Audience of One

Kingdom Hearts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Kingdom Hearts Sermon Series
One of things Wendy and I have been doing a lot of is walking. Wendy gets up earlier, she walks more in morning, and I walk more in evening.
One evening the other week I’m walking, just strolling along, and I stumble - trip over my own feet, very graceful.
and my first reaction is to wonder if anyone was watching. Look around a bit - though I’m not sure I really want to see them, because it was embarrassing and they’d be enjoying a laugh over my clumsiness.
Says something, though, that that is my first instinct - to wonder who might have seen my mishap.
Other night, we have our Homeowner Association meeting and I arrive late - pull my car over, hop out and grab a seat on grass next to buddy of mine.
He’s catching me up on what’s happening, and I’m filling him in on some of the history (he’s new to neighborhood), and in midst of our back and forth, I make sure to mention that the reason I was late was because I had just given blood.
Apparently the big red wrapping around my arm wasn’t noticeable enough for him to ask about.
That says something, too, that I wanted to tell him about my good deed, that I had done this.
Both of these are examples of one of primary questions that run through our minds and hearts…what do others think about me?
To be self conscious is really to be other conscious - reason I dwell on myself is because of my concern with what others may be thinking about me.
Exactly what Jesus is addressing in next part of his incredibly insightful teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Before we get to passage, I want to remind us of the two foundational premises that undergird our Kingdom Heart series
First is that Jesus’ primary purpose is to teach us what it means to be good. To have true inner goodness, a heartfelt love for all others (God and neighbor), what we’ve been calling Kingdom Heart.
Second foundational premise is that Jesus is Master Teacher. He is smartest man in the world, and he’s one who can teach us how to be good - if we’re willing to hear his words and put them in to practice, to be both hearers and doers of the Word.
One quick note - part of our passage today will include the Lord’s Prayer, but there’s so much in that prayer that we’re going to come back around and cover it separately.
Prayer / Matthew 6:1-18
Jesus is shifting gears here a bit in this part of the Sermon on the Mount, he’s giving us two warnings that have to do with our motivations, conditions of our hearts that move us to act.
Jesus is not addressing actions themselves, but source of those actions. Remember, goal is true inner goodness.
He gives us three examples of acts of righteousness: giving, praying and fasting. We’ll see same pattern in all three.
These are wonderful acts, good things, things we should be doing. We want to be people who give generously, who pray faithfully and fervently, who are willing to fast, to forsake any and everything for the sake of Jesus.
But the question isn’t doing these acts, it’s why we do them.
Basic pattern in all three illustrations is this
First, bad example of people Jesus calls the hypocrites. Jesus never names the hypocrites, but everyone knows. Because they all recognize examples of people who do exactly what he’s talking about.
These are people who make sure others notice their giving (sound the trumpet: Da-ta-da-da!). People who pray openly and publicly, right out on street corners, in synagogues. They fast with dour looks on their faces.
The issue is not that they do these things, its that they are doing them in way to make sure others notice. Jesus says that the problem is that they do these things in order to be seen. That’s express purpose of their actions.
Just to clarify, it’s not that they are seen doing these acts openly that’s problem.
We can wrongly assume that’s problem and therefore work to hide our actions (no one must know about my giving, hide behind menu when I pray at restaurant). But that’s not problem.
Key issue is this - they do these acts for express purpose of being seen by others. They are other conscious.
Then, Jesus says that when someone does these things, they have received their reward.
Dallas Willard says that our intent is determined by what we want and expect from our actions, we are looking for something that comes from human beings. That’s reward we’re seeking - something from other human beings.
Why Jesus calls them hypocrites - it’s not that they want to be truly good, that’s not their intent, they just want to be seen as good.
Before we shake our heads at those hypocrites who trumpet their giving or pray on street corners, we ought to honestly reflect about how much this drives so much of our own behavior - these social pressures, this motivation of how we are seen by others.
we want others to like us (we like those “likes”), we want them to think well of us (that we’re good people, we’re successful, we’re clever, we believe right things, we’re capable)
We certainly don’t want to be seen as selfish or untrustworthy or irresponsible - as bad people.
And there’s so many ways that our mindfulness of others and how they perceive us influences our behavior.
