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Living for Eternity

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Living for Eternity

by Henry T. Blackaby

God’s nature and heart are in eternity! Isaiah 57:15 states: “For thus saith the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy....”

Then the prophet continues to describe the nature and activity of God, especially as it relates to each of us.

God works from eternity, to and towards eternity. Time is only where and when He is now working, but always in the context of eternity. God, therefore, always works with urgency, for He fully knows the reality and certainty of eternity -– endless existence -– with Him or without Him.

·         We too often live without a sense of eternity and without a sense of urgency or seriousness.

·         We are often too careless or casual in the decisions we make, the relationships we establish, the priorities we live by, and the overall way in which we live.

·         But we are always “one breath away” from eternity.

 Are we truly ready? Is there a trembling in our living or an urgency in our living?

Our lives were eternally chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4), and His purposes in and through our lives have been eternally purposed, “[T]o the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord ...” (Ephesians 3:10-11).

With this in mind, how then should we be living personally, with our family, in our churches, in our workplaces, and in our world?

Certainly, with eternity in mind! Jesus reminded us that if we are going to make an investment in our lives we are to do it with eternity in mind: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth ... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).

The more one reads through the ways of God revealed in the Old Testament, and in the teaching and life of Jesus in the Gospels, and in the entire Bible, the more one is struck by the awareness of eternity.                                  Indeed, we as Christians should ponder some very serious questions.                                        How am I receiving what God is saying? Do I merely have “correct doctrine,” but my life and lifestyle are not being affected at all?                         These are serious questions to answer if we are to live with a sense of eternal accountability before God, as Paul expressed it in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

These are serious times, and our lives must be lived before God and the world with an obvious awareness of “eternity!”

Our Use of Wealth (Matt. 6:19–34)

We are accustomed to dividing life into the “spiritual” and the “material”; but Jesus made no such division.

In many of His parables, He made it clear that a right attitude toward wealth is a mark of true spirituality (see Luke 12:13ff; 16:1–31).

----The Pharisees were covetous (Luke 16:14) and used religion to make money. If we have the true righteousness of Christ in our lives, then we will have a proper attitude toward material wealth.

Nowhere did Jesus magnify poverty or criticize the legitimate getting of wealth. God made all things, including food, clothing, and precious metals.

God has declared that all things He has made are good (Gen. 1:31).

God knows that we need certain things in order to live (Matt. 6:32). I

n fact, He has given us “richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

It is not wrong to possess things, but it is wrong for things to possess us.

Jesus warned against the sin of living for the things of this life. He pointed out the sad consequences of covetousness and idolatry.

Enslavement (vv. 19–24). Materialism will enslave the heart (Matt. 6:19–21), the mind (Matt. 6:22–23), and the will (Matt. 6:24). We can become shackled by the material things of life, but we ought to be liberated and controlled by the Spirit of God.

If the heart loves material things, and puts earthly gain above heavenly investments, then the result can only be a tragic loss. The treasures of earth may be used for God. But if we gather material things for ourselves, we will lose them; and we will lose our hearts with them. Instead of spiritual enrichment, we will experience impoverishment.

What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven?

 It means to use all that we have for the glory of God. It means to “hang loose” when it comes to the material things of life. It also means measuring life by the true riches of the kingdom and not by the false riches of this world.

Wealth not only enslaves the heart, but it also enslaves the mind (Matt. 6:22–23). God’s Word often uses the eye to represent the attitudes of the mind. If the eye is properly focused on the light, the body can function properly in its movements. But if the eye is out of focus and seeing double, it results in unsteady movements. It is most difficult to make progress while trying to look in two directions at the same time.

If our aim in life is to get material gain, it will mean darkness within. But if our outlook is to serve and glorify God, there will be light within. If what should be light is really darkness, then we are being controlled by darkness; and outlook determines outcome.

Finally, materialism can enslave the will (Matt. 6:24). We cannot serve two masters simultaneously. Either Jesus Christ is our Lord, or money is our lord. It is a matter of the will. “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare” (1 Tim. 6:9). If God grants riches, and we use them for His glory, then riches are a blessing. But if we will to get rich, and live with that outlook, we will pay a great price for those riches.

Devaluation (vv. 25–30). Covetousness will not only cheapen our riches, but it will also cheapen us! We will start to become worried and anxious, and this anxiety is unnatural and unspiritual. The person who pursues money thinks that riches will solve his problems, when in reality, riches will create more problems! Material wealth gives a dangerous, false sense of security, and that feeling ends in tragedy. The birds and lilies do not fret and worry; yet they have God’s wealth in ways that man cannot duplicate. All of nature depends on God, and God never fails. Only mortal man depends on money, and money always fails.

Jesus said that worry is sinful. We may dignify worry by calling it by some other name—concern, burden, a cross to bear—but the results are still the same. Instead of helping us live longer, anxiety only makes life shorter (Matt. 6:27). The Greek word translated take no thought literally means “to be drawn in different directions.” Worry pulls us apart. Until man interferes, everything in nature works together, because all of nature trusts God. Man, however, is pulled apart because he tries to live his own life by depending on material wealth.

God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies. He will feed and clothe us. It is our “little faith” that hinders Him from working as He would. He has great blessings for us if only we will yield to Him and live for the riches that last forever.

Loss of testimony (vv. 31–33). To worry about material things is to live like the heathen! If we put God’s will and God’s righteousness first in our lives, He will take care of everything else. What a testimony it is to the world when a Christian dares to practice Matthew 6:33! What a tragedy it is when so many of us fail to practice it.

