Selfishness – The Absence of Gratitude, Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus thanked God because of his Lordship, v25a

Jesus thanked God because of his wisdom, v25b

Jesus thanked God because of his grace, v26

Jesus thanked God because of his trust, v27

If there is a reason to maintain and improve your capacity to remember things, it is gratitude. Forgetting God’s benefits results in selfishness. The Psalmist declares that we should “forget not all his benefits” (103:2) It is from factual experience that we feel thankfulness by remembering who it is that is gracious to us, their grace motivates us to say and show grace to them and others. Grace is very contagious. Sharing thankfulness expels selfishness!

Consider how detestable ingratitude really is, as Paul describes ungodly people in Romans 1:21-22, “…they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened…”. One of the many sins listed as characteristic of this vicious pagan world, was ingratitude. Paul says people will be “unthankful” in 2Tim. 3:1-5 along with more obvious sins. God reckons ingratitude so detestable as to catalog it with the most tragic of transgressions. Shakespeare wrote, “blow, blow thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude”. So even though the Apostle Paul was in prison chains, he could still write, “giving thanks for all things” (Eph. 5:20)

The cure for ingratitude is to count our blessings and the greatest blessing is Jesus. Thanks saying is not necessarily thanks giving, but thanks living is. In response to the Psalmist’s question, “what will I give to the Lord for all his benefits toward me? (Psa. 116:12) Let us be determined that we will give to God our love, our time, our talents, our money, yes even our lives. Afterall it was He who gave us his Son’s life on a cross. If we find it hard to count our blessings, let us start with the spiritual ones. The forgiveness of all our sins, the presence of his Spirit, a name in the Book of Life, a residence in heaven, a peace that passes understanding, a crown of life, a loyal friend in Jesus and His love that never fails. If we do this, it will surprise you what the Lord has done and make you even more grateful than what you were before you started counting your blessings. Now start on your physical blessings and remember that people who are not humbly grateful are bound to become grumbly hateful. Read & memorize Philippians 2:14-15. If you choose to leave your heart empty of gratitude, the void in your heart will just be selfishness. Read Matthew 6:22-23.

Lust, The Absence of Devotion, Matthew 5:28-30

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “War is a terrible thing. But if you’re going to get into it, you’ve got to get into it all the way.” That principle is true in the war against physical enemies and also emotional enemies; lust. We won’t win by being halfway into it. But if we get into the battle all the way—God’s way, using His strategy—we can win!

Origen of Alexandria lived in the late second century and was famous for his literature in Christian theology. His devotion to Christ was so intense, he had himself castrated to defeat his battle with lust and enable himself to teach women the gospel. His zeal is admirable, but it is not what Christ wanted him to do with his instructions in Mt. 5:28-29. Afterall it is not the human eye that causes a person to commit lust, the real reason we lust is because we have not prepared our mind to be committed to true holiness and we have not prepared our heart to be committed to true love. Without this preparation, we are met with temptation and fall deep into the pit of lust. The first lesson we must learn, if we are to get prepared, is that lust is a complete fake, a poor substitution for true love. Lust creates a buzz that is a short-lived tune in the face of an orchestral masterpiece with movements that make love eternal. Jesus used the picture of gouging out our eye, to enforce the necessity of each person making a physical effort in defeating lust in our life. As Paul taught Timothy in 2Tm. 2:22. “Flee” youthful lusts. He didn’t say walk away, avoid or ignore, he said RUN AWAY from them! Kenny Rogers sang a popular song with the wise words, “you got to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em”. There are some battles we can win, and some we will always lose. Most men and some women find the battle against lust is always something we must run from, if we try to face it and fight with our own wit and strength, it will overcome us. Most human beings are designed with this appetite for sexual satisfaction that is insatiable. It may seem unfair that God made us this way, but God is calling us to holiness not impurity, He wants us to desire the real thing, not a fake substitute.

