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How To Escape The Rat Race... Forever!, Part 1

From the series Balancing Life's Demands

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, you can’t trust in material things to come through for you. Chip reveals how to rise above the daily grind and escape the rat race forever.

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Message Transcript

I’d like to start with a little story. I think it’s a little bit of a funny story, but it comes out of the Midwest. It may be, even, apocryphal, so don’t try and find this anywhere, but I think it’s an old, old story. But the story goes like this.

There was a very strong Bible church, Bible-teaching church, and they had what they called, years ago, “revival meetings”. And so, once a year, they would bring in a great Bible teacher, and they had revival meetings. It was a very small town – it was up in the mountains – and a very small community, and everyone knew everyone.

But they always knew what was going to happen on Friday night. On Friday night, they had a town drunk, and he chose Friday night, and he would come, and he would sit in the back, and he would listen to the message.

And near the end of the message, you would hear, “Ohhh! Amen! Um-hmmm-hmmmm-hmmmm! Yes, Lord, that’s what I need to do!” And so, they would give a time of invitation, where people could come forward and deal with God. And everyone knew, on Friday night, the town drunk came through. I mean, for the last fifteen years, every Friday night, he would come forward.

So, it was Friday night. He had moaned; he had groaned. He had “amened.” And now, he is walking forward. And he comes, and, you know, he sort of had this down: “Oh, Lord! Ohhhh, Lord! Ohhhh, the cobwebs of sin that I have been entangled in! Oh, Lord, I just ask, once, please, remove the cobwebs! Remove the cobwebs in the tangled sin of my life!”

And there was a man – after fifteen years – who’d heard this for fourteen years, and he stood up in the back and, in a very loud voice, said, “Dear Lord, forget the cobwebs! Kill the spider!”

And I’d like to suggest that we’ve really addressed a lot of the cobwebs of priorities, of time, and money, and relationships, that we have said, “Okay, what’s really important? We want to put first things first. We want to keep first things first. We want to develop some discipline. We want to do it in the right way. We want to do it with a perspective that it’s relational and from the heart.”

And my concern is that you’ll go for two weeks, maybe some of you for two months, and you’ll start knocking out the cobwebs: “Oh, we’ve got a budget now. We’re now giving off the first portion. Okay, I’m starting to spend some time with God.”

You start reading your Bible more, might even join a small group or get in a Bible study. You know, you start changing a little bit what you’re going to do with your giving.

And all these things are extraordinarily important, but you sort of, “Mmmm,” and then, after three months, six months, eight months, nine months, a year, “Oh, Lord, the cobwebs of those priorities! Oh, Lord, You know what it’s like. There are so many demands on my time! Oh, Lord, you know, we were on a budget for a while, and we didn’t expect that doctor bill, and then, there was that camp, and then, we really need…and…”

I’m kind of messing with you. But I’d like to suggest that to move beyond the periphery, we need to get to the “kill the spider”.

What’s at the heart of misplaced priorities? What is it that keeps pulling us in ways that our priorities, over and over and over, get out of whack? And Jesus is going to address it. Jesus is going to say, “There is a singular, root cause to misplaced priorities, and it is the spider. And you need to kill the spider. And when you do, the cobwebs will go away.”

And if you’ll notice in your notes, He’s going to give a warning, and Jesus will teach us, in Matthew 6:19 through the end of the chapter, that the root problem in priority living is – and here’s the word you can write – materialism. Materialism.

Now, before you get all uptight and think, Oh, he’s going to talk about I have too much and is it wrong to have this and every time someone brings this up, I feel guilty – just lighten up, okay? Just lighten up. Let’s analyze, what is materialism? First, let me give you a definition, and don’t try and write all this down at this point. Try and think about what it says.

Materialism, by the way, is a disease of both the rich and the poor, and everyone in between. It has little or nothing to do with what you have. It is a condition of the heart, where I am leaning, trusting, depending, or even believing that the outward props of things, money, and possessions, and the fame, status, and power that they provide, have the ability to achieve for me inward peace, happiness, and satisfaction in my life. Materialism is a condition of the heart.

