Live in the Spirit

While the world can be interesting, fun, and exciting at times, in the end it is an evil place.   You scrimp and save to buy a house, you fix it up and “life is good”, but just for a while.  That’s because rust and moths and termites, and mold, and weather, and a host of other forces are always working to break down everything on earth, including your house.  Likewise, you go to school, you study hard, get good grades, and then you start a job. Everything goes good for a while; you get married, buy a house, and start having kids. Everything looks great, until the economy turns and you get laid off, or you get in an accident, hit by a tornado, or a hurricane, or get called to war.  Maybe your health fails, maybe for a while, or maybe permanently.

Yes, life in the world can seem very good at times. But it is deceptive; this world can bat you around like a ping-pong ball.

Jesus came so that we can have a life that’s more abundant than that.  Jesus addressed these issues in different places as we see in the Gospels:

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  (Matthew 4:4 ESV)

In the above Jesus addresses the fact that in order to have a truly abundant life it can’t be based on the bread solely that we get from this world.  It has to also be based on the only genuine source of truth, our loving heavenly father.  The analogy gives the idea that we eat, absorb, internalize, what God said just like we take in food and internalize it and make it part of us.  It’s not enough, though, just to think about what God says; we need to take it to heart, and let it lead us to make decisions that affect our lives.

Part of that truth is that we need to know that the things of this world perish. Things rot, die, break, or wear away.  So Jesus has some advice about the things of this world.  He says, “don’t make them treasures”:

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

Be careful, Jesus isn’t saying not to have things.  What Jesus is saying is to not make them treasures, the things that you value above all else in life.

In fact in another place in the gospel of Matthew Jesus recommends such a different attitude on things that many people may have a hard time contemplating it:

 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  (Matthew 6:26-34 ESV)

This is quite a different attitude than you see with so many people.  So many people build their lives around the acquisition of worldly wealth: a nice house, nice cars, nice furniture, nice clothes, and lots of other nice things.  Again, Jesus is not saying that it is bad to have a nice house. He’s saying to not make a nice house your “treasure”.

The key to this mental shift is what you focus on in your heart and mind.  The apostle Paul explained it this way:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

(Colossians 3:2 ESV)

The whole third chapter of Paul’s book of Colossians is about putting on this mind that treasures things like love, peace, joy, compassion, and fellowship:

 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:14-17 ESV)

Does that sound hard to you? Well maybe if your whole life has been wrapped up in acquiring worldly treasures, it might. But if you are smarting from some hurt the world has dealt you lately, you should take these words to heart. Set your affections on things other than the things of this world. And, in fact, Jesus will tell you that doing the things he charges you to do like this actually gives you rest:

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

Now that just sounds perfectly refreshing to me. How about you?

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

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