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“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Returning to the Proverbs, Jesus quotes King Solomon who, in God’s wisdom, warned, Do not wear yourself to out get rich…Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle [Proverbs 23:4a & 5].
Matthew tells us that earthly treasures can be destroyed by moth and rust or stolen by thieves. Luke says that, besides the peril of moths and thieves, our purses can wear out [Luke 12:33]. James warns the rich that the deterioration of their earthly fortunes and fancies, and the judgment of their greed-driven corruption, will bring them great despair [James 5:1-3].
Pharaohs filled their tombs with food, clothing, oils and ointments, games, gold, jewelry, elaborate furniture, chariots, weapons, boats and statues of servants peoples that the dead was supposed to be able to call to life and service in the afterlife. They believed that there was more than just this earthly life, but they believed that they could take this mortal world with them.
Well, there is certainly more. All will go on to eternal life [Matthew 25:46; John 5:29]. But no one will be able to take one thing from this physical earth with them whether they are condemned to hell or whether they ascend to heaven. Everything in this life will pass away [Matthew 24:35; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17].
So then, how can we store up treasure in heaven?
Jesus said that one ways is to sell our worldly treasures–our possessions–give to the poor and follow Him [Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33 & 18:22]. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have…a God who will never leave us or forsake us [Hebrews 13:5]. Paul says good, be rich–meaning do a lot of–good works, and be generous and ready to share [1 Timothy 6:18].
It’s not about destituting ourselves. It’s about not clinging to and being enslaved by money. It’s about the heart [Luke 12:34; 1 Timothy 6:19].
With money in our hands and pockets, we tend to view ourselves more highly than we ought [Romans 12:3]. We see ourselves as our own provider, without need of God. But our money is worthless in the scheme of eternity. No one can buy their way into heaven. No one can buy their way out of hell.
When we stubbornly hold onto all that our hands have provided, when we are stingy about helping those in need, when we insist on tending to our own earthly securities, we miss out on the blessings of serving God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10]. Any provision we have comes by His goodness and His grace alone. But the enemy comes to steal it all away by the temptations of our own evil desires [James 1:14].
Where is your heart? On money and earthly possessions? Or on economy of heaven?
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:29-30
Jesus is still talking here about the command not to commit adultery. But He hyperbolizes the practical application of it.
In Biblical culture, anything on the right side of the body was considered honored [Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1]. While the left hand was typically considered dishonored because of its hygienic function. So if the eye–which is the lamp that lets light into our whole body [Matthew 6:22]–and the honorable eye at that, gazes lustfully at others, we’re guilty of the sin of adultery.
Remember that God is transcendent. As humans, we tend to see good and bad, right and wrong in spectrums. We qualify things as kind-of-good and not-so-bad. But God does no such thing. Either it’s of God or it’s sin. Lustful eyes are symptomatic of a sinful heart.
So again, if the most honorable light source in our life fixates on sinful passions, we would be better off living this finite life half-blind, so that we don’t miss out on eternal life.
Now obviously, the struggle with lust can’t be associated with only one eye. We use both to look. So both are the offenders. Just like a person isn’t likely to commit sins of theft or adultery with one arm tied behind their back. But even if one did, the whole person would still be guilty of theft. By using a hyperbole–an exaggerated statement or claim not meant to be taken literally–Jesus emphasizes His point. It is the sin that needs to be cut out of our lives by whatever means necessary.
God made a covenant of circumcision with the patriarch Abraham and His chosen people, Israel [Genesis 17:1-25]. After the Exodus and throughout the New Testament, God let the people know that true circumcision needed to be of the heart [Deuteronomy 10:16 & 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:25-29].
You see, circumcision is physically removing some unnecessary flesh that could create health problems. But we need to cut the love-of-this-world-flesh off of our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion–because it only leads to spiritual health problems. Jesus’ command to gouge out an offending eye or to cut of an offending hand has the same meaning.
