The Case for Focus

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Authentic Christianity

Read at beginning of service:

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

INTRODUCTION

Read Matthew 22:34-40

Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV)

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Today we are going to continue our series on authentic Christianity. For those of you who have heard me speak on this subject the last two weeks you will know how important I believe this to be for the church. You will know that it is my strong conviction that our world needs authentic Christians! Christians who have a passion for God, Christians who are sincere in their attitudes and have integrity in their actions.

And so began this series as I talked for the need for passion the first week ? passion is the motivation behind authenticity. Authentic Christianity finds its roots in passion for God. We learn this from the great Commandment as delivered by Jesus ? ?Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.? It is that word all which speaks of the incredible passion that drives authenticity, for when you have passion for something you give your all!

Then last week, I began to look at the meaning of authenticity itself. In looking at the two phrases, ?loving God with all your soul/strength? I taught that authenticity is found when someone is sincere in their attitudes and have integrity in their actions. Authenticity is found when who we are is coupled with what we do! Authenticity is found when what we do is the result of who we are. Authentic Christians live their life for the audience and pleasure of God. They are sincere in their love for God (as evidenced in their attitudes) and they have integrity in their action (their walk matches their talk)

Now I hope these two messages that I?ve given you have served to increase your desire to be authentic Christians. Today I?m going to continue by looking at what Jesus meant by loving God with all your mind! Now this is a crucial point in understanding what it means to be an authentic Christian. I believe that the mind is the connection between the heart (which is passion and sincerity in love for God ? loving God with all your heart and soul) and the body (which is integrity in action found in our walk ? loving with all your strength and loving your neighbor). I believe it is in the battleground of the mind where authenticity either blossoms or dies. You see?

?the heart instigates, the mind activates and the body engages!

OR the heart is the mover, the mind is the shaker (filter), and the body is the doer!

?in the heart you desire, in your mind you decide, in your body you do!

There is a definite bridge that our minds provide between what we are passionate about and what we do ? between what we desire and what we act upon. And this is why I believe that loving the Lord with all your mind is so important in order to be authentic Christians! When God created us, His purpose was that we would love Him with every fibre of our being ? and with reason?.

Why is loving the Lord with all your mind so important?

In doing a study on various scriptures which referred to the mind either explicitly or implicitly I made the following observations about why Christ?s lordship of our mind is so crucial in an authentic walk with Him.

The mind is the place of knowledge and understanding (or lack of)

This is probably the more obvious observation. Your mind is the storage space of all your experiences, all your studies, all your lessons in life. It is in your mind that you find knowledge, its where facts are stored, its where measurements are kept.

The mind is also the place where understanding or wisdom is found (or the lack of). It is with our minds that we categorize our knowledge in useful ways. Our mind is the place where we not only store knowledge but also the understanding of how to apply that knowledge. For instance, a baby?s mind would learn that an operating stove burner is hot ? that?s knowledge ? BUT if that baby or child touched that burner he/she would quickly learn what hot means and that is wisdom.

There are many scriptures that refer to the mind as being the seat of knowledge and understanding, now I?m not going to read them all off but I will refer to one.

Daniel 5:12 (NIV)

12 This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”

Not only is the mind the place of knowledge and understanding but also?

The mind is the place of focus or thinking (or lack of)

Psalms 64:6 (NIV)

6 They plot injustice and say, “We have devised a perfect plan!” Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.

This is another obvious observation – the mind is the place where you think about things. What you think on most is where your focus is. The mind is where plans are made and where actions are thought out. There is a relation between your knowledge and understanding of things and what you think about. For example, say you listen to the weather reports and you learn that it is going to snow. Now this is what would happen if I was in this story? When I hear it?s going to snow my mind starts flipping up all the references I have to snow??snow: soft, fluffy, particles of ice, cold, wet, very cold? along with the factual stuff about snow (my knowledge of snow) my mind also flips up all my experiences with snow (list some good experiences and bad experiences). Now of course all this happens in the space of an instant but the point is that for the moment I am thinking about snow. In the course of my thinking I may start making plans because of the snow (I could go tobogganing, Oh no I?ll have to shovel, I guess it won?t be a good idea to drive out of town tonight ? or could I?) Do you see what I?m getting at? the point I?m trying to make is that with your mind you think up plans, you think about what you know (and what you don?t know), you imagine, you dream, you picture scenarios, you work out options and you dwell or focus on things.

However, this aspect of your mind is closely related to the third reason why loving God with all your mind is so important ? because?

The mind is the place of decision! (or lack of)

Eventually, there will always come a point where you will utilize your knowledge and understanding and take all your thoughts about something and make a decision. (a classic example of this would be choosing a meal in a restaurant).

Psalms 26:1-3 (NIV)

1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. 2 Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; 3 for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.

(Here King David demonstrates that the mind is a place of decision?)

Here?s a good illustration of someone who sticks with their decision?

Two men who lived in a small village got into a terrible dispute that they could not resolve. So they decided to talk to the town judge. The first man went to the judge?s home and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the judge said, ?You?re absolutely right.? The next night, the second man called on the judge and told his side of the story. The judge responded, ?You?re absolutely right.? Afterward, the judge?s wife scolded her husband. ?Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That?s impossible ? they can?t both be absolutely right!?

