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What the Bible says about Singleness Of Purpose
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 1:10

The male goat represents strong-mindedness, singleness of purpose, and leadership rather than following. Interestingly, Scripture does not view the goat in nearly as good a light as a sheep. Perhaps this is so because people who exercise these characteristics are frequently offensive to their brethren and tend to go off in their own direction in their drive to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, a great deal of ego often accompanies leadership and initiative.

First, let us look at the good side. Jeremiah 50:8 contains this curious command to those living in Babylon. "Move from the midst of Babylon, go out of the land of the Chaldeans; and be like the rams [margin, male goats] before the flocks." Proverbs 30:29-31 from the NIV helps explain. "There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king with his army around him." The imagery of a he-goat in its positive sense is of leadership. If it is among a flock of sheep, it assumes command. Along with this is a sense of dignity, stately bearing, and undaunted courage—but also a strong inclination toward haughtiness.

We see the downside of the goat imagery in Matthew 25:33, 41 where Christ rejects the goats, representing people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering

Deuteronomy 6:4

God's mind is absolutely undivided. In practical application, this means that His sovereignty can never be separated from His love; His grace cannot be separated from His omniscience; His judgment cannot be separated from either His mercy or His wrath. God is absolutely constant because His faithful providence cannot be separated from any other of His attributes. God is whole and complete. Under every circumstance, He is never confused or uncertain about what to do. He is always headed in the same direction, which is to complete His purpose.

It is absolutely impossible for Him to do anything that is not wise and at the same time loving. It is He who tells us how to live and how to be like Him. What God is has awesome ramifications for us because we are so different, and He wants us to be like Him, to be one with Him, to be whole, to be complete, to be undivided in mind like Him.

There are problems here because becoming this way requires a measure of cooperation from us. Compared to God, our mind is all over the place, and thus we are so easily distracted from our focus.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God

Deuteronomy 30:1-10

God's regathering of national Israel to the Land of Promise is a major theme of Scripture. (For examples, see; Isaiah 27:12; Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:7-8; Jeremiah 50:4-5, 19-20; Ezekiel 36:33; Amos 9:11-15; compare Romans 11:11-36.)

Considering only the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 30:1-10 by far contains the fullest revelation of God's commitment to regather scattered Israel to the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 4:30-31 also touches on the topic.) Remarkable in this passage is the repetition of the Hebrew verb shuv, which means "to return," "to restore," "to reverse," or "to revoke." It means "to go back.” Its first use is in Genesis 3:19, where God speaks of Adam's retu?rning to the dust of the ground.

In this passage, sometimes God does the returning, and other times Israel does it. This interplay between actors—God and Israel—reveals a basic principle underlying the relationship between God and His people, the principle of reciprocity. To be dynamic and growing, a relationship with God requires action on the part of God and man. The various uses of shuv in Deuteronomy 30:1-10 illustrate this reciprocity, an interplay of actions and reactions.

  1. Verse 1: Collectively, the peoples of Israel will “call [shuv] to mind” not only the blessings they have enjoyed as a result of obeying God but also the curses they suffer when they disobey Him. They will come to recognize the cause-and-effect relationship between obedience and blessings and between rebellion and curses. In this verse, shuv carries the idea of bringing to mind, or remembering.

    Importantly, however, other scriptures show that it is God, not humans, who initiates the process of repentance. In II Timothy 2:25, the apostle Paul points out that God grants repentance; it is a gift from God. In John 14:26, Jesus teaches us that a function of God's Holy Spirit is to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Christ will kickstart the whole regathering process by bringing Deuteronomy 28, which specifically relates blessings to obedience and curses to disobedience, to the mind of His scattered people.

  2. Verse 2: The people “return [shuv] to the LORD.” This is clearly something the people do in response to God's initiating repentance. The idea is that distressed Israel will turn to God, that is, repent, as the people reflect on the blessings they once enjoyed and on the curses they are now experiencing.

