When I’m watching the Georgia Bulldogs (or, for the UGA purist, “Bulldawgs”), I am focused. I’m intently watching the clock, the play, considering the down and the amount of yards needed, thinking ahead to the possibilities, etc… Sadly, my sterling armchair coaching (and, it is sterling!) is never even heard, but I’m focused-in either way. Football holds my attention; it excites me, and it reallocates my focus and defines my mental energies.
Does our walk with Christ profit from the same intense focus that we give other things in life…like football…or does it operate on a frequent deficit of our attention?
Sadly, I’m fairly certain that if we all answered honestly, we would have to admit that our walk with Christ doesn’t always ramp-up as high as it should on our list of priorities. There’s too many “other” things pressing on our attention. Our pride, our priorities, our preferences, and our problems…just to name a few. I’m also fairly certainly that we could probably all admit to a relationship-straining lack of focus in our walk with God…at least from time to time. Satan is distracting; he’s really good at it, and, honestly, we often swallow the bait.
We humans are quite easily distracted, and, invariably, our prioritization is often circumstantial. Something can often only be important at the moment we need it, and when we need it, it is of utmost importance. When it’s needed no longer, it can apathetically and unapologetically be taken for granted, or completely disregarded altogether. Am I wrong? The air in our tires isn’t even a thought in the mind of most drivers…until it’s not there; however, when we’re stranded on the roadside, waiting 2 hours for AAA to come rescue us, it becomes a definite priority. (FYI...my timeframe of 2 hours is an example of "grace." It can longer...)
Our relationship with God, through Christ, should hold the highest place on our personalized list of priorities. God’s call to repentance from our “old way” of life, our changing of mind and direction involving sin, and our relentless pursuit of God in our “new self” should become much more than “just important”…it should become the imperative. And, it is where we should reallocate the wealth of our focus.
1 Chronicles 22:19 says, “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.”
Isaiah 55:6 tells us, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.”
Matthew 6:33 instructs, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
The call to seek God is clear, and it’s a call for the reallocation of our focus from the temporal and evil things of this world to the righteous and holy things of God. Remember the words of Colossians…
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” – Colossians 3:5-6 (NIV)
Yet, we often do the exact opposite...
It is because of the alluring qualities of these things mentioned in Colossians that our sin nature rebels against God’s instruction…pulling our eyes off of the majesty and glory of God, and dragging us deep into the gutter of sin…but, so often, it doesn’t drag us off kicking and screaming. To often, we go willingly…unapologetically surrendering, and becoming subservient to the sinful things of this world…inattentive to the God of the universe…pulled away from repentance by our attraction to a world of lesser things.
Sin is seductive and sexy (can I say sexy in a Christian blog?), and it’s something we find easy to focus our energies on, because it offers to us an immediate return upon our time and energy investment. Sinning directly lines up with the humanistic worldview of culture…the embrace of satisfying our own will and desires at our discretion. And, in the moment, sinning becomes the real God, because it is, “in the moment” of that sin, where we have removed God as the head of our life and replaced him with a circumstantial and temporal lordship. Our focus has be redirected; it’s be reallocated, and it’s now working against God’s will to subvert the lordship of Christ in the life of His child, the child Christ died to save.
Satan is a liar, a competent and very reliable enemy. We can always trust him to become the adversary in any given situation. Remember his little tree-side chat with Eve in Genesis…a chat that is still boldly resonating after-shocks into our world to this very day…
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)
What Satan was really saying is this…
“Eve, look at me. Take your focus off of God, because He’s lied to you. Look over here at this wonderful opportunity to become like God. This is a great time for you to become more enlightened. It will involve a little rebellion against God, but such is life. He'll forgive you. Focus your mind on what this “sin” can do in your life in this pivotal moment…the immediate enjoyment and knowledge that it will bring into your world. Don’t look at God, look at me…look at the immediate personal prosperity that is at your fingertips. Don't miss this opportunity, because it may never come again! Reallocate your thoughts here, and don’t worry about God.”
All the while, Jesus is screaming to us from His place on a sideline of our choosing…”Stop, and look at the glories I have promised you. Trust in me and not in the sin nature that only offers temporary satisfaction leading to destruction. Look upon my sacrifice, and find true peace…a peace grounded in an intensely focused relationship with the One who took your place on the cross of your sin.”
Yet our focus is often consumed with the temporal things of this earth, the debilitating offerings of sin, and the exchange of the eternal glories of God for the earthly guarantee of fleeting satisfaction. How can we be so naive?
This is the final installment of my blogs on repentance. I could certainly do more, but I feel that the real message to be learned is that our repentance requires focus. It’s a focus on God, a fixation with the true cost of our salvation and the worth of the blood of Jesus in our life. In a world of sinful temptation and deception, is our faith and relationship with God strong enough to sustain itself when the “serpent” tries to convince us that God’s commands are not as important as His Word tells us they are? Are we willing to substitute some temporary satisfaction in the place of God's best for His child? Are we willing to purposely cause a chasm in our relationship with God?
The path to a real, relevant, and growing relationship with God means a constant walk down the road of repentance. It's a road of daily self-evaluation. That road requires our attention, our focus, and the moment-by-moment sacrifice of our sin nature. Give it up! Sin is a road to nowhere. Although sin may bring about a temporary satisfaction, the end result is always destruction. Real repentance always leads to an increase in our walk with a God who never disappoints.
2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Let our lives be lived with a repentant heart, so that we my find the wealth of intimacy and power found only in real relationship with Christ, the Son of God, who died for our right to be heirs of an eternal glory with Almighty God!
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!