I. The Driving Force to Follow—Love

By Em Sumaway

When we love someone, we express that love. How do you express your love and devotion to Jesus? If someone were to watch closely the way you live, what priority would they say Jesus has in your life?

The motivation to follow the Lord must be that of love—the agape love to be more specific. Here are some observations concerning the conversation.

Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” This is obviously because Peter denied Him three times. Peter answered each question with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” There is an interesting change of terms here that we cannot find in reading just the translations. In the first two questions, the Lord used the word agapas, from the root agapaō. This is the highest form of love—sacrificial love. But Peter answered with a different word, philō, from the root phileō, which signifies love for a friend. It’s as if the Lord had said, “Peter, do you love me ardently and supremely?” To which Peter answers, “Lord, I have affection for you—I esteem you—but I will say no more.” On the third question, the Lord went down to Peter’s level of love to Him by using the phileō instead of agapaō. This is perhaps the reason why Peter was grieved in v.17—he cannot give to the Lord the kind of love that He was asking for.

But, later on, Peter matured. In his two epistles, Peter never used the word phileō, always the word agapaō. He used it nine times in his first epistle and two times in the second. This is even the word he used when he exhorted the believers to “greet one another with a kiss of love” (1 Pet. 5:14). Here, we can see that Peter finally had that kind of love that the Lord was asking from him.

According to Jesus in John 8:42, we can only love the Lord if God is our Father. He also said that a manifestation of true love for Him is that of obedience to His commands (Jn. 14:15, 24). In these three citations, the word used is agapē. A true follower of Christ must have a love for Him which surpasses simple friendly affection. This is the very essence of the greatest commandment in the Law (Mt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30; Lu. 10:27). He deserves nothing less than our utmost love and devotion.

The Call to Follow

By Em Sumaway

(Editor’s Note: We welcome brother Em Sumaway, our new guest contributor to this blog. Brother Em holds a Bachelor of Theology. He studied for his Master of Divinity at El Theological Seminary, Cebu City. He is a guest preacher and small group leader at God of Grace Christian Fellowship, Inc., Escario St., Cebu City. God bless you as you read this message of the Word.)

imagesJohn 21:15-19

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to Him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself, and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”
Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”

Exordium

Among the four gospel writers, only the Apostle John recorded this conversation between Jesus and Peter. This dialogue follows a dramatic appearing of the Lord to seven apostles in the Sea of Galilee to whom He also ate breakfast with. According to John, this is the third time Jesus was manifested to His disciples after His resurrection (Jn. 21:14).

A number of scholars describe this event as the “restoration of Peter.” We remember that one of the three times Peter denied the Lord was beside a fire (Jn. 18:25). Now beside another fire he was to be restored publicly. This restoration is necessary if Peter will once again confirm his decision to follow the Lord—the same way he did when he first met Him.

In this conversation between Peter and the Lord, we will have an idea what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.

True Giving is Secret Giving

june17thJesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3). It’s about giving without knowing. A good example is found in Matthew 25:35-40.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The righteous themselves did not know that they fed the Lord and gave a drink to the Lord, but they did it anyway. It is a good example of doing an act of righteousness without any selfish motive.

Jesus added in Matt. 5:4, “So that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” The conjunction, “so that” (hupos), indicates purpose. Jesus says that the purpose of the ignorance of the left hand is so that your giving will be in secret. Brothers and sisters, true giving is secret giving. No one should know about it. No one should notice it, except one Person—God in heaven.

Jesus said, “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 5:4). There is a God who sees it all—including your heart. Your Father in heaven sees the secret things of your heart. He sees the deepest motives in giving. He sees the unseen things in your heart. God sees your secret giving. God sees your self-less giving. God sees your desire to please God in your giving. God shall reward you for it.

There is a God in heaven; and He watches you and me. Someday soon, our Father in heaven shall reward your actions according to the motives of your heart.

The Right Way of Giving: In Secret

imagesCharles Spurgeon and his wife, according to a story in the Chaplain magazine, would sell, but refused to give away, the eggs their chickens laid. Even close relatives were told, “You may have them if you pay for them.” As a result some people labeled the Spurgeons greedy and grasping.

They accepted the criticisms without defending themselves, and only after Mrs. Spurgeon died was the full story revealed. All the profits from the sale of eggs went to support two elderly widows. Because the Spurgeons where unwilling to let their left hand know what the right hand was doing (Matthew 6:3), they endured the attacks in silence.[1]

Jesus said in Matt. 6:3, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” For a long time, I’ve been reading this verse. I could not understand it. How can the left hand not know what the right hand is doing? Both are attached to the same brain! But I’ve done some research about it. I’d like to share the explanation with you.

The right way of giving to the poor is by the right hand. The left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. For the left hand NOT to know what the right hand is doing, it means that the right hand is doing it secretly. It means that the right hand is giving confidentially. It means the right hand is giving covertly. The giving of the right hand is so secret and confidential that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

This does not mean that we will not keep a record of givers. It does not mean that we will not practice good accounting. It does not mean that we will not practice financial transparency. It simply means that we will not give out of selfish motives, to gain people’s praises. (Blomberg)

In the context of v. 2, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing because the right hand is not blowing trumpets. The right hand is not giving to the poor in front of people to see. The right hand is not giving to get the praise of people. Rather, the right hand is giving without any secret, selfish motive. Because the right hand has no selfish motives, the left hand does not notice it.

