Autumn is on us with all its beauty, and if you’re reading this on the day of publication the schools will be taking their half term break. In conversation one of our members told me that a colleague had said that they were taking the children away for Halloween. Such a comment made me think how much things have changed. A couple of generations ago Halloween was almost an incidental overshadowed by the later special date November 5th, Bonfire Night or putting it in its historical context, Guy Fawkes Day. How many people actually thought too much about the fact that a Roman Catholic group plotted to blow up the House of Lords with its Protestant king, is debatable. The shops were fall of fireworks, but there were very few ghoulish masks and costumes. A walk through any supermarket today will show you a very different picture. The focus has changed. Even Halloween itself has changed. No longer is there any thought of All Saints Day on November 1st, rather it is ‘Trick or Treat’ and the fear that people face when the door is knocked after dark.
Why do these changes happen? The answer is probably found in the Lord’s words in Mt. 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Obviously the Lord is speaking metaphorically with ‘treasure’ representing the things that are most precious to us, and ‘heart’ that part of our being that demonstrates our love and affection. The move from marking Guy Fawkes Day to emphasising Halloween shows how our life and cultures change without us noticing.
In light of that we have to face the questions, What is our treasure? Where is our heart? In what ways are we allowing the priorities of our lives to change and be changed?
The Great Commandment is – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37), similarly Proverbs 23:26 says “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” God wants our hearts, but so often our hearts are drawn away after other things or even other people. Think of the word ‘sweetheart’. We use it to describe the one that we love the most.
I am sure that Guy Fawkes Day was never a focus of great love, but for nearly 400 years it was a date worth remembering. He died in 1606, but in less than a life time he is virtually forgotten.
Does the Lord have the same place in our hearts that He once did? Do we love God and the things of God in the way that we once did? These are difficult questions to answer, because it is not easy to measure love, therefore we need an objective means with which to measure. Christ gives us those objective means.
He said, (John 14:15) “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Similarly when Peter was challenged about His love for Christ, Jesus said in effect, since you love me, ‘“Feed my lambs.” … “Tend my sheep.” … “Feed my sheep.”’ (Jn 21:15-17) Do we live consciously thinking, ‘I want to do what God wants me to do; I want to do all that I can to show love and support for my fellow Christians’? Those are Biblical tests, but there are also practical tests.
When we gather for worship, we are saying that we want God to be the priority of our lives and the focus of our attention. What keeps you from public worship? Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also! When we meet for prayer seeking the help and presence of God in our individual lives and our lives together, where are you? Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also!
My concern in this letter is not that I might impose on you some form of legalistic religion, but that we might all realise that we can lose our first love. The church in Ephesus received an incredible amount of help from Paul, but the Lord Jesus Christ wrote to them saying “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Rev 2:4) We each have to face the question “Who or what takes the priority of our lives?” If it is anything or anyone other than our Lord and Saviour then it is time to re-assess life’s priorities. If you need help in that then please seek it, but do not drift from the One who loves us and gave Himself for us.
Bernard Lewis November 2014