Focus and Love
Posted on 02/23/2014 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
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I WALK BY FAITH
I walk by faith
each step by faith
to live by faith
I put my trust in you
I walk by faith
each step by faith
to live by faith
I put my trust in you
Every step I take
is a step of faith
No weapon formed against me
And every prayer I make
is a prayer of faith
And if my God is for me
who can be against me
BLESS THE LORD
I will bless the Lord at all times
I will bless the Lord at all times
His praise shall continually
be in my mouth
TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
in the light of His glory and grace.
*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***
Well the past two weeks, we've talked about how God sees us, and mentioned the issue of self-love as the world sees it versus self-love that is TRUE, selfless love. And it dawned upon me that it might be helpful to make it absolutely clear what our stand is on this issue.
You see, there's a lot of talk these days about self love. Some people say that if you don't love yourself, you can't love God, and that if your relationship with yourself is what it should be, your relationships with everyone else will fall into place. But does that agree with what God says through His word? And is it therefore in touch with reality?
As a side note, it's not hard to come up with a thought progression that could lead one to such a conclusion. The Bible says things such as this, in Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Or this in Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
How about this one in Psalm 139:17-18:
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
God thinks about us all the time. If He were a man, we would think He was under the influence of a powerful obsession. And if God thinks about us all the time, and God's thoughts are supposed to be our thoughts, wouldn't that mean that we should think about ourselves all the time too?
Well, most of us do. I know, I know, YOU are holier than that. You almost never think about yourself. You can go for days without food or water, and not even notice. You often stay up without sleeping for a week at a time because you're too busy serving others to even notice you're dangerously tired.
YOU might be that spiritual... Well, actually, while that IS spiritual, that would be spiritually ill. To not take care of your body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, is to neglect a very important responsibility. It's not just a physical matter to take care of your and your family's physical needs; it's a SPIRITUAL matter to do so. In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8 that "if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
So does that mean that we should focus on ourselves? That we should spend all day making sure we're loving ourselves? And that doing so is the answer to having a loving relationship with those around us and with God?
Well I'm glad you asked.
Isaiah 26:3 (KMV) says,
3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
So if your thoughts toward God are like His thoughts toward you, this says that God will keep you in perfect peace.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Deuteronomy 4:29 says "you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul."
In Psalm 53:2 (NKJV) we read, "God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God."
Or how about Psalm 91:14-16 (NKJV)
14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation."
Or Psalms 105:3-4 (NKJV)
3 Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
4 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!
Or what about Proverbs 8:17 (NKJV)
17 I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.
Or Isaiah 55:6 (NKJV)
6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
Do you see a pattern there? What is that common theme? Is it that if we love ourselves enough, everything else will be butterflies and rainbows? Or is there another focus the Bible seems to be saying we should have?
Well, let's go back to the idea that if God's thoughts are all good things, and those good things are all about us, that we should have the same thoughts about ourselves, and we should think them all the time. That's fair enough if you're talking about the background atmosphere of our self image. If we think things about ourselves that aren't in line with God's thoughts about us, and let's face it -- all of us do to some degree, then we should bring those thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ. I think we can all agree on that.
But the verses we just read aren't about content, but about FOCUS.
Yes, we are called to be transformed, from glory to glory, into the image of Jesus. But we are NOT called to BECOME Him. To REPLACE Him. And that's what more and more of the peoples of the Earth are doing, even in the Church.
It's more obvious in the New Age movement, since the basic idea is that you ARE God. When you pray, you are praying to the universe, and you ARE the universe. When you receive guidance from the highest source, that guidance is coming from your "higher self" -- from YOU.
So it doesn't take any discernment at all, at least not enough to speak of, to see that they are replacing the true God, the one revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, with YOU and with ME. WE are God, so if God thinks about us all the time, it's only natural that we should do the same.
But what about the teachings in the Christian Church that say that learning to love ourselves is the key to learning to love God and others? Well, while there's some merit to most of the words that make up that statement if they're used in the proper context, the idea of focusing on yourself is in direct opposition to the word of God. It is antichrist, even if Jesus is painted lovingly into the picture. When all is said and done, it's the same thing satan did, as he thought himself magnificent enough to sit on God's throne in His place. And that is exactly what we do when we put our eyes and our primary focus on ourself: we take the place that belongs to God, seating ourselves on the throne of our heart. That's not something you want to do, not if you want true peace, joy, and life.
A few minutes ago, we read Jeremiah 29:11. Let's take another look at this verse, and compare it with what comes just two verses later.
Jeremiah 29:11,13 (NKJV)
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
And verse 13:
13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
So first God tells us about His thoughts toward us, thoughts of only good, of peace, thoughts of giving us a future and a hope.
