Upside Down Kingdom: Upside-down Spirituality | Matt Nickel

July 17, 2022 Speaker: Matt Nickel Series: Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 5–7

Upside-down Spirituality 


Who are you when no one is watching? 

They say people are leaving the church in droves, but what are they sick of? Hypocrisy.  People claiming they have sincere faith, but their lives do not reflect what they say they  believe.. People showing off their good works…It’s like they live their faith like it is their  instagram feed. But how they treat people when no one is watching. They act one way  

when people are watching. The people who really know what they believe are their  kids. What does this person do, when no one is around? What are they really like? 

  1. In the upside-down kingdom, true spiritually happens when no one  is watching 

Matthew 6:1–6 

[1] “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be  seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in  heaven.“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. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when you give  to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so  that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward  you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to  stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be  seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when  you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in  secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 


So, if I am making a religion, I’d make a big deal about giving. You know, give out  special perks to people who give the most. Special parking spots… for giver of the  month. Maybe the best seat in the congregation. If it was a lot of money, you might 

name a building or a wing of a building after someone. I used to work for the Benaroya  company. Do you recognize that name? What about Benaroya Hall? Mr Benaroya  donated a mere 15.8 Million… so they put his name on it.  

… but that is not the way of the upside-down kingdom. You ever heard the saying…  don’t toot your own horn? Well… literally the pharisees would have a horn blown so  everyone would see how much money they gave to the poor… 

Jesus is assuming his disciples will be generous givers, but what is at the heart of it? Is  it to be praised by others… ok… so real talk here. Have you ever done a good deed,  and then couldn’t help but bring it up when you talked with people. I mean, I can’t even  do the dishes without pointing it out to my wife that I just did the dishes… 

Jesus says that this ruins it… our hearts are so quickly to deceive us. We want the  credit for everything we do. We want our own name to be praised. And so we must ask  ourselves what is our motivation for giving… because our motives do matter.  

We do not give to earn God’s favor, we do not give the earn man’s favor, and we do not  give to feel good about ourselves. Jesus taught a ton about money. He cautioned us  from loving money too much. Money and debt can enslave a person. 

Hebrews 13:5  

[5] Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have,  for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (ESV) 

Mark 12:41–44  

[41] And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting  money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. [42] And a poor  widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. [43] And  he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor  widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  [44] For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty  has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (ESV) 

2 Corinthians 9:7  

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under  compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (ESV) 

Story about selling the van. Need $8000. 

James 1:27  

] Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit  orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the  world. (ESV)

Luke 12:32–34  

[32] “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the  kingdom. [33] Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves  with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does  not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. [34] For where your  treasure is, there will your heart be also. (ESV) 

So here at Mercy we teach that what people give is a private matter. You should give  what you have decided in your heart to give. Sometimes it is hard to feel connected to  giving to the church, because where does that money go? Well… the honest truth is it  mostly goes to salaries and facilities… and our giving has been lagging behind our  expenses this year. We have had some money set aside in savings and we have been  using it to supplement our giving. But we have a small church and a large facility, so it  is easy to adopt a big church mentality… oh I’m sure we are doing great on money…  or I’m sure we have plenty of people to serve. But we are a small church and God uses  people like you and me to give to the church to sustain its ministry.  

So I ask you to ask God what he would have you give. This is between you and God.  It’s interesting to think of if we are even listening. 

And what of this reward God speaks of? Some people say God will repay you 10  fold… and that would make sense I money was the most valuable thing that exists…  but I would argue that our souls long for more than money. Our souls long to find rest  in God alone. So if I was God, the reward would be something much deeper than  getting money back.. Maybe deeper intimacy with God as we learn to not worship the  idol of money. 

  1. In the upside-down kingdom, prayer is more about listening than  speaking. 

Matthew 6:7–13  

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they  think that they will be heard for their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for  your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [9] Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come, your will be  done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us  our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into  temptation, but deliver us from evil. (ESV) 

Have you ever had to pray in public? It is so difficult not to pray for people around you  to hear you. But, that I not how God would have us pray. He also says do not heap up 

empty phrases… what he is talking about here is praying like it is a spell from Harry  Potter. If you get the words exactly right, God will be forced to do what you ask of him.  And if God already know what we need, why are we praying? Sometimes it feels like  we need to give God advice on how to rule His kingdom, how he can help us out, give  Him the information He doesn’t already know. It’s kind of absurd.  

Luke 11:1–2  

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples  said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” [2] And he said to  them, “When you pray, say:“Father, hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come. (ESV) 

Jesus often when off to pray and so, they knew prayer was super important, but it  seems they never got to really learn how Jesus prayed. The Bible often talks of Jesus  going off by himself to pray. So he modeled this secret prayer life he talks about here. 

“Our Father”  

So he start with calling God His Father… this is an intimate title. God is close as family.  Some of you had terrible fathers, some were alright, and others were pretty good. But  everyone wants a Father to make them feel safe and to take care of them. You know  the only person allowed to wake up a king and demand something from them, is their  kid. We have that kind of access to God as our Father… 

Jesus in the garden was praying before he was crucified and he took it a step further  and called God Abba, Father. 

Mark 14:36  

 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (ESV) 

Galatians 4:6–7  

[6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,  crying, “Abba! Father!” [7] So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an  heir through God. (ESV) 

This was essentially an example of Jesus using the Lord’s prayer to communicate with  God. He says “Abba” which is a word in Greek that only children say to their father. It’s  not a word that teens say. I mean, my kids basically call me “Bro” at this point… but  this means like “Papa” It’s a term of endearment and respect. It indicates a relationship  of dependance. Abba Father… And we have this access to God, that we can call out to  him at any time day or night… Abba Father… It’s in essence saying… I need you papa.  

