Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

Keep Your Focus

Posted on November 27th, 2021

Proverbs 4, Matthew 14

Good morning. It’s good to see everyone out this morning. We didn't plan this, but that particular song goes very well with what we're going to talk about this morning. We just sang about how “evil allurements” cannot prevail.

There are a lot of evil allurements around us, and we do well to keep our focus on Christ, upon God, upon their promise of a glory land that we will go to if we are obedient to God's Holy Word. There are a lot of allurements in this world. We're going to talk a little bit about that. One of those is being “smart”. Researchers tell us people want to be smart. We don't know exactly why, but probably it was one of the reasons why Eve committed that first sin. Why she ate the forbidden fruit. Satan told her what it “will make you wise”. Of course he lied. It brought her grief. There is no smart food.

If you're like me, you get these ads on your phone that say; eat this to increase you're IQ. This food improves your brain function. Of course, they wouldn't advertise this sort of thing if some people at least, didn't pay attention to it. There is no smart food to make you smart.

There's no brain game to make you wise. I get games on my cell phone that say playing this game for ten minutes a day makes you smarter, raises your IQ. If it was that simple then educators such as myself and others in this room, would have jobs that would be very different. True wisdom, of course, comes from God. Let's turn over to, of course, the book of wisdom—Proverbs.

Proverbs chapter four, wisdom is what this book contains, and, of course, it's what the entire Bible contains. Solomon is the wisest man who ever lived who was only a man. Christ was fully man and fully God. He received his wisdom from God.

Returning to Proverbs 4, I will begin with verse 25. It says, Let your eyes look straight ahead (or directly forward in the English standard version), and your eye lids look right before you ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil, (or the ESV puts it do not swerve to the right or left). Simply put, stay focused. Do not be distracted. Stay focused on doing what is right. We're all aware of the dangers of being distracted at the wrong time when we're using machinery.

We've all been there. You see them on the highway. What do we see? These people who are not driving the right way, and you manage to get alongside them or pass them. What are they doing? They're on their phones.

They're on their cell phones. Distracted driving is a very real problem. Studies have shown that being on that phone is just about as bad as being drunk on the interstate. The news reported that a man had a car accident because he was driving with his window down and a cicada flew in and landed on him. He was greatly distracted and wrecked. No one was injured fortunately.
Think of all the things that happen in this world because of distractions. Food is ruined. I'm an incompetent cook. I can ruin microwave macaroni and cheese. Things are spilled. Money gets sucked up in a sweeper. You all know what I'm talking about here? Solomon here warns us not to be distracted by evil. Satan uses distractions because they work so well.

We're entering into what we call the holiday season. What are they? Almost nothing but distractions. I ask you, what's the day we've designated as Thanksgiving for? Most Americans now seem to believe that Thanksgiving is for stuffing your face with Turkey and then passing out on the couch watching football. How much thanks is there anymore in a Thanksgiving?

I can't really drive home until Wednesday. I’m just waiting for the joys of that commute on the road as people act like they're so full of thanks and goodwill. Then after that, what are the other holidays about? Getting together with family and friends. Are they, as Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts always used to say, the gift getting season?

We get distracted by things, and of course, distractions work. That's why Satan uses them. Some are mentioned in this book. Of course, we don't have the time to go through the entire book of Proverbs, but the idea of, easy money, is directly addressed almost immediately in the book of Proverbs, easy money through robbery or through, as we talked about when I was with you a few weeks ago, the things that we would not say, I haven't held a bank or anything, but maybe I pocketed that piece of candy and nobody knew about it. So you might save $0.50 in this dishonest way or you say, okay, well, I commit crime, but don’t I really have time to study the Bible? There's work or there's play, or there's a ball game or there are hobbies or there is I'm just so tired or there's a temptation.

These are the evil allurements that we just sang about. Turn over to Matthew chapter 14 we get an example here of distraction that we're all familiar with, I'm sure, but it's good to remind us ourselves of these things. Matthew chapter 14 and we see how we get distracted by all the things around us. And when do we get distracted? We get distracted when we take our eyes off of Christ.

Matthew, chapter 14, beginning with verse 22, says immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Now evening came. He was alone there. But the boat was down the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves. The wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were trouble saying, It is a ghost, and they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is, I do not be afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.

So he said, Come. When Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But of course, what do you do? He did not do as Solomon had said, do not turn to the right or left ponder of the path of your feet. As we read in Proverbs 4, what did he start to do? He started to look around. At the very least he started to notice other things other than Jesus. He saw, in verse 30, that the wind was boisterous. He was afraid and beginning to sink. That's when of course he started to sink. He cried out, saying, Lord, save me.

