Fixing Your Focus - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Fixing Your Focus

Fixing Your Focus (Overcoming an earthly mindset)
April 24th, 1990.  A day that astronomers had been waiting for years – the launch of the Hubble Telescope.  These things take time. It had all started with an impossible idea in the 1960’s – let’s build a telescope in space.  When the United States Congress approved funding for the project in 1977, the idea was already a decade old.  More than another decade passed as it slowly became a reality and was set for a launch in 1986. But then the Challenger exploded and everything was put on hold again.  Every tiny piece of machinery had been calibrated and computed just right.  Tests had been run, dozens of times and cross checked with each other.  The launch was a success, the telescope was deployed and the astronomers started looking at pictures 25 years in the making.

It only took a couple weeks before the astronomers knew they had a big problem.  The clear sharp images they expected were blurry and out of focus.  And while they fidgeted with their computer settings as much as they could – there was no way to solve this issue when the telescope floated 353 miles straight up off the earth’s surface. An investigation was immediately launched as they determined what they would have to do to fix their focus.

We are concluding our series on overcoming today by examining what it means to have a heavenly mindset.  What does it mean to take our eyes off the earthly things around us and send our vision upward?  For those who have been coming to the Wednesday night study, we have been looking at how Joseph overcame the numerous challenges thrown at him in his personal life and in his work life-- family betrayals, false accusations, forgotten promises.  At the end of the story, he could have taken revenge but he offered forgiveness.  He understood fully how life worked – that God was ever present in the times of trouble.  He comprehended that if he remained focused on the timeline God presented – everything worked out according to His plan and His purposes.
Today, we pick up the same theme as we explore what the Apostle Paul says to the church at Colossians.  His words to them are timeless; they are just as applicable to us today.  If we want to move from a limited vision of an earthly and selfish perspective and have our hearts and minds transformed into the image of Christ – then we must fix our focus by listening carefully and applying what is said.

Colossians 3:4-11 (ESV)
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

As you may recall from our earlier study of Colossians, Paul is writing a letter of encouragement to this church – reminding them to stay steadfast in the faith.  He is particularly worried about reports he is receiving while languishing in prison, that the church in Colossae is getting taken in by false doctrine – taking their eyes of Christ.  He has received these report from Epaphras, the founder and leader of the congregation, who is extremely worried that false teachers will cause the church to lose its way.  Instead of agreeing on basic doctrine of Christ death and resurrection and baptism – some in the church or wanting to go off in their own direction.

Historically, we don’t know what happened after this letter was received.  We know that Paul wrote this letter in the mid 50’s – and by the early 60’s the entire city of Colossae was destroyed by a massive earthquake and never rebuilt.  We will never know if the people in the church listened to Paul and fixed their focus back to the message of Jesus Christ – or erroneously thought that they could survive by doing their own thing.

The advice given by Paul, however, was appropriate to the other churches in the area as well.  The church in Laodicea undoubtedly read a copy, as did others, which is why this very appropriate letter is found in our Bibles today.  The wisdom Paul offers through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is just as applicable in our lives today.

So how do you How do you overcome an earthly mindset?

Paul answers with the first step.  Put sin to death.  And in case you don’t remember what sin is – he gives an incomplete list which covers most of it and gives you the basic idea.  There are two lists – the first in 5, and the second in 8.  The first list recaps the 10 commandments, something very familiar to his Jewish audience, but not as familiar to the Gentiles in Colossae.  But each item he recounts make sense to them at all.  Unbridled passions and powers that oppress people.  A general life of unrighteousness – defined as not caring for those who may not be as fortunate in life as you.  A sense of desire and greed that stops at nothing to achieve success.  Actions that exalt man into the place of God.  A Christian cannot be focused there.

The second list looks at thoughts in the heart, from which the mouth speaks.  Anger, wrath, malice, slander.  Intentionally tearing someone down.  Getting in the gutter.  Character assassination.  Playing dirty politics.