And then, just two verses later, He says that we should search for Him with all our heart.
Have you ever seen someone who's cheating on their spouse? In the movies, it's sometimes presented as though they love both their spouse and their adultery partner with all their heart. But that's hogwash. First of all, true love for a spouse would prevent someone from cheating on them. Secondly, when you're focusing all of your romantic attention on one person, it's impossible to focus all of your heart on someone else. It just can't happen.
Now I realize there are some movies and probably some soap operas that could cause someone to think they can. But there are also some things on TV that would prove there are aliens, we're all currently asleep and hooked up to a large computer network, or that the ancient Pharoes were actually time travelers who have set up a current-day base of operations on Pluto.
In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says this:
24 No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
And it might be helpful to remember here that love and hate aren't just feelings; it is possible, and common, to feel strong love for someone while acting in a way that is ultimately hateful toward them. For example, telling someone that they were just "born that way," that they can't change, and that God will accept them in their homosexual lifestyle, while it feels like love, that is actually immense hatred. Now I don't want to get off into another subject today, but that's a very common example in today's world. People who say such a sin is unnatural and God can set people free from it, our society labels them as haters. But the truth does not become a hateful lie just because it doesn't make someone feel good, while a lie that sends someone to hell is the ultimate example of pure hate no matter how loving it might feel.
So if our focus is on ourselves, we might still feel as though we love God; but love isn't just a feeling, and if the actions of love don't accompany those feelings, then they just might be masking hate.
Romans 5:8 (KMV) says this:
8 But God demonstrates His love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us.
Jesus wasn't thinking about Himself as He hung on that cross. He wasn't focusing on whether He was really loving Himself at that moment. He wasn't trying to make Himself feel better, trying to make sure He was feeling special and loved.
No, He was thinking of you, and He was thinking of me. THAT was how He loved us. If instead He had been focused on Himself, I believe He wouldn't have bled and died for us. And you know what? He would have been perfectly justified in taking that route. After all, He is God incarnate, the One by and through whom everything was created. He doesn't owe us anything, and we all are guilty of sin and we all deserve to follow satan into the lake of fire and the bottomless pit.
God, on the other hand, deserves only worship, only praise, only adoration, only service, only every ounce of life we have left in complete obedience to Him, and we are NOT justified in turning our focus upon ourselves.
So if Jesus, our example, denied Himself and took up His cross to save a world of vile sinners and to Please His Father God, what do you think WE should do? Live to make ourselves happy? Constantly focus on whether we're loving ourselves as much as we think we should? Strive to follow our own heart and make our own dreams come true? Or is the only acceptable response to His Salvation for us to deny ourselves, daily pick up our cross of death to our carnal nature, set our eyes completely upon Jesus, and follow with our whole hearts after Him?
Luke 9:23-25 says this:
23 Then (Jesus) said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?
Let's turn our focus away from ourselves and onto Jesus. In every situation, in every decision, in every thought, word, and interaction, let's ask, "Lord, what would please you most? What will bless your heart? What will bring you glory?"
And when we make the pursuit of God, of pleasing Him, of obeying Him, and of walking in His amazing love, then our love for ourselves and our love for others will start to transform into what He wants them to be. We don't have to focus on ourselves to become what we should be, and that doesn't work anyway; instead, we should focus on Jesus, and He will change us, from glory to glory, to be just like Him.
In the words of the well-known song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim
In the light of His
glory and grace.
Let's go ahead and close today with a time of prayer, worship, and ministry. This altar is open, and you're all invited to get out of your seat right now and make your way to the front.
Let's repent of our mis-placed focus, of our focus on ourselves, our problems, and the cares of our lives, and let's ask the Lord to help us keep our eyes upon Him.
If you'd like someone to talk or pray with you, you can instant message one of us, or if you're listening later in the week or outside of Second Life, you can go to almcyberchurch.org, click the Pastors' Offices link, and contact one of us there.
Whenever you need to leave, you're dismissed, and if you can stay until after this time at the altar, you're invited to make your way up the steps to your left when you're ready, and we'll meet in there shorly for a time of fellowship.
Come, and let's set our focus where it should be.
Lord Jesus, thank you for speaking to us today by your Holy Spirit through your word. Lord, we know that our focus is all to often not where it should be, and we ask you to forgive us for being so carnally-minded. Holy Spirit, we ask you to continue to work in us to change our focus. Place a burning desire in us to seek after you with all our hearts, until You are all we see.
I ask that these seeds of your word wouldn't fall to the wayside, be choked out by the cares of our lives, or be stolen away by the enemy, but that they would go deep into fertile soil and grow into a great harvest of righteousness in our lives.
And we ask all these things in Jesus' wonderful name.