Ah…the new school year is upon us. I knew it was coming as I walked through Walmart and saw all the aisles of folders, pens, paper, protractors and backpacks. But the reality of school became quickly evident this morning as I was stuck behind a school bus that seemed to pick up every single child on Military Trail from West Palm down to Boynton Beach. Believe me…my prayer life was in full effect this morning.
As I thought about students and teachers heading back to school I thought about the concept of “NEW.” New school year. New clothes. New shoes. New teachers. New locker. New friends. NEW! NEW! NEW! Going back to school gets the mind ready for something new.
The Bible talks a lot about “new” things. One of my favorite verses about things becoming new is 2 Corinthians 5:17. It says, “If anyone belongs to Christ [“anyone” – that means anyone can belong to Christ.] They are a new creation. The old things have gone. [The old things – all the stuff that you felt guilty about, all the sin and the yuck and the nasty things that have been part of your life are wiped away. The old is gone. Everything is made new.”
That’s great news. That if anyone comes to Christ, everything can be made new. What that means for us is this – we can be new. You can be new. And if you could be new, what would you do? You could have a new you, a new life in Christ. And today you could even have a new focus.
A new focus? Yes…A NEW FOCUS… so that you don’t hit twenty years from now and you say, “My life could have been powerful but it was just kind of there. I never took advantage of being new.” Today you can have a new focus, and a new way at looking at life.
As I began thinking about a new focus I thought I’d take a look throughout the Bible and see what God focuses on. What does God focus on? If we see what God focuses on, we can learn what we’re supposed to focus on. Why? Because the goal of Christianity is to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ and to be more like Christ. Here’s what the Bible says that God focuses on.
- God focuses on the heart, not the rules.
What’s Jesus always going after? He’s going after the heart. Christianity is not about rules. Christianity is about what’s going on in your soul, in your heart. I know you know this but let me say it just to clarify. When I’m talking about the heart, I’m not talking about that organ that’s pumping blood. I’m talking about the heart as your inner being. It’s who you are. Everything you are comes from your heart and that’s what God is focusing on. He’s focusing on our heart, not on rules.
In the bible in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus is speaking to some people and says this, “You’ve heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone.’” That’s one of the Ten Commandments. And by the way, is that such a bad rule? In terms of the health of our society, that’s not a bad thought, is it? “You shall not kill.”
Look what Jesus said. He said, “A long time ago you heard it said this way, ‘You shall not kill,’ But I tell if you’re angry with a brother or sister you’ll be judged.” You see what He does? He says, “Here’s a rule: Don’t murder anybody. Let Me give you a new one: Don’t be angry at people.” What’s He going after? He’s going after the heart. He’s not focusing on the rule. He says, “You all are worried about murder. I’m concerned about what’s going on in your heart.”
Look what else He says. “You’ve heard it said before ‘You must not be guilty of adultery.’” Let’s stop there. Is God down on sex? No. God created it. It was His idea. He made it. It’s an awesome idea. It’s wonderful. But what happens when people commit adultery? It breaks down families. It destroys relationships. It destroys people.
God says, “I like life a lot. Don’t kill it. I created sex to be a good thing. Don’t abuse it.” Jesus says, “You all are focusing on adultery,” but look at what He says, “But I tell you, if anyone looks at a woman and wants to sin sexually with her in his mind he’s already done that sin with the woman.” Jesus said, “I don’t want you to focus just on not murdering. I want you to focus on your anger – your heart. I don’t want you to just focus on not committing adultery. I want to talk about lust and what’s going on in your heart.”
- God focuses on one’s heart, not one’s performance.
God’s not as concerned about your performance as He is with your heart. And there’s a great verse in the Bible in the Old Testament. Here’s the set-up: The prophet Samuel was going to be used by God to choose the new king of Israel. God sends Samuel to the house of Jesse. Jesse had several sons. 1 Samuel 16:7, “And God says to Samuel, ‘Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is because I’ve not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
What Samuel did was what many of us do. He walked in and said, “Ok, God wants one of these guys to be king. I’m going to walk right over to the best looking, buff, tallest guy.” And God says, “Wrong!” God says, “I don’t look at people the same way you do. I look at the heart. You’re looking at performance.” God doesn’t care about your looks and your clothes or your finances. God cares about your heart. It’s a big difference. If you can get your arms around that truth, your life can be totally changed.
- God focuses on the motives of the heart.
What is the motive of the heart? Your motive is your “why?” Why did you do that? Why did you say that? Was it pure? Was it generated out of a pure heart or was it generated out of a selfish heart? Was it generated out of a heart to make other people feel good or was it generated out of a heart to make you look good? Was it generated out of a heart to do good to that person or make you elevated?
Look what the Bible says in Matthew 6:1, “Be careful when you do good things. Don’t do them in front of people to be seen by them. If you do that you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Look at the connection. God goes after the motives. “When you give to the poor, don’t be like the hypocrites. They blow trumpets in the synagogues or on streets so that people will see them and honor them.”
In the Bible, in the synagogues, in the Temple, they would have these offering plates that were metal and the more coins you put in the more sound it made. He says, “I tell you the truth. The hypocrites already have their reward. So when you give to the poor don’t let everybody see what you’re doing. Your giving should be done in secret. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. They love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners and pray so that people will see them. I tell the truth; they already have their full reward.”
Bottom line: God’s concerned about the heart. People focus on external – what you look like, how you act. God’s not concerned about that. And people aren’t going to be judging us in eternity. God is.
Here are a few action steps for developing a new focus. Some things to think about this week. Three things we can do:
- Ask God for a new heart.
- Examine your heart’s condition.
- Put together a plan to keep your heart right.
“Be drastic.” If your heart is in the wrong place if your heart is hardened, would you be drastic? Do whatever it takes to always have the focus on Jesus.
Ask God for a new heart, examine your heart’s condition and put together a plan to keep your heart right.
One last thought is this: Change your focus to be like God’s focus – and focus on your heart and not your performance. When you focus on your motives, when you change your focus to be like God’s focus, your vision for living a great life will definitely increase.