Earthly mindsets are so easy to slip into.  Because in our sin filled nature – this is our default position.  It’s easier for me to slip into a snarky tone with my wife when I’m upset.  It’s easier for me to lash out in anger when hurt – damaging anything that gets into my way.  That is our sin nature in action.  I know that the hippocampus and the amygdala and the chemical reactions in our brain do certain things when certain hormonal and endorphin compounds flood our brains.  But just because it’s understandable from a physiological perspective– does not make it morally correct.  To overcome, we must put sin to death.  Sin must end.  Sin must be terminated

There is only one way to put sin to death in your life – and that is to fully acknowledge that sin has no power over you in Christ.  The old habits must go.  I didn’t say it would be instantaneous.  It might take years.  But every step forward must be pushing sin over the cliff.

Racist thoughts – must be killed.  Greed – must be killed.  Cravings for destructive addictions in your life – must be killed.  An angry heart?  Must be killed.  Remember when you were baptized.  It was a publicly symbolic example of your body being dead and buried in the ground.  The old remained dead, while the new was resurrected.  The old was nailed to the cross.  Only Christ arose – sin was arrested and put to death.  That is our promise and our redemption.

Paul continues his thoughts – We overcome an earthly mindset by heeding God’s warnings.
I travel the turnpike a lot.  So, I’ve subscribed to the KTA Alert system. Ding!  It notifies me whenever there is a car accident blocking a lane, or between what mile markers I should expect a flood, high winds, or even tornado to cross.  Ding!  I get more messages from them each day then I do my family.  Ding!  I check them.  I pay attention to them.  I alter my route, or my time to avoid the things that can so slow me down or even overtake me, because I know that KTA is watching over my path for me.

Have you subscribed to God’s Alert system?  Ding! Are you listening to the danger signals He is broadcasting?  Ding!  You will miss all of God’s alerts if you are not looking or listening for them!  Where do we find these warnings?  They come across in our spirit as we prompted by His Holy Spirit.  They come across as we read the Word of God and let it interact with our life.  They come across in our interactions with other Christian believers who have seen the path ahead and know the safest route through. 

You may remember the time when Pharaoh had the dream of skinny cow and fat cows and eventually summoned Joseph to interpret the dream which offered the warning.  After Joseph successfully interpreted the dream and said exactly what was going to happen, Pharaoh had a choice to make.  He could act, or he could accept the inevitable. He could have gone and stuck his head in the sand and hoped the storm would pass by him and live him unscathed, or he could develop a plan to survive.  The realities of his situation made it abundantly clear that if he continued his agricultural policies in his current earthly mindset, their civilization would probably cease in a few years.  Or he could change what he had always done, heed the warning, and see something new in the future.

How many times have you heard the warning and ignored it?  How many times, have you thought that I can do this one more time, I won’t be caught, it won’t affect me.  If you are anything like me – the answer is too many.  God gives us a chance to change that today.

One thing Pharaoh knew – He could not accomplish this change by himself.  So, he did what good leaders do – he identified his weakness and promoted someone with that strength.  When you don’t have the vision for a task but you know someone who does – hang around them!

That leads us to Paul’s next point found in verse 9.  To overcome an earthly mindset, you Establish Accountability.  No going it alone.  No superhero’s here.  This is a team effort.  This is a group project.  There is no I in We.  And the only way to be accountable is to be truthful with each other.
Yes, Truth can be hard.  It’s difficult to look in the mirror and acknowledge that there are fault lines in your perfection.  At the beginning, it’s hard to acknowledge the power that addictions undealt with, have over you.  There is no keeping up appearances if you want to get healthy.  “Fake it till you Make it” is a great strategy to gain confidence on the first day of a new job – but a lousy way to develop Biblical character.  The emphaticness of Paul’s command to not lie to each other goes to the heart of his second list of sin.  It is that breach of trust that can destroy a relationship, shatter a marriage, and fracture a church. 

