YOUR FOCUS DETERMINES WHAT YOU SEE
We have all kinds of pictures and games that challenge our focus. Commonly it
is a picture or an object that has an obvious view and a "hidden" view. What is the
obvious view and what is the "hidden" view is purely a matter of focus. When we look
at the picture we all see the obvious. That is all we expect to see. That is all we look
for. We see the "hidden" picture only when we change our focus, only when we look
for it. It is essential to change your focus to see the "hidden" picture. Once you see
the "hidden" picture, it is quite obvious.
Look at this picture. What do you see? Do you see the face of an old man? If
you see the face of an old man, hold up your hand. (Give everyone one a moment to
look at the whole picture and see the obvious.)
Now look at the same picture minus two details.
What do you see? Do you see
a lady sitting under a knurled tree? (Show the image that reveals the "hidden" picture.
Give everyone a moment to look at the "hidden" picture made obvious.)
Look again at the first picture. Do you now see both pictures? Do you see the
difference changing your focus makes? (Give everyone a moment to look.)
By using these images, I want to make a single point. Hang on to this single
point. To change what you see, you must change your focus. If you never allow your
focus to change, you will never see God's view through Jesus' eyes. Our focus always
determines what we see.
Please take a Bible and mark the book of Galatians.
- First, let me focus your attention on the background of this letter.
- Paul wrote this letter to Christians in a number of congregations in the
province of Galatia.
What caused Paul to write the letter?
- By our standards and criteria, all these congregations were "young" first
- These Christians had been Christians for a short period of time.
- For a crude illustration, imagine this situation.
- Suppose all the congregations in Arkansas were much less than one
- Suppose every resident Christian in Arkansas was converted in the last
- Suppose Paul wrote all of us a letter because he was concerned about a
specific situation that affected all the congregations.
- That is basically what happened.
What did these Jewish Christians do?
- Paul made at least one mission trip to the area, perhaps two.
- The result of his mission work was the existence of several congregations.
- When Paul's mission work in the area came to an end, some Jewish
Christians visited the Galatian Christians Paul converted to Christ.
- Most of the Galatian converts were not Jews, so most of the
congregations were composed of people converted from idolatry.
- These Jewish Christians were absolutely convinced that if these people
did not adopt the Jewish religious system their conversion to Jesus Christ
was meaningless (Galatians 1:6-10)
- So these Jewish Christians told these new Christians that Paul's teaching
was not reliable because Paul did not tell them all they needed to know
- They had come to inform them of things that Paul did not tell them.
- They basically taught these people the Jewish rituals and system.
- They basically caused these new Christians to believe that their conversion
to Christ was not enough to save them unless they adopted the Jewish
- Paul in his teachings focused the people on Jesus Christ.
- These Jewish Christians changed Paul's focus by focusing these people on
the Jewish system.
- They said if they did not focus on the Jewish system, focusing on Jesus
Christ would not save them.
- What these new Christians saw depended on their focus.
- Paul used most of the letter attempting to focus them again on Christ.
- He declared that the message these Jewish Christians shared with them
did not focus them on God's work in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps someone asks the question, "What difference did it make? As long
as they were trying to obey God, why could they not choose to focus on Christ
or on the Jewish system?
- That is not only an excellent question, but that is an important, critical
Look with me at Galatians 5 and allow Paul to show us the importance of
having the proper focus, of seeing through the eyes of God and Christ.
- We have Christians today who think "why" you do something is not important
if you do the "right thing."
- For example, as long as you sing a cappella and take communion every
week, "why" is not important if you just do it.
- It is not a matter of focus; it is a matter of doing what you are supposed to do.
- Paul powerfully disagreed with that conclusion.
- In verse 1, Paul said Christ intended for Christians to be free.
- Christ did not free the Christian to give the Christian an opportunity to go
back into slavery.
- In context, if they accepted and lived by the Jewish system, they went
back into slavery.
- Consider how simple it was for these new Christians to believe what the
Jewish Christians said.