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him and said to him, oh, you little faith, why did you doubt? And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those who were in the boat came and worshipped him, saying, truly, you are the Son of God.

Peter was distracted. He took his eyes off Jesus, and then he let his fear distract him.
We're distracted by things that allure us. We're also sometimes distracted by fear. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions that we have. We talk about this when I teach politics, we talk about the media.

And how does the media, I don't care if it's the Internet or the newspapers or television stations. How does the media get and keep our attention by scaring you? I’ve got a political cartoon that I put up on my PowerPoint that has a couple of newscasters. It says; we'll be back and after the commercial break with ten more reasons why it's not safe to leave your house. The point being, fear grabs people's attention.

Yes, we need to be cautious, and we need to avoid putting ourselves in risky situations. As both Testament say, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. You shall not tempt the Lord your God. However, sometimes we let fear keep us from doing what we need to do. We let fear keep us from living our lives for Christ.

To give you an example; sometimes we just don't talk to someone about Jesus because we're scared, because we're afraid. Sometimes we go along with what someone is doing, even though we know it's wrong. Proverbs talks about that. Romans talks about that because we're afraid of losing a friend. We don't want to be unpopular.

Teenagers get a lot of criticism for this, but you can be 18 years old or you can be 108 years old and be subject to peer pressure and be afraid that well. Somebody isn't going to like me anymore if I say anything or if I won't go along with whatever it is they're doing that's not right. Peer pressure can work on us regardless of age. This, of course, can be a serious life changing mistake.

Turn over to the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews chapter twelve, Hebrews chapter twelve and we'll see a simple but yet, of course, very often neglected yet simple to say, but not so simple to do solution to these problems.

I'll read this one from the English Standard, as it's a bit more directly clear. Hebrews chapter twelve, Hebrews Chapter twelve, verses one and two, it says. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, the witnesses being the most faithful listed in Hebrews eleven, so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely.

The New King James says it easily besets us, but it clings so closely trying to get rid of it, and let us run with endurance or patience, the race that is set before us looking to whom? Verse two, looking to Jesus, who the ESV says is the founder and protector or, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Keep your focus upon Jesus. It's very simple to say, but we don't do it. People, of course, in the coming months are very concerned. We're taking Christ out of Christmas. Well, we should be most concerned about, I suppose, is taking Christ out of our lives.

We shouldn't worry about that in December only. We should worry about taking Christ out of January, February, March and April all the way through December. We need to be looking to Jesus. Too much of the world, of course as we're all familiar with, looks to Jesus maybe twice a year on the holidays we've designated at Easter and Christmas. We need to be looking to Jesus 365 or 366 days out of the year. Looking to Jesus, keeping our focus on Jesus, because there are evil, alarmists and distractions all around us.

Let's look at actually a physical example all the way back to Genesis.

Genesis chapter 39 gives us an actual biblical, physical example of someone who faced evil alarms and certainly physical allurements. They faced trials and temptations and problems and see how he dealt with it. I'm talking about Joseph, Genesis chapter 39.

I'll read this in the English Standard. I'll begin with verse one. This, of course, is after Joseph has just been sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt.

It says here in verse one. Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

Let’s stop there for just a moment.

Joseph is separated, of course, from his home, from his relatives. They all just sold him into slavery in the first place. Too often people act like different people. There are a lot of concerns, of course. I know that at least one person here is going to go off to College soon. I hear that, of course, as I teach in College and have been in College, there are a lot of concerns that, well, what happens when the kids leave? When the kids leave home, they'll turn away from God. Well, hopefully, of course, that won't be the case. Hopefully, we and the kids, regardless of whether again, we're 18 or 108, will not turn away from God.

What's the way that we don't turn away from God? We have a good foundation in God's word, and we're dedicated. We dedicated ourselves to fall in Christ. We keep our focus on Christ. We keep our focus on God and what God wants.

Let's see what Joseph does here in verse seven. After a time, it says, his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, Lie with me. But he refused and said to his master's wife, We'll get caught. I'll get in trouble. That breaks Egyptian law. Can't do that.

No, of course, that's not what he said. He said, Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife.

Where was Joseph's focus? How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

We've been through a lot, haven't we? In the last almost two years, I hope and trust, none of us has ever been sold into slavery, been rejected by our own brothers. None of us has ever gone through what Joseph had gone through to this point. Of course, if you're familiar with the story, you know what happens to him later.

