It is easy to tear off the calendar page for April and move on with the rest of the year. It is equally easy to put Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday in the “done that” column and move on with the rest of our lives. However, that is not God’s plan for us. It never was.
The death of Jesus on the cross was a “one time, for all time” event (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27, 9:27-28). Because of it, our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled with God the Father, and the gates of Heaven are thrown wide open to us and our loved ones. In return, Jesus asks for something from us. He asks that we now live for Him.
Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior requires both words and action, which is why Jesus declared, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NIV). A life in Christ requires a life of Christ. It requires that we allow God to change us – transform us – into warriors for the Kingdom of God. Our weapons, however, are not made by human hands; they are forged by God Himself, and they are known by such names as service, sacrifice, forgiveness, kindness, and mercy. But before we can go forth and do battle for others, we must begin with the first person on our list: ourselves.
The person in the mirror
Once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we belong to Him and become a “new creation” in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). That, however, is only the beginning of our story.
From time to time, every Christian needs to look in the mirror and ask the hard question, “Am I truly living for Jesus Christ?” Like a ship with an imprecise compass, we can travel far off course without meaning to do so or even realizing that we have done so.
One area in need of constant self-examination is what we are allowing into our lives that, in turn, is shaping our lives.
Jesus speaks – and people listen
One day during His ministry on earth, Jesus, seeing a crowd of people, went up on a mountainside with His disciples, sat down, and began to teach. This “Sermon on the Mount,” as it is commonly known, contains some of the most important lessons for living as a follower of Christ. It begins with “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:3-12) and then gives us the new paradigm of “salt and light” for our work for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:13-16). It continues with an exposition of the Ten Commandments and Jewish law in general (Matthew 5:17-48) and goes on to address several practices that, as believers, we can use to draw closer to God: giving to the needy, praying, and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18). It then turns to the subject of Heaven and provides us specific guidance for finding – and staying on – our path homeward (Matthew 6:19-34). It is here that we find God’s wisdom on how to shape our hearts, minds, and bodies – in other words, everything we are and everything we have – for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, including our own. Every part of this message needs to be read and re-read by all Christians, but one part, only two verses long, is especially crucial for us today.
The lamp of the body
“The lamp of the body is the eye,” Jesus proclaimed. “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be!” (Matthew 6:22-23, NABRE)
Jesus was not talking about nearsightedness, farsightedness, cataracts, or any other physical condition of the human eye. He was talking about what we allow into our hearts and minds through our eyes. And what is at stake is not our physical sight but our eternal souls.
Another translation of the Word of God puts it even more clearly: “If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!” (Matthew 6:22-23, TLB)
Light or darkness – the choice is ours
Not so very long ago, men and women had to go out of their way to allow evil to enter through their eyes. Whether meeting a group of other people, traveling to a specific location, or just buying a magazine or movie ticket, plans had to be made and then carried out. Today, life is much easier – but choosing to live for Jesus is much harder.
Today, through the power of the internet, computers, game consoles, and television, every major temptation, and every major sin, can be ours for the taking in the comfort of our own home or room. No lines, no waiting, and no judgment by anyone. Or so it seems.
Craving violence, rage, or revenge? No problem; just put in a video game, watch certain television shows, or rent or stream certain movies.
Feeling lustful? Want to take the love out of God’s creation and reduce it to purely mechanical acts involving people of every color, build, age, and gender? Again, no problem; just search the internet, enter your credit card number, and sin away.
Or we can choose not to play that video game – or watch that movie or television show – or visit that internet site. In short, we can choose not to surrender to Satan and instead choose to live for Jesus.
The choice is ours. More precisely, the choice, for you, is yours.
Living for Jesus
Jesus does not ask us to live for Him for His sake; He asks us to do so for our sake. With every temptation we knowingly overcome, and with every sacrifice we willingly make, we grow stronger and more courageous – and closer to the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That, in the end, is not only our goal but also our eternal reward (Philippians 3:14).
Join me today in living for Jesus. Join me in vowing to keep ourselves pure in body and mind by protecting our eyes from the evil that wants so desperately to infect us. You can do it. I know you can. More importantly, God knows you can.
And I am praying for you.
-- Dr. John Morris