SINGLE VISION

Matt. 6:22,23 ¶ The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, 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 in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 

I love the teaching of Jesus, so simple a child can understand His words yet so profound that the scholars stumble over His message. In today’s verse Jesus is in the middle of a teaching on the Lord’s provision. He reminds His followers about the Father’s love for all of His creatures and how He lavishes His provision daily on all of His creation. He said that if the Father provides for His creatures how much more will He provide for His sons and daughters. So what do our eyes have to do with anything? This is the point, He is talking about spiritual vision and the focus of our love. If our affection and vision is focused on the things of this world our life is filled with darkness. If our affection is on Him, our whole being is filled with light. As a result we know our God will provide for us. Secondly, we will love His kingdom and want to invest our lives and our resources in His work. Here is how Albert Barnes describes this passage. 

“The sentiment stated in the preceding verses—the duty of fixing the affections on heavenly things—Jesus proceeds to illustrate by a reference to the eye. When the eye is directed singly and steadily towards an object, and is in health, or is single, everything is clear and plain. If it vibrates, flies to different objects, is fixed on no one singly, or is diseased, nothing is seen clearly. Everything is dim and confused. The man, therefore, is unsteady. The eye regulates the motion of the body. To have an object distinctly in view, is necessary to correct and regulate action. So Jesus says, in order that the conduct may be right, it is important to fix the affections on heaven. Having the affections there—having the eye of faith single, steady, unwavering—all the conduct will be correspondent.”

So that is just the way Jesus is, simple yet deeply profound. So, what is your “eye” fixed on? What is the object of your joy and affection? Answer those questions and you will find the condition of your soul. 

WHY I AM ALIVE

Rom. 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

When I think of my college years and the search I was on I always come to the same conclusion, I was searching for a purpose. I knew I was not an accident and there was some kind of plan for my life, I needed to find it. My purpose became clear when I stepped into the light of the Son of God. Like Blind Bartimaeus, the first thing I saw when the lights turned on was the beautiful, smiling face of Jesus. As I began to look around the landscape of my life over the next few days I saw my world differently. I finally saw it! Maybe I could not have articulated it at first, but I was born to glorify God with all my life and to enjoy Him forever.

That was the beginning of my discovery of the purposes of God. Like John Piper, and many others over the last 300 years, I learned about God’s purposes from Jonathan Edwards. He taught that our reason to live was to glorify God by pursuing and living for His glory. Here are some thoughts from John Piper about our reason to exist.

“All of this amounts to the deep and inescapable realization that God made the world to communicate his glory—that is, the greatness and beauty of his manifold perfections. And he made me to experience his glory, and through this experience to glorify and thank him. I am created to magnify the glory of God—not the way a microscope magnifies (making small things look bigger than they are), but the way a telescope magnifies (making things that appear small to the world look as gigantic as they really are). And I know intuitively that thanking God is a way of glorifying him. God’s glorious beneficence is magnified in my humble, dependent, thankful witness to his goodness to me. This is confirmed in Psalm 50:23: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.”
So, have you tasted this goodness for yourself? It is way different than I ever expected. It is in losing my life and identity in Christ that I gain my life and true identity. I am so grateful for that day that the Lord switched on the lights in my life, it is so good to be able to see through the fog of this world.

MADE FOR HIS GLORY

Rom. 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Revival really changed everything for me. I never realized how man centered I had made God. I thought everything in creation was about me, or mankind in general. I believed the chief purpose for creating everything was for man’s enjoyment and prosperity. That was radically turned upside down by the touch of God. What do I mean? I was always about God’s gifts to me, not really about God Himself, I was fixated on His blessings. The touch of God brought the Lord to the center of my life. In a moment of time I saw it, it was not His gifts that my heart yearned for, it was Him. That’s why everything in creation is aimed at glorifying God. When God is glorified and I step into that whole arena, I am satisfied, filled with ultimate joy. That’s it, God is glorified and my soul is happified (that is actually a word even if spellcheck doesn’t get it). Here is how John Piper describes this reality.

“It is also intuitively obvious to me that if God’s self-revelation obliges me to thank him, then the revelation of God’s glory is for my good, that is, for my enjoyment. This is what I sense intuitively. Paul expects us to discern this in the things that are made. And this is what I do discern: if there rises in my heart a profound indebtedness to God for the revelation of his glory, then I am a witness to the truth that this revelation is good for me. It is also self-evident to me that a gratitude to God that finds his gifts pleasing but his person displeasing is not a gratitude that glorifies him. Therefore, it is evident that in creation the goodness of God’s gifts are meant to give us a taste of the goodness of God himself. In this way, our thankfulness is a form of glorifying him, not just his gifts.”
So my ultimate happiness comes from knowing the Lord. This is what I was born for, this has become the definition of my life. Like Paul said in Phil. 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” When you find Him for yourself your real life will begin, like Jesus said, it’s in losing your life you finally find it.

THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT

Gen. 1:1-3 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

I saw the importance of the relationship between the Word and the Spirit from Dick Mills. Brother Mills memorized thousands of scripture passages as a young man, when he began to move in the power of the Spirit it became unusually powerful. He always spoke about the importance of the word and the Spirit and how they work together for the unveiling of God in our lives. Today, I try to build our church on these two pillars, the word and the Spirit. The word is the basic ingredient of our faith, the Holy Spirit makes it real. John Calvin was well none for his two fold emphasis, he taught that the word and the Spirit are the fountain of all divine revelation. Here are some comments from John Piper on Calvin’s emphasis.

