How to focus on Jesus
Can we be honest, are our Christian lives what we think they ought to be?
Do we find them mundane?
Do we struggle with the message that we are holy but still find ourselves sinning?
Do we look at the world and sometimes feel they have the better answer for fundamental questions?
These are the questions of a book I have just read, and probably the beginning of countless sermons you may of heard.
They fit with the way that many feel at the moment seeing Christian influence wane and secularism rise.
This book and many of these sermons go on to tell us that we need to change our focus from the external and focus on Jesus who is the power within us.
Excellent advice, the author moves on to give lots of bible verses for why this is true, and then they move on to how this will change the world, Christians will rise up, the body will do its work and our Christian lives will be joyous, again giving lots of bible verses as to the value of this thinking.
I whole heartedly agree with this teaching; the church can only be empowered when it is reliant on Jesus.
Yet I wonder if like me, these sermons and books leave you feeling a little flat, because you feel like they’ve missed a step out
This step being between focusing on Jesus and the way this changes the world. There rarely seems to be an explanation of what focusing on Jesus actually means. I believe this is the fundamental missing link and today I want to engage with this subject.
How do we focus on Jesus? Is it just wishing hard enough, do we wail and scream as the prophets of Baal, do we fast or do we just worship? These have been our focuses for many years.
To answer this I want to look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Read Ephesians 1:15-23
The Ephesian church was known as the red hot church, as told us in revelation where they had gone cold. The book of acts also tells us of the Church of riots and revivals
Paul set up the Church on his 2nd missionary journey and then returned and stayed there for three years on his 3rd missionary journey. On his return to Jerusalem, Paul called for the elders to meet him, he wept with them as he knew he would see them no more and then charged them to take care of the good thing God had given them
Ephesus was a place of wealth had stood in every one of the empires of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, which he dreamed of. And in every one of these empires it always had a temple to a mother of the earth. in the Greek times it was Artemis and in the roman Dianna. Even though the temple had been burnt down 7 times it had been rebuilt and almost exclusively by the citizens through their own wealth.
Paul’s letter was written whilst a prisoner in Rome and unlike many of his others was not a correction of doctrine but a letter of encouragement highlighting the true nature of the church and how the body should work together. If any letter is to teach us what the church should be, then this is the letter.
How does it apply to us?
The letter to the Ephesians was a circular, which wasn’t written to the church of Ephesus as a special case, it was written to all the churches, and there were many copies sent out.
This is important because what we see is that this was always meant to be a universal teaching, written by Paul, for the edification of all the body. Rather than having to see how it applied to the Ephesians special and specific history, to then see how it applies to us.
In these verse Paul is praying for the Ephesians yet verse 19-21 highlight who the prayer applies to
Those who believe in the resurrection and those who submit to God.
Is that you? if not you have greater issues.
Paul also prays for the Ephesians, because of what is written in verse 15
Therefore I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints, Ephesians 1:15
The fruits of grace are faith in Jesus and Love toward one another, (the summing up of the law)
What is his message?
Paul is praying for those whom are already exhibiting great Christian traits to receive more.
It is in this that we can learn, that firstly there is always more we can do and secondly that our prayer does not have to be filled with request for the sick but to pray that our brothers and sister grow in their faith.
Paul prays for the hearers of this message to receive three things in verses 17-19
V17 The first thing is that we get to know Jesus better.
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him, Ephesians 1:17
It may seem obvious but when you love someone you want to get to know them better, the depth of our understanding of Jesus is unfathomable. This applies to all levels
Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
study to show yourself approved, the word teaches us of God’s nature,
Paul is highlighting our heavenly Father’s role in our understanding, that we might seek wisdom from God, through the spirit, that Christ is revealed to us
What is our excuse? But by knowing Christ better how much harder would it be to sin, Paul knew we are fickle, so did Christ, that’s why He instituted the breaking of Bread. Forgiveness is easy to get, but bought at a price, we must be holy for he is holy, yet we stumble in this area because its all become an abstraction, only a personal knowledge of Christ lets us know that the casual sin, is hurting one dear to us.
V18 the second thing where our hope should lie
the eyes of your mind having been enlightened, for you to know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18
The first part is separate from the rest, rather that it again qualifies who the recipient is, its someone who has had their eyes enlightened, opened to the light of his gospel, which has taken this thing that, is foolishness to the world and believed it.
The calling, that is referred to here is the Greek Klay sis, it literally means to be called to a marriage feast,
it is not within the ministries or good works that we might do for the Lord, our hope is not in what we do, but what has happened to us. Our hope is in our salvation. It is the hope of eternal happiness of being saved when we did not deserve it. Our hope is in what we have been saved from and our effectiveness will come when we realise the importance of this. How do we know its waned, look at the gospel service, have you heard it all before, is the gospel tiring, especially when no one seems to be getting saved.