It’s as simple as looking around after you stumble or making sure neighbor knows you’re wonderful human being because you donated blood.
There’s element of this to certain products that market through women’s social circles
Tupperware is classic, Pampered Chef, Thirty-One. Women will feel pressure in those gatherings, end up buying something they don’t really need or want because of how it appears to others (to be fair, it’s not just women, I got invited to Pampered Chef gathering in Seminary - ended up with gadget for buttering corn…it’s pretty nice).
We will not participate in activities because of our fear of how others will perceive us (much more common with men and sports, or people who won’t dance at wedding), we don’t want to look foolish.
Much of American lifestyle is driven on how we look to our neighbors, as successful. We buy bigger houses than we need and nicer cars than we can afford and pile up debt - largely because we’re concerned with how others perceive us.
I think about teen who drives down street in suped-up car, windows down, music blaring for everyone to hear…he doesn’t need it that loud…it’s all about looking cool.
I had Zoom meeting earlier this summer and one person wouldn’t use their webcam so we could see them because they were concerned about their appearance.
Just as aside, not caring what others think isn’t necessarily a sign of true inner goodness, it may well be issue of contempt, that you care so little for them that you don’t care what they think.
Dallas Willard shows great insight in what this does to us when we engage in this behavior: the ego is bloated and the soul shrivels.
Here’s big problem with this: if that’s reward we seek, that’s reward we get. Only reward we get. “Truly they have received their reward.”
God gives us exactly what our hearts are seeking - if our concern is approval and admiration of others, then, as Willard says, “God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him.”
Because our motivations - by our choice - do not concern him, God simply steps aside.
Beautiful aspect of who God is, he really does honor our free will, our choices.
And so our very acts of righteousness fall far short of heartfelt love for all others.
Our praying, giving, serving are more about rewards we get from other people than it is about Jesus.
I know what that looks like, experience of praying, but having my mind and heart far from any sense of presence of Jesus and speaking with him because I am more concerned with what others are thinking about my prayer.
Reverse can be true, too - that sometimes we avoid praying with others because we are overly concerned with what they might think about how we pray.
We may not do it as blatantly as standing on street corners and disfiguring our faces, but there are all sorts of ways we can do things because we are looking for something that comes from human beings, that’s reward we seek.
Last part of example is Jesus’ solution, his antidote to heart temptation to that primary motivation for our actions is seeking the praise and admiration of others.
Jesus says we should give in way that our left hand doesn’t know what our right hand is doing, and we should pray in inner room of our house, door shut. And fast with faces scrubbed and smile on our face.
Phrase we see over and over again is “in secret”.
I want to talk a little bit about Jesus’ whole purpose here, why he’s encouraging us to do these things “in secret”, what he really wants to move us toward (actions would come out of heartfelt love for all others - that’s main idea).
In Secret
we must be careful here, because we may misunderstand, believing that what Jesus is teaching is that all acts of righteousness must be hidden.
For one thing, it’s practically impossible…it’s hard to serve completely in secret, or pray together as church body without anyone noticing.
Not even Jesus’ own example - In Gospel of Luke we see Jesus praising the widow for her gift of two small copper coins into temple treasury. And we see Jesus praying publicly in John 11, when he raises Lazarus from dead.
But Jesus’ concern isn’t about doing everything “in secret”, it’s learning to live our lives directed to the Father who is “in secret”.
The goal is to move from an audience of many (others) to Audience of One.
This quote from Willard just nailed me: “If we honestly compared the amount of time in church (and I would add, anywhere else) spent thinking about what others think or might think with the amount of time spent thinking about what God is thinking, we would probably be shocked.”
Rather than being self conscious because we are other conscious, we want to be God conscious. What he thinks should be our primary concern. What motivates us beyond anything and everything else.
So much of our lives are lived towards vague sense of audience of many, people out there, people we don’t even know, but what they think about us affects us.
But we want to live out what the Puritans referred to as an “Audience of One”
See this idea reflected in Colossians 3:22-24
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Great phrases: Not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers
But with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord (concern is toward Lord, He’s Audience that I care about).
