I’m in the sixth day of using Prof. Grant Horner’s Bible reading plan and thoroughly enjoying it. It involves reading from 10 different sections of the Bible each day, using bookmarks to keep your place. Each time I read I come away with a greater appreciation for God’s sovereignty over history and am already starting to see the benefits of Scripture commenting on Scripture.
This morning one of my readings was Matthew 6. Three times these words caught my attention:
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mt. 6:4, 5, 18)
Jesus used that phrase when he was speaking about giving, praying, and fasting. It made me think more carefully about leading others in worshiping God.
I tend to think that the most important parts of my life are what everyone sees. Sunday mornings, conferences, public events. I spend a lot of time preparing for times when I’m in front of people. I have a tendency to think that those times must have greater significance than what I’m doing when no one’s looking. Certainly God is watching more closely and more is accomplished for the kingdom when I’m leading huge crowds than when I’m by myself. Right?
As usual, Jesus cuts across the grain of my assumptions. What he said can revolutionize how I think about public ministry.
1. God thinks what I do when no one else is watching is pretty important.
Time alone can seem so inconsequential. That’s why we can fill it so easily with seemingly harmless activities with Facebook, Twitter, video games, TV, movies, web surfing; or more overtly sinful activities like viewing pornography, nursing bitterness, or lusting after what we don’t have. But God sees it all. Our heavenly Father sees what we do in secret. Meditating on that consistently is bound to lead to the fear of the Lord.
2. The rewards of eternity are better than the rewards of this life.
Countless millions spend their lives pursuing goals, possessions, and achievements that will vanish when they die. Jesus lets us in on a secret. The rewards to live for are the ones the Father will hand out on the last day. At that moment, the number of my blog readers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or fans will have zero effect on my status before God. So why are those things so important to me now?
3. Being rewarded by the Father is infinitely more important than being rewarded by people.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with honoring others or being honored. In fact, God tells us to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). The problem comes when we live for and seek the praise of men rather than the praise of God (Jn. 5:41-44). When we act spiritually simply to impress others, we have all the reward we’ll ever get. When, by God’s grace in Christ, we hear “well done” on the last day, we’ll realize in a moment the only evaluation that mattered.
Bottom line: if I gauge my maturity only by what I do when others can see me, I may be terribly deceived about my true state before God.
May we be faithful to help the people in our churches remember that our heavenly Father both sees and rewards – what we do in secret.
Horner’s reading plan is spreading like wild fire. I have been doing it for about 6 months and it is great. I have always gotten burned out on the “cover to cover” reading plans. There are certains times of year were my bible reading is “better” than others so be in each genre everyday keeps me balanced.
I found the book marks cumbersome after a while, since you eventually memorize The List, and switched to these flags (http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/193384/Post-it-Action-Tape-Arrow-Flags/) which work great and I use them for ALL my readings now (eg. if I am teaching I use the arrow to point to the exact verse I want to read, etc)
Thanks for the post bob! The last few have been more promotional than devotional. But that’s totally cool. I really enjoy when you take something so simple and expound on it. So thanks for the encouragement. Matt, Dude, you speak some truth in the burned out aspect of a cover to cover schedule. Perhaps because its rough going after exodus 20. Either way, I have found that hopping from the old and new after the completion of a book is very helpful! (Currently, just started a cover to cover plan.) As to Horners plan. My Church announced this two weeks ago with many month users raving about it. Obviously in our fast paced, second focused, ADD driven society we enjoy a more short story perspective. Nevertheless if we’re learning more about Christ, His Kingdom and how we may further it by bring Glory to God. I’m in :)
I love the bottom line as you’ve put it – the externals are really the outflow of the unseen. Sweet application!
I love the insight about what’s done in secret- the same message is in the Qur’an. I don’t know the reading plan you mean, but I have definitely used Quranic passages to help inform my understanding and experience of other Quranic passages.
I’m coming away inspired by you and your insights- especially since Ramadan is around the corner and I’ll be spending even more time with Qur’an next month.
Thank you, my cousin in faith (you know- Muslims and Christians are cousins sharing nearly identical beliefs.)
Mark, thanks for stopping by my blog. While there are some things that seem similar in the Bible and the Qur’an, the differences are significant and irreconcilable. The Bible teaches that God is Trinitarian – one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That belief is foundational to our faith. We also believe in original sin, that Jesus is God come in the flesh, that he was crucified to endure God’s just punishment against our sins, and that we can know God as our loving Father. Since comments sections of blogs are unhelpful places to carry on weighty discussions, please feel free to contact me through the contact link above. I’d love to talk more.
At the end of this month I will have used Dr. Horner’s plan for a full year. What a blessing!
I also use the ESV Daily Reading Bible first thing in the morning (2x Psalms, 2x NT, 1x balance of OT each year), and then do my “Horner” reading using my Kindle later in the day. I created Kindle “books” for each of the lists using the ESV text, and have already created KJV versions to use next year as I celebrate the 400th anniversary of that translation.
what a kick in the face this morning!!
the spirit of jesus is alive and well.
Thanks for the post Bob. I just recently discovered Prof. Horner’s plan from reading one of your posts.
Regarding #3, my pastor recently taught from Ephesians and Colossians regarding working “not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers.” And then he used the phrase “not for acceptance, but from acceptance” with regards to doing anything really for anyone. I really liked that – we honor others and work for others not for acceptance but out of the acceptance we already have in Christ through his work on the cross. I’ve been pondering and meditating on that phrase this week because it really has changed my motivation on certain things. Anyway, thought that was really cool and wanted to share it as it kind of fits with point #3.
Yvonne, you’re right, that’s a great phrase to remember: We serve not FOR acceptance, but FROM acceptance. What a glorious gospel we’ve received!
So as to not feed your how-many-blog-followers ego, I’ll not say I read and concurred with this post.
Gracious, yet true, comments about the irreconcilability of Christianity and Islam. Good example of Eph. 4:15.
I thought Mark Dever’s short answer on the topic was also a helpful one given in the same spirit…
Great stuff. Thanks for posting!