Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Thrust of Jesus’ Teachings

Jesus is a master doctor – the great diagnostician of the soul. He not only points the way to salvation – He is even its Author – but He pinpoints our worldly barriers, which hold us back.

Our main barrier is our priorities. We want other things more than we do God! Jesus exposed this barrier in many of His parables. During His Sermon on the Mount, He proclaimed:

·        "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

What is our preoccupation? Heaven or earth? The rewards of heaven or the rewards of earth? Reason should tell us to set our hearts on eternal treasures.  But we are not reasonable creatures. We tend to prefer earthly treasures, but our lust for them will interfere with the more valuable “treasures in heaven.”

If we are confused about our spiritual status, Jesus gives us a test to resolve the confusion. If what we really treasure is earthly, we can infer that this is where our heart and soul are invested. If this is the condition of our heart, then we need to confess and ask God to forgive and correct us, trusting that He will (1 John 8-9; John 6:37).

Jesus then uses another analogy to bring this foundational truth home. Our eye – that which focuses on our hearts’ desires – will determine how wise we become about the important things:

·        "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad [“evil,” KJV; Greek – “poneros”] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)

The light of wisdom depends upon the light we allow to enter. Whether light can enter depends upon where we focus our eyes. This focus reflects our hopes and desires. If our prime focus is upon the things of this world, our eyes are evil and idolatrous and do not allow light to enter.

If our eyes lust after self-fulfillment rather than service to our Redeemer, our eyes are evil. But how can doing what comes so naturally be considered evil? We already know the truth of God and yet suppress it in favor of our own self-centered agenda (Rom. 1:18-32). The darkness or ignorance within comes as a result of hardening our hearts against the truth:

·        They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephes. 4:18-22)

Jesus describes this blindness as a “log in the eye,” and if this blindness is not removed, we lack the wisdom to judge others, even ourselves (Mat. 7:1-5). If we attempt to judge while our eyes are primarily focused on the things of this world and not truth, we make ourselves into hypocrites. After all, how can we proclaim truth, when we don’t cherish truth above all else! How then can we correct others when we are blind?

According to Jesus, we can see, we do have access to the light, and therefore, we are without excuse when we reject the light:

·        This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20)

We are willfully blind in many other ways. Jesus teaches that we cannot expect to receive the forgiveness of God when we are unwilling to forgive others. This too is hypocrisy, a rejection of the light:

·        For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

It is not possible to truly trust that our Lord forgives us while we refuse to forgive the sins of others. If we understand forgiveness, we understand that we are totally unworthy. How then can we refuse to forgive another, who, like us, is unworthy! If we truly believe that our brother is ineligible of forgiveness, even after he repents, then we must also believe that God is ignorant in forgiving the ineligible! This is what it means to have an evil eye – an eye that refuses to behold God’s truth above all else.

We need to be careful about what we desire, not because we won’t get it, but because we will. Jesus points out that some do charitable acts for the wrong reason – to gain the esteem of men:

·        "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Mat. 6:2)

Our Lord not only allows us to pursue our desires, but He also allows us to obtain them. But at such a great price!

Is it possible to maintain our worldly concerns at the same level as our commitment to God’s truth? Jesus then answers that it is not:

·        "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:24-25)

Jesus must become Lord of all – supreme over every other consideration. He must be the apple of our eye. If we attempt to “serve both God and Money,” we will experience internal warfare until one master wins out.

However, Jesus never hints that our material needs aren’t important. Rather, it is a matter of our priorities. If we set our focus on God before all else, He will supply all our needs (Mat. 6:33). However, if we “worry about [our] lives,” we will not only torment ourselves, but through the worry, we embrace a competing and demanding master. Serving our worries will interfere with faithfulness to our Lord.

Having other lords can kill us, or at least torment us. These other lords or idols can be crafty. They can disguise themselves in the robes of the highest spiritual service. Pastors, teachers and evangelists can pursue their calling to impress others and to fulfill ourselves.

Admittedly, we will never be completely free from these deceitful lords, not here at least. However, we need to continually cry out for His understanding, confessing our sins, knowing that we stand only in the grace of our Lord. Once we give into these false masters, they bear nauseating fruit – pride, bitterness, resentment and jealousy. By these, we discern between the fruits of the Spirit and those of the flesh.

I thank God that He can change our hearts. However, we must first see our brokenness and cry out for His mercy. He has given me a love of His Church. Through this gift, I can more readily set my eyes on the things above and away from my own needs and demands. I praise His holy Name!

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