Learning Christ to Keep Focused
“Learning Christ to Keep Focus and Avoid Drift” Ephesians 5:1-10
Hebrews 12 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus- the author and perfector of our faith.”
One of the funniest things I’ve seen are videos of fishing bloopers. I am not alone millions of people watch some of the best fishermen in the world- get their lines caught in trees, watch their boat drift away because they forgot to hold onto the rope when they trailered it, fall out of the boat, get their lines in knots and hear them mutter for hours (sped up), or get their lines snagged, or see their boat sink because they forgot to put the drainage plugs in. Why is this funny? It is slapstick, but also we can relate to the unfocused and sometimes stupid things we do. Even people who don’t fish get their lives tangled up- and what is supposed to be a relaxing day turns into a day of tangles and knots. Some of us have our lives knotted up right now. Much of the bloopers could have been avoided with a little focus. Much relaxation and peace in life can be had if we stop just drifting in life and put some focus in our life. If you aim to drift- you’ll end up in the weeds or in knots. But if you aim to focus- and focus on Jesus specifically- it will save you a whole lot of entanglement and trouble. Our passages says, “Get rid of the sin that so easily entangles.” We do that by fixing our eyes. In Ephesians 5 it tells us to fix our eyes- or focus on the path of light the path of love- and to imitate or follow Christ.
Focus is so important to listening. The Centers for Disease Control has pointed out that the number of children with Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is about 11% or 9 million children. This is up from 7% in 2003. Without proper treatment children with ADD or ADHD have a very hard time sitting still and listening. When we are easily distracted, it is hard to focus. One of the things about being in church is that it is harder for some than others. There are about 11% of us who have a really hard time sitting still and just listening. Frankly, we have somehow missed the importance of just listening. But Jesus did not. Jesus said, “If you have ears to hear, then hear.” Jesus said, “if you have ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” In other words, “If God has given you the ability to Listen, then listen.” Focus. Learn from Christ. This fourth missional emphasis “Learn Christ” has everything to do with listening and focus. To “fix your eyes on Jesus” is so important.
Our call is to focus- to fix our eyes- and to live purposefully. Our call is not simply to empty our minds, or to say that whatever you do doesn’t matter. When times are difficult, what you do matters more than you know. But when times are difficult, and people do not understand the need to please God, it is hard to keep focused.
I. FOCUS ON LIGHT- Our passage says, “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light and find out what pleases the Lord.” We are to be children of the light for our God is the Father of lights. Jesus is the light of the world. We are “light in the Lord.” There is a long list of things in our passage that Paul says are of the darkness- mainly immorality, impurity, and greediness. This triad of darkness is mentioned several times in our passage and they tear at our soul and get us all entangled.
Let me say this- do not deceive yourself into thinking you are walking in the light when you are into any of these three things. You can get out of them- and be forgiven of them- but if you are wallowing in them and relishing them- you will have a hard time walking in the light at the same time.
Sexual Immorality- the greatest form of sexual immorality is adultery and fornication. Adultery hurts the children of a marriage. It is a form of duplicity, deception that destroys trust and a vow before God. If you find yourself dabbling in this darkness- jump out with both feet. The darkness of sexual immorality is an epidemic of our day and it has destroyed the church and the soul more than anything.
Impurity is the second vice that keeps us from walking in the light. In the Greek it is the word “akathartos” or uncleanness. The word “catharsis” is here- it meant to be released from impurities. The image is we are stuck in the mud- and we need to be released and cleansed of the mud we are stuck in. This is an admonition to not wallow in the mud like a pig- but get clean. Get clean in what you say, in what you do, in what you think.
Greed is the third thing that takes us away from the light. Greed focuses on self. It is a feeling that you can never have enough. But it is a freeing thing to be generous, and free of worry. It s not how much you have that makes you greedy. You can make $10,000 and be greedy or you can make a Billion and be greedy. Rockefeller was asked “How much will you have to have before you will have enough.” He said, “Just a little more.” Greed is always saying, “Just a little more and then I’ll be generous.” Ironically, all the studies do show that the more you have the more likely you are to be more greedy. Riches can entangle us and make our lives darker. Hebrews tells us to get rid of these things that hinder our love for Christ.