Loss of joy today (v. 34). Worrying about tomorrow does not help either tomorrow or today. If anything, it robs us of our effectiveness today—which means we will be even less effective tomorrow. Someone has said that the average person is crucifying himself between two thieves: the regrets of yesterday and the worries about tomorrow. It is right to plan for the future and even to save for the future (2 Cor. 12:14; 1 Tim. 5:8). But it is a sin to worry about the future and permit tomorrow to rob today of its blessings.

Three words in this section point the way to victory over worry: (1) faith (Matt. 6:30), trusting God to meet our needs; (2) Father (Matt. 6:32), knowing He cares for His children; and (3) first (Matt. 6:33), putting God’s will first in our lives so that He might be glorified. If we have faith in our Father and put Him first, He will meet our needs.

Hypocrisy and anxiety are sins. If we practice the true righteousness of the kingdom, we will avoid these sins and live for God’s glory.

[1]

6:19, 20 Do not lay up . . . but lay up may be rephrased as “Do not give priority to this, but give priority to that.” This passage does not mean that it is sinful to have such assets as insurance, retirement plans, and savings accounts. After all, parents are to save for their children (see Prov. 13:22; 2 Cor. 12:14).

[2]

1. The pitfall of materialism (6:19–24)

Exegesis

v 19     lay up = (lit.) treasure; save, put aside (an imperative).

treasure = (or) stores (this word is not confined to gold or silver, but extends to cover material reserves).

destroy = ruin, make unsightly or disfigure (this word is translated ‘disfigure’ in v.16).

v 20     heaven = this is singular in contrast to v.9.

v 22     eye = metaphorically of spiritual understanding (Gen 3:5, 7).

good = single, sound, healthy (the word can mean ‘generous’—it is used only here and Luke 11:34). Here the sense is of a straightforward singleness of purpose.

full of light = shining.

v 23     bad = (or) evil, or, worthless.

serve = (or) be the slave of.

masters = lords.

v 24     can = is able to.

hold to = be loyal to; help.

despise = treat with contempt, think nothing of.

cannot = is not able.

serve = (or) slave for.

mammon = money, wealth, property.

Exposition

Jesus simultaneously pointed out the transience of earthly wealth (surely, inflation, these days, shows us how rapidly wealth can become worthless) and the danger it holds, for earthly substance has a way of detracting from spiritual priorities. (Jesus was to treat this subject many times yet, but particularly in §194,195.) Please note, this is not a condemnation of riches but rather a warning of a danger inherent in riches, a danger which lies in the way material things demand one’s time and thereby undermine and detract from the quality of one’s spiritual life, unfortunately, all too often destroying one’s spiritual concerns. Jesus intimated this in v.24.

‘Treasures’ is literally ‘stores,’ so Jesus includes in His prohibition not only wealth, but those things which we human beings regard as our reserves, our security. The logic is simple: which treasure is the greater, the loan for a day now, or the gift for a lifetime tomorrow? The choice is yours. Likewise, you can spend your effort and concern on material things, whether for love of possessions or for imagined security or some other temporal value (a loan for a day), but always at the sacrifice of spiritual reward (a gift for life). It is simply a question of which you have more faith in: God’s word, or the gold which God’s word brought into existence!

This sermon is liberally interspersed with imperatives, the Greek verb form used to express a command or order. These are Jesus’ commands to His disciples; ‘do not lay up’ in v.19 is one and ‘lay up’ in v.20 is another. So Jesus commands His disciples to shun worldly values and to concentrate on spiritual values. This is a command, not a suggestion! Your choice is simple—obey, or disobey. Linking ‘do not lay up for yourself treasure on earth’ with v.24, reasons that devoting yourself to wealth, worldly comforts or worldly pleasures is despising God, the God Who loved you enough to die for you. The thinking believer just cannot be materialistic.

‘The lamp of the body is the eye’ (v.22) is an idiom difficult to define precisely in our thinking, so let us first seek to determine how this would have been heard by Jesus’ audience. ‘Eye’ in Hebrew (ayin’) is a word with a wide range of meanings; it means the sight organ and is used thus, but it also means sight itself, and, indeed, is first used in the Old Testament to denote spiritual insight (Gen 3:5, 7). This, obviously, is an appropriate meaning in this idiom, and one which Jesus’ audience could be expected to have thought of when they heard ‘ayin.’ The word’s other meanings include mental attitudes, opinions, judgments. We say ‘in my view’ when we cannot literally see anything, so English is not that different in attaching a wide range of meanings for the basic concept of ‘eye’ or ‘sight.’ We also speak of the ‘eye’ of a storm, or a spring—and the Hebrew word for ‘spring’ is the same word, ‘ayin.’

Interpreting ‘eye’ in v.22 as ‘spiritual understanding’ fits the context perfectly, for v.24 still discusses materialism, a subject introduced in v.19; so v.22 is bracketed by this discussion of materialism and must therefore not be interpreted as a separate thought but one which contributes to the main topic. It interprets thus: if your spiritual understanding is good (and you thus understand the incomparable supremacy of spiritual things over material things), then all your physical actions will be governed by spiritual considerations which is the ultimate wisdom. On the other hand, if your understanding of spiritual things is bad, then your whole life is futile in its spiritual darkness. In other words, vv.22–23 should be understood as an exhortation combined with a kindly warning to believers to consider the supremacy of spiritual matters over mundane matters—and this concept fits the context perfectly.

[3]

Luke 12:33; 34

33 “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.

34 It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.


----

[1]Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Mt 6:19

[2]Radmacher, Earl D. ; Allen, Ronald Barclay ; House, H. Wayne: The Nelson Study Bible : New King James Version. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1997, S. Mt 6:19

lit. literally

[3]Mills, M.S.: The Life of Christ : A Study Guide to the Gospel Record. Dallas : 3E Ministries, 1999

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