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Church in Focus Faith Service Worship Vision

There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds. These sessions are not about opinion, they are about learning truth, the truth contained in the Bible, together we are going to focus on how we apply God’s truth, black & white in a grey world. To set godly priorities, grow in Christian character and live according to God’s standards so that we are a living witness to others. Notes from previous sessions are available from the Bible Study Section of www.ashingdonelim.co.uk.

Matthew 22:37

21 June 2011

How do you start the day? Do you have different priorities each day? Is there anything you spend too much time on? Is there anything you spend too little time on? What is your main focus during the day? How do you think what you focus on makes God feel? Often when we get distracted by the things of the world we turn our focus away from Jesus and onto other things. Would you want a surgeon to be distracted, even for one second, if you were the one being operated on? You would demand that surgeon be fully focused.

What does your church focus on the most? What could your church focus on more? What could your church focus on less? What do you think God wants us to focus on as a church?

Start Focusing on God We all know that the Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20 is to go into all the world and make disciples and to baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And then we are told to teach them everything we have learned and to let them know that Jesus will always be with them. In John 15:5 Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches, and that if we stay in Him, He will stay in us. That means that He will never leave us, He will be with us no matter where we are.

How would you describe the depth in your relationship with God? Are you paddling? Waist high? Up to your neck? Completely immersed? God wants us to have more than a superficial relationship with Him, He wants us to have a real depth of relationship with Him. Depth in relationship takes focus. Occasionally thinking about Him, or just acknowledge that He exists is shallow not deep. We are meant to focus fully on Him, above everybody and every thing else. A Pharisee askied Jesus what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered him: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

Why is this such a difficult commandment to follow? Can we think about God all the time? Do we love God all the time? Do you depend upon Him in every situation you find yourself in? Do you submit your will to His fully and completely? We are to desire nothing more in life than to do God’s will, and see others come to Him. Recent research has shown little correlation in a church’s location and its growth. Studies show that the main thing involved in a church’s growth is getting back to basics through teaching and living Jesus Christ. The teaching part, most churches do - it is the living part that seems harder.

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You may enjoy coming to church each Sunday, but are you living for Jesus the rest of the week? Are you willing to go out and tell the people you come in contact with throughout the week about Jesus?

In verse 11, it says of these people; ‘He says to himself, God has forgotten; He covers His face and never sees.’ (Psalm 10:11).

Proud not prideful

In John 12:32, Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”

The monster in many people’s life is self or ‘pride.’ It is false pride that causes us to be spiritually ugly, spiritually wicked, and spiritually cruel. If we are only focused on what is happening around us in the world, we have no room at all in which to focus on God. And that causes us to cover our face and never see God or what He wants from us. It is okay to be proud, but it is a sin to be prideful.

A church needs members who are excited about the church; who find the church a wonderful place to be and get involved. Why does a church need these things? To grow so it can sustain itself, but

more importantly, the church needs excitement in its membership so that the members have a desire to grow in Christ, and a desire to see others come to Christ.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 2 Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy. (2 Kings 5:1-3)

If a church has members who are interested in the church that much, that church will touch more people for the Lord than churches who only have members who like to get involved in the church for one hour on Sunday. But to feel that way about their church, people need to focus on why they go to church in the first place.

Stop concentrating on self

Namaan was the commander in chief of the army; he was considered a great man by the king; and he had seen many military victories for his army. Namaan had reason to feel proud of his accomplishments that showed how focused he was and how much of a good worker he was. All these things are good things in a person’s life.

Do you think you are a selfish person? You might say you are not. I would say that all of us can be selfish at times. We can often focus our thinking on what we want, what we think we need, self, instead of thinking about God. There is a passage in the Old Testament that describes what we do. It is talking about people who are focused on self, and what that looks like to God.

But Namaan let it go past where it should have gone. He let himself go from proud to prideful. He was used to people showing him an inordinate amount of respect. And we see how he reacts when they don’t.

‘In his arrogance, the wicked man hunts down the meek who are caught in the schemes he devises.’ (Psalm 10:2)

The story continues and Namaan went to Elisha’s house and knocked on the door. Elisha sent a servant to answer, and that upset Namaan. He thought that for someone of his high stature Elisha, the great and famous prophet, come to the door personally.