“So two things came together for Calvin to give him a saving knowledge of God: Scripture itself and the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Neither alone suffices to save. But how does this actually work? What does the Spirit do? The answer is not that the Spirit gives us added revelation to what is in Scripture, but that he awakens us, as from the dead, to see and taste the divine reality of God in Scripture, which authenticates it as God’s own word. He says, “Our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty [in Scripture], lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy.” There’s the key for Calvin: the witness of God to Scripture is the immediate, unassailable, life-giving revelation to the mind of the majesty of God manifest in the Scriptures themselves.”

The gift of prophesy is the one gift of the Spirit that was emphasized by Paul. He said, “Covet earnestly spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy”. If Paul said it was something we should pursue it must be important. Think about it, what does prophesy consist of? Of course it is the classic picture of the combination of the word and the Spirit. If you want to follow Paul’s directive this is how you can do it, soak your mind in the word of God. Read it and chew on it incessantly. Next, be filled with the Spirit. If you do those two things, prophesy is not far away.

WOMEN IN MINISTRY

Luke 8:1-3 – Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

One of the blessings I have received over the years is being honored by ministering in many locations in the world. I have done meetings in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Central America, and Australia and all are beautiful and extremely diverse. There is one common denominator in all of the locations, there is always a much larger number of women in the services than me. I have thought a lot about it and concluded that women are naturally receivers and men are doers, most women recognize their need for the Lord much sooner than men. Reading between the lines it seems that was true in the ministry of Jesus as well, He was followed and supported by large numbers of women. In today’s verse Luke points out that women played a large role in the support of Jesus ministry. They used their substance, their finances and resources, for the work of the ministry. Here are some thoughts from the

UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE COMMENTARY about the role of women in the ministry of Jesus.
“Luke probably had three reasons for mentioning these women: (1) to show that the women who witnessed the crucifixion (Luke 23:49) and the empty tomb (24:10, 22, 24) had been with Jesus from the time of his Galilean ministry (which in effect meets the qualifications for apostleship in Acts 1:21-22); (2) to show that women may (and [Luke, p. 123] will) have influential roles in the church (see Acts 1:14; 8:12; 16:13-15; 17:4, 12; 18:24-26); and (3) to show that financial liberality is a mark of discipleship and is essential for the continuation of the ministry.”
We have seen a huge influence of ladies in our church over the years. Women have often been our largest financial supporters, cell leaders, ministers, teachers, soul winners, business and administrative leaders; actually women have lead every area of our church. Thank the Lord for the many women of God in the church. It seems that Jesus led the way in freeing women to be used for the work of the ministry.

LIT UP

1Th. 1:5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

Do you ever remember trying to read the Bible before you were born again? I remember as a teen when my dad shook the Bible in the air at me and told me I needed to ‘read this book’. I was headed down the wrong path and my dad was trying to get my attention. I actually did try to read it, starting in Genesis; I also remember not getting very far. The book can’t be understood without the Spirit’s illumination, it is closed to the lost. Actually, it is the work of the word and the Spirit together that begin the work of awakening in our soul. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word”. It is the Holy Spirit acting upon the Bible that gives us a glimpse of the glory of God, that is where spiritual awakening happens. John Piper explains this work of God using a quote from John Calvin. Here is Calvin’s quote and Piper’s explanation.
“ ‘Therefore illumined by [the Spirit’s] power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men.’

When Calvin says, in the above quote, that our certainty about the Scriptures comes from a sight of God’s glory, as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself, the words “as if” are simply meant to distinguish the “gazing upon the majesty of God himself” immediately, without Scripture as the prism in between, from gazing upon the majesty of God in Scripture. We really do see the majesty of God with the eyes of the heart; but we see it in the Scripture…”
Thinking back about that encounter with my dad and the Bible all those years ago makes me realize the importance of divine enlightenment. I didn’t understand it right then but over the next few years I opened that Bible up again and again. Finally, one day, the light turned on. It was just one verse of scripture that changed my world found in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the father except by Me”.

SEEING THE GLORY

2Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Salvation is an amazing thing. It is not based on our efforts but is entirely dependent on supernatural revelation. That is especially hard in our secular world, everything is so predictable and dependent on human talent and human effort. Something supernatural makes humans really uncomfortable because it places us in a place of total weakness and total dependency on something way out of our control. That “something” is the Lord and that thing that He does is a total work of grace. Unexplainable light begins to shine into our hearts from hearing or reading the Word of God. We become aware of our sinfulness, His mercy, and His power to change our lives. Like today’s verse says, we are transformed, totally and absolutely recreated into different kinds of people. The work of God is thorough, our very nature is different. Here is how John Piper describes it.

“This new birth, “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23), gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). This supernaturally given, spiritual sight of the glory of God in Christ is the ground of saving faith. God is seen with the eyes of the heart as truly as the eyes of our head see the sun in the sky. And this sight of the glory of God in Christ compels us. It is no more resistible than the enjoyment of your favorite food is resistible when it is in your mouth. And so it is when God becomes your favorite, by the opening of your eyes to see his convincing and enthralling beauty. To see him as supreme in beauty is to desire him above all.”

There is a suddenness as well as a long slow effect of this life change. For many, there is a dramatic life change almost instantaneously. For those who continue in His word, the supernatural change happens the rest of their lives. We are being changed from one degree of glory to another.