22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
1. Our Eyes
In Matthew 6, Jesus was not talking about how well your optic nerve and iris and cornea work. He was talking about how we look at life--what perspective and priorities we have as we consider what we are going to do with our lives. And his point was that if we look at life through the wrong eyes, our lives are going to be filled with darkness. If what is supposed to bring light into your life is darkness, how great is the darkness.
Jesus is the one who gives us new eyes with which we can see life more clearly.
* Through Jesus we see more clearly what is most important--our relationship with God.
* Through Jesus we see sin more clearly and how it damages.
* Through Jesus we see grace more clearly and we get that view of the mercies of God that Paul says we need in Rom. 12:1.
* Through Jesus we see the dramatic contrast between the world's wisdom and God's wisdom--and through Jesus the world's wisdom is exposed.
* Through Jesus we see how God has treated us and how we need to treat other people.
We could go on and make quite a list of those things Jesus enables us to see more and more clearly. The reality, however, is that we are tempted, powerfully tempted to look at life through other eyes or other lenses. How do we look at injustices, injuries, and illnesses, and even at our own personality? What eyes do we use? How do we look at the mistakes of others and the sins of other. What eyes do we use? Often those very things become the lenses through which we look.
We look at things in the church through an injustice that has been done to us. We look at the call of God through our illness or misfortune. It is easy to do. It is natural to do. Every morning when we get out of bed or try to, we are tempted and have to deal with some emotions that can be most powerful. But if we just surrender to that temptation, how great is the darkness in us. If we allow that to be our vision, then all kinds of other things--undesirable things--start coming in to us. What lenses are we tempted to look through?
We are particularly tempted to look at life through our most painful experiences. Pain is powerful. It has great influence on us. Now, make no mistake, painful experiences have to be looked at and talked about and processed. They cannot be stuffed. That never works. We cannot just tell someone "Just move on." "Just forget about it."
But, while we must work our way through pain, we must not let our painful experiences become the eyes and lenses through which we look at life. We must look at our painful experiences through the eyes of Jesus. And here is what we must understand: we do have a choice. We are powerfully tempted, but we have a choice.
How are our lenses (our eyes) working? Are they filling us with light or with darkness? Are they filling us with hope and love or with cynicism and pessimism and bitterness? We often think the problem is our circumstances, but the problem is much more likely to be the eyes and how we look at those things.
* As we face a challenge or disappointment in our marriage, what eyes do we look through?
* As we get the news from the doctor and it has the word "cancer" in it, what eyes do we look through? We know what eyes everyone of us is tempted to look through and we doubt many people immediately go to their faith. Emotionally, most of us go somewhere else, but after we have some time, where do we land?
* When someone hurts us or disappoints us in the church, what eyes do we look through? How much grace is in the prescription lenses that we put on from Jesus?
* As we hear about a new plan from the leaders of the church to strengthen our fellowship and encourage our outreach to the lost, what eyes do we look through? Do we look through the lenses of our last disappointment or do we look through the eyes Jesus gives?
Sure, there will be an instinctive knee jerk reaction to things. Some of the things that happen have powerful emotional effects. They take time to process, but will we go pray "God help me see this the way you see it. Correct my vision. Help me see clearly."
What Jesus is offering each of us is a new set of eyes. He is the truth about God. He is the way, the truth and the life. He shows us God--"if you have seen me, you have seen the Father"--and he shows us the way to God, or more accurately, he is the way to God. Let us regularly examine our eyes. How are we looking at life, at the church, at our purpose? "If our eyes are good, our whole body is full of light."
2. Our Heart
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Things go wrong with our hearts--the physical ones....but more importantly things go wrong with the spiritual ones.
If our hearts (our spiritual hearts) just perked along automatically, there would be no need to guard them. But there are all kinds of things going on and coming at us that can and do affect our hearts. And the wisdom of God says, 'above all, guard your hearts." What do you find in a healthy heart? Let us see just two things that the Bible teaches are the keys to so many other things.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
What needs to be in our hearts? Gratitude to God. We have not been blessed by luck. We do not have grace and forgiveness and hope because we are lucky. We have those things because God has blessed us. We can easily think of some things in our life that are not so great. Maybe some things those are just downright difficult and hard. But even in the hard times, we who are in Christ still have reasons for gratitude.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Whatever happens we still have reasons for gratitude. Yes, some things will be extremely challenging and painful and require time to process, but we still cannot be separated from the love of Christ. We still have God's grace and the hope that it gives. If we allow the difficulties of life to suck all the gratitude out of our hearts, we cannot live in a healthy way. And if we are in a general way grateful but aren't allowing that gratitude to point us back to one who blessed us, we aren't seeing clearly, and we are missing the most important reality.