Job relates commitment or devotion to a part of his body that other prophets seem to ignore. I love the way the N.E.T. translates Job 31:1, “…how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?” The idea of entertaining thoughts is impossible for Job, who has made a covenant with his eyes. A covenant is a much stronger word than promise. His eyes and her body should be kept sacred in Job’s heart. A covenant is a deal Job has made with God. Here are the obvious details. If Job refrains from thinking lustfully with what his eyes see in a girl, then God will keep his heart pure, and the girl will never need to suffer being mentally undressed and looked upon as a cheap product instead of the sacred soul she truly is. Have you ever known how young girls are emotionally distressed when they learn that some men only look upon them as a mere morsel instead of a future woman of God, helping him bring life into the world? Youthful lusts are always abounding around us and sometimes from within us, but from whatever direction youthful lusts hit us, we must be prepared with God’s divine love, powerful promises and personal presence in His Spirit. Walk in His Spirit, Galatians 5:16. Ancient Solomon wrote in Proverbs 7:6-8 that a young man without sense will walk down streets and around corners where wild women live and end up devoured by lust, which wouldn’t happen if he avoided that address in the first place. Even King David was humiliated by his own lust, when he spent too much time in the spring when Kings should be busy with military strategy, instead of relaxing one evening from his rooftop, 2nd Samuel 11:1-3. The beautiful Bathsheba was too strong for his senses and he fell prey to his own desires, Bathsheba was innocently bathing and David was guilty of letting his guard down. He lacked a sense of devotion both to his wife Michal and his duties as a King during springtime. He failed in making a covenant with his eyes.

Greed – Loving Things instead of People.

Luke 12:15 is likely one of the hardest sayings of Jesus for Christians to practice from day to day. Not just because most people don’t know what coveting means, but because we don’t want to guard against it, when we learn what it is. Jesus enforces the 10th commandment but we rarely even pay attention to it. In this article, I’m not referring to single parents or to married spouses who must work because of financial adversity from just one income by their partner. But the grief that often comes through the neglect of children can’t be consoled by a bank balance. The love of money has caused many parents to hand their priceless children over to paid workers to care for them, not because they have to work, but because they choose to. They work either because they find their identity in a career rather than parenting, or because they want more things that money can buy and they won’t discipline themselves to live within the means of one sufficient wage. In this 21st century our society is a greedy capitalistic machine, destroying our nation from the inside out. See Ecclesiastes 5:10. For Christians that love money and allow greed to be a life-style, we get broken relationships, disappointments, and sorrows as self-inflicted wounds. They are the consequences of dethroning the Lord and enthroning money. That’s why the apostle Paul advised, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

God permits us to have material blessings for enjoyment, but He isn’t concerned about our possessions. It’s our attitude He cares about. Are we arrogant because we think we are better than someone who is poorer? Do we put our hope in wealth that can be lost, or on God who is eternal? Do we enjoy our possessions as gifts from a loving heavenly Father? Do we enjoy our home, our china, our window treatments, our furniture, our interior decorating, our patio, our yard, our clothes, and our car? Or do we look at them with an ungrateful heart, especially if we’ve just come from visiting someone with a much nicer home, wardrobe, or car? When we have Christ’s perspective, God will bless us with a joyous heart to share with people who are in need because this pleases Him and helps us enjoy liberal giving with the purpose of passing on the Good News. If there is more gratitude in our heart for what we possess, than there is envy, then we will have the motivation to share when given the opportunity. This is not just an attitude towards money but with every physical gift we have. Please see 2nd Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not …”

The condition of our heart is at the center of this disease in loving things instead of people. God’s Word begs us to run as fast as we can from the goal of acquiring material possessions. Recognize it, confess it as sin, and remember this Scripture, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:11-12).

Instead of defining our worth by our bank accounts, God wants us to be rich in good deeds, to be generous with our money, and to share with those who need it. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Prov. 19:17). Perhaps the best Scripture to memorize in order to combat this human frailty is Hebrews 13:5. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Contentment is based on our expectations and the best expectation is the promise of an eternal inheritance, instead of material things or money which is so temporary in this life

Worry, Misplaced Priorities

Most of us worry about the future, not because we fear it, but because we can’t control it. Thank God is in control and not us. Most of our worry is simply a lack of faith in the sovereignty of God as well as ignorance of his love. The time and energy we spend worrying can be draining us of strength to do something about it. We do indeed live in an age of anxiety, but Christ would have us be more concerned about the age to come. Live like tomorrow never comes, and eternity is already a part of today, John 10:10.

Anxiety that is not sinful:

There are mental illnesses that cause anxiety, which can not and should not be attributed to sin. The Lord cares for the sick, and we are instructed to pray in faith for all people that suffer ill health. For example, paranoid schizophrenia is only one of many illnesses that can exacerbate otherwise daily stressors that everyone must endure through daily life. But if a healthy person let’s our anxiety lead us to reject God and his word, then we are our own worst enemy, and will indeed fall into sin. If we are anxious by choice then being worrisome is a dangerous attitude, remember Philippians 2:26-27. But if we are suffering anxiety from a mental disorder and take worry to a paranoid level by no choice of our own, then we are at the mercy of God and need the grace of God in Christians moreso than other healthy people!