  3. Verse 3: As a result of Israel's repentance, God will “bring you back [shuv] from captivity,” the captivity they have suffered during the time of Jacob's Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:21). God here uses shuv in a general sense, meaning to “restore your fortunes” (Christian Standard Bible) or “reverse your exile” (Complete Jewish Bible).

  4. Verse 3: God is more specific in the next clause of verse 3. He does not “restore” by returning Israel to the lands of her exile. Rather, He will “return” for the purpose of gathering His people. The Living Bible has it, “He . . . will come [shuv] and gather you. . . .” Upon His return to earth (Zechariah 14:4), Christ will personally turn His hand to the task of regathering His people Israel to the Promised Land.

  5. Verse 8: Israel “will again [shuv] obey” God. The translators of the Common English Bible lay stress on Israel's repentance by translating shuv as “change”: “You will change and obey.” Frankly, shuv may have double meaning in verse 8, referring 1) to Israel's repentance, a change of mind and action, and 2) Israel's physical returning to the Promised Land. The folk will follow Christ as He leads them to the land, just as He led their ancestors so many centuries earlier, carrying them on metaphorical eagles' wings (Exodus 19:4) out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus.

  6. Verse 9: God, pleased at Israel's new spirit of obedience, “will again [shuv] rejoice” over His people. He will return to a state of joy. Compare Isaiah 62:5; 65:19; Jeremiah 32:41; and Zephaniah 3:17.

  7. Verse 10: As a sort of postscript, God reiterates what He said in verse 2, that Israel's repentance, her “turn[ing] to the LORD,” must be absolutely sincere, “with all your heart and with all your soul.” Such singleness of mind and purpose must be the bedrock of any relationship with God. Compare Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:5; and Matthew 22:37.

Deuteronomy 30:1-10 may be the most concentrated exposition in the Scriptures of the reciprocity God expects in His relationship with His people. There, transaction after transaction illustrates the action-reaction interplay between God and His people.

Charles Whitaker

Proverbs 23:7

In one sense, what we are cannot be hidden. This proverb cautions a person to understand that people can be two-faced, playing the role of an actor or a hypocrite. The words that come out of the mouth may be far different from what the heart really means. The heart, however, cannot really be hidden; it will reveal its true intentions and feelings in time. It is good to understand this and thus protect ourselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?

Matthew 6:22-24

Jesus urges single-mindedness! The teaching here involves simplicity of intention in living one's life. In light of verse Matthew 6:33, verse 24 shows we must focus our attention on our highest priority. When that is done, it indicates devotion to purpose and undivided loyalty to the object of that purpose.

In geometry, it is impossible to draw more than one straight line between two points. Though other lines may start at the same point, only one will reach the second point. All others end up somewhere else. Likewise, a person who tries to focus on several goals at once has no clear orientation, and he will wind up elsewhere.

Some commentaries note that the ancients believed that light entered a person through the eyes, the "windows" of the body. If the eyes were in good condition, the whole body benefited from the unimpeded light. If the eye were not sound or "single," the whole body's effectiveness was diminished. Thus a person who single-mindedly pursues God's Kingdom and His righteousness will have moral healthiness and simple, unaffected goodness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!

Matthew 6:22-23

In verse 22, the word single means "whole," "undivided," implying seeing things in their reality since the eye is not diseased in any way. In verse 23, Jesus says, "if your eye be evil." Here the word evil means "divided" or "unhealthy." He is using this illustration to indicate that, if the eye is in good health and is able to see clearly, a person has a good chance of being able to see at least the physical reality clearly.

But if a person's eye is diseased—if there is macular degeneration or cataracts forming, or if the muscles of an old person's eye are not working properly so that he loses maybe his close-up or distant vision—we know that he will not have clear sight unless those conditions are corrected in some way.

The real subject of Jesus' saying is the importance of being able to focus in order to fulfill one's purpose in life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God

2 Corinthians 11:3

Simplicity means single, without ulterior motive, pure, sincere, and unambiguous. Vincent's Word Studies (vol. 3, p. 346), defines it as "single-hearted loyalty." It is the opposite of deceit, guile, error, and wandering.

