebrews was written, Christian believers were given that chance

Our author points out that the psalm was written “after so long a time” (several centuries! Heb. 3:7)
– so the “today” persists through time
• from Israel’s wandering in the wilderness to when the psalm was written
◦ whenever a community hears the invitation, their opportunity to respond is today
• in 3:7, the Greek word for time is chronos, or measured time (minutes, hours, days, and so on)
– with God, “today” is not static nor confined to one calendar day
• this is the first of several surprises – God’s Spirit says “today,” today!

Another surprise is the way our author reinterprets the term, “My rest”
– in the context of the psalm, it referred to the promise land
• they made that arduous trek through the desert, looking forward to resting in their own land
• but our author goes all the way back to creation, when on the seventh day God rested
◦ this was Israel’s reference point for their Sabbath
◦ and it is our author’s reference point for the rest we can experience in God

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9)

– God’s rest is, in a sense, a return to Eden, where we rest in him
• but now we see a pattern:
Adam and Eve were not allowed to return and Israel was not allowed to enter the land
◦ that is the warning our author raises

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. (Heb. 4:1)
Andrew Murray commented, “We have . . . the most precious assurances of a rest for the soul . . . . But when they are not believed they cannot be enjoyed. . .”

• if people hold back, they are held back permanently
God invites us: “Please come and sit with Me for awhile”
We answer: “I would love to, but I’m very busy” or “I’m too upset right now”
◦ and then the door closes–in fact, it is precisely where Psalm 95 ends

A third surprise: We “enter that rest” (4:3)
– the author takes for granted that God’s rest is inherent in the Christian faith

read more…

Jul 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 5, 2015 – Luke 12:35-38, 41-43

Introduction to Contemplative Prayer

“Be dressed in readiness; and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will girt himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. . . .”
Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us or to everyone else as well?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time. Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.”Luke 12:35-38, 41-43

Intro: Our list of skills for the spiritual journey must include Contemplative Prayer

I want to spend several weeks with this subject
– not because it is complex–it is, in fact, simple
• but it is also difficult and challenging
• especially in our ADD, cell-phone culture

Contemplative prayer means different things to different authors–there is no standard meaning
– for some, it is an ultimate, unique and mystical encounter with God
• unlike any other type of prayer, the “beatific vision” or “union with God” is pure grace
• few people have ever had this type of experience and for those who did it was rare and brief
– my use of contemplative prayer is somewhat different–here is its essence:

To be with God in attentive silence
(in which the mind and heart are totally absorbed with God)

A time comes when we have to get out of our prayers to get into prayer
– like when every time we pray, we repeat the same anxious thought or concern
• we don’t feel relief after such prayers, because we’ve reinforced our negative feelings
• it’s important to stop going in circles when we pray and getting nowhere
– typically, when we sit with God in silence, our minds say, “Nothing is happening”
• so they commandeer our prayer time
◦ filling the silence with thoughts and words — not always spiritual or edifying
• again, there is a difference between saying our prayers and contemplative prayer
◦ we can say prayers without needing to be aware of God
▫ our minds can be in another place or time — past or future
▫ we can be cut off from our surrounding and our inner life–e.g., our motives in saying prayers
◦ we brush our hands and think, “There! I’ve said my morning prayers. Now, I’m off to work”
▫ but assuming we don’t have to be there with our whole attention displeases God

This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me (Mt. 15:8)

Emily Herman, “The sense of unreality which so insistently haunts the beginner in prayer is due to the fact that he is engaged in a monologue and not in a conversation. . . . it is as impossible to realize our communion with God without the practice of silence, as it is to conduct a conversation [alone]”

Contemplative prayer is being fully present to the moment
– which we receive as a gift and use come close to God

read more…

Jul 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 28, 2015 – Revelation 3:1-3

The Soul Awake and Alert

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says this: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” Revelation 3:1-3