Anxiety that is sinful: 

Matthew recorded in 6:24-34, that Jesus prohibits worry. Three times he says, “Be Not Anxious”, v25, 31, 34. The way Jesus knew His Father cares for mere birds, was a great statement on God’s love for humanity, no matter how humans behave like animals, we are still worth more to Him than all the beauty of beastly creatures. To worry about being poor is to sin against the promises of a faithful God to take care of you, He’s done it for millions, he’ll do it for you. Jesus used the phrase “You of little faith” four times. In Mt. 6:30 he used it in connection with anxiety, in Mt. 8:26 in connection with fear, in Mt. 14:31 in connection with doubt, and in Mt. 16:8 in connection with human reasoning. In reverse order, it is noteworthy; human reasoning produces doubt, doubt produces fear and fear produces anxiety. Faith in Christ is the remedy for each of these heart conditions, John 14:1.

Anxiety that is actually healthy: 

Paul was right to be worried about the congregations he had a relationship with, but he needn’t be so worried about them that he would search for faults or dismiss their hopes and dreams of seeing Christ. His anxiety led him to pray and search for God’s will. See 2nd Corinthians 11:28-31. He didn’t hide his anxiety from Christians living unhealthy lifestyles, he told them the truth in love. If we trust God to share His love, then we can do something about the problems we worry about. His word is able to instruct us, He has given us wisdom, please use it, Read Ephesians 5:15-16.

Pessimism – Finding Faults

If you are one of those people that usually “sees the glass half empty and wants to point it out to others”. Most often, people like that are called pessimists, sometimes they prefer to call themselves “realists” however, reality is not as negative as they claim it is. Calling the glass half empty is a sentence of judgment on an object that could be positive. However, some people are by nature optimistic. They see the silver lining on every cloud. Others seem to have been born with a negative disposition and see no need to change it since “that’s just the way I am.” But, even if pessimism is just the way we are, should we remain that way? Being overly critical is discernment gone wrong, turning judgment into condemnation. Marshall Keeble said, “Christians are fruit inspectors”, not fruit judges. In other words, we have the goal of finding what is good, Philippians 4:8.

The opposite of pessimism is hope and the Bible is a book of hope, Psa. 119:105, Prv. 6:23. The Lord is the God of all hope, Rom. 15:13. From Genesis to Revelation, God weaves His theme of hope into the story of man’s sin and sin’s consequences. While many events recorded in the Bible seemed gloomy and hopeless at the time, God always offered a way to be restored, Deut. 30:1-2 & Zech. 1:3. 

Christians should view our pessimism as a negative trait to overcome. When we are walking with, living in, and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, He brings with Him love, joy, peace, and an ability to strengthen our faith, Gal. 5:22. Love “always hopes”, 1st Cor. 13:7. We should learn to listen to our own words, which can become negative by habit. When we are intentional about speaking the truth in love while responding to our situations, our pessimism can change into optimism. Also, praying in the Holy Spirit can build our faith up, to overcome negative thoughts that can fill our mind, if we let the world reside in us. 

We were doomed by our sin to an eternity without God, and we have no way to save ourselves, Rom. 3:23 & 6:23. In that condition, we had a right to be pessimistic. “Life is hard, then you die” is an accurate statement for those refusing God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life. But, for the Christian, the saying can be modified: “Life is hard, but Jesus is with me. And when I die, heaven is ours!” Jesus told His followers, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33. Because His victories are our victories, the knowledge that Christ has overcome the world should turn pessimists into optimists, Romans 8:37.

If we do not tackle pessimism, then our heart will grow hard, and hamper the fruit of the Spirit from growing to maturity. Tribulations in this world are real, remember the parable of Jesus and refuse to let the rocks stunt your growth! Matthew 13:20-21

Judgment (Possessing Prejudice)

We can easily forgive a child for being afraid of the dark but the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light! ~ (attributed to Plato)

Being prejudiced towards other people is like robbing ourselves of life and shutting ourselves up in a dark closet of ignorance, no other theft can leave us so poor as to be left with nothing but hate. We rob ourselves of opportunities to make new friends that we could have loved but regard as not worth being friendly towards. 