You see, throughout Joseph's life, he never did what? he never lost his devotion, his dedication to God. His focus was on; not I'll get in trouble, I'll get caught, I'll go to prison, I'll get my head chopped off. It was always—how could I sit against God? He never forgot that. Who is he ultimately accountable to? He's accountable to God, and so are we all. Joseph made God central to his life. He did not act like many people do. Many people, of course, excuse their evil behavior, their wallow in self pity. He didn't say God has abandoned me. He let me be sold by my own brothers to foreigners, who can blame me if I copy their ways? After all, I'm in Egypt. We often hear when in Rome do as the Romans do. Well, there wasn't Rome yet, per se, but I'm surrounded by pagan Egyptians. Why not just act like (I almost said walk like an Egyptian) act like an Egyptian. My father, Jacob will never know what I'm doing down here anyway. He saw His heavenly Father, trusting God that God would preserve him, preserve his soul, would bring a blessing at this difficult time.

Many children behave for their physical fathers. It's less common than it used to be, but you might have heard “you have disgraced the family name”. At least some of us have heard that. Apparently, maybe we're told that you have disgraced the family name. By the way, my father has the same name as me, and my grandfather had the same name as me. We all had different middle names. So the name of Robert Sidwell is a long one in the family. We behave for our father's sake, our physical father's sake, or, of course, to avoid a whipping.

Older people sometimes try to keep the family name and some of younger people, too. Shouldn't we even more want to keep God's name than others? To behave like we are children of God, to bring glory to his name by a manner of living. The Scriptures tell us to do this over and over again.

That was Israel's Job. Ancient Israel's job was to represent God's people to the world. And if you read the Old Testament, you see that they completely and utterly failed at that. And the question, of course is, do we? We know that Joseph eventually, if you know the story, went to prison because, of course, Potiphar’s wife accused him of, well doing what she wanted him to do anyway. But we know that God did not desert Joseph in the tough times.

We see later, when Joseph testifies as well as prophesy in front of Pharaoh, he confesses that it was God. God does not change. There are a lot of evil allurements and distractions out there.

Turn to First Corinthians chapter Ten and it seems like we get overwhelmed. It seems like we get positively overwhelmed. I am not a computer person. I teach history and politics. I teach political science, not computer science. I know that I've seen some of these videos about the worst computer malware on the Internet. Much of what it does is it actually floods your computer with ads. It absolutely bombards you with ads so it is hard to do anything else because it's so busy. There are just these ads popping up all over the place and you can't stop it. It seems like that's what our physical lives are like. There are just so many distractions, both good and bad.

Family can be a great thing, but when family is distracting you from reading God's Word, from attending services, from serving God as you should, and then it can be a bad thing. There are good and bad things in this world, but none of them, of course, can compare with Christ. It seems like we just can't resist.

That's what you often hear in the attempted defense and sometimes the successful defense of criminals. “Well, he just couldn't help himself, your Honor, he just didn't have a choice. Overwhelming urge came over him. Just couldn't resist.” Well, if you ever said that as kids or adults and thought, quote, the devil made me do it, really? Can the devil make you do anything?

I Corinthians 10:13 says; “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man;” In other words, no temptation ever takes you that is not common to man. It's not just you. Different things tempt different people. Some people are more attempted by fleshly things. Some people are more attempted by money. Some people are more attempted by power. Some people are more tempted by their reputation, some people more attempted by sports. It goes on, and you can list all sorts of things that tempt different people. There are all sorts of temptations out there and whatever you're attempted most by, you're not alone. No temptation is overtaking you except that is common to man.

Continuing, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” or “beyond your ability” from ESV, beyond your ability. So we are assured right here that you will not be overwhelmed if you do what? Keep your focus. Keep your eyes upon God upon God's word upon Christ and continues to finish the verse says; “but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Let's not be distracted by trials and temptations to leave the path of righteousness. Some of us are from rural areas, originally from Tennessee and such, of course, Geauga County counts as rural, but not compared to where I'm from. It's not. The path of righteousness is a whole lot more. It’s like, probably most of you know this road. I used to take it from Kent to get here and it was fun—Diagonal Road and that nice little road through that swamp in Northern Portage County, where there's a huge drop off on both sides, which is probably the most terrifying road that I've ever been on. Anyway. That's more like the path of righteousness, actually, it's really straight and it's really, really narrow and getting off of it is dangerous. It's not like I-271, where there are three express lanes and three local lanes.

That's not the way that life works. That's not the way righteousness is. It's hard to find, but it's easy to wander off. We've all heard this. Matthew seven, and of course we should.

Matthew 7:13-14 need to be reminded of these things because of just how easy it is to leave the road. Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,” ESV here says the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. “And those who and there are many who go in by it because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life. And there are a few who find it.”

To begin to wrap our thoughts up here, Jesus, what's He doing now? Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. Stephen saw him and there are other references to this. After He did what he did, He finished, as He said on the cross, He finished what He came here to do. He is interceding for His children with God.