Some things in God's Word are difficult to understand (II Peter 3:16), but the Bible nowhere tries to produce doubt, confusion, or division by any means (I Timothy 6:3-5; II Timothy 2:14). Even Balaam knew that "God is not a man, that He should lie" (Numbers 23:19)! Jesus says, "[God's] word is truth" (John 17:17). The doctrines of God follow a logical and true sequence, locking together like a picture puzzle to comprise the true gospel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies

James 1:5-8

Our Creator promises us wisdom—but only under the condition that we do not waver or be double-minded. I have sweat plenty over these verses through the years, having had to battle indecision. Likewise, when I pray, I have problems concentrating. I have battled doubts and fears when I have asked to be anointed.

But is simple mind-wandering or normal doubts the subject of James' reprimand? Or is it something else? Perhaps mind-wandering, indecisiveness, and doubting are more symptomatic than the actual causes of double-mindedness.

The apostle Paul writes that anyone who comes to God must believe that He is and diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). If we are in a conference with a human being, it is rude to tune him out, fall asleep on him, or become distracted. Some of my students have done that to me—giving me an insight on how God must feel when our minds wander when we pray, study, or meditate. Inattention and mind-wandering, although they are related to double-mindedness, do not seem to be what James had in mind.

The anguished father in Mark 9:24, who says, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" might be accused of being double-minded, but he is not. He desperately wants to believe, and he asks for help. He is not of two opinions.

The Greek word translated "double-minded" in James 1:8, dipsuchos,in its literal sense means "double-souled," like having two independent wills. The words "with no doubting" in verse 6 are translated from the Greek words meedén diakrinómenos,which describes one divided in mind, who wavers between two opinions.

Some may wonder whether the apostle Paul, when he complains, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice" (Romans 7:19), was exercising double-mindedness. This state of struggle that goes on in all of us is not the same as double-mindedness. Paul's mind, he goes on to explain, is focused one way, in one direction (verse 22), but inherent in the flesh of every human being is an innate enmity toward God and His law (Romans 7:23; 8:7). Just like Paul, we also fail to keep God's law perfectly because we have human nature in us that is perpetually at war with God's Holy Spirit in us.

All of us have a deep-seated desire to be at one with ourselves. We will not realize this desire until we are totally composed of spirit. Until then, we can expect a spiritual tug of war to go on perpetually. As more of God's Spirit flows through us, renewing our minds and displacing our carnality, we will find it easier to keep our carnal nature in check. All of us, I trust, can point to certain areas in our lives that are now under control—but which at one time were not under control. The spiritual struggle occurring in all of us between our spiritual and carnal natures is not double-mindedness.

Double-mindedness is literally having two separate minds holding contradictory thoughts. Double-mindedness occurs in a church member when he has an implicit or explicit knowledge of God's law, yet deliberately harbors a sin, choosing to conceal it, repress it, or ignore it.

James supports this explanation of double-mindedness in James 4:8: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double-minded." Anything one willingly does or does not do that is contrary to God's law (verse 17) makes one guilty of double-mindedness. Double-mindedness depends on a knowledge of and a willful intent to reject God's law, as the psalmist writes in Psalm 119:113: "I hate the double-minded, but I love your law." On the other side, being synchronized with God's law is equated with singleness of purpose and leads to peace of mind and a feeling of wholeness. The same psalmist writes, "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble" (Psalm 119:165).

God's law itself is the vehicle of wisdom that the petitioner requests in James 1:5. It would be absurd for someone to ask to be filled with the spirit of the law and simultaneously be determined not to keep it. Sometimes we inadvertently do this when we ask a minister or counselor for advice on a problem—but have already purposed in our minds to do it our own way. Then when the minister tells us something that goes against what we have purposed to do in our inner being, a highly uncomfortable state of dissonance emerges.

Harboring any secret sin puts a tremendous strain on the nervous system. Psychologists have a name for this emotional/psychological turmoil: cognitive dissonance, literally "inharmonious thought."