Does God really want people to go around maiming themselves? Not at all! But He does want us to understand the seriousness of sin, to repent of it and to flee from it [Isaiah 59:2; Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:18]. In the end, it’s better for us to miss out on the emptiness of this finite life than to spend the rest of eternity regretting our lack of self-control.
We all struggle with a particular sin or another [Romans 3:23]. But we can ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to flee from it or to miraculously heal us and cut it out of our life. What sin are you in? Will you willingly give it to God? Or eternally regret it?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
Ten commandment number two in the Sermon on the Mount: Do not commit adultery [Exodus 20:14]. Again Jesus cautions against the seed sin–lust.
Adultery is what we would call an affair in our culture. When someone who is married is intimately involved with someone other than their own spouse. And the Bible forbids it.
But Jesus recognizes that the practice of adultery starts long before the physical action. Adultery roots in our hearts when we look at someone with strong desire or attraction. And our American culture likes to exploit this human weakness in advertisement and other media for their own financial gain.
Meaning, commercials sell attraction and promote the development of lustful eyes. So does TV, movies, social media, magazines and the like. From a young age, we are bombarded with seductive images of people that we are not married to, that we are supposed to desire to either be like or to be with.
Everywhere we look, our society is offering us the seed sin of adultery.
And these images lodge themselves in our minds. They replay themselves in our idle moments. And eventually, we might find that we replay the thoughts on purpose, deepening our imaginary love for or fantasizing about a relationship with these people that we have never even met. And the Bible forbids it.
So how can we combat this social perversion that literally surrounds us?
- We become aware of what the Bible says about lust, pornography and the immorality that it leads to.
- We avoid inappropriate images and written descriptions whenever possible. Turn the channel, filter web searches, x out of search pages that bring up unbiblical results, don’t buy the magazine or book, stop reading, research movie ratings and reasons before choosing to go watch them, listen to Christian music instead of worldly music, etc.
- We take captive every thought in our mind and bring it under obedience to Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 10:5], rather than lingering and reveling in empty, lustful imaginations.
And why does it matter when we are not married if we look at an attractive person with desire?
The Bible tells us that the heart of a wayward person is a deep pit rooted in the grave and leading to death [Proverbs 5:1-23 & 23:27]. The habits of the eyes and mind that we develop in our youth are the habits that will be deeply rooted in our hearts and driving our adult pursuits.
It’s not easy to turn off lustful eyes. If you start the habit as a young person, it will continue with you into adulthood, and it won’t limit itself to your spouse. It’s not easy to turn off a fantasizing mind. If you start indulging in pleasurable imaginations now, they will continue to seduce you in adulthood.
Lust that leads to adultery is the only sin that we commit in our own body [1 Corinthians 6:18]. But it is also a sin against our spouse–whether present or future–against the person we lust after and against God.
Is there a person or people that you fantasize romantically about? Whether as seemingly innocent as hand-holding or a first kiss, don’t give the devil a foothold in your heart and mind. Are you attracted to internet and magazine images? Flee the temptations. Get an accountability partner and ask God to replace this lust with a growing love and respect for Him and for your future spouse.
Image: By Japanexperterna.se from Japan – Person looking at smartphone in the dark, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47395025
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.” Matthew 3:13-15
Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully man. He had to travel from Galilee to the Jordan the same way everyone did. It was a hot and dusty walk for him just as it was for all the others.
Jesus came to have his physical body baptized in water, but he had no sin to confess. Did the crowds murmur at his lack of confession? Or did they whisper the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood, trying to understand the truth of him?
John knew full well who Jesus was. He tried to defer to Jesus’ spiritual authority, but Jesus is not so self-important that he can’t be ministered to by a human being. On the contrary, Jesus was blessed by John’s ministry just as John was blessed to minister to him.