One of the reasons I enjoy smaller group settings, like our Wednesday night studies – is that we can open ourselves up and be there for each other.  Iron sharpens iron.  We each learn something about ourselves.  And with Christ’s help – we lose a little bit more of the rough edge so our focus on Him is better.

The final point in this passage is focused on the supremacy of Christ.  To overcome an earthly mindset, you must Celebrate Christian Equality.  Paul was extremely disturbed by what was going on in the Colossian church.  The teachings that had crept in were distorting the gospel message.  The lies spreading around were dividing each other instead of holding each other accountable.  The sinful nature was classifying people based on their heritage into different levels and different groups.  Paul condemns this classism, sexism, nationalism, and racism very clearly in verse 11.  He identifies these attitudes with the old self, the sinful nature, the earthly mindset.  The Scythians that Paul mentions had a 1000-year history of being a warring tribe, hired out as mercenaries – a people group who had a reputation of destroying Jerusalem.  Even they can be saved, their minds changed, and made useful in the kingdom of God.  Attitudes and actions that contribute to the disruption of God’s message of salvation are evil.

There has been much said and read in the news the past 10 days about American’s greatest sin of racism.  More people have leapt to a defense of a sinful heritage, and earthbound heritage, instead of remembering that in Christ we are grafted into a new heritage, a heavenly heritage.  Celebrating Christian equality is more than taking a stand, or marching in a parade – It’s listening to the other, hearing their hurts and concerns, and then letting the suffering of Christ provide healing.  Heaven is not composed of segregated groups divided along ethnic or linguistic lines. It will only be filled with people wholly devoted to the cause of Christ who have forsaken all sin and been redeemed by the Lamb.  Fix Your Focus on Him!

Several of the local YMCA’s now have rock climbing walls in their lobby.  I see people, including kids, doing it all the time.  I’ve never done it.  I don’t like heights.  But one of the things experts will tell you as you climb – focus on where you are going, the ledge you will grab, the toehold you.  

Check out this picture.  It’s of the four men topping out the spire on the Grand Wilshire in Los Angeles this past year – The tallest building west of the Mississippi just opened in June.
Advice they probably heard often when they were learning their trade which is good for us today too remember…


You can’t climb a mountain looking down behind you.

The reason I don’t climb very high is because I don’t focus well on things above.  I look down to the ground and see how far away it is.  I get scared.  I know that gravity makes you fall 9.8 meters second per second.  I freeze.

You can’t look down.  You must look forward.  Hand over hand, foot in front of the other.  That’s the only way to overcome. 

The same is true in our spiritual lives.  The obstacles are big, the addictions pull us down, the anger, and greed, and selfishness rear up their faces and say stop climbing.  But when we fix our focus on the eyes of Christ, extending his hand, we will never fail.

You may remember Peter, seeing Jesus across the lake, beckoning to him.  In his faith, Peter got out and walked on the water as Jesus walked towards him.  As long as his eyes were fixed above, as long as he was locked in with his Savior, he was fine.  But the moment, he started looking around at the circumstances, the impossibilities, and forgot about the promise – he started to sink.  Never take your eyes off Jesus--and you will never fail.

Remember the Hubble Telescope?  It was blurry.  Decades of work, billions of dollars spent – and it was a failure.  An investigation was launched and they discovered what went wrong.  Out of all the amazing components and mechanisms, one tiny mirror had been polished one millimeter too much.  One millimeter of error.

But when you know what needs to fix, you can fix it.  Another mirror was built, the error repaired, a team installed it and then amazing images flowed. 
Even if you have just one millimeter wrong in your life, Jesus can fix it.

When you focus on problems you’ll have more problems.
When you focus on possibilities, you’ll have more opportunities – Zig Ziglar
When you focus on Christ, you’ll have more faith

More faith to overcome.  More faith to share.  More faith to love. Fix your focus.

Shall we pray.