S3EP24 - Fear and Focus

Hello and welcome to season 3 episode 24 of The Berean Manifesto; 10 minutes or so a week of Faith, Hope and Love for the Modern Church.  This is Pastor Bill with the Ekklesian House and in this installment we will be looking at fear and focus.

Growing up I heard a lot of fear talk about “The End Times” and the “Tribulation.”  It wasn’t just in my church, or around my hometown, a whole 16 best selling novel series was written inspired by the conservative, evangelical, Christian view of the events of the book of Revelations.  Those novels led to a run of 40 novels for teens, several spinoff stories, a handful of movies and video games.  Needless to say, fear sells well.  Not that the authors of those novels and producers of the subsequent properties don’t have a right to earn a living.  Just to say that I would personally categorize the genre of these works as fictional horror meant to inspire fear.  Not some kind of addendum to the Bible, or some kind of great Gospel driven work.  I continue to hear fear rhetoric surrounding the future amongst Christian believers.

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke it is recorded that as Jesus was moving on from a time of ministry in Judea that a young man ran up, knelt in front of Him, and calling Him “good teacher” asked Jesus what good he had to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus tells him what any rabbi would, to keep the commandments.  The young man asks which ones to follow and Jesus starts listing the Ten Commandments.  But, in all three Gospels, before Jesus can finish the list, the young man insists that he’s kept all these commandments since he was young.  Jesus tells him that he’s still lacking in one thing.  Eager the young man asks what he lacks.  Jesus tells him to go and sell everything he has and give the proceeds to the poor.  This will get him treasure in heaven and he can come and follow Jesus.  The young man leaves grieved because he had lots of stuff.

This wasn’t some new message that Jesus came up with on the fly when the young man approached Him.  Jesus had been teaching this same message for a while.  Matthew 6:19-20 CSB it says, “[19] Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. [20] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Most of you hearing or reading this have probably heard that snippet of scripture so that’s not anything new to you any more than it was to those in Jesus' day.  What if though, and I know it’s a crazy concept.  What if we read the rest of what Jesus taught on the same topic, in that same passage?

Matthew 6:22-24 CSB, “[22] The eye is the lamp of the whole body.  If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  [23] But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!”

OK, so we’re going to pause here for a second, we only got to verse 23, so we’ve got one more verse to go.  But, good gracious, Jesus.  Is it really any wonder when the Dude starts talking like that, that folks stop at verse 21?  And they go, “Eh, I think that’s far enough.  We’re not going to keep going.  We’re gonna break down verses 22 and 23 a little bit before we move on to verse 24.  Because we can’t just throw out and pretend like we didn’t just say these things that sound crazy coming out of Jesus mouth and then not talk about it.  We can’t just gloss over that.

Have you ever used a flashlight to see in the dark?  Where do you look, when you’re using that flashlight?  Where do you focus your eyes?  You look in the light, right?  You don’t shine your flashlight on your left hand side and look on your right hand side in the dark going, “Oh man, I really wish this flashlight worked better.”  That’s not how that works.  You focus in the light.  And then your body does what?  It follows your eyes into the path you’ve chosen with your eyes.  You shine that light, see where you need to go and you follow that.  Once again, you’re not shining the light off to the side and then walking forward into the dark hoping that you don’t trip and fall.  Jesus is talking about focus.  If you’re storing up treasure on Earth then that’s where you’re shining your flashlight.  You’re shining your flashlight here on Earth.  You’re lighting up the things of this world and that’s what you’re pursuing.  That’s where your feet are headed, that’s where your path is chosen to.  That’s a huge red flag, you’re focusing on the things of the hear and now.  You’re focusing on the things of the temporary, the Earthly instead of the things of God.  Instead of the things that you’re supposed to be focusing on.   that your focus is here, not on God.  That puts your whole worldview askew.  Your whole aspect on life, your decision making and your ministry as a Christian are focused on the things of this Earth, the things around you, and not the things of God, not the eternal, not The Gospel.

But Pastor Bill, “I don’t see what’s wrong with having my stuff and following God too.  Doesn’t God want me to be happy?  I mean I worked hard to get what I have, and I think God wants me to be a good steward of the things He’s given me.”  All of the capitalist driven ideas of working for what’s mine, and that’s mine.  I worked hard to get it and I deserve to have it.  The whole capitalist ideal.

Moving on to verse 24 of Matthew 6 CSB we see that Jesus says, “[24] No one can serve two masters (You can’t shine a flashlight on one thing and then walk toward the other), since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  You can’t serve both God and “insert here.”  Can’t serve both God and capitalism, politics, republicanism, democratism (Is that a word?).  You can’t serve both, it’s either or.  The word for money that Matthew used to record Jesus teaching there, and the same word that Luke used in his record of this teaching is the word:

G3126 μαμμωνᾶς mammōnas mam-mo-nas' Of Chaldee origin (confidence, that is, figuratively wealth, personified); mammonas, that is, avarice (deified): - mammon.

Avarice – that is greed for wealth or material gain.  You cannot serve both God and self-confidence, you cannot serve both God and wealth, you cannot serve both God and material gain.  Americans, as well as more and more of the world, live in a society of consumers.  They go hand in hand; capitalism – consumerism, capitalism – consumerism.  On feeding into the other, or rather one dog feeding on the other back and forth with us in the middle.  We want more and more, bigger and better.  We crave it, right?  The new car, the bigger T.V., the newest phone model.  Our focus is here, our focus is now.  Instead of on the eternal.  Our focus is in the fear of what if I lose this.  What if I lose what I have now?  What if I lose these few square feet in my home.  What if they pass laws that make it hard for me to follow the Lord?  What if they pass laws that make them come for my life, come for my family?  There’s a lot of fear surrounding teachings on the book of Revelations.  I hear people talking about not wanting to die, not wanting to face the scary things people have talked about, about the end.  Honestly, I don’t care about that.  I mean, if their going to come then their going to come.  And I’m going to go like Revelations says, “as a lamb to the slaughter.”

Now we’re going to take a look at the book of Ecclesiastes.  If you’ve been listening for a while then you know we don’t do that.  We’ve done it one other time.  The reason is because the book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon towards the end of his life while he’s in a bit of depression and taking stock of his life and all his mistakes.  Overall, the book teaches some good concepts, but it can be difficult for the average reader to glean the positive message amongst its pages.  Ecclesiastes 4:6 CSB says, “[6] Better one handful with rest than two handfuls with effort and a pursuit of the wind.”  Let’s just take a beat and let that settle in, “Better one handful with rest than two handfuls with effort and a pursuit of the wind.”

Jesus put it this way in Mark 8 and Matthew 16, “What would it cost for you to sell your soul?”  OK, so He didn’t exactly put it in those words, but if He had grown up anytime within the last one hundred years then that’s the way He would have said it.  Mark 8:34-38 CSB says, “[34] Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  [35] For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it.  [36] For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?  [37] What can anyone give in exchange for his life?  [38] For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

What would it cost for you to sell your soul?  More pragmatically, where are you shining your flashlight?  Where is your focus?  On the here and now, the you, the stuff?  Or on your eternal reward, on your Father in Heaven, on the Gospel?

This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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