Focal Point

Focus
Focus

I’m not much of a photographer, however, like a lot of people I do like to look at a good photograph. I couldn’t tell you what makes a photograph good, I can only tell you when I see it. The only thing I like more than looking at a good photograph is taking one. Fortunately for me, there are cameras these days that do most of the work for you. Automatic settings and focus help non-photographers like me pull off a decent photo every once in a while. For me, it’s pretty much the blind squirrel finding an acorn scenario.

I think the feature that helps the most with my “point and click” is not just the autofocus but my camera automatically locates the focal point. The truth is, unless there’s a focal point, autofocus does little to help.

So it is with the church. The church must have the proper focal point. If it doesn’t then all the focus in the world will amount to nothing. What do you think should be the focus of the church?

Your view of the church growth movement may affect how you answer this question. Also, depending on whether you’re in the vocational ministry or a lay-leader in the church or simply a church attender may make a difference too. However, I fear this question is more commonly answered incorrectly than not. Is church about people, the Great Commission, discipleship, worship services or social justice?

Sure, church should include all these things but none of these should be the focal point of the church. If they are, focus can quickly become attentive to the wrong things.

What, then, should be the ultimate focus of the church?

As I look at the New Testament epistles the answer should be easy. But, how many of our churches, church members and attenders come into “worship” services and programs in our churches and completely miss the focal point? Honestly, it shouldn’t be possible but unfortunately I think it happens all the time.

I could give many, many more references from the Epistles but here are a few to make my point:

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according with the Scriptures…”(1 Corinthians 15:3) Emphasis mine

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…”(2 Corinthians 3:5)

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace…”(Ephesians 2:13-14)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

“….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)

As I said, I could give many more examples but as Paul wrote to the church, he always focused on the centrality, the focal point of Jesus.

All the difficulties we find in the church: division, dissatisfaction, gossip and faded worship are all symptoms of the real problem, Jesus isn’t the focal point.

But, when Jesus is the focal point the fruits are obvious:

1. Authentic, Spirit and Truth worship in the church.

2. Fulfillment of the great commission including the necessity of discipleship.

3. A heart for others that will result in social justice.

4. Unity within the Body. (Remember, Jesus never causes division within His church. If there’s division, it’s not from Him.)

5. Believers who follow Jesus with obedience [to Jesus] that stems from love for Him and His Word. Obedience to Jesus causes the Christian to abide in Him and therefore produce all kinds of good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)

Lord, help us that Jesus may be our focal point, our only focal point. I understand, by that, the rest of your purpose will come into focus. I pray for Jesus to be our focal point, and I pray it starts with me; today.

What’s a Christian? (Part 3)

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This is part three of the series, how many parts there will be I don’t know. But, it’s fun just to continue to write though I’m confident the subject will never be exhausted.

My desire is to find, Scripturally, what a Christ follower is and what one isn’t. I’m positive that I’m growing in my understanding that what we in the American Christian culture call Christianity, in ways, does not measure up to what Jesus would call it. So, I continue my pursuit to find out what Jesus wants me to be, in Him.

I preached a sermon last Sunday from the book of Ephesians, and the text in chapter 4 brought me to what I think is a pretty major conclusion. (My text was Ephesians 4:17-24)

The point that jumps out at me the most is when Paul writes to, “put on the new self” in verse 24. This after a lot of language explaining that our old life, old thoughts, old drives and old wisdom are worthless for the pursuit of this new life in Christ. Worse than that, the old life is actually a major rub, a stark contrast, against the new, Spiritual life.

Here’s the problem. Widely in Christianity, and I think in my own life too, we’ve reduced our faith in Christ to learning a set of principles and trying to apply or live up to them.

Please know this truth. Jesus cannot be reduced down to a set of rules to follow or reduced down to some kind of philosophical salve that’s used as a momentary relief to the pain of life. He’s much more than that! Christianity that defines itself as a new principle to learn and then to apply which continues like the instructions on the back of the shampoo bottle; lather, rinse and repeat, is a painful substitute for real faith and a true relationship with Christ.

So what is Paul’s “put on the new life?” He speaks of this “putting on” also in Romans “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14)

Paul’s statement isn’t that we would have Jesus as a proverbial monkey on our back but that we’d have the connection to Him that He desires. In my estimation, Paul’s “put on Jesus” is equivalent to Jesus’ “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” (See John 15:1-5) The key to this new life is not leaning and applying new principles, it’s simply about abiding in the Vine; in Jesus. That is the very thing Jesus said we must do. He never said, “learn and apply principles from my word,” He said, “Abide in me!”

What is a Christian?

A Christian is not someone who is trying learn something about Jesus that my help out in this life, though learning Jesus’ principles certainly do. A Christian is a person who is learning Jesus and learning by the Word and by His Spirit how to truly, fully abide in Him.