If Your Eye is Clear
Study Guide, October 9, 2022
Pastor Clay Olsen
One of the amazing principles that comes out the Scriptures is that in life it is not only ‘what’ we see, but ‘how’ we see that is important. Consider this statement: ‘You don’t see the world as it is…you see the world as you are.’ How remarkable is that? Just think: People can be looking at the same picture, looking at the same event, looking at the same issue, looking at the same scene, yet seeing each of these things entirely differently from each other. What’s the difference? Let’s explore.
In the midst of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He revealed a truly eye-opening reality to us who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Let’s look: Matt 6:22-23- “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!” NASU Jesus was in the midst of teaching us all about the need for preparing for Kingdom living by laying up our treasures in Heaven. He was calling for us to prioritize our attitude toward the material world by connecting it to the spiritual world. And we do this by serving God first and foremost through the stewardship of our treasures. As has been stated: Money makes a terrible master, but it makes a great servant. We can serve God greatly through the service of our treasures. Throughout history God has often richly blessed His people and looked for His people to then richly bless others through His rich provisions. And then He promises to multiply those blessings back to His generous servants…in His times and in His ways, but with His promises of that to be sure!
So having a clear eye about this and a clear understanding about this and acting on this simply influences your entire life and future as well. But having a bad eye, or a dark attitude from loving the things of this world more than the Giver of the things of this world just creates more and more darkness in the mind and soul. And instead of the material things then being a blessing to you and others, it becomes a curse to you and others. Instead of your resources being multiplied back to you by God, they simply rust and turn to dust. Rather, if we think clearly about this we will then see clearly and then will clearly be rewarded because of our being rich in good works and in sharing with others, and thus investing in the Kingdom.
All right…then also uncovered in Jesus’ revelation about the ‘eye’ is how crucial it is to have a clear eye and to guard against having a bad eye. For one leads to blessing and further light, and the other leads to destruction and further darkness. And again, who you are powerfully influences everything you see as well as what you do. So basically – your eye is your character. And why this is essential to understand is because it explains why people see what they see and why they do what they do. For again, you do not see the world as it is, you see the world as you are!
Case in point: The Prophet Elijah was one of the noblest, committed, and faithful followers of God in the history of God’s people. He looked at life through eyes of faithfulness and duty to God. Everything he saw around him in his nation he saw through the filter of God’s sovereignty and authority over all the nation and over all of life. He looked at life through a character that was developed through the daily disciplines of seeking to please and obey His Lord and Redeemer. And therefore, he not only looked at everything around him through these ‘lenses of humble obedience to God’, but he was then able to discern the righteousness or the unrighteousness of everything around him based upon seeing it from God’s viewpoint of all things.
On the other hand, you have King Ahab, son of Omri, one of the orneriest Kings of Israel. Omri the Ornery! But Ahab followed well in his footsteps. Ahab incited the judgment of God by not only continuing the calf worship of Jeroboam, but also adding the worship of Baal to the mix. Ahab looked at life through the bad eye of pride and self-centeredness…of deciding for himself what was good or not, instead of looking to God to reveal what was righteous or unrighteous. Ahab even had a man put to death just because he wanted the man’s vineyard for himself. He was one bad grape …or apple.
But here’s the thing, when Ahab saw Elijah coming to confront him, this is how Ahab saw Elijah: “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” Elijah said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals.” 1 Kings 18:17-18 NASU So basically, Ahab says to Elijah: “You’re the trouble-maker!” And Elijah says to Ahab: “No, you are the trouble-maker!” Ahab didn’t see Elijah as Elijah really was, but as Ahab really was, the real trouble-maker. However, Elijah clearly did see Ahab as he was because he was seeing Ahab through a ‘clear eye’…through sight that had been developed through obedience to God and God’s Word.
Mark it down: Your vision of this world and even of the world to come is only as clear as your character development and your obedience to God. Everything you see is affected by those two things. Spiritual vision is measured by the qualities of your character and obedience to God. You cannot see more clearly than you have developed in your character and obedience to God. You cannot understand further than you have developed in your character and obedience to God. In fact, you cannot accomplish anything of lasting value greater than what you have accomplished in the development your character and have achieved in your obedience to God.
The Apostle Peter makes that as clear as can be made clear. And although we have expounded on this passage before, this is the central teaching on how your life will be measured as ‘useful and fruitful’ or ‘not useful and unfruitful’. It is the true measure of ‘success’ in life, as well it will determine the abundance of your Kingdom privileges or the forfeiture of them. So note carefully: 2 Peter 1:2-11- “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” NASU
This is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture for understanding what discipleship is really all about; conformity to the image of Christ. And, as we have stated before, sometimes you catch the impact of what the Scriptures are saying by also saying what the Scriptures are not saying. Say what? Like verse 8 says: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So note that this Scripture does not say; For if these qualities are not yours and are not increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course that is not what is says! It says that if these qualities are not yours and are not increasing then they will indeed render your works not useful and unfruitful! And who wants to have God reveal to them that the sum of their works have been examined by God and have been determined to be ‘not useful and unfruitful’ because they were not obedient to increasing in the practice these character qualities, which God instructed us to practice?!
