The photo below is a somewhat typical rendering of what some hold to be the image of Jesus. Honestly, it’s the typical none realistic “white Jesus” that has, in my opinion, given many an inaccurate view of what Jesus was really like. I’m convinced Jesus looked nothing like this, as many others are too. (By the way, I’m not picking on the source of this picture by using it–but simply want to use it to get you thinking with me).
Like a lot of movies, if you ask your friends what they think about the movie “Forrest Gump” you’ll hear one of two reactions. They either love it or hate it.
Regardless of what you think of the movie, there is one line that Forrest uses several times that makes a lot of sense. Any time Forest is asked if he’s stupid he answers with the famous line, “Stupid is as stupid does.” What he was saying was that someone only could call him stupid if he was doing stupid things.
Biblically, I can assume this statement when it comes to a true believer. You can do it to. If someone walks up and asks you if you’re a believer (by that I mean a true believer in Jesus Christ) you could answer, “believer is as believer does.”
The only way to truly know if someone is a believer is if it is lived out of their life. (Church attendance is not a way to know if someone is a true believer by the way.)
Jesus said it this way in the context of spotting false prophets:
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-18)
Both James and Paul later write according to this teaching of Jesus. Paul states in Galatians 5 that Spiritual “fruit”, the fruit of the life of a believer, is as obvious as the “fruit” of the flesh.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
James teaches that it’s important that believers “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22)
Jesus, Paul and James are not teaching that you should act a certain way to try to “look like” a believer. As a matter of fact, the Bible has a term for that too; hypocrite. What is true, however, is that both you and those around you will know whether or not your a believer by what you do. Believer is as believer does.
You’ll never see me try this illustration in a sermon but here’s a video excerpt by Francis Chan that delivers this question: how many are true believers? Take a look:
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.