Sermon on the Mount (Part 4): A Focused Life

Sermon on the Mount (Part 4): A Focused Life

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described the life of a disciple as a focused life. The Lord does not expect His people to drift aimlessly through life. We are to live with focus and determination. However, we must also be careful about what we choose as the object of our focus. It is possible for us to focus on the wrong things. In the verses we will consider, Jesus explained what a disciple is and is not to pursue in this focused life.

Our Focus Affects Us in Eternity

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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Jesus spoke of storing up treasures and said there were two places in which we can do this. First, we can “store up…treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19). This is not about every form of saving or investing that one might do. We are expected to do these to some degree (2 Corinthians 12:14; Proverbs 13:22). Rather, this is about focusing on material things to the exclusion of spiritual things. This was the fault of the rich land owner in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:15-21). After a particularly bountiful harvest, the man found that he was not able to store all of his crops and decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones. This, in and of itself, was not wrong. The problem was that he did all of this and neglected his spiritual well-being. The man said, “I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry’” (Luke 12:19). He believed that material things should be his primary focus at that point in his life. Perhaps later he would focus on things that pertained to his soul, but not at the present time. God called him a “fool” because he was not prepared to meet the Lord when his soul was required of him (Like 12:20). To focus on material things to the point that we have no time to tend to our soul’s well-being, we place our eternal fate in jeopardy.

Second, we can “store up…treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). This is done by serving God so that we can be rewarded with a home in heaven. Timothy was to instruct the rich “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:18-19). As we noted in the previous paragraph, it is not wrong to be rich or to accumulate a degree of material goods. However, we must be good stewards of what God has blessed us with so that we can, by being “rich in good works,” store up “the treasure of a good foundation” in heaven.

Jesus then said that where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be (Matthew 6:21). To have our heart somewhere is to focus on that and make it our priority. [We will discuss this more later in this lesson.]

However, there is also the sense in which the location of our treasure affects our eternal souls. Notice what Paul wrote to Timothy: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty or riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). We must understand the difference between life and “life indeed.Life refers to our physical existence here on the earth while “life indeed” is eternal life with the Lord in heaven. If we focus exclusively on the things of this life – or even make them a higher priority than the things that pertain to “life indeed” – we will miss out on eternal life. If this happens, we will have no hope. Nothing of this world to which we devoted so much time and energy will be able to save us in the end. Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). If we want to enjoy eternal life, we must focus on the right things now.

Our Focus Affects Us Here on Earth

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Jesus said that “the eye is the lamp of the body” (Matthew 6:22). The eye is what we use to focus. It is the input through which we bring things into our hearts. Jesus taught here that the object of our focus, whatever that might be, affects our lives here on the earth.

He said, “If your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). If we focus on things that are good and right, our lives will reflect that. Paul wrote, “Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell [meditate, NKJV] on these things” (Philippians 4:8). When we choose to focus on the types of things that Paul mentioned, good fruit will be produced in our lives.

In contrast, Jesus said, “If your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:23). If our focus is not where it ought to be, our heart will become corrupt. If our heart is corrupt, our whole life will be corrupt because all of our actions come from the heart. The wise man said, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Unless we are deliberately acting hypocritically, our outward actions will reflect what is in our heart. Jesus said elsewhere, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Matthew 15:19-20). To prevent these sins – and others like them – from being displayed in our lives, we must keep our heart pure. The way to keep our heart pure is to keep our focus away from those things that are corrupt.

Regarding the darkness that is produced by having the wrong object of our focus, Jesus added, “How great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). The point is that the negative effects of this misplaced focus are worse than we realize. Therefore, it is not something to be taken lightly. David wrote, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3). We must recognize the essentiality of focusing on the right things and make that same commitment.

Our Focus Affects Our Relationship with God

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

Jesus said we cannot serve two masters. This is true because we can only focus on a limited number of things. It is especially true when the two masters we attempt to serve are opposed to one another. In this case, we cannot ride the fence; we must make a choice. Like the Christians in Thessalonica who “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9), we must turn from every other idol and serve God alone.

Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). This is an impossibility. Jesus mentioned wealth because it fit in the context, but the same is true for any other master. God expects us to be wholly devoted to Him. Quoting from the Old Law – which expressed what God has always wanted the attitude of His people to be – Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5). We must serve God first in our lives. Everything else – like wealth – must fit within that life of service, not the other way around. The wise man wrote, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). Our service to God must come before everything else.

If we turn our focus away from God to other things, we cannot serve God acceptably. Consider the example of Solomon: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4). Notice that the text does not say that Solomon completely rejected God, just that he was no longer “wholly devoted” to Him. He may have continued to serve God to some degree, but he also worshiped the false gods of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11:5-8) – something the Lord had specifically warned His people about (1 Kings 11:1-2; cf. Deuteronomy 7:2-4). However, the fact that Solomon was not “wholly devoted” to God was enough for “the Lord [to be] angry with Solomon” and “tear the kingdom from [him]” (1 Kings 11:9, 11). If we, like Solomon, attempt to serve other “gods” besides the Lord, He will reject us. We cannot divide our allegiance and divert our focus away from God and still expect to please Him.

Our Focus Reflects Our Faith and Priorities

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25-34).

First, what we focus on in this life reflects our faith. Jesus said that our “life [is] more than food” (Matthew 6:25). The word life in that verse is the Greek word for soul. Jesus’ point is that there is more to our existence than what is physical. We must have faith – “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) – to understand that. However, even though Jesus emphasized the spiritual nature of our existence, He still reminded His audience of the fact that God has proven that He will take care of His own. His providential care of the birds, flowers, and grass are cited as proof that God will provide for us (Matthew 6:26, 28-30).

In additional to this, Jesus made the point that worrying – which is a product of a lack of faith – does us no good: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). Another translation states that worrying cannot “add one cubit to [one’s] stature” (NKJV). In other words, worrying is a pointless activity. Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:32). Earlier, in His discussion about prayer, He said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The Lord is aware of our needs and will provide for us – “all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). We must have enough faith in the Lord that we focus on spiritual things without worrying about physical things.

Second, what we focus on in this life reflects our priorities. Jesus said we are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). To seek these things first means they are our highest priorities. To seek the kingdom is to make His church (cf. Matthew 16:18-19) a priority in our lives. This means we must obey the gospel in order to become part of His church (Acts 2:38-41, 47) and then be an active worker within that body (Ephesians 4:16). To seek righteousness means to diligently study God’s word – since it reveals His righteousness to us (Romans 1:16-17) – and then practice righteousness (1 John 3:7) by obeying His word.

Jesus then warned, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Worrying about the future prevents us from doing what we should be doing in our service to God today. Each day, we must make His kingdom and His righteousness a priority. Seeking the kingdom today means becoming a Christian (if one has not already done this) and being an active member of the Lord’s church. Seeking righteousness today means following the instructions contained in God’s word. These are not things that can be put off for a future time. We should not be like the rich fool who thought he could focus on spiritual things after he dealt with what he thought were more pressing matters (Luke 12:15-21). We must do them today.

Conclusion

Rather than drift aimlessly through life, God wants us to live lives of focus and determination; but we must focus on the right things. Disciples of Christ are to focus on those things which are spiritual and eternal. If we trust in God and put the things of God first, He will reward us – this reward from God must be the object of our focus.


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