Or maybe your dad is not a safe person and it is your mom that you run to when you  need safety. Jesus refers to himself as the mother hen gathering her chicks under her  wings.

Matthew 23:37  

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent  to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her  brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (ESV) 

So as I pray each morning I use the phrase Abba Father to enter into a place where I  feel connected to God. And then he says  

“Hallowed be your name.”  

This isn’t a phrase we would say to anyone… this is “Holy” Special, Different, Worthy,  It’s in essence embracing the tension that God is both our father and our Holy God that  created us. So I say “You are God and I am not… I think of the beauty of creation…  you are God and I am not…  

Your name… your reputation… I pray “Your name not my name be praised…” How  often are we looking for a pat on the back and someone to praise our name? This goes  back to doing things in secret. We are people about God’s name, not our own name…  God’s church, not the name of our church… In sports they would say, you play for the  name on the front of your Jersey, not the name on the back. Can you pray that your  actions would be for God’s name not your name. 

“Your Kingdom come” 

Then he doubles down and says your kingdom come… Your kingdom not my kingdom.  What is a kingdom? Power, influence, rule… Whose kingdom are you building?  Christians get really weird here too… they have done a lot of harm in the name of  God’s kingdom. In fact the crusades were done for the kingdom. Peter during the  transfiguration we learned about last week messed this up too. Peter saw Jesus in his  glory with Moses and Elijah and he had a this idea for God’s kingdom… he wanted to  build 3 structures… and as he was getting all excited about this building project and  the ministry he was going to start… God interrupts and says  

Matthew 17:5 

He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a  voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well  pleased; listen to him.” (ESV) 

God is like… hey Peter… how about instead of doing your own thing… you LISTEN to  Jesus. I believe that this is the heart of prayer, is listening to Jesus. To ask Jesus what  He would like us to do. Sometimes I pray the prayer of Samuel as he says to God..  “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”. 

“Your will be done”  

I want your “Will” or “Desires” not mine. Your will at work. Your will in my finances. Your  will in my marriage. Your will for my kids.

It’s like plowing the hard soil of our hearts and softening it so that God can lead us to  what he wants for us.  

“On earth as it is in heaven”  

Growing up, I was taught that earth is not my home. We are travelers and sojourners in  a foreign land. As a missionary kid, I felt this deeply. However, take the wrong way it  has lead to an excuse to disengage. An excuse to give up. An excuse to look to heaven  as more important than now.  

The earth is God’s plan. He has ordered our days to be here, now, 2022. He has things  for us to do. We are to carve out little Edens wherever we are planted. Places where  people can feel safe and loved and have the opportunity to walk with God in the cool  of the day. Jesus has a long term plan for earth, we should participate in whatever it is  God has prepared for us to do in the here and now.  

“Give us this day, our daily bread”  

We do get to ask God to fulfill our needs. Our bread. This is an allusion to the Isrealites  in the desert and they would have died if God did not provide daily manna. God meets  our needs, gives us breathe in our lungs, and food in our stomaches… but we also  need spiritual bread. We need a taste of God’s presence each day to feel his love and  acceptance, and to live out the mission he has for us each day. So as we pray this  prayer it is that our should will be satisfied in Him alone. 

“And forgive us our debts as we forgive  

3 The upside-down Kingdom is built on forgiveness 

Matthew 6:12–15  

and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 

[14] For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  [15] but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive  your trespasses. (ESV) 

We are to look at our lives and agree with God when we sin. And confess those to God,  that He might heal us and change us. This should be part of our daily routine of  noticing when our heart is hard and rebels against God. We do not need to punish  ourselves for these sins, but be honest with God about them. Seeking to understand  what is broken within us that still needs to be healed. 

So this feels backwards and upside-down for “Gospel” people. You see the gospel  teaches us that God loved us while we are yet sinners. Jesus prays “Forgive them they  know not what they do” to the people crucifying him. The beauty of the Gospel is that  we can’t earn it. We are treated better than we deserve. This is the good news. Jesus  paid our price so that we can be forgiven.

We believe it is not by works of righteousness, but by a free gift from God… then we  read this verse and it seems to be a clear stop. Forgive, or you will not be forgiven.  

What? This should cause us to stop for a second as “Gospel” people. Why is  forgiveness so important. Is unforgiveness, the unpardonable sin? Are there people I  need to forgive? Do you have names that just popped into your head. As Christians we  are being hypocrites if we refuse to forgive. God has forgiven us so much. As we reflect  on all the things we need to have forgiven, it should soften our heart, to forgive.  

Forgive is not to pretend what someone did wasn’t wrong. It is agreeing with God that  is was wrong and then letting go of bitterness, realizing that we are no better. We have  the potential of doing the same thing to someone else. Without Jesus, we would have  no chance of doing things differently. Forgiveness is in the heart. No one will know if  

you have forgiven or not, but your body knows… it feels it like a weight on your  shoulders, or a pain in your chest. Jesus, says my kingdom is built on forgiveness… 

Matthew 18:21–22  

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me,  and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” [22] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to  you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (ESV) 

Our Forgiveness is so imperfect. So we are not earning our forgiveness here. However if are  unwilling to forgive, we are not letting our hearts be softened, we are not listening to God, we  are not obeying Him. This should cause us to realize this is hypocritical. This has no place in  the Christian life and it may demonstrates that one has not been forgiven by God. 

Abba Father 

You are God and I am not 

Your name not my name 

Your kingdom not my kingdom 

Your will not my will 

God, I am listening 

I need you today 

Forgive me for making it about my name, my kingdom, and my will 

Forgive me for not listening 

Forgive me for looking for satisfaction elsewhere 

Help my life to be marked by forgiveness 

For your glory and honor