Wednesday, April 4, 2018

As It Is In Heaven: False Security

Sunday was Resurrection Sunday. It is the day we remember that Jesus overcame death and rose from the grave. It is a day when millions around the world gather together to celebrate the reason for our faith. Of course, Jesus death on the cross purchased our salvation, but without the resurrection, what proof would we have that Jesus was any different than others who had made mighty claims and then died? See, of all the religions and beliefs in the world, everyone else worships someone who died and remained dead. Confucius – dead. Muhammad – dead. Etc. Etc. Etc. Jesus did die, but is now alive.

But the question for us on this week is what difference does it make? It is one thing to say you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and quite another to live your life in a way that shows your actions match your belief. Please understand that I have not figured this out yet either. At times I can do well. At other times I fail, sometimes miserably. But the truth is that Jesus gave an entire sermon on what a life would be if a person was devoted to thinking AND living with a complete focus on God and His kingdom which are made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

That sermon is found in the gospel written by Matthew, specifically chapters five through seven. (Luke recorded a similar, if not the same, sermon, but our focus is on Matthew.) We have been studying the words of Jesus over the past three months and we have passed the mid-point now. In fact, we are very near the climax of His message – seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – a message we will see in two more weeks. But for today, I want to share how Jesus’ words found in our reference labeled Matthew 6.19-24 should be considered in light of His resurrection – the single fact that should bring true security to our lives.

Although the resurrection of Jesus should make us feel secure, most people (including Christians) seek security elsewhere. Sometimes seeking other types of security is intentional, but other times it sneaks up on us. But the reality is that we all have choices to make – and those choices reveal where, in what, or in whom (or Whom) we seek and find our security.

Life Is a Choice Between Two Types of Treasures (Matthew 6.19-21)

In Matthew 6.19, Jesus makes a transition in the sermon. The content follows nicely after the first part of Matthew 6, but verse 19, truly opens the door for the rest of this chapter. Read Matthew 6.19-21. Notice the contrast between verse 19 and 20, and the directness of verse 21.

When I was young I had a hobby of collecting baseball cards. I did so for many years and including football and basketball cards, I had tens of thousands. I was once privileged to be able to select five cards of my choice from a man who died and was able to get a few cards from my favorite era of baseball – the 1940s and 50s. I selected a Mickey Mantle, a Willlie Mays, a Ted Williams, etc. The collection was a gold mine, but I was true to their request to only take five – although it was tough!

Later while in college, the rage became to collecting cards of basketball players still in college as they prepared for the NBA. The big card one year was Shaquille O’Neal. One particular card was worth thousands of dollars and I just knew it was going to be mine, so I was willing to spend hundreds of dollars to find it. Keep in mind that I was in college at the time, so I really couldn’t afford to be doing this, but I was sure it was my destiny to have this card.

When I think of my collection of ballcards – a collection of cardboard with pictures and words on them, I think of this passage. I was collecting something tangible, something I enjoyed, but something that could easily be destroyed. My card collection was very much the earthly type of treasure that Jesus mentions in these verses because they could easily be destroyed or stolen. Jesus mentions moths which could just easily be any type of bug or even rodent that is destructive. Rust is corrosive and would have been prominent after the seasons of rain. And, of course, thieves will take anything of value to sell to sustain their livelihood.

Conversely, Jesus says what we should seek cannot be destroyed my pests or stolen by man. These heavenly treasures would include:
  • developing our character to be more Christlike (2 Peter 1.5-8; Romans 8.29).
  • increasing our faith, finding true hope, learning to love – all of which will remain eternally (1 Corinthians. 13.13).
  • seeking first (hungering and thirsting for) God’s righteousness (Matthew 5.6; 6.33).
  • being active in our faith so others will know Jesus and spend eternity with Him (by prayer – Matthew 6.9-13) and witnessing (Acts 1.8)

Claiming these types of treasures will reap truly eternal treasures as promised by Jesus in Matthew 5.46; 6.4; 6.6; 6.18, and in the Beatitudes. Why? Because, as Jesus said, seeking these types of treasures reveal that our hearts on focused on God, not on earthly matters (v. 21).

Life Is a Choice Between Two Types of Eyes (vv. 22-23)

To understand Jesus point here, we need to understand a little about how the eye was understood in the first century. It is important to note that Jesus knew the truth about the eye, but used an example that incorporated a cultural understanding as well. “Sight was understood to function by means of a flow of light from the eyes out to the object in view; the light from the eyes was thought to merge with the light coming from the object (with illumination by, e.g., the sun) and then to flow or bounce back to the eye and to penetrate through the eye into the person, where sight was registered. As the lamp is an image for the eye, so the eye in turn is an image for the human capacity to absorb from what is available externally.” (1)  Thus, to have a good eye meant to not only see the light, but also to have light emanating from within you to the outside world. Conversely, an evil eye was a dark eye allowing no light in or out (i.e. blindness). Of course, blind people adapt to their surroundings remarkably well, but the adaptations they make does not mean they see light.

We must also realize that Scripture links the eye and the heart. The Old Testament links the heart and eye in places such as Psalm 119. In Psalm 119.10 and the psalmist writes of the heart seeking God and not wandering from His commandments, while verse 15 states this as fixing the eyes on God’s ways. In the New Testament, Paul would later write that the Ephesians have had the eyes of their hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1.18).

Thus, Jesus is saying that what our eyes seek (what they desire to see) is a reflection of our heart. Do we seek after the things of God (those treasures which cannot be stolen and do not decay) or do we seek to fill our eyes (i.e. our lives) with treasures which will ultimately leave us empty? Like my ballcards. I experienced joy for a while in having them, but ultimately, they caused me concern such as moving them onto shelves to help prevent possible water damage.