- Most of them were converted from idolatry.
- They offered sacrifices, they followed rituals, they followed what they
considered were "right procedures" for doing religious things, they had
rules for governing what they did, and they had priests (authority figures)
to tell them what to do and to tell them if they were doing it right.
- These Jewish teachers were telling them in the past they just had the
- They worshipped the wrong gods.
- They offered the wrong sacrifices.
- They followed the wrong procedures.
- They had the wrong rules, and rituals.
- They listened to the wrong authority figures.
- This was the Jewish teachers' point: their problem was not that they
followed a system. Focusing on a system was fine.
- Their problem was that they focused on the wrong system
- The solution was to change systems: worship the right God, follow the
correct procedures, adopt the right rules, listen to the right authority
- Paul said that was not true.
- Paul said the focus was wrong.
- Justification before God is not the result of faith in a system.
- Justification before God is the result of faith in a Savior.
- The Jewish Christians asked them to change systems.
- Paul asked them to change their focus: replace faith in systems with faith
in a Savior.
- Why? What difference does it make? If my faith in a system is based on the
same emphasis that a faith in a Savior is based on, what difference does it
make if I depend on a system or on a Savior?
- That is an excellent question! Understanding the difference is essential!
- This is the difference:
- When I place my faith in a system, I place my faith in me and my
- When I place my faith in a Savior, I place my faith in my Savior and his
- The same obedience to the same responsibilities totally changes
meaning (a) if I place my faith in a system or (b) I place faith in a
- Paul said placing faith in a system produces sin and death, but placing
faith in a Savior produces life (Romans 8:3,4).
I ask you to focus on Galatians 5:13-26 for you to see Paul's focus and
- Look at verses 13-15.
Look at verses 16-24.
- Surrendering ourselves to Christ gives us freedom.
- The issue immediately becomes how will we use this freedom.
- Paul said that if a Christian uses this freedom to indulge his or her
physical desires, he or she does not understand God's purpose in making
- God did not free us to indulge our physical desires.
- God freed us to love and serve.
- Think about the contrast:
- A system allows us to indulge physical desires as long as we honor the
- Christ teaches us how to love and serve just like he did.
- So every Christian man and woman faces the same choice: will physical
desires determine how I live my life, or will God's Spirit determine how I live
- If as a Christian I allow God's Spirit to direct my life, I will not allow
physical desires to determine how I live my every day life.
- Why? As a Christian I understand that the purposes of God's Spirit and
the purposes of my physical desires are at war with each other; they
literally try to kill each other.
- If God's Spirit determines how I live my life, I will not allow my physical
desires to interpret and apply God's law.
- It is very easy for me to determine if God's Spirit determines how I live life or
if my physical desires determine how I live life.
- If physical desires are in control of how I live, I do the deeds justified by
those desires as they interpret God's law.
- As a Christian I will justify immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry,
sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions,
factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and companion behaviors.
- Even though I am a Christian, even though I follow a religious system, as
a Christian I need to understand that if I use freedom in Christ to indulge
physical desires, I will not live with God when I die.
- BUT, if God's Spirit determines how I live and how I interpret God's law in
my life, I will produce the fruit (singular) of God's Spirit: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
- Those qualities are NEVER in conflict with God's law.
- Those are the qualities of life produced in the person who belongs to
the Savior Jesus Christ.
- That fruit exists in the Christian's life who deliberately executes his or
her physical desires and passions.
- The challenge: let God's Spirit determine how you live each day of your life.
- Never place your faith in yourself by trusting a system.
- Always place your faith in a Savior by trusting Jesus Christ.
It is all a matter of focus. That focus will determine what you see spiritually. If I
as a Christian live by my physical desires, I will use God's law to justify ungodly
behavior and produce sin and death in my life. If I as a Christian live by God's Spirit, I
will use God's law to produce spiritual life by letting it show me how to produce the fruit
of the Spirit.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 2 December 2001
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