Here are a few facts to help prevent us from being prejudiced towards other people.

  1. Jesus the Jew died the same death and went through the same pain for EVERYONE, 1st Timothy 2:6
  2. Christ desires the good news to be spread throughout the whole world, Matthew 28:18-20
  3. When anyone is “in Christ”, everyone is united as one, Galatians 3:27-28
  4. Our God is not a respecter of persons, He looks on hearts, not skins, Acts 10:34-35 & 1st Sam. 16:7.
  5. Every person in Christ is not only reconciled to God, but also to all Christians, Ephesians 2:12-18.

When Paul says that there is no Greek, Jew, barbarian, or Scythian, (Col.3:11) he isn’t saying that each of those groups lose their identity. But he is saying that any sense of hierarchy or elitism between those groups has been destroyed in Jesus. That’s an important distinction. Our ethnicity isn’t gone—only the hostility between races, cultures and/or colors. That is great news if we want to be real with people and quit pretending to be color-blind. Jesus treated the foreign woman begging for help in this way, when he spoke so bluntly about the direction of his ministry & position in relation to her position in society, read Matthew 15:22-28. It is my belief that true freedom from being prejudiced towards other people of any color is only found in Christ, because only Christ has the solution to sin. His blood is red, just like ours, but the only red blood which was divine, and yet he painfully sacrificed it to make us one! Therefore we are obliged to love our neighbor, regardless of who they are.

Never forget that an honest person alters their opinion to fit the truth, whereas a prejudiced person alters the truth to fit their opinion. Jesus met Nathanael who was prejudiced towards anyone from Nazareth, (John 1:45-49) but he was encouraged to investigate by Philip. Jesus did not disappoint Nathanael, because Nathanael was honest enough to challenge his own prejudiced opinions and investigate. We need to be like Nathanael and admit our prejudiced feelings and examine them in prayer before God. Our prayers must never be like the pharisee recorded in Luke 18:9-14, thinking of a publican as bad as the worst publicans. The pharisee judged the publican guilty by association. We can have a negative attitude towards any rich person we meet by simply thinking he is greedy, selfish and dishonest. Some rich people are greedy, selfish and dishonest but that doesn’t mean we should think that way of any rich person we meet. Are all lawyers liars? Are all doctors quacks? Are all police prejudiced? We should do ourselves a favor and keep our mind open for investigation before we form an opinion about anyone.

The Cure for Heart Diseases

(Subjects For Future use in our Congregational Sunday morning Bible Discussions, starting 9 Aug 2020)

Judgement – possessing prejudice

Pessimism – looking for faults

Worry – misplaced priorities

Greed – loving things instead of people

Lust – the absence of devotion

Selfishness – being ungrateful

Laziness – missing the benefits of labor

Discouragement – neglecting our resources

Cowardice – letting fore-thought become fear-thought

Envy – being ignorant of coveting

Wrath – dealing with disappointed expectations

Hatred – failing to separate the sin from the sinner

Impatience – clinging on to immaturity

INTRODUCTION:

The basis for this series of discussions is to grow in our understanding of the difference between dignity and arrogance. Every Christian has the privilege of growing in the new creation God has for us in Christ. When we are being tempted, Satan can dupe us into committing sin and as a Christian we will need to renew our relationship with God. Paul spoke of this struggle even as an Apostle, he spoke of trying to kill off (crucify) the old self in order to enjoy the times of refreshing God has in store for us. See Acts 3:19 and Galatians 2:20. If the Apostle Paul considered his own salvation at risk, who are we to think our salvation can not be put at risk by our own sin? Read 1st Corinthians 9:22-27. Throughout our discussions we will touch on the part our pride plays in the various vices named above. Pride is our own worst enemy, because the human heart is deceptive, Jeremiah 17:9-10. However, our pride can also be healthy, see Matthew 22:39 & 1st Timothy 4:12. We should learn to trust Christ who is our only hope for keeping our pride in check and maintaining our dignity, instead of neglecting it and causing us to be arrogant. Because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, James 4:6. We must learn to understand and emulate the Apostle Paul when he taught the church to “crucify” ourselves, see Galatians 2:20. Remember the letter “i” is in the middle of sIn and prIde, which are both very dangerous subjects. A good memory verse to use, which will help us stay safe from sin and arrogant pride is John 5:30. Commit it to memory and follow Jesus with it daily. He is the cure!