[1] “Giving.” Cited August 16, 2014. Online: http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/giving.htm

The Fleeting Reward of Hypocrites

Then Jesus says in Matt. 6:2, “Truly, I say to you.” Jesus is very emphatic here. “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Actually, the verb, “received” is present indicative. “They receive their reward”; or, “they have their reward.”

The rabbis taught that almsgivers receive a big reward. Jesus says that the hypocrites have their reward. But that’s it; and that’s all. They shall receive no reward from the Father in heaven.

They receive their reward from people here and now. But they receive no reward from God there and then, in heaven. The problem is the reward of this world is very temporary and very limited. But the reward of God is eternal and limitless and immeasurable!

R. T. France wrote that that their reward is limited because their vision is limited; they cannot see beyond the praise of people, to see the praise of God.[1] That is the sad thing about these hypocrites.

I hope and pray that we do not behave like the hypocrites. We should serve God, not for the praise of people in this world, but for the praise of God in heaven. I’d like to encourage you to take a long-term view of your Christian life. The long-term goal is to get to the city of God. That was the goal of people of faith in the Bible. In Heb. 11, it is the life lived by faith in God. Heb. 11 says that Abraham left his city to go to where God wanted him to go. He looked forward to the city of God. That should be our long term perspective. It does not matter if we don’t get the praises of men on earth; so long as we receive the praises of God in heaven. Go beyond the praise of men in this day and age, to the praise of God in eternity.

Which kind of reward do you want? If it’s God’s reward, don’t show off when you give to the poor. Don’t do it where people can see it. Don’t announce it so people can know it.

[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 237.

What is a Hypocrite?

indexJesus said, “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others” (Matt. 6:2). We ask the question, what is a hypocrite? The word, “hypocrite” (hupokrites), literally means, “playactor,” “pretender.” (Gingrich). What is an actor? An actor is someone who projects in front of people a persona that is not his own persona. These hypocrites are actors, drama kings and queens, giving to the poor to get the praise of people.

Now there are politicians who are hypocrites. There are church people who are hypocrites. There are even pastors who are hypocrites.

Who are these hypocrites in Matthew? Jesus said, quoting Isa. 29:13, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’” (Matt. 15:8). They are people who worship God with their lips, but their heart is not devoted to God. In Matthew 23, the hypocrites are the Pharisees. They are religious people who love to show off their religiosity, but deep inside, their hearts crave for the praise of people.

I read about five Jewish drug dealers from Brooklyn, New York. They sent a text message to their customers that they will not sell drugs on the Sabbath day. They sold heroin and cocaine on weekdays, but not on the Sabbath.[1]

It’s like some Muslims in Cebu who sell X-rated DVDs. I heard that somebody asked a Muslim if selling X-rated DVDs is not against their religion. The Muslim replied that it’s just business.

Every Sunday, religious leaders stand before people in church. Then you read in the papers how some are pedophiles and fathers of illegitimate children. They claim the vow of poverty. But you see them eating good food, living in air-con rooms, riding in cars, and living the good life.

Where do the hypocrites sound the trumpets? They sound their trumpets in the synagogues and in the streets—in public places, where people can see them.

Why do they do it? Jesus said, that they may be praised by others. They seek self-praise, self-glory, and self-honor.

Jesus said, don’t follow the hypocrites. When you give to the poor, don’t sound trumpets like them. They give to the poor in public places, to be seen by people. They give to the poor to get the praise of people.

[1] Erik Badia and Tina Moore, “Group of observant Brooklyn drug dealers told customers they were closed for Shabbat: authorities.” Cited August 16, 2014. Online: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/observant-brooklyn-drug-dealers-closed-shabbat-article-1.1450976

The Wrong Way of Giving: Showing Off

Jesus said, “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others (Matt. 6:2). The words, “when you give to the needy,” reads in the Greek literally, “when you do alms.” Judaism teaches almsgiving as a core act of righteousness. The Jews followed three religious duties—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Islam followed it centuries later, but added two more duties—reciting the faith and going on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

In the book of Tobit 12:9, “For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life.” The Jews believed that almsgiving is a very important religious duty.

So Jesus says, When you give alms to the poor, “sound no trumpets.” In Jesus’ time, the Jews would hold times of fasting. During these times of fasting, whenever a large gift of money is given, they would blow trumpets. (G. Friedrich, TDNT 7:87–88)  It’s similar to how they thank donors of school buildings today. They would put the names of donors on the walls of schools. Have you noticed that whenever you pass by public schools? It’s a modern way of blowing trumpets for the donation.

In those days, there were thirteen money chests in the temple. These money chests were shaped like standing trumpets—narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom. Of the thirteen money chests, eleven were for voluntary offerings.[1] People would come in and put coins inside these money chests. Imagine the clang of the coins when people put them in.

Jesus said, when you give, don’t sound trumpets. When you give, don’t announce it. Don’t make others hear it or know it. Don’t show off when you give. That’s what the “hypocrites” do.

[1] “The Court of the Women in the Temple: The Temple Treasury.” Cited August 16, 2014. Online: http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/the_temple_treasury.html