Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Which Eyes Do You Use More?

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17 (emphasis added)
A couple of months ago I wrote a post called Learning That Seeing Is Not Believing. I don't think that is exactly the way I should have put it. There is more that I should have said there that I didn't say because I think that in these verses the apostle John implies that he believes that seeing is a sense.

In describing that which is of the world, John speaks of the desires of the eyes as one of the things that is set against that which is of the Father. In other words, John is saying that the desires of the eyes will cause us to love the world. Why? Because the things that the world sets before our earthly eyes will lead us to believe that the world is more lovely than the Father and all that He is for us in Jesus. Seeing is believing. Therefore, we should not feed the desires of our eyes because doing this long enough will lead us to believe that those things are what will make us happiest. John believes this. And so do all the advertising agencies who spend billions of dollars producing commercials on television that prove (in merely one way) this biblical principle year in and year out.

So what is the antidote? If seeing is believing, then how do we go about living our lives in such a way that we will believe what we should believe and NOT something else? This was the question that I posed to the high school men at our weekly youth group last night. I think the answer is that though by nature we are inclined to use our earthly eyes to navigate through life and analyze the world we live in, when we are born again in Christ we are then to begin to instead use the eyes of our hearts to navigate through life and analyze the world that we live in. We must train ourselves to, from the moment we wake up each day, view everything and everyone we encounter through the eyes of our hearts rather than our earthly eyes. I say train because even after being born again, we are still inclined to see everything, life events and circumstances and all, with our earthly eyes rather than the eyes of our hearts. To use the eyes of our hearts is hard. Is this not why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16 that from now on (after conversion), we regard no one "according to the flesh" or, the RSV translation, "from a human point of view"? Is this not why he prays for the Ephesians that they will have "the eyes of their hearts enlightened" (Ephesians 1:18)?

If we walk through life using mainly our earthly eyes, we are bound to live like the rest of the world and make shipwreck of our faith sooner than we think. Only when we use the eyes of our hearts can we know the hope to which we have been called and the greatness of God's glorious inheritance and his immeasurable power toward us who believe on Christ (Ephesians 1:18,19). Why? Because, when we do this, we are looking at things that the rest of the world cannot see! Why would we ever want to look at the things that they have no choice but to look at?

As I was trying to explain this to the young men, it didn't occur to me until later that night once I got home that an illustration of this principle was happening at the very moment I was speaking of it. As I led our small group group discussion for the first time last night, it seemed like I was met with an unstirred silence, question after question. I would just look at each of the guys. And I could feel myself thinking, "There is absolutely nothing going on inside of their hearts and minds. This is not effective." And of course, this made me feel as though I had messed up and done something wrong because obviously if I had done things differently, asked more thought-provoking questions, then they all would have been sharing vulnerably with deep conviction.

As I was talking to my roommate later that night about how we need to use the eyes of our hearts more than our earthly eyes, it struck me then that as I spoke to the high school men about learning to use the eyes of their hearts more than their earthly eyes, I was in that moment using my earthly eyes rather than the eyes of my heart. What a hypocrite! My earthly eyes led me to believe because of their seeming unresponsiveness that the night was an unfruitful one while using the eyes of my heart would have led me to believe that as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall God's words be that go forth from His mouth. They shall not return to Him empty but shall accomplish all that He purposes and succeed in the things for which He sent them (Isaiah 55:10, 11). This is the difference between using our earthly eyes and using the eyes of our hearts, which in is essence means to live wholly on the promises of God that all find their Yes in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20) in God's timing. And the result is worlds apart. In fact, it is eternal destinations apart.

And the desires of the eyes doesn't only have to do with things we might naturally associate with the world, like money and sex. It also has to do with things we might naturally call spiritual, like ministry. Could this be what is beneath a by-any-means-necessary pursuit of numerical growth?

So, which eyes do you use more? Your earthly eyes or the eyes of your heart? What do you believe more? Feelings for the present or promises for the future? I know what the answer is for me. And I have much, much training to do.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

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