What Is the Very First Step in Living a Holy Life?

A Daily Little Lesson

Read the transcript of this video below.

What is the very first step in living a holy life? Hi, welcome to today’s little lesson. We’re working our way through Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and we’re getting into the heart of the matter here.

Woman lifting her hands in worship

The heart of the sermon and the heart of the matter is heart holiness, and that becomes so very clear as we consider Jesus’s three statements regarding doing things for the right motives. He actually, in this section, in Matthew Chapter 6, that we just started looking at, talks about making sure your motives are right when you give, making sure your motives are right when you pray, and making sure your motives are right when you fast. And in every case, he says the way to check your motive is to do what you do secretly, to assure yourself and to assure the Lord that we’re not doing it because of the desire to be seen by people, because that is what marks the difference between a religious person and a truly righteous person.

Religion is just a show and anyone who is honest and faces up to the facts of the matter, religion is just a put on, it’s a charade, it’s an act. And it’s all for the purpose of building up one’s image in the eyes of other people who see ones religiosity. And God’s not into religion, he wants a relationship, a father with his children. And he loves it when his children obey him because they love him, because that’s why he wants them to obey him, because he loves them.

A lot of times we think that God is angry at us because of sin when, in reality, Jesus … God is sad and saddened because of our sin because he loves us and he knows that we’re going to suffer the consequences of our disobedience. And isn’t that how it is with any father or mother with their children? Yeah. There’s that element of anger when our children disobey us because it is disrespectful. But, on the other hand, we have their own person at heart. We’re thinking, “This is best for you if you do what I tell you because things will go better for you.” And that’s how it is with God.

And, again, sometimes we think God is angry when really he’s sad. Remember, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and he was angered at times. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple. Yes, he was angered. But we see this other component of his feelings towards people that disobey and who reject him. He weeps for them because he loves them and he wants what’s best for them.

God doesn’t want us to be religious, putting on a show for others, just trying to get points in the eyes of others. That’s nothing but just selfishness disguised under the guise, oftentimes, of selflessness. And when people make large donations and they announce it with a ceremony and there’s the big check they’re handing to some worthy cause, God’s certainly shaking his head up in Heaven and the angels are weeping because there’s a person who really isn’t motivated by his love for God or his love, even, for the people that he’s supposedly helping. But really, he’s trying to get something for himself and Jesus tells us, “Enjoy it while it lasts because you have no reward with your father who is in Heaven.”

The antidote to all this and the test is to test yourselves and see what’s really in our hearts. This is very thought provoking, this particular passage we’re in in Matthew now.

We already covered the first part where Jesus said, “When you give to the poor, don’t be sounding a trumpet before you … like the hypocrites do in the streets and in the synagogues to announce their distributions. But when you give, do it secretly.”

Now, does this mean that all giving has to be done anonymously and totally secretive? Now that’s … people that think that show that the common air of exulting one verse at the expense of all the rest of the verses in the Bible because surely, the New Testament church, the followers of Jesus Christ knew that he said when you give, give secretly and when you pray, go into your inner room and praise so people don’t see you. Don’t go out in the street corners and do it. But yet, we still find examples of public giving, sure, and we find examples of public prayer, for example, in the New Testament.

And I’m right on the verge of a thunderstorm here, so try not to be alarmed over the next two minutes of this little lesson before we try another time on another day.

Let’s stay balanced. You can test yourself once or twice, giving anonymously, to see how your heart reacts to that. And then, take a look and see how your heart does in that situation. And then if you find that you’re able to do that and do it with joy, then maybe you could consider then it’s okay from then on to not be so secretive in your giving and in your praying.

If all you’re doing is praying publicly all the time and you never pray secretly, if all you’re doing is giving and certain people know about it and that’s all you ever do, then that’s not balanced. Let’s take all the scripture on the subject and not just one little verse and make a religion out of that one verse. When you give to the poor, Jesus said, “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” so you’re giving will be in secret. Your father who sees what is done in secret, he will reward you, praise God, and he is a rewarded of those who diligently seek him. Nothing wrong with seeking the reward from God, everything right about that. That’s what Jesus is promising us here, right?

If you give secretly, God will reward you. Nothing wrong at all with seeking reward. God allows that bit of self-interest. And I do think, probably, there is a difference that could be delineated between self-interest and selfishness. Selfishness is always at the expense of someone else, whereas self-interest doesn’t necessarily have to harm someone else in the process naturally. We are taking care of ourselves, right? You probably ate today, you’re looking out for yourself. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But when you’re eating at the expense of others and you’re greedy and stuffing your face while someone else across the table is starving, well, now, you’ve turned self-interest into selfishness. And we’re all on the road of progressive sanctification, hopefully, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ. And who began the good work in you, will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Okay. Well, we’re out of time for today’s lesson. Thank you for joining me for this special outdoor edition and we haven’t been hit by lightening, so that’s a good sign. God bless you.