Pure Motives, Clear Life

PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

CLEAR MOTIVES PURE LIFE (1)Introduction: Today we are in part 3 of our series on worry and anxiety from the Sermon on the Mount called “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and today’s message is titled – “PURE MOTIVES, CLEAR LIFE.”

Matthew 6   22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Overall Background: On first reading, the passage we just read seems to be out of context. It’s as if Jesus lost his train of thought and instead of talking about worry and anxiety, He got distracted and went off on some tangent about the lamp and the eye. But, when we study this passage carefully, we realize that Jesus did not lose His train of thought. He did not go off on some rabbit chase. In fact, He was very much on the subject of worry and anxiety. Here’s what Jesus was saying: Daily we are bombarded with messages and stimulus. If our eye is good, which means our focus is on God and on the right priorities and our motives are pure, then we will let only light go inside of us. If our eye is evil, which means our focus is on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, then we will allow darkness to enter in. What does this have to do with worry and anxiety? Worry and anxiety are simply symptoms of the darkness down below. (Keep in mind – I’m not referring to anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Go back and listen to the first sermon.) But common worry and anxiety are a manifestation of what’s happening deep below. To cure what is in here, you have to purify your eyes, your focus, and your motives. To do that you need the Holy Spirit of God to apply the Word of God and give you the same focus and the same motives as the Son of God, who was always full of light. He was never worried and never anxious at any point in His life on earth.

Question: Do you struggle with worry and anxiety? How is your eye, your focus? How are your motives? How do you handle the stimulus that comes your way each moment? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without the Holy Spirit in your life, your motives will remain questionable. There can be no divine light in your life. By the way, even Christians, unless you are submitting daily to the Word of God and the Spirit of God, you will also be full of darkness.

There are 3 questions that we will answer in order to understand this passage:

I. WHAT IS THE LAMP OF THE BODY?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: “The lamp of the body” is a very strange statement. The only way we can make any sense of it is by looking for other places where Jesus talked about the lamp. We don’t have to go very far because he talks about it in this very Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5   14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Also, the parallel passage in Luke 11 clarifies it some more – 33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye.

The light that is in us is the presence of God. It is the holiness of God. It is the nature of God. It is the only good that is there in this dark sinful world. When our lights are bright, they radiate out and impact those around us. Jesus tells us not to hide this light. It results in good works. It leads lost people to glorify the Father in heaven. It is not hidden by circumstances.

Illustration: On a mission trip to the Yucatan Jungle in Mexico we were invited to go by the home of an elderly couple by their son. The man was one time pastor of a church in the village but too sick and aged to do much now. We walked in and saw this couple lying in their bed. The son asked if we would sing and so we sang in English and our local partners sang in Spanish. Before the chorus was finished, they were sitting up in their bed and singing with us. The glow had returned!

Question: How is your glow this morning? Is it shining brightly? Is it shining dimly? Or is it out? Has the light ever been lit in your life? John talks about how to have this light all throughout his gospel:

John 1   4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

John 8:12   Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

Have you ever received Jesus, the light of the world, in your life?

II. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EYE?

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…”

Background: This is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. Scholars have debated back and forth over the significance of the eye in this passage. We all know that the eye is more than the organ that enables us to see what is around us. Ever since ancient times it was believed that our eyes also reflect what is inside of us. As someone said, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Cicero (Roman philosopher and orator who lived 50 years before Christ) said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” You can fake a smile and pretend all is well but your eyes will betray what’s really going on inside. Sometimes you can even tell if a person is friendly or mean, generous or greedy just by looking into their eyes. If you face a scary situation or an exciting situation, your pupils will begin to dilate involuntarily. Scientists have even discovered that the eyes can “reveal the presence of broader disorders like heart disease, stroke threats, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.” (The Economist, July 2015)

All that is true but that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Listen again to verse 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye…” It’s not “the eye is the mirror of the soul.” The direction of light flow is outside in and not inside out. The eye sheds light inward and directs the decisions we make with our bodies. We may have trouble understanding this but Jewish people in the time of Jesus did not, especially when He said in verse 23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Let me give you a couple of examples. In Deuteronomy 15 God had given explicit commands to His people to release their indebted brother in the seventh year, the Year of Release. God knew the human nature and so listen to verse 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.” Here the person sees his poor brother in bondage and instead of rejoicing that his year of release has come, he has a cruel and wicked thought in his heart. If I let him go, I’ll have to be out there sweating in the heat. I can’t do that. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and sin has entered in. Another example from Proverbs 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.”

