Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cataracts - physical and spiritual

"No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays." (Luke 11:33-36 NASB)

We are currently taking a detour through a few eye diseases to help us understand the concept of "clear eye" and to make spiritual applications. We have previously considered Macular DegenerationGlaucoma, and Detached Retina. You can click on the links to see those. Today, we are exploring Cataracts. 

A cataract is a clouding of the part of the eye known as the lens. Much like the lens in a camera, the lens of our eye focuses light on the retina. If the lens is clouded, the image we see is blurred. The lens is made of protein and water but, as we age, the protein can clump together. The "clump" is known as a cataract and can increase in size over time. Eventually, the "protein clump" (or cataract) can grow large enough that it blurs vision enough to impact our daily activities. When that happens, surgical removal is the only solution.

Risk factors for cataracts include diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, and excessive exposure to sunlight. We can help prevent cataracts with a few simple techniques. Stop drinking alcohol. Stop smoking. Keep blood sugars down. Eat green leafy vegetables. Wear sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim when outside.

How do you know you have a cataract? In addition to blurry vision, colors seem faded, night vision decreases, glare from lights seems too bright. They are diagnosed by an eye professional and treated with surgery when the cataract begins to impair lifestyle.

Cataracts in our eyes are very common as we age, but cataracts in our heart are just as common. We are both flesh and spirit, but when we allow our "flesh" to exert a greater influence on our lives and our choices than the Spirit of God, problems will result. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Galatians.

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:17, 19-21 NASB)

I wish I could say that I am perfect, but you know that I am not. Neither you nor I will be perfect until we reach heaven. Until then, we will encounter opportunities to sin every day of our lives. I wish it were not so, but it is. Every single day, we have a chance to choose or reject sin. Some days, I do pretty well. Other days, I choose sin before I realize I'm doing it. There are times, though, when I choose sin because I want to choose it. Perhaps you do that, too. It saddens me that I, who have known so much of God's grace and mercy, can fail Him so miserably. 

When I consider what Christ paid to free me from sin, I am appalled at my own choices, my own behavior. Like the apostle Paul, I want to choose righteousness, holiness every time. Like him, sin and flesh war within me, and, of course, within you. 

When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it acts a little like the protein clumps that form a cataract. It grows inside our hearts like an insidious cancer. Unrepentant anger becomes seething anger, then bitterness, then hatred. That's just one example, but you and I know how tenacious sin can be. It clings. It grows. It clouds our spiritual vision. 

The longer we leave sin unchecked, the worse our spiritual vision grows. Faster than we can believe, the deeds of the flesh begin to look normal to us. Sin becomes more comfortable than righteousness. 

There is only one solution. Surgery. We must allow Christ to remove our sin and cleanse our hearts. I learned this song as a little girl, but it is still true today.

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

The first step in treatment is diagnosis, so let's allow the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts for hidden, unrepentant sin, then allow Him to cleanse us once again. When He creates in us a clean heart, He also renews a right spirit within us. (Psalm 51:10) If we want clear vision, those things that cloud our vision must go. In their place, however, the Spirit will leave a beautiful gift that makes the "surgery" all the more precious. When our eye is clear, our whole body is full of light, and what a wonderful light it is! 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)