The following content is based on the message “New City Church Vision 2012: Relentless Pursuit” spoken on 01/08/12 by Brian Kruckenberg at New City Church in Phoenix, AZ. The following is not meant to be a full synopsis of the message but rather a brief look at the main concepts. For more context and understanding, please visit www.newcityphx.com/media and listen to the message in its entirety.
Leaders using this Study Guide for group study and reflection should read the Biblical text thoroughly before beginning, using this resource as assistance and not relying solely on this material for insight. We encourage all leaders to pray and ask the Spirit for revelation as they lead their respective community.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,36 ”Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? “37 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. ’38 This is the great and foremost commandment.39 The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40 (NASB)
1 ”Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 ”So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5 ”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.6 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. 7 ”And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9 ”Pray, then, in this way: ’Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 ’Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ’Give us this day our daily bread.12 ’And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ’And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:1-13 (NASB)
The Key Ideas:
1. To love God means a relentless pursuit. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus is describing those who relentlessly follow Him. Note Jesus’ message is more descriptive than prescriptive. It doesn’t so much prescribe certain behavior as much as it does describe the Christ follower. Jesus says the foremost commandment is to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. The things and people we love are worth our pursuit. Think about your favorite activity or a person you fell in love with. When you enjoy someone or something, you pursue it with relentless love.
2. Practicing our righteousness. Notice that Jesus tells us that giving, praying and fasting are a part of “practicing our righteousness.” This is extremely important to understand. Our righteousness is given to us by FAITH IN JESUS. We do not earn our righteousness but respond to the righteousness given to us by obeying our Savior. Those who respond to Jesus in faith are called His sons and daughters. That is their condition.
For Jesus, obedience grows out of blessedness; the statement of our condition precedes the demands of our discipleship. – I.D. Campbell
3. Give. Pray. Fast. Matthew 6 tells us that those who are relentlessly do these three things (there are many other things Christ-followers do of course): they give; they pray; and they fast. We will discuss two of those in this Study Guide.
- Give. Jesus says that those who love Him trust Him by giving. Throughout the Scriptures, God calls us to give and Jesus exhorts His disciples to do the same. (See Matthew 23:23; Acts 4:32, 34; Acts 11:30; Rom. 15:25–27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4.) We are called to give a minimum of 10% to the local church, who is charged with stewarding the resources for the overall good of the church; 10% of our gross earnings (the first fruits) is the command. That means if you make $100, you give $10; $100,000 then $10000 (the math is simple ). Remember, “because we don’t have much” isn’t a reason to refrain from giving. We give 10% of what we have. If you have 0 then you can give 0; otherwise, there is something to give. This isn’t a matter of a church “getting rich” but a matter of disciples obeying Jesus. Further, we give of our time and talent, loving God with all of our “soul and strength.” Every part of our life must be given to serving God.
- Pray. Jesus describes what it looks like to pray as His disciple and what it looks like to pray with the wrong heart. When is a prayer not a prayer? When it is a matter of public performance (v. 5), or of empty phrases strung together (v. 7), or when we ask God for something that we are not willing to grant to others (v. 15). Jesus gives us a “model” for prayer in what many know as the “Lord’s Prayer.” He tells us to pray to “OUR Father.” Interesting. Jesus could have said pray to “MY Father” but He specifically says “OUR Father.” Again, this is a statement of the condition of the believer. For some, thinking of God as a father can be difficult due to their relationship with their earthly father. No matter how terrible or Godly your earthly father was, there’s no chance he was perfect. BUT, your Heavenly Father is perfect. To come to God in prayer, YOU MUST believe that He loves you perfectly and that you are His son or daughter. It is critical for a healthy prayer life.
Henri Nouwen suggests that it is our lack of belief in this truth that threatens the very core of how we understand our relationship with God. He writes:
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” Henri Nouwen
Items for Reflection and Discussion
- What or who have you pursued relentlessly. Why? How did you feel when you did so?
- Explain in your own words the difference between “descriptive” and “prescriptive.” Why is it important to understand the difference?
- Righteous is not earned but it must be practiced. Explain what that means. It might help to discuss about this quote: “For Jesus, obedience grows out of blessedness; the statement of our condition precedes the demands of our discipleship.”
- Giving of our finances is something that Jesus talks consistently. Why? If it is difficult for you to give, discuss why. (Remember, “because we don’t have much” isn’t a reason to withhold.)
- How do you serve God with your time and talent. (Remember, you aren’t earning anything by giving of your time, talent or treasure. Your condition is set before you do or give anything.)
- When you pray, are you praying to OUR Father? Do you believe you are a son or daughter of God? Talk about this.
- Discuss the quote by Henri Nouwen. What feelings or thoughts does it provoke?