I can show you people that don’t have two nickels to rub against each other, that are shot through with materialism, as evidenced by, when they get their first three dollars, they go to 7-Eleven and buy a lotto ticket, because, “Man, if I could hit the lotto, then everything would be okay.”

And most of them will never take the time to read some of the research, and, actually, some of the – it’s sad – books of tracing the lives of people after they’ve won the lotto. The percentage who end in divorce, the percentage that say it ruined their life, the percentage who say, “If I could do it all over again and not get it, I would do it.” But see, it’s a condition of the heart.

And I could show you people with great wealth, who have so many things to keep up with – so much stuff, so much demand – that their time and their energy, it’s not like they feel stuck on it, it’s just, their time and their energy, because they unconsciously have been led to believe, I need to have these things, and there’s no margin in their life. Their problem is not, “Can I get it or ever have it?” Their problem is, it has them, and they don’t even know it.

Material things are in no way – listen carefully – evil, in and of themselves. You might jot in the notes – I’ve quoted it several times. 1 Timothy 6:17. Paul says, “Instruct those” – teach those – “who are rich in this present world” – that’s you; that’s me – “not to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but to fix their hope on God, who supplies us with all things to enjoy.” The “all things” are material things. The goal is to enjoy. They can never be my hope. Don’t be conceited. Don’t be arrogant, he says, and fix your hope on those things.

So the problem is not that things are evil, in themselves. It’s when I’m trusting in or even desiring them with the belief that they can fill the inner void in my life and bring significance, security, peace, joy, and meaning. And what He’s going to do, from verse 19 through the end of the chapter is He’s going to teach you, and He’s going to teach me, how to kill the spider of materialism, so it will once and for all begin to remove the cobwebs of misplaced priorities.

Now, the structure of this is very important. You’ve noticed in your notes I’ve put it on the right side. The context is – what? It’s Matthew 6, verses 1 through 18.

And remember, He talked about – what? He talked about giving, He talked about prayer, and He talked about fasting. What is the one thing that was true of His teaching about giving, prayer, and fasting?

When you pray, when you fast, when you give, don’t do it like the [Congregation: Pharisees] to be seen of men, but when you do it, do it in secret, so your Father who sees in secret – here’s my point.

Here’s what I want you to get: The context of what we’re going to see is two motives. You can either impress people, or you can please God.

And then, the text will unfold, because the question is, “Well, how do you know what your motives are? I mean, He just told me my motives need to be secret and to pleasing God. Well, how do I know? Who can know what’s in your heart?” Well, in verses 19 through 21, He’s going to say, “Guess what, I will show you a very clear way to know exactly what your motives are. The two motives will reveal two treasures.”

And then, after that, He’s going to say, “Now that you understand that there are two treasures – one eternal and one temporal – I’m going to tell you where those treasures come from. There are two eyes; there are two perspectives about life.” And then, finally, those two perspectives will determine two options, two masters. Let me walk through the passage with you.

Okay, Lord, we understand, when we pray, when we give, when we fast, we need to do it with the right motive. Your means of protecting our motive is secrecy. Well, how do we know what our motives are?

Here’s what He says – verse 19, Matthew 6: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” – the reason – “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Translation – it’s a bad investment.

“But store up for yourselves” – will you underline the word for yourselves? This is not about deprivation. This is about doing something good for you. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And so, He just makes a point. He goes, “If you want to know what your motives are, it’s pretty simple. Where’s your treasure?”

Your money is the greatest, clearest, true revealer of your heart. Our trust always follows our treasure. Our trust – what I believe is going to come through for me. People whose god is gold always have anxiety. People whose God is Christ, even in the midst of varied circumstances, can relax. He says there are two treasures. So, He says be smart. Invest your treasures in what’s ahead.

And then, He says, “Well, okay, okay, now I can – I can see where my motives are. If I want to do an acid test of where my motives and heart are, I’m going to look at my treasure.” And the treasure of money, for sure, but I would also say the treasure of my time, the treasure of my energy. Well, what are the resources? What is the wealth that I have, and where do I spend that wealth? That will tell me my true treasure, my true motives.

