Out of Focus


Have you ever taken what you thought was going to be a great picture only to discover that your camera focused on an object or person that you did not intend to make the main focus of your shot? It has happened to me many times.  Everything I wanted to take a picture of was in the shot but the resulting image just wasn’t what I intended. Simply put, my lens was aimed in the right direction but focused on the wrong object.

Focus (noun) –

  1. a center of activity, attraction, or attention, i.e., the focus of the meeting was John 3:16
  2. a point of concentration
  3. directed attention

Examples of FOCUS

  1. He’s successful, but he feels that his life lacks focus.
  2. His life lacks a focus.

Jesus repeatedly taught on the focus of our lives; specifically in regards to our relationship with God. Much of the Old and New Testament deals with keeping the focus of our lives upon our relationship with God and having godly relationships with people; warning us to avoid the pitfalls of focusing upon form, ceremony and religious tradition. In the New Testament the most vocal opponents to Jesus’ teachings and ministry were frequently religious leaders. The amazing thing was the religious leaders that Jesus frequently sparred with were not from a different religion but from the very faith He Himself is the fulfillment of.

Many times we hear messages concerning, Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and hypocrites. Anyone who reads the Gospels will find that Jesus had much to say concerning these people.  It is very easy for us to spot the hypocrisy of others but it is rare that will take the time to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what is truly there.

For those (like myself) who worship in a modern church and not a traditional mainline Protestant or Catholic congregation it is far too easy for us to point to the religious traditions of those who are “less radical” than ourselves as Pharisaical while overlooking or ignoring the modern hypocrisy we build into our “emerging church” environments. Let’s refresh ourselves on what the Lord had to say concerning hypocrisy or lack of proper focus:

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT)

 

I was meditating upon having a Biblical focus in life while at the same time looking at my life and the church around me and can’t help but asking these questions:

  • Whose responsibility is it to care for the poor?
  • Is my prayer life indicative of a person who loves God with their entire being?
  • Whose responsibility is it to relieve the suffering of the oppressed and downtrodden?
  • Am I more familiar with Christian entertainers and celebrity Ministers than I am with the Bible?
  • Whose responsibility is it to ensure the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in every nation?
  • Who is more celebrated in our churches, worship leaders or missionaries?
  • Whose responsibility is to teach our children the bible?
  • Would believers support the effort to feed hungry people or human trafficking if televangelists didn’t promise us that God would give us a hundredfold return?
  • Will God bless me because I give an offering or does He also expect me to be educated and work hard?
  • Can I effectively communicate the gospel to a person who has never been to a church service?
  • Am I responsible for my own spirituality and walk with Christ or is it the responsibility of the church?
  • Are our sanctuaries operating as hospitals for humanity’s hurting hearts or do we simply have great services?
  • Do I have to be involved in ministry or can I just tithe and give offerings to support the work of the Kingdom?
  • Is my love for Jesus strong enough to endure loss or persecution because I follow Him?

I want to share a few scriptures from the Bible and then under those scriptures I make a few comments that come to mind when I consider the church of the 21st century.  This message is mainly a sermon that I am writing to myself but I am posting it because there may be others out there who feel out of focus as well. I believe that there is much in our lives that is out of focus with the New Testament and that there are also many things in our churches that are out of focus as well.

My Respectable Reputation

Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” (Mark 12:38-40 NLT)

Our focus must be upon doing the right thing regardless of who sees or does not see what we are doing. If our Christian life is a social network for flattering our personal pride or for the advancement of our income we are out of focus.

I Take Pride in My Humility

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24 NLT)

We have all met fellow believers who are very serious about their righteousness, their spiritual fruit and their sanctification. We each need more of each of these things in our lives.  However, if our focus is on the fact that we are “keeping” the rules we will end up like the Pharisees. We know that the moment we take pride in our spirituality is the moment we have begun to depend upon self and have ceased standing upon the grace of Jesus Christ.

“My Calling is to the Wealthy & Successful”

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. (Isaiah 58:6-7 NLT)

Do we remember the Good Samaritan? (Luke 10:25-37) We are all called to the poor. We are all called to reach every member of society. No one is outside of the love of God therefore no one should be outside of our mission field. We have worked hard to help end the racial segregation of our congregations. We cannot trade racial segregation for economic segregation. Any time we define our church as a church for a section of society we are out of focus. “For God so loved the world” means everyone. If a person is in our cities they should be welcomed into our congregations.

“Our Church Has an Amazing Praise Team”

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT)

I love music and I love to worship the Lord in private and in church.  I am an iTunes junkie for new Christian music.  So, this one is aimed directly at me again.  In some ways (not all) the focus of our church services has become a replacement for personal devotion. The opportunity to increase attendance and membership of a local congregation by assembling a first class worship team has caused the focus of some congregations to shift away from our primary calling, the Great Commission.

We have placed the focus on worship (which is our ultimate calling as humans) in a corporate setting at the expense of preparing believers to reach the lost.  We do not have to choose.

Want to find out what is more important in your life and in your church?  Take a look at your budget for these two things.  Very simply, the activity that consumes more of your budget is the one that you and your church place a greater importance upon.

Facebook Like vs. Lives Changed

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:38 NLT)

There is definitely a difference between reach and impact. If the focus of our lives and churches is to be liked by as many people as possible our teaching and preaching will most likely be out of focus with scripture. It is far more important for us to focus on truly making an impact in the lives of other than it is for us to be popular.  Jesus preached to the masses, He healed the sick in every city but He called, developed and deployed twelve apostles.

The measure of our success should not be on how many people are following us but rather the impact our ministry is having on others lives.  A church truly grows when the members of its congregation live the gospel and make a gospel impact in the lives of people in the community in which they live.

Refocus

I get tired of going to church just for the sake of going to church. I just want to be a Christian and follow Jesus with all my heart. I don’t want to deal with church politics, ministerial showmanship and religious rituals of non-denominationalism. (That may be too honest for some but that is where I currently am).

Can we refocus our faith into the faith of the New Testament? Can we break off the trappings of our modern hypocrisy so that men and women will be willing to hear the gospel?

Can our focus be the Great Commission? Can we shift the Christian paradigm from filling a house of worship to be spectators of professional ministers to the New Testament model of Mark 16 and Matthew 28?

There is a world around us that has not heard the gospel – let us refocus our lives so that they may see Jesus in you and me.

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