Let’s say you were auditioning for America’s Got Talent (choose what act you’d want to do), and audition was in front of large audience. You might finish act, crowd might go crazy, might love it. Or not.
But that wouldn’t matter to you. Because audience you were really trying to impress were those three judges. It’s their opinion that mattered, what they think. If crowd want nuts but they gave you thumbs down, you’d be deeply disappointed.
This is idea of Audience of One - living my life with attentiveness that He is paying attention, that what Father thinks is what truly matters. And if he said, well done, good and faithful servant - even as everyone else was booing, that would be great reward.
Invitation by Jesus to do things “in secret” is to learn to do our acts of righteousness to God himself, without regard for others. To do them, as Willard says, because of our regard for the Kingdom of God, rather than subjecting ourselves to human kingdoms.
So, we might begin with hidden acts of kindness or service.
Practice praying with total openness to God himself.
If you have avoided praying in group setting, to do exactly that (because He’s who matters!)
Let me offer three quick thoughts of doing acts “in secret” towards Father, Audience of One, what these does for us
Frees us from being self conscious. Being self conscious is really being other conscious, mindful of what “they” may be thinking about you (which is why it drives us crazy, who are they and how do we know what they are thinking? And why do their opinions matter so much? Is that really a reward?!)
Goal is to move toward a lack of consciousness of what others think. This is what Jesus is referring to when he talks about our giving to needy in a way that we do not let our left hand know what your right hand is doing.
On surface, this makes no sense. How can I possibly do something with one hand without my other hand knowing?
Willard: The kind of people who have been so transformed by their daily walk with God that good deeds naturally flow from their character are precisely the kind of people whose left would not notice what their right hand is doing.
When we spend time with Father in secret, when our hearts and minds are directed towards him, more and more we don’t have to think about being good, we become good.
when you’re learning to speak language, you have to practice and practice and it takes tremendous thought and concerted effort. You have to consciously think about what you’re saying.
But there comes a time when you don’t have to think much at all about how to say what you want to say. You are simply at that point, a Spanish speaker or French speaker.
We want to be those kind of people.
And we don’t get there by thinking about how we can avoid thinking of what others think. That’s like trying not to think about the pink elephant sitting in the corner of room!
We succeed by thinking about something else - in this case, Jesus. Directing our minds and hearts toward him and his constant presence with us. He is our constant Audience of One.
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
Second thought - Our hearts are transformed.
We go to Father “in secret” because He is one, only one who sees “in secret”.
We can fool other people, all they see are our actions. That’s why this motivation works, to do our good deeds publicly.
But we can’t fool God. He knows. He knows our hearts. More than simply knowing, Jesus is working in us to transform our hearts. That we really would be good, inside out.
That only comes from being with Father, directing our attention and our actions toward him.
Final thought on going to Father in secret.
Proclamation of Jesus…Kingdom of God is at hand! Right here, right now. Jesus was trying to show forth Kingdom. Help others be aware.
Performed all the healings, follows that up with beginning of his message, which was in essence a show and tell…Blessed are the poor in spirit, peacemakers
Way of saying, do you see Kingdom of God at work, here, now, in your midst!
And it’s available to you.
Let’s be honest, one of difficult aspects of being faithful to God is that he really seems to be in secret. Hidden. Hard to find. Easy to go through life oblivious to God and to his Kingdom. People do it all time. We do it much of time.
To go to the Father “in secret” is to remove all those other distractions in order to be attentive to God. We can’t live toward Audience of One if we’re not mindful of his presence.
We can see pattern in Jesus’ life, throughout the Gospels - he would go to solitary place to pray (late at night, up on mountainside).
Often referred to as Spiritual Discipline of Silence and Solitude. This is what it means to go to Father in secret.
This changes not only our hearts, but our whole perspective - we see whole of life differently, with awareness of immediate presence of Kingdom of God.
We become more aware of glory and beauty of God all around us.
We live with greater peace, because we know He is here. He is king. The universe is perfectly safe place to be.
We’re more open to power of God, working in and through us. That same power that fed 5,000 with five fish and two loaves. That healed lepers with touch.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. That’s reward Jesus is talking about. And I don’t know about you, but that sounds like much better reward.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:22–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
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