II. FOCUS ON LOVE- Our passage says at the beginning- therefore as dearly loved children, walk in the way of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. “ Often in the Bible love and light are found together and balance each other out. We do not just focus on love and miss the need for holiness. We do not just focus on holiness and miss the need for love and grace. By “Love” I am not talking about the kind of stuff the TV describes as love. We tend to confuse love with lust. But pure love is the kind of love a good mother has for her child. It is the love of the Prodigal Father for the Son who has strayed away. It is an unconditional, sacrificial, agape love. Love is not a mushy kind of way to cope with our insecurities. Love instead is the kind of thing that goes the extra mile at risk to self.
There is a movie depicting this kind of love called, “Hacksaw Ridge.” It is coming out just in time for Veterans Day. It is the true story of Desmond Doss who was a pacifist. Some of those in his platoon actually beat him up for being different and not carrying a gun. But at Okinawa he rescued 75 wounded soldiers- going back again and again in the face of danger to get them. He was wounded three times on three different days. The last time he was being carried by stretcher bearers and he crawled off the stretcher so they would help another man first. While waiting in a danger zone he was wounded again. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. Love for others is not mushiness or simply cowardice- it involves self-sacrifice and Christian love is always mixed with holiness.
III. FOCUS ON CHRIST- Christ is the epitome of someone who lived a life of light and love. He shows us it is possible to do both. Christ teaches us how to die to ourselves and live for God. The difference between listening to Christ and learning Christ is found in imitation of His example. It is one thing to listen to information, it is another to learn the person.
Do NOT assume that you don’t need to know Christ any more than you do now. This is not just learning information about Christ- though we can never know enough of that. It is knowing Christ. Too many in their pride think they know all about Christ when they know very little of Christ. Do not be an adult stuck with a child or adolescent’s learning of the One you call your Lord and Savior. An infinite all wise God has more for us to learn. It is found best in scripture and when we practice scripture in imitation.
Spurgeon rightly said, “There will never live a man who will imitate Christ too closely or avoid sin too rigidly.”
The closer we get to Christ, the closer we get to His peace, His love, His grace, and the more His hope takes away our worries and takes hold of a meaningful life.
C.S. Lewis pointed out that we are called to imitate Christ not as an artist tries to copy a portait, but to imitate Christ means drawing nearer and nearer to Him in union. We become more and more kind. We become more and more a person of goodness. We become more and more a person of love. Lewis said, our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions. Do not be afraid of becoming more like Jesus. Be afraid of running away from what you were made to be.
Focus on Christ by seeking Him. Jesus said, “Seek Ye First the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” When we lose our focus on Jesus- we end up in knots. Don’t just drift into the weeds and spend your life untangling your knots. Let Jesus cut the line and let you start over.
I want to give you some practical things to do that our book points out- 1. Read the Gospels. It is here that we learn of Jesus- his life, his thoughts. 2. Pray- my friend Bruce tells me I can “drop a prayer” anywhere. When you hear of the election and you get frustrated- don’t just worry- pray. When you see a terrorist act or a disaster- pray. This calls our attention to God. 3. Do not be afraid to ask, “what would Jesus do.” Or “What would Jesus want me/us to think, be and do here and now?” 4. Worship.
There are all kinds of tools out there to help you focus. They are there because we somehow bought into the illusion of multi-tasking as a good thing. There is one app that is a timer for work or study. You work or study for 25 minutes with no distractions. It literally shuts off all social media and messages so you can focus for 25 minutes straight with a timer- then it gives you a five minute break. But at the same time there are all kinds of tools to help you to focus on Christ. There are Bible apps that will read you the Bible while you are driving or piddling. You can listen to podcasts or youtubes of sermons. But what an app cannot do is make you worship. It is not the same to learn as to worship. Worship removes all distractions and involves focusing on Christ- getting away from the tangles and snares of life in pure focus and learning. This week learn Christ.