Have you ever devised a plan, or scheme, to get others to do what you want them to do? ‘He boasts of the cravings of his heart – he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.’ (Psalm 10:3)

Namaan then flew into a rage and left when he was told to take a bath in a river that was not clean. But thankfully, in verse 14, Namaan becomes humble and dips himself seven times in the dirty Jordan River, and that resulted in his being cured of leprosy.

Have you ever bragged about something you did? ‘In his pride, the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts, there is no room for God.’ (Psalm 10:4) If we only busy ourselves with doing what we want, or what we think we need, we have no focus left to put on God.

What can we be proud of? It is okay to be proud of many different things as long as it doesn’t slip over into Pridefulness. For example, there is nothing wrong with a grandparent pulling out a photo of his grandson. He is proud of his family line. And he feels that pride because of the love and happiness in his heart.

‘His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.’ (Psalm 10:10) People who are very focused on taking care of themselves; getting ahead at work; amassing money; or even making sure they work hard enough to make them feel secure are hurting other people, whether they realise it or not.

Luke talks about the pride Joseph and Mary felt about Jesus. ‘The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.’ (Luke 2:33).

No room for God, but still blame God.. Does it amaze you that often the same people who have no room in their hearts for God will always say God has forgotten them in their time of need? 2

There is a big difference in being proud and being prideful. Pridefulness is a sin because it causes us to view ourselves as being better than other people. When we feel that we are better than others, the first thing we start doing is judging others.


So if Christians are not to be prideful, what are some of the things a Christian can feel? The answer

When we judge, we always judge others by their past performance. The trouble with that is, just as we progress over time, they also do. But if we are busy judging them, we have no room to see their growth, and therefore, we do not offer true forgiveness for what they may have done or said.

is found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control‘ (Gal 5:22-23) We must learn to refocus our attention from all the sinful things that pride offers us, to God. But exactly how can we do that?

That is what pride does to us and one of the biggest spiritual dangers to God’s people is the temptation to pride, in all its various forms.

Recognise the problem

Bible scholars believe that pride was the first sin that caused Lucifer, to fall from heaven. Pride was involved, at least in part, in the original sin and fall of Adam and Eve: they were told that eating the forbidden fruit would cause them to “be like God.”

Simply put, we look at things with a wrong perspective. If we can see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, or feel it, we trust it. We have a hard time looking at something from a spiritual perspective. Without the Lord, we cannot see anything but a worldly perspective. We are like Asaph wrote about in Psalm 73:21-23, ‘When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.’

Pride causes us to take our focus away from God and put it on ourselves.

What are you proud of today? Is it “self-focused” or “other-focused”?

It is only with the Lord in our hearts that we can overcome this hopeless situation.

Refocus your focus

We find out more about that in Psalm 73:16-17, ‘When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me – till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood’

A young woman was getting married and she was very nervous. She was getting married in a beautiful old church. Her father was going to walk down the aisle with her and so he gave her some words of wisdom she could focus on so she wouldn’t worry about anything else.

Application Is your focus causing you to feel apart from God?

He told her to focus on the aisle as they walked down together. He said that if she focused on the aisle, she wouldn’t think about being nervous.

Focus on the Truth and not on other things. Jesus is Lord, we need to focus on this truth: He is the Son of God, come to be the sacrifice for our sins, so that by choosing to believe in Him, we can go to Heaven.

And then he said when they get to the end of the aisle; she should focus on the altar. Again, if she put her whole focus on the altar, she would not be thinking of anything that would upset her.

God has allowed other believers to cross our paths to help us to see things the way they really are. Once we understand that, we are better see the truth. The better we see the truth, the easier it is to focus on it.

And finally, he said that if she would focus on the hymn they would play, it would take her mind off everything else.

Do you want the Holy Spirit to make your heart His dwelling place?

She said that was too much to think about right then, so the father said for her to shorten it. He said just remember the Aisle, the Altar, and the Hymn

D.L. Moody once said: “I believe firmly that the very moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”

As they begin their journey down the aisle, everyone heard her recite, “Aisle altar hymn - aisle altar hymn - aisle altar hymn.” We need to do with God what she was doing. We need to focused attention on Him, we need to be intent on our thoughts of God, and stop being blasé about Him.

What is more important in your life than God?

The Creator of everything, is the One who should be the focus of everything we do, think, and say. As Christians, we need to refocus our focus away from where we have put it and back on to God. Because pride is the biggest hindrance to our focus on Jesus, we know that it is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.

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2011_06_21 Church in Focus