Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
It’s good to be back from Africa and see you all.
Especially together in one room.
This morning, we’re starting a new series called “Refocus”
Our aim is that we, as followers of Christ, would begin to refocus our efforts off of ourselves, and onto the right things.
Because, as you know, Americans are very obsessive…about themselves.
I’m reminded of the first page of Rick Warren’s monumental book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
This is how the book begins:
“It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.” – Rick Warren
Except this is not how most of us live in our culture.
Think about some of the most popular slogans of all time.
Slogans are culture shapers…and if not that…at minimum they are signs of what the culture already is.
There’s Burger King’s: “Have it your way”
Loreal’s: Because your worth it
Sprite’s: Obey your thirst
From an early age, most of the messages we get around the purpose of life is about self-fulfillment.
We’re supposed to go to school, get a job, and live out our dreams.
If we just believe in ourselves, we can achieve our ultimate purpose…to BE HAPPY!
But this is a huge reason why so many people are so sad and depressed.
Because self-fulfillment is NOT the purpose of life.
It’s not what you were created for.
And when you live your life for something you weren’t created for, it’s like trying to get a fish to enjoy living on land
That’s not what they were created for.
And neither were you created to find meaning by making yourself the focus.
And so we want to shift the focus off ourselves during this series.
And we’re going to shift off ourselves to three different areas in this series…starting with the most important shift, refocusing on God Himself.
I want to start us off this morning in the Book of Hebrews.
(Hebrews 12:1-3) – NIV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I really want to focus especially on verse 2 today.
The idea that we are to FIX our eyes on Jesus.
That he is to be the focus of our faith.
FOCUS: REMINDS YOU OF WHO YOU’RE LIVNG FOR
Jesus Himself is a great example for us.
He lived, he ran with a purpose.
His focus is always his Father in Heaven
(John 5:19) – NIV
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
As Jesus is living his life, he’s walking while looking upwards.
God is his focus.
God is his purpose.
He does what God leads him to do.
But for most of us as Americans…we walk not trying to see God; rather we walk trying to get a glimpse of ourselves.
And so we play this fruitless game where we are like a dog chasing its own tail…and thus we’re never satisfied.
The Bible warns us often that if you make self-fulfillment the purpose of your life, you’ll wind up feeling empty.
The entire book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is dedicated to this concept.
How many miserable celebrities and athletes do we need to see before we believe that self-fulfillment doesn’t lead to what we irrationally believe it will?
As we taught last Fall in our Gilded Age series, when we’re not satisfied in our self-fulfillment, rather than look to God…we just project more images of ourselves and our lives out on social media.
Hoping that snapchat…or 50 more hearts of approval on Instagram will finally give us meaning through self-fulfillment
But it doesn’t.
Because like a fish out of water…that’s not what God made you for
And so who are you running towards?
Who are you running for?
Francis Chan, in his very good book, Crazy Love, says that the way we live our lives is kind of like a person who gets to be an extra in a movie.
That person is on the screen for two-fifth’s of a second, and you can see the back of their head in the midst of a huge crowd.
And no one cares…except maybe their mom.
But what if that person was you, and you rented out an entire movie theater on opening night, and invited all of your friends to come see a “movie about you!”
They would think you’re ridiculous, right?
And yet, that’s how we often look at life.
God created this world, and the entire narrative of the world led up to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And everything since then is about Him.
And when we die and go to heaven, everything will be about God.
We’re on earth for about 2/5’s of a second in the grand scheme of things.
This life is NOT about us.
The purpose and focus of my life should not be to bring me glory.
I’m just an extra in the movie about Jesus Christ.
I’m just there to fill in some of the details that will better highlight Him.
FOCUS: THE THINGS OF THE WORLD GROW STRANGELY DIM
But how do you begin to refocus?
How do you, as Paul says in Colossians:
(Colossians 3:2) – NIV
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
It’s being serious about a daily discipline of looking to Jesus…of fixing your eyes on Him as Hebrews says.
It’s being serious about talking with Him as much as possible
It’s being serious about reading His word…every day.
And when you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus…your real purpose…it keeps you focused on the right things.