Intro: The book of Revelation begins with a vision of Jesus Christ

The imagery of the first chapter depicts Jesus as being present in his churches
– before the action begins, Jesus dictates seven letters to seven churches
• these were not the most important or prominent churches
◦ there is no mention of the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, or Rome
• the seven churches are representative of all churches at all times
◦ Jesus addresses what each church has right and what they’re doing that is wrong
– people in the church of Sardis had been busy
• they had done things that earned them a “name” — a reputation
◦ they were known for being a lively church
◦ but they weren’t alive, they were dead
• what is the Lord’s counsel to Sardis? “Wake up”
◦ this is the skill we’ll explore today that will assist us in our spiritual journey
◦ learning to wake ourselves up – or to allow God to wake us up

From Adam and Eve on, the Bible’s ongoing story is about waking up

Adam and Eve woke up after eating the fruit and facing the consequences
– Jacob had a vivid awakening – so did Moses
• Elisha lived in an awakened state and asked God to awaken his servant (2 Ki. 6:15-17)
◦ this continued on through to prophets who tried to get Israel to wake up

Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem . . .
(Is. 51:17)
Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city . . . .
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion. (Is. 52:1-2)

– Jesus’ first message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
metanoiameta = change nous thinking, mind, perception
◦ the time had come, kingdom had arrived, but it was invisible to the eye
◦ people had to wake up to it — they had to change the way they perceived in order to see it
• the disciples alternated between falling sleep and waking up
◦ on the mountain when Jesus was “transfigured”

Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him (Lk. 9:32)

◦ their most dramatic awakening, was in Gethsemane

He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mt. 26:40-42)

This brings us to our first challenge–and it’s a big one:
– we don’t want to wake up – we think we do, in theory, but “the flesh is weak”
• the spirit is willing, but in actual practice we prefer to roll over and stay in bed
◦ do remember a time when you tried to wake yourself from a deep sleep?
◦ it is like being held underwater – you have to fight to reach the surface
• sometimes I feel I’m being dragged back into sleep
– waking up means we must come to terms with reality
• therefore, waking up could change everything
◦ my values, commitments, friendships, mind set, all of it
• so I would rather dull my mind with entertainment or alcohol
◦ or live in the dream world of my illusions

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Jun 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 21, 2015 – Matthew 6:5-8, 19-25, 31-33

Pulling Ourselves Together

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.
And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetitions 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. Matthew 6:5-8

Intro: The spiritual skill we will consider today is Recollection

Some writers see Recollection as preparation for prayer and others as a form of prayer
– but this is not a serious or heated debate
• the moment you prepare to pray, you are already praying
– to get an overview of Recollection, I want to hop through Matthew chapter 6

This is the middle section of Jesus’ “Sermon On the Mount”

What Jesus is doing in this sermon, is leading his disciples into a genuine life in God
– to get there, he has to guide them between two failed alternatives
• they were “not to be like the hypocrites”  or “the Gentiles” (vv. 5 & 7)
• the prayers he describes are inconsistent with a real encounter with God
◦ he is our Father “ who is in secret,” so that’s where we meet him – not on a public stage
◦ he is our Father and he already knows our needs, so it isn’t necessary to pile up words
• the genuine prayer is a real conversation with God
– at this point, Jesus taught them the “Lord’s Prayer,” which begins with “Our Father”
• we do not converse with our Father as stage actors or beggars
◦ but as children with a loving parent

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
 Matthew 6:19-25

Jesus is concerned with divided loyalty
– notice how verse 19 works on us: the potential loss of earthly possessions can stir up anxiety
• yet anxiety is exactly what he wants us to live without
• the solution is to transfer our treasures to heaven
◦ having our treasures in heaven draws our hearts to heaven
◦ this gives us an entirely new perspective — one that is free of worry over worldly “things”
– once our hearts are oriented to heaven, our bodies need to be adjusted to the new reality
• the eye (or sight) is what admits light into body
◦ “clear” translates a word that means “single” – that is, focused on one thing
◦ St. James described the opposite condition:

A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:8)
– and this is why the psalmist prayed:
Unite my heart to fear Your name. (Ps. 86:11)

• it is like having two masters – you can’t serve both
– “For this reason” connects verse 25 with verse 24
• in other words, anxiety is service to wealth (or Mammon–i.e., materialism, as if it were a god)

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