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard - Bernhard Keil

Parable of the laborers in the Vineyard by Bernhard Keil

Here a person sees riches and instead of praying, “God, what is your purpose? Guide me. Help me to keep you first,” he just chases after money. Now his eye has become evil, his motives are no longer pure and greed has set in. In Matthew 20 Jesus Himself uses the phrase “evil eye” in his parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different hours of the day and when time came to pay them, he paid 1 denarius to all of them. The ones who came early complained about not getting more than the ones who came at the eleventh hour. Listen to what the landowner said to them, 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ Here the early workers seeing that they didn’t get any more, instead of rejoicing over getting their due wage, they complained about those who came at the eleventh hour and call the landowner unfair. Now their eyes have become evil and the sin of ingratitude has set in.

Illustration: Many years ago Nicole and I went to the SBC annual meeting. We were having a wonderful time. Different people came to the stage and preached and gave reports. Then, this one man came to the stage. He wasn’t much older than me. He spoke and people clapped. Just then a small thought went through my mind – “Why him and not me?” The convention was over and we toured the state. As we were headed home, Nicole asked me – “Is something wrong?” I answered – “No” but I knew that wasn’t true. It took several days for me to finally listen to the Holy Spirit. I had allowed the sin of envy to enter in me and bring darkness. I had to repent and the light returned.

“Your focus and your motives direct what enters in you. If they are pure and sincere and set upon the things of God, you will allow God’s light to flow through you but if they are evil and wicked, you will be full of darkness and sin and despair.”

Question: What is your first response to the good and the evil around you? What have you allowed inside that has brought darkness in your life? What is blocking God’s light in your life? Have you ever asked God to purify your motives?

III. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WORRY AND ANXIETY?

22 “…If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.

Background: Greek word that Jesus used for “good.” It’s actually the word a`plouj, which translates “single.” It has the idea of purity and sincerity. James uses it in its adverbial form in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all sincerely and without reproach…” Meaning: When God gives you wisdom, He doesn’t have any ulterior motives. Paul uses it in its noun form in Romans 12:8 where he tells the Christians in Rome to give but give with sincerity…” Meaning: Don’t have ulterior motives in your giving. So when Jesus says in verse 22 “…If therefore your eye is single,” what He’s really saying is “If your eye is pure or sincere, then your whole body will be full of light…” In other words, if your motives are pure, it will only bring light inside.

Illustration: It attacks the best of us. Billy Graham in his book on the Beatitudes talks about in his early days he would see two people having a great time or laughing and he would feel that it had to do with him or “why wasn’t he included?” He repented of that.

Here’s the point: Worry and Anxiety are a by-product of darkness. The only way to counteract is when the stimulus comes, let the Holy Spirit guide your response. He will make your motives pure and sincere. In turn, what goes in will be light and not darkness. Then what come out will be joy and gratitude not worry and anxiety.

23 “…If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” This can be taken in 2 different ways – Either, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful is that darkness inside of you? Or, if being saved, you’ve allowed darkness to come in, how awful must the darkness be in the lost world. Either way, turn on the light!

Are you struggling with worry and anxiety? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your motives and let the light of Christ flow through you. Are you saved? Invite Christ to be your light today.

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON (Part 2)

HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

How to behave this Christmas seasonWe are in a mini series from the Book of Romans titled – HOW TO BEHAVE THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON. Christmas can be a time of great joy, excitement, and laughter but it can also be a time of sadness, frustration, and contention. We need help in making this a season of joy. Last Sunday morning we looked at “How to Have Love Without Hypocrisy.” This Sunday morning we go to the next line.

Romans 12:9-13  9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;  11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;  13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Overall Background: Before we can jump in and start explaining and applying this passage, we need to remember the principle that I shared last week—Doctrine and Application are interconnected. What you believe and how you behave are linked together. The mistake many Christians make is that they think – here’s my doctrine and here’s my application. First, I’ll get my doctrine straight and then set it aside. Next, I’ll work on my application and try to be a better person. They try it and it doesn’t work – very quickly they see that their love is full of hypocrisy— fake, conditional, selfish, superficial, selective, temporary and temperamental.

What’s the problem? You cannot apply Romans 12-16 without looking back to Romans 1-11. They are interconnected. Romans 1-11 hold the key to apply Romans 12-16.

This morning our text is “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” Let me caution you – don’t be took quick to jump in and start applying this passage. On the surface, those words seem very simple; they seem very straightforward. Just hate the bad things and hold on good things. But, try applying that and I promise you that you will fail miserably. You will end up hating what is good and holding on to what is evil. You will end up hating people rather than evil. In fact, you will do the very things that the passage says not to do. What’s the answer? We need to look back to Romans 1-11 and see what it says about evil and good.

Application: We need to hear this message more than ever. We are living in evil days. Not just the world but also the church is confused about what’s evil. We have lost our sense of discernment. There’s something more – God has not called us to just be spectators but later in Romans 12:21 Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That’s another message but before we can overcome evil with good, we need to understand what’s evil and what’s good.

Before we can hate/abhor evil, what is the face of evil?