Let us not just be grateful for what has happened. Let us be grateful for what is going to happen--for what God is still going to do.
As a church we should be grateful that in spite of our mistakes and challenges, that many people over the past so many years have accepted the grace of God, submitted to the Lordship of Jesus and been united with him in this ministry. But we also should be grateful that many more can and will become Christians. The same God who worked in the past has every intention of working in the future Why should God's greatest blessing not be ahead, and if not in this world then certainly in heaven?
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.
3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
Is there any quality more important? Is there any condition of the heart that has more impact?
# With humility, one will keep growing and changing.
# With humility, one will keep resolving conflicts and building relationships.
# With humility, one will keep serving and giving the glory to God.
Who is going to be saved? The short answer is the humble. Who is going to enter the kingdom? The humble. Who does God give grace to? The humble. Who does God oppose? The proud. If we see it some other way, we do not see clearly.
We need to have humility that says, "I need God's grace," a spirit that says "I need to show God's grace," a spirit that says "I need God and I need other people." A spirit that says: "Lord, speak. Your servant is listening."
Three times in Hebrews 3 and 4 the writer of Hebrews quotes the OT passage that says, "Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." Yes, three times in a very short span of verses. That is another way of saying, if we hear his voice, hear it with a heart of humility.
# When we hear His voice in our conscience, let us not harden our heart. Let us stay humble.
# When we hear His voice in His word, let us not harden your heart. Let us stay humble.
# When we hear His voice from our brother or sister in Christ, let us not harden your heart. Let us stay humble.
# When we hear His voice from our husband or wife, let us not harden your heart. Let us stay humble.
# When we hear His voice from our mom or dad or teacher, let us not harden your heart. Let us stay humble.
Above all, guard your heart, and realize it cannot be the wellspring of life unless it is a heart filled with humility. If the heart gets messed up and not filled with gratitude and humility, the outcome cannot be good.
3. The Eyes Of Your Heart
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
There is one passage that brings the two words together.
It is a great discussion to think about the connection of the eyes and the heart. What goes on in the heart affects the way we see things. And what eyes we choose to look at life affects the kind of heart we will understand we need to have.
There is such a connection that Paul prays for the Ephesian disciples and asks that the eyes of their hearts will be enlighted, so they can see how great the hope is that they have in Christ, and in verse 19, that they will see what resurrection power God gives them.
In conclusion three things from Scripture that will help us keep our eyes and our hearts, and the eyes of our hearts, where they need to be.
The eyes of our heart can get as messed up as anyone's. If we are following Jesus for many years there is no guarantee that we will not have problems with our eyes or our heart. But here are three keys in Scripture to eye and heart maintenance.
a. Prayers of self-examination and surrender
23 "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Our hearts will only be as good as we want them to be. And we don't really want them to be good unless we offer them up to God, saying show us anything that is not right.
b. Exposure to truth
Every day the world around us and the demons within us are trying to get us to look at life in certain ways and telling us why we are justified in having certain attitudes. Faith (and the perspective of faith) comes from hearing the Word, and there is not one of us who doesn't need daily exposure to the Word to keep our eyes and our hearts healthy.
c. Having others in our life at a heart level
12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
We don't need close and deep relationships so we can keep the church under some kind of control. We need relationships to help each other with our eyes and with our hearts. We don't need to get back into great and consistent connections and spiritual partnerships with each other because the church works better if there is a system in place. We need those connections for the eyes of our hearts.
There are things in our life we just don't see. There are places we start to go and just don't realize we are going there. There are attitudes that start to grow that we are out of touch with. We need our husband, our wife, our daughters, our sons, our brothers, our sisters to help us with our eyes and our heart.
There is a proper way to see -- a way to see clearly -- there is a proper attitude of heart. And our eyes and our heart will determine the outcome of our lives. It will not be by the foibles or mistakes of a leader. It will not be by the program of the church--good or bad. It will not even be our own gifts or lack thereof. It will not be our personality--the good and the bad. More than anything, what will determine the outcome of our lives, will be our eyes and our hearts.
Let us guard our eyes and guard our heart...so that with the eyes of our heart, we can see clearly who God is and who we are and the way He wants to work in our life.