Life Is a Choice Between Two Types of Masters (v. 24)

Jesus’ thoughts about an eye being good and bad is a perfect transition between the treasures we seek (before) and the master we serve (after). If the eye is good, then it is healthy and fully devoted to the cause. Similarly, a slave that is good is fully devoted to the master. The problem with this statement is how our view of slavery has evolved. Many atrocities were committed (are still being committed) under the idea of slavery. Slavery has always been a huge money-making business. (In fact, that is why slavery became so prominent a few centuries ago – the more powerful tribes in Western Africa would capture people from rival tribes and sell them for good money to Europeans and later Americans.)

But slavery in biblical times was not all bad. Some of those in very respectable professions (such as accountants) were slaves. And many slaves, though certainly not all, had very good relationships with their masters and a lot of freedom because of that relationship. So, Jesus is not condoning slavery as we have come to think of it (nor should we condone it). He is merely speaking to the truth of the day.

It is important to note that Jesus does not say two masters cannot own a single slave. In fact, a great deal of evidence exists that some slaves did have multiple owners (e.g. Acts 16.16 mentions a slave girl with multiple owners.) What Jesus says is that a slave cannot be fully devoted to either owner if more than one exists. Just as a slave-owner will be more partial to some slaves (think Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings), so some slaves will be more partial to a certain owner. That is the point that Jesus is making. No one can be fully (that’s the key word) faithful, fully devoted, fully purposed to more than one anything. And God is not looking for split affection. We understand that a parent has to learn to love their children equally – that is split affection. But God desires our full devotion. The idea Jesus presents here is that we will either be devoted to that which is created (mammon – money and possessions) or to the Creator. Mammon does not care if you are devoted to it for it will be here today and gone tomorrow without any emotion on its part. Again, consider my ballcards. They did not care if I taped them to paper to construct lineups for outdoor games with my friends, or if you put them in the spokes of your bicycle (I never actually did that), or if they were mutilated in other ways. But God does care, and desires to relate to us personally and to connect with us intimately.

But like the choice of treasures and eyes, the choice of which master we will serve is left to us. But that decision is critical, because ultimately...

Life Is a Choice Between Two Distinct Destinies

Throughout His entire sermon, Jesus is obviously talking to those who are with Him – that is, those who have gathered around Him, and are willing to listen to what He says. We do not know how many may have been with Him that day, but we can assume that it is those who have been following Him for some period of time (see Matthew 4.25 and 5.1). The focus of His entire message is to have a mindset focused on the Kingdom – a mindset defined by righteousness (righteous living).

Although many may disregard the link between being “saved” and how one should live, the Bible is clear about the link. Of course, what we do (or what we don’t do) cannot and will not save us, but once we are “saved” – or to use a more loaded term, born again – our life should better reflect our decision to follow Jesus. After all, to what, or whom, are we born again? And if we are a Christian, then we claim to follow Jesus, and if that is the case, are we going to follow or not?

The passage today may not be a traditional passage to preach on the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But, if Jesus is Lord, and He is whether anyone accepts that or not, then we need to heed His words. The part of His sermon we have reviewed today speaks to our understanding of where our security truly lies. Do we value the stuff we accumulate or do we value the one who gives us life because He defeated death? Are we seeking treasure on earth or are we seeking the true treasure of our faith who resides in heaven?

Several years ago, one of my greatest treasures was my ballcards. But what did the thousands or dollars and hours spent with them get me? At one point in our lives we were facing a real financial crisis, I remember taking thousands of cards to a dealer and sold box after box for $200 bucks. Why? So we could have food to eat as a family. That food was more important to me than a bunch of small cardboard pieces sitting in boxes in my house. See, for a period of time, I was seeking a type of security – financial security – in my cards. I thought over time they would appreciate in value and I would be rich. Just like I thought I would be the one who got that particular care of Shaq. But Shaq is not the Savior. And when the market for cards imploded, all my boxes were worth very little, but they were worth a couple of weeks of food. Ultimately, I could no longer find security in them. I had to find it where I knew it existed all along – in Jesus. (Interestingly, since we talked about fasting last week, it was during a fast that God commanded me to sell the cards.)

Most have us have sought security in someone or something other than Jesus. But any type of security we choose apart from Him can only provide a false security. True Security can only be found in the One who overcame death – in the One who was resurrected.

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is: JJESUS

Every day, we must remember that Jesus is our true security. Jesus is the only Way. But, on this Sunday, we must pay particular attention to the reason for our faith. It is not what we can collect. It is not what we can earn. It is not even what God has given us – apart from the gift of eternal life which was purchased by the blood of Christ on the cross, and secured when He rose from the dead early one Sunday morning. Because of that, He deserves our full devotion. And when we give it, we will truly accumulate treasures in heaven that will last for all eternity.

Based upon today’s message, how can we raise the bar and live on earth as it is in heaven?

I believe we can answer this question with another question. Would you rather receive $10,000,000 with no strings attached or would you rather see God’s glory fill the earth? Because we are in church, you may know what you should choose, but God knows your heart, and you likely know where it lies on this issue as well.


Truly, you may need to back up to LEARN and take inventory of your life to see if (how) your heart is divided. But the goal for us this day is to truly LOVE the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and then to love our neighbor as well. For living a life of love in this manner will reveal that your true devotion is with Jesus.

(1)  Nolland, J. (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 300–301). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.

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