He is helping them. He's helping us as we are His children, from our high and He is waiting that day, which of course, God alone knows when He will come back. When He comes again. As we sang - to judge the Earth in final victory, He will reward the faithful. But there are a lot of people, of course, who, as another song we just sang, for that will be a sad day.

Another old song found in this book sings truthfully, and I quote everybody’s talking about heaven that ain't going there. God is indeed merciful to those who are obedient. If you turn to Revelation 21, we'll see that the list of those for whom that will be a sad, sad, sad day is a long one. Those who will hear their doom as we sang.

Rev. chapter 21. It's human nature for us to start doing a checklist of this. Revelation chapter 21 verse eight, people say, Well, let's see. I haven't done this or this or this and they go through the whole list. It says that the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars.

You ever lied in your life? Have you ever sinned in your life?

They shall have their part in the lake which burns the fire brimstone, which is the second death. The next chapter, if you turn to Revelation 22, verse 15 says, ESV here, outside of the gates, outside of heaven, in other words, are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters. (I'm not any of those. Look at the last phrase.) Everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

New King James—practices a lie. There are so many people who think that they're living right and they're not. They live in practice a lie. They live and practice a falsehood.

A couple more references here and we'll wrap our thoughts up. Roman chapter two. Here we see that not only is this list a long one of things that can keep us from heaven, but it applies to everybody. It applies to all human beings.

Romans 2:6 again, for clarity sake I'll do this from English standard. It says He, God or Christ, will render to each one according to his works, to those who, by patience and well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and Fury. There will be tribulation and distress or tribulation and anguish (New King James) for every human being who does evil, every human being, the Jew first and also the Greek, the glory and honor, peace for everyone who does good for the Jew first and also the Greek for God shows no partiality or is no respecter of persons.

The whole nation was consumed this week with the trial that went on across the country of the person who's accused of shooting people, if you will wrongfully if you are legally not in defense or whatever. Of course it's not and wouldn't be my place to pass judgment on him. It is ultimately, God’s. Is what he did justified or perhaps not. God assuredly knows.

You think of anybody else, any sort of level of physical trial, not just those are put on trial in our criminal court system. Take each of us. What have we done? How are we living? God knows. Criminals of all sorts, and I'm not singling him out, criminals or accused criminals of all sorts can get away with a lot. Look through history, they've gotten away with a lot, but we will not escape God's wrath.

One more reference here. Turn to Second Peter, chapter three for our final reference here Second Peter 3:9-, he says here by inspiration. Peter says, the Lord is not slack or slow concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is long suffering or patience toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Both the Earth and the works are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of person ought you to be in Holy conduct and Godliness looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new Earth and with righteousness as well. Therefore beloved looking notice, we have a lot of looking here looking forward to these things. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.

Be diligence. Put some effort into it. Continue to stay on the narrow gate and we do that, of course, by fixing our focus, fixing our lives upon Christ. I ask you, what road are you on?

Many of us will hit the road, the physical road this week, going to visit relatives. They're expecting travel to be basically at pre pandemic levels. So busy, busy road. Personally, I hope everyone stays safe in the physical sense out there.

Even more important question then are you going to be on I 271 during rush hour, is what road are you on Spiritually? Are you on the straight and narrow, literally, road? Or are you on the wide path that leads to destruction?

We turn on to the interstate physically, but how do we get on straight and narrow road? We hear the Word of God. We hear that Jesus is the Christ for the loving God. Then we believe that and are willing to confess our faith in Him before men.

Then we're willing to repent of our sins and be buried with Him in baptism. Then we continue to live lives focused and built upon Christ. Always looking to Jesus, the founder and professor, the author and the finisher of our faith. And don't get distracted, not during the holiday season and not during the non holiday season. Keep Jesus at the center of your life, whether it is as the world defines it, whether it's time to give thanks, whether it's time to think more about Jesus than people usually do.

I'm talking, of course, about the other holidays. Keep Jesus as the center of your life in October, in August and every other month of the year. So if Jesus is not the center of your life, we're inviting you to make him that. If you've never put him on a baptism, we're giving you a chance to do that. If you have put him on baptism, but you've swerved, you swerved off the straight and narrow, your in danger falling into the ditch.

Of course, you became distracted. You became distracted by what Jesus described in the parable of the soil, by the cares of the world, the thorns that can choke the seed of the Word. We are also giving you a chance to make that right by praying with you and doing what we can for you. So if you need to come to Christ to be baptized, if you need to come back, if there is anything we can do for you, come forward while we sing this song.

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