Thus, where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.
Stuff, stuff, and more stuff… We fill our lives with stuff, we fill our homes with more stuff, and we fill the homes of others with even more stuff. In and of itself, stuff is not bad—we need stuff to survive. We need food to eat; we need water to drink; and we need shelter and protection from the elements. All of that is stuff. Certainly, some have more stuff than others, but it still is stuff. Frankly, I like stuff; I cannot deny it, but I would suggest that God also likes stuff. Roughly 6,000 years ago, God decided to create, well, stuff. And not only did God create stuff, but he pronounced it, “good.”
The problem with stuff is not the stuff itself, but what we use it for. Often, our stuff just collects dust. We fall into a trap of wanting to have stuff and more stuff just for the sake of having the stuff. Even worse, we find ourselves embattled with others, each trying to gain and secure more and more stuff than the other. Our lives begin to be consumed by the pursuit of stuff. Where does it all end!?!
Ultimately it does come to an end. There will come a time when all of us will die and leave behind our stuff to others. Death is the great equalizer as someone once said; we all die and we cannot take any of our stuff with us. Where we go next is not dependent on the stuff we have or even on what we have done with our stuff; where we go is dependent upon the finished work of Jesus Christ and whether or not our name is in his great Book of Life.
So, if my salvation is neither dependent upon the stuff I have nor upon how I use it, what does it matter? Jesus has some words to this question, because while your salvation is not dependent upon anything but Christ’s finished work, Christ’s finished work in your life should affect what you do with your stuff in this life. We are taught two major lessons about our stuff in scripture. The first is that God blesses us with stuff primarily so that we can be a blessing to others—not only in how we share our stuff with them, but in how we share our stuff with them for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.
The second thing we learn from Scripture is found in this verse—our heart will dwell with what we treasure. Now, for the Hebrew culture, the heart not so much reflects the passions as it does the personality and mind—in other words, the thing that you think about all of the time will be what you treasure. For the Christian, our minds and thoughts ought to be on Christ and upon God’s word; sadly, we often are tempted to fall into the trap of pursuing more stuff and in that pursuit they become consumed. The Apostle John warns about this trap:
Do not love the world, nor that which is in the world. If a certain person loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all of the things in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and arrogant living-is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away as well as its lusts. Yet, the one who does the will of God will continue living eternally. (1 John 2:15-17)
So, the question is not so much about the stuff, but it is about the heart. Have you set your heart upon God and upon the things of God or is it on the stuff that those who live in this world set their hearts upon. If, then, your heart is set upon God, the stuff that you have and accumulate in this life becomes rather secondary. And when stuff is secondary, using it to bless others becomes second nature. All our stuff comes from God anyhow, let us use it as an evangelistic tool and not an end in and of itself.
Recently, I was asked for some input on how I would structure a discipleship program if I were to have about 6 months of fairly intensive time to work with a small group of men. I thought that I would share my initial thoughts here.
When I began doing homeless ministry, I spent some time looking at some of the sermons found in the book of Acts to gain some insight into a model to base evangelistic preaching/teaching on. The model I came up with covered things in this order: 1) God’s glory, 2) man’s fallen state, 3) the work of Christ, 4) the promise of salvation coupled with the hope of ongoing sanctification in this life.
Unpackaging this in terms of a longer study would look something like this:
I. God’s Glory
a. Who is God?
i. names of God which reflect God’s character
ii. character traits of God
b. What has God done?
ii. Ordaining and Governing history
II. Man’s Fallen State
a. What does it mean to be made in God’s image?
i. the doctrine of the Imago Dei
ii. human dignity as a result of the Imago Dei
iii. the doctrine of the Imitatio Dei (how do we imitate God?)
b. What happened when Adam and Eve sinned?
i. Genesis 3
ii. The promise of a redeemer in Genesis 3
iii. Inherited sin guilt and the impossibility of our paying God back that sin debt on our own merit
c. How has the fall corrupted and contorted the Imago Dei?
i. Our aversion to the things of God and suppression of the truth
ii. The problem of pain–why do bad things happen to good people?
III. The Work of Christ
a. Who is Jesus and why is a Savior important?
i. the person and character of Christ
ii. the names of Christ
iii. the Old Testament prophesies of Christ
iv. The work of a mediator and paraclete
b. How Did Christ save us?
i. the preexistence of Christ
ii. the humiliation of Christ in life and in death
iii. the exaltation of Christ and his ongoing work as mediator at the right hand of God the Father
IV. The Promise of Salvation and the Hope of Sanctification
a. Who is the Holy Spirit?
i. the person of the Spirit
ii. the work of the Spirit
b. What is Faith and how is that tied to salvation?
i. The nature of Faith (Hebrews 11:1)
ii. Regeneration, Conversion, Repentance
c. What does it mean to be saved?
d. What happens next once I am saved?
i. Sanctification as a means to prepare for glory
ii. Living all of life “Coram Deo” or “Before the Face of God”
iii. 2 Peter 1:3-11 and adding to the faith as “Partakers of the Divine nature” (untwisting the Imago Dei–like having broken bones set)
iv. The fruit of the Spirit
v. The gifts of the Spirit