I have to be honest, I really don’t like the new trend of making every movie in 3D these days. Don’t get me wrong, it looks amazing. It can be fun. And if you didn’t see Gravity in 3D then you probably shouldn’t bother. But my biggest problem with 3D is that it’s distracting. I get caught up looking at the little piece of debris that’s seemingly coming out at me, and I’ve paid so much attention to it that I don’t even notice that Captain America just did an amazing jump/flip/shield throw move and saved 50 people from an explosion. I missed it. I was so focused on the minor thing in front of me that I wasn’t paying attention to the greater story that was being told.
Maybe you see where I’m going here, but this is analogous to our lives and to our churches. God has an amazing story to tell through His body, the Church (Ephesians 3:10). All too often though, our initial zeal and steadfast movement towards Jesus stalls because we start focusing on things other than the One we came to worship. More often than not, these are perfectly good things in and of themselves, I’m not necessarily talking about obviously sinful distractions. In fact, the things that can distract us are even the things that Jesus Himself ordained as a part of how He wanted His church to operate. So I want to quickly point out just a couple ways in which many people and churches direct their focus away from Jesus. Then, we’ll look at how Jesus far surpasses anything that might tempt us to ignore Him.
1. Comfort-Centered Focus
Let’s face it, we all like to be comfortable. Going back to the movie theater analogy, we like to sit in comfy seats in a cool room with plenty of snacks maybe with some friends around us in order to enhance our enjoyment of what we’re about to see. And there is nothing wrong with being comfortable at church either. In fact, Jesus provided for the comfort and needs of the people He was teaching when He fed the 5000, made the water into wine, and hosted an awesome dinner party called the Last Supper. This is all even before we enter into new heaven and new earth and walk on streets of gold forever. That’ll be pretty nice I think.
The problem is that we can elevate our own comfort to a point where it is of higher importance to us than loving and serving in the way that Jesus called us to. From the decor of our church building, to the quality of the coffee, to the music, to the ministry program that probably should be ended but some people refuse because it’s “tradition”. If you think about it, traditions and routines are often really about being comfortable. It feels nice to have a regular pattern of doing things. But what happens when these simple comforts are challenged or taken away completely? Do we trust enough in the Lord that we can still serve the church even if they change your favorite service time in order to better serve newcomers and people who don’t yet know Jesus?
How about in your daily life? A focus on comfort will often subtly lead us to no longer be doing life with those who are different from us. Slowly as you become more and more comfortable with your Christian friends and family, you may not realize that you don’t really interact with any non-believers on a regular basis. This makes it rather difficult to fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples, doesn’t it? It is uncomfortable for many of us to share our faith, but God is calling you to sacrifice that comfort in order that He might bring more and more people into His everlasting rest.
2. Man-Centered Focus
This one is tricky, deceptive, and utterly dangerous. In the story of God’s redemptive work here on the Earth, there is only one hero, one main-character, one leading man. But there are many, many supporting cast members. It is so easy to start focusing on a person created by God, rather than on the God who created them. We must not let our walk with God become centered on any other person.
God created us to be in relationship with others. He exists eternally as the Trinity, a holy community in which He loves to dwell. From the moment we were created, He said that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2). So He wants us to live life with other people. Our relationships bring Him glory when people come together bearing His image and living in the way that He commanded. Our churches bring Him glory when we join together (Ephesians 3:21). The danger though is when we focus too much on a particular person or group. Whether it’s someone you really admire and respect and start to listen to more than you listen to God, or even if it’s someone you hate and that hatred is blinding you from seeing God clearly.
This is why you want to find a spouse who doesn’t just attract you physically, but one that is so focused on Jesus himself (or herself) that they are continually pointing you to Jesus and saying how good He is, and you likewise should be pointing them to Him. This is why you must hold your kids in an open hand with God and utterly dedicate their lives to Him. If your children become the focus of your life, what happens when they grow up and leave your house? What happens if your spouse or your children die? This is also why you must cultivate your own personal walk with Jesus and study of the Bible, because otherwise you will become too focused on a pastor or spiritual leader in your life. Churches which become more focused on the pastor in the pulpit rather than the God on the throne quickly open themselves up to pain, disappointment, and a slowing of the mission that God has for them.
So why focus on Jesus?
I’m going to get theological here for a minute. The supremacy of Christ in all things means that He must be kept central in all things. This means that the reason we want and need to keep our focus on Jesus is because He is categorically better and higher than anything else we may become distracted by.
Because He is the most powerful, we can focus on Him more than politics, money, or influential people. Because He is the most wise, we can focus on Him more than wise men, pastors, or teachers. Because He is our great Father, we can focus on Him more than our earthly fathers and trust Him to be the best Father for our children. Because He is the most loving, we can focus on Him more than our relationships, sex, and romance. Because He is the most forgiving, we can focus on Him more than on the sins of our past, present, and future. Because He is the most pure, we can focus on Him more than we concern ourselves with the sins of others.
If this is the Lord that we serve, we ought to seek nothing except to keep Him at the center of everything that we do. We keep our focus on Jesus by being saturated in prayer, filling our day with thanks and thoughts focused on Him. We keep our focus on Jesus by joining together regularly and honestly reminding each other of His value and worth when our eyes start to stray. We keep our focus on Jesus by planting His Word in our hearts and minds with regular study and memorization. And we keep our focus on Jesus by celebrating Him in song, in praise, in prayers of thanks and worship. Our church needs to have Jesus at its center if it is to thrive and bring glory to Him. Consider this passage in closing. "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:16-20 ESV, emphasis added)