And then, there’s this kind of interesting passage – I mean, really interesting little passage here. And notice what it says. He says that, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good” – circle the word good, and then, above it, write the word singular. “If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad” – circle bad, and, actually, then write the word evil underneath that – “your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Now, it’s really interesting, here. He’s going to say, the eye is the lamp of the body. And He’s using this play on words, and He’s going to help you see that your outlook will determine your outcome. Your perception will determine your pursuits. He’s going to say, what you and I perceive to be as important is what we will passionately pursue. So, I jotted a few thoughts. A mother, her children. A man, his work. An athlete, his workout. An artist, his art. A musician, his music. A Christian, his God.

He’s going to say, if you don’t know what drives your desires – He says, “If your eye is clear.” The word is haplous. It literally means “to be without any folds in it”. In Latin, it’s translated simplex. It has the idea of simplicity; clear, singular focus.

On the contrast, from clear, singular, there are two motives, there are two treasures. Really, He’s getting down to the eye, physically – wherever the eye goes, the whole body follows, right? I mean, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. Whatever I see, I can see, perceive, make direction. He says your desire, your core beliefs, your passions, your pursuits, what you believe – if it’s clear, if it’s singular, if it’s on God, if it’s honoring Him, if it’s being the man, the woman that you know He wants you to be – He says your whole body will be full of light. Everything else comes.

He said, however, you can have these external things going on, and religious activities. If your eye is evil, if there’s duplicity, if your deep belief is that things and power and status and possessions can deliver satisfaction, meaning, and significance, He says your whole body will be full of darkness.

Your eye, or desire, if it’s clean, healthy, undivided, and godly – your whole life will be directed and affected by God’s blessing, power, and presence. It has the idea of undivided loyalty to God, singleness of purpose, if you will. If your eye focus is bad, your whole life will be infected by darkness, and ultimately destroyed.

The word for evil here, it’s very interesting. It’s poneros. It means “evil; corrupt; perverted.” It’s used for food that has been spoiled or is unsuitable to eat. It’s something separated or anti-God. It’s translated in Matthew 18:22. Remember the worthless servant? That’s this word. John’s Gospel contrasts this word – you’ll hear it against God’s light, God’s Word, God’s work. In Matthew 13:19, the article, there, is added, and the hoponeros is “the evil one.”

And the point I want to make, here, is simply at the heart of all these things we’re talking about – cobwebs, priorities, time, money, symptoms – He said, “There are two motives in walking with Me.” Those two motives lead to your treasure. Your treasure will tell you where your motives are. But what treasure you pursue has to do with your core beliefs, passions, desires. What do you really, really want? What do you believe – not what you say, not even what you verbalize – but what do your actions demonstrate is your core pursuit in life.

And then, notice what Jesus will say. He says you can have only one of two masters. It will be either mammon or Him. Right after the two eyes. I mean, it’s an amazing thought, here. He says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” It doesn’t say you cannot have God and have money; it says you cannot serve God and money.

The battle in priorities boils down to, you either have faith in God and His promises for peace, security, significance, and your passion is a relationship with Him, or you have faith in things and their power to deliver for your life. And so, what you have, here is it is clearly laid out as anywhere in Scripture. This is the issue: materialism. It’s a condition of the heart.

How do you go about it? Well, check your motives. There are some practices. Where’s your treasure? It’s the revealer. Check, then, your eye – where’s it focused? And then, finally, your eye will reveal one master or another Master.

Now, here’s the question – I mean, this is the question that brings everything we’ve talked about in the series to a head. Here’s the fundamental question. You’ll notice, I put it in your notes. It says, “Do not allow the pursuit of material things to thwart your spiritual development.” I mean, that’s the statement. That’s what He’s saying.

But then the question is, how can we live in a material world without becoming materialistic? Isn’t that it? I mean, I’ve got news for you. There are college tuitions, and you save for this, and you have house payments, and, “I’ve got to rent this; I’ve got to do that. I’ve got to buy food; I’ve got responsibilities. So, I live in a material world. I can’t come up to some mountaintop and hear great things about God. Buddy, when I get home, I got bills to pay. I got issues. I’ve got tuition. I’ve got car repairs; I’ve got doctor bills.” How do you live in a material world, without being materialistic?

