Eternal Matters | STEADY as WE GO
Monday— Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired…for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven (v 1).
Doug kicked a dirt clod and watched the dust settle on his shoe. He stared for a long moment at the deserted football field. Weeds bullied their way through cracks in the bleacher seats where crowds once cheered his name. He shut his eyes and tried to remember the screaming fans, sweat-soaked jerseys, and his name in lights. Now he wasn’t even welcome in his own house. Losing another job was bad enough, but the fifth DUI was too much. Sandy had taken the kids and gone. No one knew when the hometown hero had gone from celebrity to washout, but he did. It happened the day the applause stopped.
We learn before preschool that pleasing people feels good—Mommy’s smile, Daddy’s high-five. We can find the reward of praise so addicting that we never grow past the need for it. Admiration can be so intoxicating that we even structure our spiritual lives around it. Doing good feels good and we might assume that applause we hear is coming from God Himself. But then it stops. When the feel-good wears off, many fall away. That’s why Jesus told us to do our good deeds in secret, to invest in a heavenly IRA. When we stand before Him one day, we get it all! Cashing in our reward for temporary praise is like liquidating an IRA to buy a teletype machine. God has rewards that last forever, but if we cash them in now, that’s all we get. The world’s applause feels good for thirty minutes, but then it’s gone forever. With God’s reward, the applause never stops.
Final Thought: Evaluate your motives for doing good. Is it for the world’s applause or are you listening for Heaven’s?
Prayer: Father, if I’m to remain steady in my loyalty to you, I have to let go of my need for earthly validation. Jesus wasn’t always popular, but He always obeyed you. He was steady. Help me develop steadiness in my obedience. In His name, amen.
Tuesday—Store your treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves do not break in and steal (v 20).
Bret thought he was being smart. He worked hard and saved a lot. He vacationed at Branson instead of Fiji, bought refurbished technology, and drove a Prius not a Lexus. When he built his house, he got the plans from a book and the materials from demolition sites. Then he added an extra room with a state-of-the-art security system for his money because he didn’t trust banks. Two-thirds of every paycheck was converted into twenties and fifties and stacked inside his money room. No one knew about the room until the tornado went through and the sky rained twenties and fifties for an entire afternoon.
No matter how hard we try to be in control of our lives, there are some things no human can control. The best planning and safest security system are still no guarantees that our treasures will be safe. That’s why Jesus told us to stock up on a different kind of treasure. When we focus on packing Heaven’s money room, nothing can get to it. Not cancer. Not economic collapse. Not thieves or ex-spouses. It’s the safest possible place to store treasure that will last forever. We do it by switching savings plans. We turn from placing our security in what we have and placing it in who we are. Jesus promised that every cup of water, every sacrificial dollar, and every act of obedience goes into our money room where nothing can touch it. At the final judgement, Jesus will turn to each blood-bought child of His and say, “Now, let me show you what I’ve been storing for you!”
Final Thought: Where are you storing the most treasure? Is it truly safe?
Prayer: Jesus, I want to take seriously your words about storing up treasure. I’ve put too much emphasis on money and possessions as a means of security. But I can’t control either of them. Help me redirect my focus to your safe room. Amen.
Wednesday— For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (v 21).
Ted slowly backed the trailer onto the slab designed for his new boat. It had taken years of saving and scrimping but at last his dream was home. He smiled at the thought of parties and weekends at the lake. Pastor Ken would surely understand why they weren’t in church anymore. Across the street, Alice was screaming into the phone. Her hairdresser had messed up big time. This was totally the wrong color and that woman should have known it. The whole salon would pay for this! Despite what both Ted and Alice claimed, everyone knew where their treasure was because that’s where their hearts were.
This is where we start feeling uncomfortable. We’ve all got earthly pleasures that delight us and it can be hard to know whether we’ve crossed a line into idolatry. There’s an easy way to tell: Ask yourself who owns it. If it belongs to God, then He can remove this person or thing and your worship wouldn’t change. But if such a thing would cause you to turn away from God, that might be a clue. God delights in giving us treasures on earth, but not at the expense of treasure in heaven. When earthly treasure competes with heavenly treasure in our hearts, we’ve crossed a line that will take us away from God’s plan for us.
Final Thought: We remain steady when we refuse to give anything on earth the power to unseat us.
Prayer: Father, I don’t always know where my heart is, so I invite you to search my treasures and show me the ones I’m keeping off limits from you. That’s the one that will unseat me. I give it to you now and let go. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— If your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness (v 23).
We live in a visually overstimulated culture. Since the creation of television, technology has raced against itself to provide more and more visual information. Flashing lights, billboards 50 feet high, text notifications, words, images, and colors demand our attention 24/7. Psychological researchers warn us, but we don’t listen. We can’t listen. We’re too busy taking it all in. Children’s attention spans have shriveled while adult anxiety has expanded, due in great part to what our eyes are seeing all the time.
This did not take God by surprise. He already warned us about it thousands of years ago. What we see shapes who we are. Stare at an image for five seconds. Then shut your eyes. You can still see it, can’t you? It stays with you. So if our eyes gaze on evil, it stays with us when we shut off the screen. We take that evil to bed, to work, to church. Once that image is in our heads, it’s ours to keep. It will continue delivering messages behind closed lids. That’s why Jesus told us to guard what comes in through our eyes because it has the power to shape our whole lives. Likewise, we when we direct our eyes to that which is good, honorable, pleasant, and beautiful, our minds are reshaped to fit God’s design. Evil is in the eye of the beholder.
Final Thought: Are you guarding what you allow into your life through your eyes?
Prayer: Father. I have not been the best guardian for my eyes. I’ve allowed them to look at things that direct my life away from you. Guide me as I let you reshape my thinking by refocusing on what I see. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (v.24).
“Welcome to 21st Century Christianity! In this class, you will learn a refreshing, progressive approach to God, the Bible, and how it relates to you. We’ll dismantle some cliched assumptions from your grandparents’ generation and learn to view the Christian religion from a healthier perspective. You’ll discover that you really can have all this and God too! God is in all of us and he—or she or it—exists to help you find your authentic self. If you want to call it the Christ consciousness, or salvation, or becoming one with the universe, it doesn’t matter. Truth is not “either-or.” It can be “both-and.” Ready to get started?”
You didn’t have to sign up for this course. You’re being force-fed the curriculum day and night and, for the most part, you are unaware that it is happening. The professor behind this study is none other than Satan himself and he has employed a host of assistants to help him get the message across. Some of them might be your favorite TV preachers, your favorite authors, or the podcast that really made you take another look at what your pastor taught you. This “new approach” is actually not new at all, it’s just been glammed up to appear cutting-edge. The few hand-selected verses make it appear that Jesus taught a “both-and” message when in fact, He said the opposite. If you want the Cliff’s Notes, here’s the summary: You can be your own god and also have Jesus as your friend. He’s more like a coach or cheerleader, calling encouragement from the sidelines while you pursue your dreams. Is New and Improved Christianity legit? To find out, read: Luke 9: 23, 14:25-33, and Matthew 10:37-39.
Final Thought: Have you been auditing the 21st Century Christianity course? Drop it now or you’ll be stuck in it for eternity.
Prayer: Lord, have I bought into the new-and-improved version of Christianity because its sounds nicer to me? Am I listening to teachers who were hired by Satan? Take me back to your word for my only textbook. In Jesus’ name, amen.