Eyes Focused Ahead (part III)

CONTINUED FROM: Eyes Focused Ahead (part II)

Another situation where focusing on struggles, temptations, and sins instead of Jesus can adversely affect my life is when it’s OTHER people’s struggles, temptations, and sins that I am focusing on.  When I look back, I’m able to see in myself a habitual desire to compare myself to other people.  I personally believe that this points back to my fleshly longing to find satisfaction in admiration from others.  Comparing myself to others allows me to fuel the diseases of pride in my life.  This habit can lead to a whole host of temptations and sins, but what I have found is that it’s trained my brain to immediately focus on the things in other people’s lives that seemingly make me better than them.  Whether it’s a person that I have just met or a longtime friend or family member… it doesn’t seem to matter.  What I find is that the search is the same… what are their vices… what do they struggle with… where are their weaknesses… what kind of beasts are they hiding in the basement?  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit living in me that I am able to quickly subdue these thoughts… keeping them from becoming destructive to my relationships through self-righteousness.  Even still, I have seen how it can affect my own heart and attitude towards not just those I’m currently in relationships with, but also those with whom I have just met.

With my friends and family I’ve seen it cause tension because, depending on my relationship with them, I may point out and try to help fix the things that I see them struggling with.  Sometimes this comes across more subtle than others, but in each case I only do it because I care for them… or at least that is what I tell myself.  Paul wrote in his letter to the church of Galatia that “if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.”  According to this, part of living for Christ is to have the back of my friends and family members, who call Jesus Lord of their life, by confronting their patterns of sin and encouraging them to fight for deliverance.  I completely agree with what Paul wrote, but the thing that I seem to forget is what Jesus said during His Sermon on the Mount… “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.  And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eyes when you have a log in your own?  How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  When I think about these two passages it seems to suggest that the attitude of my heart has a lot to do with how I approach another believer about the sin in their life.  First of all, the statement by Paul says that I am obligated to help my friend or brother in this way.  Therefore, I mustn’t conclude that what Jesus said means I shouldn’t ever confront a believer about a pattern of sin just because I know that I myself will never be sinless.  No, how I see it is that when I notice something in my family/friend’s life that seems contrary to how Christ lived then I need to take some time to turn the complete focus of my heart towards God because only then can I determine if I struggle with the same thing.  If I find that I do then my focus must remain fixed on Him in order to begin dealing with it in my own life before I can adequately offer help to my family/friend.  In the same way, If I find that I don’t struggle with the same sin or if, by the grace of God, I am on the path of deliverance from that sin still my focus must be set on the cross of Jesus so that when I approach my family/friend to offer help I am doing so out of true love and with a spirit of humility.  With my gaze fixed on the Savior, He will reveal the opportunities to help them and He will grant me the proper attitude to confront them in love and humility.  Approaching this any other way allows my pride to run the show and creates an attitude of self-righteousness, negatively affecting my relationships and unconsciously redirecting the focus of my praise off of God and on to me.

My focus on the sins of friends and family members who currently believe in the gospel of Jesus can affect my spiritual life and the original design of Christian relationships, but even more concerning to me, and detrimental to the Kingdom, is how this sin-focus can affect my influence on unbelievers.  Human beings are defensive creatures by nature.  Typically we will do whatever we can to protect our current state of comfort and peace of mind… defending the core beliefs and understandings upon which we have built our lives.  In order to do this we put up walls around the most vulnerable parts of our being… we install defense mechanisms to help minimize the effect that the outside world can have on us.  I’ve seen this occur a lot in my life.  With my, at times, stubborn personality I’ve enlisted some pretty robust barriers.  It seems that the stronger my faith or belief in something is, the thicker the wall becomes.  I say all of that to try and provide some rationalization for the defensive response that usually proceeds when someone’s actions or behaviors are being called out as wrong.  It seems to make sense.  When I approach a relationship, or begin an interaction, with someone I don’t really know and my focus is on everything they are doing wrong then my judgmental attitude will probably result in me attacking those things I think they are doing wrong instead of learning about who they are… a creation of God.  At this point, most people will take offense to the judgmental attacks and will respond in defense of their behaviors.  Honestly, for the way people behave… I can’t blame them if they are not a Christian because they don’t have the Spirit of God living in them to guide their behaviors and convict them when they have sinful habits in their life.  That being said, this DOES NOT mean that they will not have to answer for ALL of their sins on the day of God’s Judgment… and without accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior the only answer for sin is eternal death and separation from God in Hell.  Without Christ in their life they don’t have the same guidance available to them that I have in my life for knowing right from wrong.  For them, everything they do is justifiable because they are pursuing what their hearts and flesh desire.  Comparison to the rest of the world offers them the only guidance that they think they need.  I believe that the primary need of anyone living life like this is not me pointing out their specific sins… it’s not me suggesting some kind of behavior modification… their primary need is JESUS.  Yes, they need to understand the disease called sin that they were born into like everyone else in this world… BUT, they need to understand that the Son of God was sent as a sacrifice for all and that with His perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection our disease of sin was cured once and for all.  If they believe this, confess that they are a sinner, and turn towards Jesus as their Lord and Savior then they will be found pure and blameless before God on the Day of Judgment.  In order to point them towards Jesus, their primary need, I have to have my gaze fixed on Jesus… not on their sin.  To do this I have to know that my God has the amazing ability to change the heart of a sinner and turn it towards Himself there by opening their eyes to the sin in their life.  So with my focus on Him, He will do the work of dealing with sin by first drenching their hearts with the perfect love of Jesus Christ.  I don’t need to fix anyone… I just need to tell them about the one I am looking towards!

The Gospel of Jesus was never meant to turn my focus towards sin and leave it there!  In fact, it was the exact opposite.  It’s purpose was to make me aware of MY sin and give me an opportunity to turn from it and run in the direction of God.  Allowing me to pursue a personal relationship with my Creator and experience the fullness of life that was intended before sin entered the world.  Thereby motivating me to live a life that points towards Him in all that I say and do… a life lived “all 4 above”.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”   

-Hebrews 12: 1-2

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