And you’ll notice, remember when Jesus was talking about spiritual growth and spiritual development, how it happens, and He was talking about the power of God’s Word, and He says, the Word of God is like a seed, and the man went out and sowed the seed. And there are four types of soils, and the soils are the human hearts, and Satan comes and the hard soil takes it away. And there’s one that sprouts up quickly, and then persecution comes, and it dies out.

The third seed – remember, it grows up, but the thorns grow up around it, and it chokes out the life of truth in your heart and soul. Does anybody remember? It’s the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches – the deceitfulness.

By the way, when your money is messing you up, when your possessions are messing you up, I got news. You don’t know about it. That’s what deceit means. We read stuff, say, “Well, oh, yeah. Boy, I’ll bet there are some people out there that are really deceived.” No – no, you don’t get it. I’m deceived. It’s how much.

And then, that last part. This is why we don’t have margin in our lives. Not just the deceitfulness of riches, but He says, and the concern, the worry, the preoccupation with – what? Other things. What other things? Other things, other than what really matters. He’s talking about priorities.

And so, what I want to do is, I want to walk, now, through verses 24 through 33, and we’re going to get the solution.

This is how you kill the spider. And then, those priorities and practices and disciplines are how you maintain that relationship of – what? Having the right motives – “I want to please God” – of doing – what? Looking at treasure as some tug of war? No.

I want my treasure to be an investment where it’s going to make the most. So, I want to invest the treasure of my money and my time and my heart and my energy in people, not in things, in doing things that last forever, in loving people, rather than using people to get things.

Well, how does it happen? Well, let’s pick it up at verse 24. He says, “No one can serve two masters.” We’ve heard that. “Either he’ll hate the one or love the other, or he’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other.” And before we go on, because we are Americans – can you just swallow hard? – you can’t have it both ways, all right? That’s what we want to do: “Oh, I love God with all my heart, and…” All right? You can’t have it both ways, according to Jesus: “You cannot serve both God and money.”

“Therefore I tell you” – therefore. When you see that, what do you mean? Well, what’s He say? “Hey, hey, I understand. This is axiomatic. This is truth. Therefore, let Me give you the solution! Let Me help you learn how not to be materialistic.” “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or your body, what you will wear.” And then, we get a rhetorical question: “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” And we would all say, “Well, yes.”

Or, illustration number two: “Look at the birds of the air; they don’t sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” And then, some logic, application: “Are you not much more valuable than they?” And it’s grammatically in such a way that the answer is, overwhelmingly, of course you are.

Then, by the way, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to this life?” Logical conclusion – let’s see, no one.

And then, a question: “And why do you worry about clothes?” Illustration number two: I mean, see the lilies of the field? “They don’t labor or spin.” They’re not wiped out. They’re not in minivans and SUVs and having bills up to their eyeballs. They’re not stressed out. They’re not uptight. They don’t feel like their life’s out of control. They’re not taking pills to go to sleep at night and pills to get them up in the morning. They don’t feel like everyone’s pulling on them from every direction, and there’s no way to find some peace and direction. Gosh, that passage really opened up, didn’t it?

It says, “I tell you that Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these.” Now, again, the a priori logic, from lesser to greater: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, will He not much more clothe you” – and circle this phrase – “O you of little faith?”

The issue behind materialism, at the core, has nothing to do with things, or even money. It has to do with faith; it has to do with trust: “Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me to come through for you, yes, in the material necessities? But do you trust Me to come through for you, that you’re significant and valuable the way I made you? Do you trust that if you would find My purpose and My role for your life – that you don’t have to look like that, you don’t have to live in that zip code, you don’t have to drive that, you don’t have to have so many people know you? Can you trust Me that if you do life My way, the deepest things that you long for in your heart, I’m going to give you? Because I’m good, and I love you.”

That’s really what He’s getting to. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?’”

And His point is that you don’t look any different than the pagans.