The deeper significance of this moment was not lost on Jesus. He is the fulfillment–the completion bringing to reality–of all of the prophecies and the generations of waiting for the woman’s seed who will crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15], the promised inheritance of Abraham, the living law of Moses and the eternal culmination of the line of King David. By faith in the Christ who was to come, each of these were credited with righteousness, that is, they were considered morally right or justified in God’s eyes.
When Jesus was baptized by human hands in an earthly river, his physical body was cleansed like a high priest washing before offering the temple sacrifices [Hebrews 4:14-16]. Spiritually, Jesus was preparing to give himself as the spotless sacrifice–without a sin to confess but bearing all of our sins on the cross–to impart his righteousness to each of us who accept his sacrifice by faith.
John baptized the Son of God Almighty, but that didn’t bring his ministry to an end. He didn’t reach the top in a big showy fanfare and then retire. Instead, Jesus’ baptism reaffirmed John’s commission. Whatever we do to our fellow human being, so we do to our Lord [Matthew 25:40]. Each time John honored his call to baptize repentant sinners, he was ministering to Jesus all over again.
We have also been commissioned to baptize the nations [Matthew 28:19-20]. When we obey our call to make disciples, we minister to–that is, attend to–Jesus.
And John consented. Jesus wasn’t going to override John’s freewill, forcing him to do it Jesus’ way. God always honors our right to choose.
What would you choose if Jesus showed up and asked you to minister to him? The answer is as easy as how you treat the people you see everyday. Because as you do to them, you do to Jesus. Are you faithfully fulfilling your commission?
“John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Matthew 3:4-6
John was an ordinary guy. He wore commoner’s clothes and ate desert forage–locusts and wild honey. While his father ministered in the temple, and these foods were in keeping with Jewish dietary law, John was introducing baptism in a whole new way.
The Pharisees of his day immersed themselves in water to remove ritual impurity [Matthew 15:2; John 2:6]. The Old Testament did in fact set this precedent, especially for priests [Leviticus 15, 16:4 & 24]. All Jews had to observe these ritual baths to be pure so that they could enter the temple and participate in its services during major festivals [Numbers 9:10; John 11:55; Acts 21:24-27]. But the Pharisees practiced regular immersion out of religiosity–following the rules to look good to men, rather than living from a heart for God.
John took baptism out of the temple. But just like the temple, people came from all over Israel to be ministered to. They came from Jerusalem where the temple was. From Judea, the whole region surrounding the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God. From the whole Jordan river region which extends north to south through the land of Israel.
John took baptism into the Jordan. This was the river that God parted so that the Hebrews could pass through on dry land and enter the Promised Land [Joshua 3-4]. A river analogous to the river of life that flows through the New Jerusalem in heaven [Revelation 22:1-2].
John baptized without priestly garments. But he led people to recognize and confess their sins to God. In effect, John launched the self-as-priest-without-need-of-a-Levitical-mediator ministry, preparing hearts for Jesus’ ministry, and people responded to it in droves!
And John baptized by immersion, which meant that a person’s whole body passed through the water. This is symbolic of the days of Noah. Before the flood, people did not confess their sins to God, many no longer even recognized right from wrong. Everyone just did as they saw fit. The floodwaters purified the world of the sin that had grown so rampant, wiping the proverbial slate clean for righteousness to start again.
Noah’s ark is an archetype for Jesus. By faith, Noah and his family were saved in the ark. By grace, we are saved through faith in Christ. When we confess our sins and are baptized, it should come from a heart to live for God. It should truly represent a change from living however we want to wiping our hearts clean, clothing us with Christ Himself, so that we can start anew and live righteously.
Have you confessed your sins to God? Have you been baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus? Is your faith purifying your heart?
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'” Matthew 3:1-3
As we’ve already mentioned, family trees are incredibly important in understanding scripture. Not just the genealogies, but also knowing who is related to whom and how. The prophets foretold a forerunner that would do as John did [Isaiah 40:3 & Malachi 3:1]. But the gospel of Luke explains the miraculous details surrounding John’s cousinhood to Christ [Luke 1:5-25, 39-45 & 57-80].