Do you see what God is saying to us through the Apostle Peter? All of our works, the successfulness of the efforts of our lives, all of the real fruit that was grown or will remain from the deeds of our days, will all be measured by these seven character qualities, which of course, all had their perfection in Christ. But God intends for each of us to increasingly practice each one of these of our lives. And then God will use these character qualities to determine the usefulness and the fruitfulness of what we did and what we said and how we lived since becoming born again into the family of God. Again, it is not perfection that God is looking for in our Christ-like character development. However, what God certainly is looking for is for each of us to be practicing each of these in an ever ‘increasing’ way in our development of them. Otherwise, the works of our lives will have to be counted as ‘not useful and unfruitful’.
Note that the first character quality that God is looking for us to be giving great effort to practicing and increasing in its development is this – ‘moral excellence’! God begins the list with morality…why? Because if it breaks down here, it will breakdown everywhere else. Why do seemingly intelligent, talented, and accomplished Christians often finish so poorly, so tarnished, so damaged in reputation and impact on other’s lives? It’s because of a breakdown in morality in their lives. History is filled with their stories. Why do seemingly good, church going, community contributing marriages and families often break apart at some point? It’s often because of a breakdown in morality in someone’s life. History is filled with their stories. Why do strong, affluent, and world leading nations often decline into weak leadership and damaged cultures and hurting people? It’s because of a breakdown in morality. As President John Adams stated: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” History is filled with stories of nations that collapsed because of the decay of immorality in their leaders and their people. And friends, that decay is on full display right now in our nation. And be sure of this: the battle between morality and immorality is the true battle in America today! A nation cannot lose to immorality and hope to win in peace and community. Immorality is the destroyer of nations. Especially for the follower of Christ, we each have to recommit to strive for moral excellence in our individual lives, our family life, our church life, and community lives. We must choose the morals of the Scriptures over the immoralities of our society.
And then note that God ends the list of these seven qualities with ‘Love’. And this ‘love’, as defined by the Scriptures, is what God then uses in the evaluation of our lives to determine the true lasting value and the actual real profit of the works, the words, and the deeds of our lives. In a pivotal teaching in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul made this point as clear as can be made. It is often used in wedding devotionals, but it was written to followers of Christ, in order to both understand what Biblical love is as opposed to worldly love, and to also then warn them to be careful to order their works in such a way that their failure to inject God’s love in their works would not destroy everything they thought they were building, again, by tearing it down with their failure to build with this critical tool of God’s love. For God’s love is the most important tool in building God’s Kingdom. That’s what Paul is revealing to us.
Note: 1 Cor 13:1-7- “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” NLT
How interesting here that the Apostle himself tells us both what love is and what love is not! And that is priceless information to know. So whatever a person may think or have thought, or imagined, or learned, or assumed about what love is, the reality is that genuine love is exactly what God says it is right here. First notice what love is not: Love is not envious, boastful, proud, or rude with others or destructively critical toward others. Love is not selfish, not demanding so as to have its own way, not controlling and uncaring about the feelings and interests of others. Love is not irritable, not easily offended, even though for unloving people it seems so easy and comfortable for them to offend others. How ironic it us that easily offended people are often the same ones that are so easily offended by others, at least in their minds. Then – Love does not keep records of how they have perceived that others have offended them; they do not hold onto grudges nor keep reminding others of their sins. Once again, the irony of it – that, if they would have been loving, they would have also then been forgiving and would release others from that sin. (Which by the way, we are to understand that boastful, proud, rude, and grudge holding individuals also have a twisted understanding of forgiveness, in that while they think that others should forgive and forget their sins toward them, yet they do not forgive nor do they forget the seeming sins of others toward themselves. To proud and calloused people, forgiveness is a one-way street, always in their favor, but not reciprocated with either their apologies or their forgiveness. For if they did that, that would require them to change, to repent, and to become someone they have not been…caring and cooperative, as opposed to being the critical and controlling spirit that they have been and still are.)
Mark this down: Practicing Biblical love has nothing to do with your personality. It has everything to do with your obedience to Christ! For to become a loving follower of Christ, the Apostles Paul and Peter state that God is instructing us all to practice and then commit to increasingly become more and more patient with others, more kind in our speech and conduct toward others, seeking to learn and know truth – regardless of what you previously thought about anything, being more hopeful and encouraging others around you to be hopeful as well, and to practice forbearance – enduring and overlooking seeming slights as well as actual troubles, all for the sake of showing not only your love, but showing Christ’s love to someone else, just as Christ has shown His love towards you. You are simply passing on the love that Christ has shown to you!
And remember, none of this is a suggestion by God for those who are so inclined to be caring and cooperative with others. It is not an option for those who have critical spirits and controlling personalities to just not pay attention to it, as though it doesn’t apply to them. No, it is God’s wake-up call to each of us and the commandments of God to us, in which He is informing us and warning us that without practicing and infusing His way of love into our words and into our works, then when He adds up the sum of our life’s works, He will have to pronounce them as having accomplished ‘nothing’…exactly as Paul warned us about.
Remember this: the practice of Biblical love is either the ‘highlighter’ over the works of our lives or the ‘eraser’ over the works of our lives. Will your works be highlighted and counted for reward forever…or erased and counted as loss forever? Every day we make the choices about what we will do about living out these essential character qualities. But God will choose the consequences of what we did about it when He evaluates our works and efforts to be awarded with ‘rewards’, or God judges that our works and efforts are to be counted as ‘loss’. We are deciding every day if our words and works are like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals and will profit nothing of lasting value, or if our words and works are like sweet offerings that are pleasing to God and will result in multiplied privileges and rewards forever and ever in God’s soon coming Kingdom.
And how like our God that it all comes down to ‘showing the love to others that Christ showed to us’. Eph 4:30-32- “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” NLT