The judge turned to his wife and said, ?You?re absolutely right.? (quoted in “My Mind’s Made Up” by James May)

?so why is loving the Lord with all your mind so important?

because if you are warped in your knowledge or understanding of God then your thinking about God will be flawed and if your thinking is flawed you will make the wrong decisions about God!?

Every single one of these aspects is linked to the other and that is why Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your mind. It?s possible to know about God and still decide not to think about Him. Or to think about Him but still not decide to follow Him! It?s like a guy who is thinking about cooking a thick juicy steak on the barbecue when He gets home from work?yet when he finally gets home he?s too tired and decides to eat out instead.

Don?t doubt for a moment that satan understands the importance of the mind in relationship with God?


2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 11:3-6 (NIV)

3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 5 But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6 I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.

You need to love God with all your mind because if not then more often than not your life as a Christian will not be authentic! Loving God with all your mind is the link between passion and action. It is the connection between inspiration and activity! If you don?t love the Lord with all your mind then it is very likely that any passion you have for God will quickly dwindle into smoldering ashes.

So that?s why it?s important?the next question then is?

How do you love the Lord with all your mind?

the answer to this question follows the natural progression laid out in answering the question why?

You love the Lord with all your mind by?

Being Aware

or growing in knowledge and understanding. In other words seek to gain knowledge of God. Search out who He is. Read about His awesome nature. Witness His work in people?s lives. Soak up knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Father!!


Romans 12:2 (NIV)2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The mind is the battleground between conforming to the world and standing out in transformation.

It is emphasized that the mind needs to be renewed in order for transformation to take place (transformation=stop conforming to the world)

Notice also that it is the renewed mind which enables us to test and approve what God?s will is (understanding)

I believe that the renewing of your mind takes place by the Holy Spirit in the context of growing in understanding and knowledge of the Lord. How? Through reading God?s word (meditating on it and feasting on it), prayer, and worship. Our mind is renewed both experientially and through study.


Proverbs 28:5 (NIV)5 Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.

King Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge?

Be Focused

or think upon the things of God. Or dwell on God!


Romans 8:5-7 (NIV)5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Paul urges his Roman readers to set their minds on what the Spirit desires. In other words, focus on the things of God. Think about God. Play out in the theatre of your mind some of the things God would do in situations. Weed out the thoughts that you know God would not approve of. Dream big dreams for God ? ask God to give you those dreams.

Now its important to point out that in order to think about God it?s good to have something to think about! This is where your focus or thoughts about God are influenced by your knowledge/understanding of Him. See the relation? Think about his love for you, think about ways in which you can show your love for Him! In the course of your dwelling on God the Holy Spirit will most likely cause you to remember some things in your life that are not right before God and hence you?ll have the opportunity to confess that to God. I like what Paul writes about this subject in his letter to the Phillippian church,

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

In order to love God with all your mind you?ve got to think about Him! Think about the plans and purposes he has for you ? think about the things you can do for Him and the things He can do through you!

If there is anything that will fuel the flames of passion for God more it will be when you think about Him. (illustration of someone with a craving for something, a couple dating, a person dreaming about a fishing trip)

But as I shared earlier each aspect of the role of the mind is linked together and eventually you will come to the place in loving God with all your heart where you will?

Be Decisive

This is crucial. This is the end result of taking everything you know/understand, dwelling or thinking on it and finally coming to a decision. Your decision affect your actions ? plain and simple. Authentic Christians are those whose decisions reflect the new nature God has given them. Authentic Christians are those whose decisions reflect the renewed mind that the Holy Spirit has gifted them with.

This is an area where some Christians get off track.

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

A Husband and wife, prior to marriage, decided that he?d make all of the major decisions and she the minor ones. After 20 years of marriage, he was asked how this arrangement had worked. ?Great! In all these years I?ve never had to make a major decision.?

Life contains too many choices, each one with a whole list of positives and negatives attached to them and each one carries long term, perhaps even eternal consequences. So, to keep from making the wrong decision, we sometimes don?t make any, which in turn, is the wrong decision anyway! (quoted in “My Mind’s Made Up” by James May)

James warned his readers about being ?double-minded? or wishy-washy in their decisions. James urges his readers to make up their minds and don?t doubt. When a Christian fails to decide or is indecisive about the things of God and His influence in their life then they will lose their authenticity. James goes on with the remedy for double-mindedness.

James 4:8 (NIV)

8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

This is such an important aspect of the mind that I?m going to devote an entire message to the concept of single-mindedness in tonight?s message ? I encourage you to attend (and grow in knowledge and understanding!!) or at least get the tape if you are unable to make it.

Now it?s important to realize that your decisions as a person will be influenced most greatly by what you focus on or think about (which in turn is influenced by your knowledge/understanding).

CONCLUSION

remember I began this message by saying that the mind is the bridge between passion and action.

?the heart instigates, the mind activates and the body engages!

OR the heart is the mover, the mind is the shaker (filter), and the body is the doer!

?in the heart you desire, in your mind you decide, in your body you do!

This is because it is in the halls of the mind where things are either blocked or let through. Now in the case of authentic Christianity this is very important because loving God with all your mind affects your positive desires as well as your negative desires and influences either positive outcomes or negative outcomes. (share illustration of Christian married man lusting after a beautiful woman ? what he knows/understands, what he is focused on[his wife] and what he decides?)

I?d like to conclude with a biblical example of someone who loved the Lord with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength and who illustrates the role the mind plays in authenticity.

Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV)

14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

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