Yes, John’s birth was also announced by an angel visiting his father, Zechariah, in the temple. As a sign for the unbelieving Zechariah, he was struck mute until the baby was born, and he obeyed by naming him John.
Surely John was raised on bedtime stories of God’s hand in his very own life from infancy. How he leapt with excitement in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb, in the presence of his savior Jesus who was in his mother Mary’s womb at the same time.
But we don’t know much else about John’s early years. Just that we he grew up began to baptize people in the Jordan river. He proclaimed the need for repentance. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is near.
Some debate surrounds the phrase, the kingdom of heaven is near. What did John mean by this? Obviously, he lived and preached nearly two thousand years ago and the human race is still here. Not only that, but God did not come down and restore theocracy as the world government system. So why did John proclaim this message? Was he wrong?
Absolutely not. It wasn’t an end time message. He was called.
Called to let people know that heaven was walking among them at that time. That heaven had bent low and touched the earth in the form of his half-cousin Jesus Christ. People then, just as now, needed to get their hearts prepared to receive their savior. In so doing, we become the kingdom of heaven even while we still live here on earth.
The kingdom of heaven is still at hand. It comes to us in God’s Word, through the Holy Spirit and the accepting of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we prepare our hearts to receive Him, He can come and restore them. He reinstates our heavenly citizenship so that we can live eternally with Him.
Just like John, you and I have also been called to carry this message. Are you? Do you live and speak like the kingdom of God is at your fingertips and in your heart?
“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.” Matthew 1:6b-11
Throughout human history, God preserved a remnant through which to send His Son into the world–a remnant that fulfilled His promises to Adam and Eve, Abraham and David. But the people within the remnant were not sinless. In fact, many of them were bold-faced sinners.
Two kings of Israel–David, the man after God’s own heart, and his son Solomon, given wisdom by God. Six kings of Judah who did right in the eyes of the Lord. Seven kings who did wrong, though one repented. But even David and Solomon weren’t perfect or sinless.
David’s sin with Bathsheba is forever chronicled, not just in scripture, but in the very record of Jesus’ lineage. Is God condoning his adulterous and murderous behavior? Absolutely not! However, David sincerely repented before the Lord and, in God’s great mercy, the child born of a sinful relationship was made part of the line of the Messiah–the anointed one to come.
Solomon prayed for God’s wisdom to govern, which God granted [1 Kings 3:7-12; James 1:5-6]. But in regards to his personal life, he also allowed sin to creep in and, eventually, to divide his sons who then divided the kingdom [1 Kings 11:4].
Six different prophets spoke the Word of God throughout this part of Jesus’ genealogy. The evil kings set up Baals and Asherah poles for people to worship false gods on the high places of the Promised Land rather than the One True God in His Temple in Jerusalem. The good kings restored rightful worship in Judah, turning hearts back to God.
Even unto King Josiah who had never even heard God’s Law in his lifetime–though he followed the right ways of King David and loved God–until it was found in the Temple ten years into his reign. At age eighteen he heard the words of God’s Law and rightly responded [2 Kings 2:8-13]. And to the exile to Babylon.
Despite the fact that God’s own people sinned just like everyone else, it didn’t nullify God’s faithfulness. Though the Israelites suffered the natural consequences of their godless choices, God still kept His promise, He still loved and redeemed the whole world by sending His Son–fully God and fully man–into the world to save the world through Him [John 3:16].
There may be people in your own history who are not doing what is right in God’s eyes. Unbelievers love to question God’s goodness and faithfulness in these situations because He allows those who come before us to exercise their freewill every bit as much as we get to.
However, God is good. And He is faithful.
He preserves a remnant, a faithful witness, in your life and in every life. Though others sin against us, God asks us to break the cycle. To step out of the shadows of our human history and to choose to do right in His eyes.
Do you live by God’s Word? Are you among those through whom God can work to reach the world?