People who have left the truth often report that they feel more at peace with themselves now than at any time they were in the church. This should not surprise us. When someone tries to submit to God's law with a carnal mind, unbearable cognitive dissonance occurs. The nervous system plunges into a tailspin until it achieves a sense of equilibrium or wholeness. Carnal nature does not feel comfortable in the light of God's law: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). The easiest way to find equilibrium is to reject the beliefs that send them into a spiritual dither.

David F. Maas
Spiritual Double Agents

James 1:6-8

We do not need to have the fears we sometimes associate with James 1:6-8. We can take comfort in the knowledge that mind-wandering and normal doubts and fears, while they are undesirable and should be rooted out, are not really what James has in mind. He is warning against double-mindedness. Double-mindedness requires knowing God's law and making a premeditated effort to subvert it and then justify the behavior.

Double-mindedness did not apparently apply to Uzzah, who broke God's law in ignorance or foolishness (II Samuel 6:6-7). However, it does apply to Saul, whom God ordered to destroy the Amalekites totally, but only accomplished 80% of his objectives (I Samuel 15). When confronted with his compromise, Saul makes a whole series of excuses. Excuses and alibis are the defense mechanisms used by double-minded people. If we put sin out of our lives as soon as we find it, or as soon as it is pointed out to us, we do not have to worry about making and remembering excuses or alibis.

Double-mindedness occurs when we harbor a sin and still appear to live God's way. Tares, during their formative (immature) period, look just like wheat, yet mature wheat and tares do not look the same (Matthew 13:30). Over time, the tare is exposed because it does not mature like the wheat. So a double-minded "Christian" will become obvious by his lack of fruit and worldly, hypocritical attitude and behavior. Interestingly, God leaves the tares among the wheat ultimately to benefit the wheat.

A double-minded person cannot have God's Holy Spirit within him (Romans 8:5, 8-9; Galatians 5:16-17). Jesus says we cannot serve two masters because our allegiance will really be to one or the other (Matthew 6:24). One cannot be a double agent with the world and a member of God's church (II Corinthians 6:17-18; I John 2:15-17).

God demands that we choose one way or the other—but not straddle the fence. We cannot have it both ways. Unless in the battle between the spirit and the flesh we throw down the gauntlet in favor of our spiritual selves, we run the risk of being torn to pieces psychologically and emotionally.

Recall Psalm 119:113: "I hate the double-minded, but I love Your law." Notice that the antidote to double-mindedness is yielding to God's law. Wholeness and singleness of purpose are the result of keeping God's law through the power of Christ working in us. As our Lord reminds us in His Sermon on the Mount, "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good [single, KJV; focused, directed], your whole body will be full of light" (Matthew 6:22).

David F. Maas
Spiritual Double Agents

1 Peter 2:1-2

Following I Peter 2:1, in which he admonishes us to rid ourselves of the fruits of spiritual junk food, Peter lists evidence of a mind afflicted with a poor spiritual diet. Malice is ill will, the desire to inflict pain. Deceit is lying or crafty, seductive, and slanderous activity. Hypocrisy is pretending to be what one is not. Envy is the strong desire to possess what belongs to another. Evil speaking is using the tongue to gossip, deceive others, or destroy reputations.

Peter proceeds to encourage us to crave God's Word just as a baby craves milk. He is not encouraging us to desire elementary spiritual food but emphasizing the energy we should exert to get good spiritual food. Babies demand milk as if their very life hangs in the balance at each feeding.

The apostle calls God's Word pure, meaning uncontaminated, unpolluted by fraud or deceit. God's Word is truth (John 17:17). David says that God's Word is refined seven times (Psalm 12:6). Truly, Peter is teaching us that God's Word promotes spiritual growth and good health just as good food can do physically.

In using milk as a metaphor, Peter is in no way chiding people as Paul does in Hebrews 5:12-14. The former uses milk simply as a nourishing food because his emphasis is on desire, not depth. Paul uses milk as a metaphor for elementary because he wants to shock the Hebrews into comprehending how far they had slipped from their former state of conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)


 




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