There are 2 important mentions of evil between Romans 1-11:

I. THE EVIL IN OTHERS

The first important mention of evil in Romans is in chapter 1 where Paul is describing the wrath of God against those who suppress, hinder, and block the truth of God. Listen to their description in Rom. 1:29-32   29“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, (the word is poneria = active intent to corrupt) covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,  30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, (the word is kakon = lack of any good)  disobedient to parents,  31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;

Background: The first face of evil is people who don’t have anything good in them but they also deliberately reject God and also encourage others to do the same. Keep in mind that all of us are sinners who have rejected God. But, Romans 1:29-32 is describing those who are actively pursuing evil and trying to spread it. Bible tells us about many such evil people. For time sake, let me mention just a few—

  1. Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice by Jean Honoré FragonardJeroboam – the first King of the Northern Kingdom. He was so determined to hang on to his throne, that he talked the eople into not going to Jerusalem to worship. Instead, he set up 2 golden calves in Bethel and Dan and said, “Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the Land of Egypt!” I Kings 12:30 said “this thing became a sin.” He rejected what Moses had instituted and created his own sacrificial system. He even became a priest of his own religion. He not only sinned but caused others to sin. In fact, later evil kings were always compared to him.

A man of God came to confront him and Jeroboam stretched out his hand to order his arrest and his hand withered.Jeroboam begged, not for forgiveness but for his arm. The man of God prayed for his healing and he did and his hand was healed. Then Jeroboam invited him to come and stay with him and promised to give him a reward. Listen to his answer in I Kings 13:8-9 “But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place.” Why? Because God told me not to.

2.  Jezebel – She was the daughter of a Phoenician King. When she married King Ahab of Israel, she brought the worship of Baal to Israel’s court. In fact her name itself says it – Jez-e-baal (Baal is the prince). She tried to destroy all God’s prophets. She even tried to get Elijah killed and he had to run for his life. She stole from the innocent (Her husband wanted the vineyard of Naboth – decent man trying to live on his little piece of family land. Jezebel falsely accused Naboth and had him stoned to death. Later she was violently killed as per God’s judgment.

King Herod3.  Herod – He was an Idumean, who ruled over Judea with the help of the Romans. He was a ruthless man. He would spare no efforts to extract taxes from the people. He did everything he could to please Rome. He had no qualms about killing people: He was afraid of the Hasmoneans so he had them all killed; he was afraid of one of his brother-in-laws—Aristobulus , the High Priest; he was afraid of his military leaders so he had 300 of them killed; he was afraid that his two eldest sons were after his throne. So, he had them both killed; and the list goes on.

He even tried to have baby Jesus killed. When the wise men did not return to tell him where Jesus was, he had hundreds of little innocent baby boys killed.

4.  Judas Iscariot – Man who walked with Jesus and heard him preach and change lives. Yet, he betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. Listen to what Jesus said about him in Mark 14:21 “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”

Application: How are we to deal with this face of evil? “Abhor what is evil.” It means, “hate it exceedingly.” By the way, this is the only place in biblical Greek that we find that expression. It does not mean hate the person but their actions. Don’t admire the wicked. Don’t try to imitate the “admirable qualities” of the wicked. Proverbs 24:1 “Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them;”

Do you have any Jeroboam, Jezebel, Herod, or Judas whom you admire?

1st Evil is those who reject God and actively try to obstruct the truth. We are to reject it.

II. THE EVIL THAT IS WITHIN

The second important mention of evil in Romans is actually in a Christian’s life. Listen to Romans 7:19-21  19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 

Who is Paul referring to? He is referring to the believer who is frustrated with his/her Christian life – “Why do I do things that I don’t want to do? And why do I not do the things that I want to? Is this your experience? Are you going through the same struggle as Paul? Are you frustrated with your sin life? Then, your answer is about to come.

20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil (the word is kakon = lack of any good) is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

What is this evil? It is sin. It is the “old man.” It does not have any good in it. It is my Old Self. When you and I are saved, we received a new nature. The Old Man is crucified with Christ. This does not mean that it is eradicated. It is still there as long as we live in this world. As long as you live in this world, there will be a struggle. Evil is not out there. It is in here. There’s nothing about my Old Me that is good. It is selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” The sooner you can see your Old Self as a “wretch” the better.

But don’t stop there – Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

What is Good? Only what God has placed in me. Listen to Romans 8:10, 13  10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness…13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

How do you cling to what is good? By the Holy Spirit in you.

Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you recognize the evil that is in the hearts and minds of people around you?
  • Do you recognize the evil that is present with you?
  • How do you deal with evil? Are you pre-occupied with it? Do you justify it, rationalize it, or blame it on others?
  • Are you clinging to that which is good? To Christ who is in you. To the Holy Spirit who is leading you. To the Word of God that is given to you.
  • Do you know Jesus as your Savior?
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