For those of you who grew up in church years ago, you might be familiar with the old hymn that was based on Hebrews 12, entitled, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
Here’s what it says:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth with grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
It’s a great lyric. There’s a lot of truth in it.
When you focus on Jesus, the things of this world become less important.
Let me give you an example of this.
Ten of us from Renovation just spent about 2 weeks in Rwanda.
The Lord did incredible things there.
Our team helped lead 736 people to put their faith in Jesus for the first time.
On top of that, they also shared the Gospel with over 5,000 children!
We saw amazing things!
Last Sunday, I was preaching in a Rwandan church, and I gave an invitation for people to come forward and give their lives to Jesus (something that church hadn’t done in a long time)
And we saw 17 adults and a number of upper elementary students come forward.
And one man in particular was SO grateful that God had saved him, that he asked the pastor if he could just confess His sins right then and there so he could run hard after Jesus instead.
And he grabbed the microphone and confessed to this church of 400 people that he had committed adultery, lived a life of lies, and that he had promised God the equivalent of $1,500 if God kept Him safe, but then he never gave the money to God.
And then, he got out his wallet, put $1,500 in the offering and sat down.
It was amazing!
And I tell you what, our team, like any missions trip, was so focused on Jesus.
Our eyes were fixed on Him last week.
We started every day with Bible reading & prayer, and we were living for Him throughout the day.
And because of that, the other things of the world “grew strangely dim.”
When I’m at home, I’m always annoyed by how many times I just check the news & sports on my phone and everything else that doesn’t really matter all that much
And while my eyes were fixed on Jesus in Rwanda, the things of the world just “grew strangely dim”
I realized that it didn’t even bother me that I had no idea what was going on in the world…or that I was missing the Olympics…or what have you.
The Olympics are not my life’s purpose…it’s just background noise.
Some of you maybe just need a jump start in your purpose.
You need to get refocused by looking up to Jesus again.
Missions trips can be great ways to do that.
In fact, this is good timing, because our applications for our Haiti Trip come out today.
(put up Haiti Missions Slide) - Leave up until verse
God has done incredible things through Renovation Church in Haiti the past 5 years.
This is THE most well-rounded missions trip I’ve ever been on.
There’s something for everyone and every gifting.
There are opportunities to build and do construction for churches, orphanages, etc.
There are opportunities to play with and talk to kids about Jesus.
Opportunities to share your faith and more.
Our vision is that every single adult at Renovation Church travels internationally with us on a missions trip at least once…some will do many more.
I want every single one of you to start praying about this.
And listen, God has already told you to go.
His Word tells us to go and make disciples of all nations.
Asking God if he wants you to go is like asking God if He wants you to love your neighbor.
And so, when you pray, pray, “God, is there any reason you DON’T want me to go this year?”
And then pick up an application in the hallway on your way out today.
There will be an interest meeting for all of those who are even remotely interested or have questions on September 11th in between services.
I’m telling you that when you begin to fix your eyes on Jesus, everything changes.
(Matthew 10:38-39) – NIV
38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
See, when the things of this world and our own selfish desires grow dim, people around you will think you’re crazy for not living with a “me first” purpose.
When you start living differently, they’ll think, as Jesus says, “That you’ve lost your life!”
“Why would you raise and spend money to go to a different country that no tourist would ever go to?”
“Why would you spend time every week going to church…twice a week even during the school year!?”
But Jesus says, whoever loses their life, finds it!
See when people think you’re crazy, you no longer will think you’re crazy.
Because God won’t have you chasing your own tail of self-fulfillment anymore, but chasing after Him.
And it feels good to finally be running in a straight line.
You won’t just be looking in the mirror, but living real life.
And honestly, it feels good to be living a life based in purpose & reality…
Not just living a life in the virtual (and often staged) reality of social media and self-fulfillment.
FOCUS: IT GIVES YOU STRENGTH & HOPE TO KEEP GOING
But keeping focused on Jesus, and thus remembering that your purpose in life is living for Him, not yourself, is easier said than done.
The gravity of sin, always seems to pull our necks back down.
Always seems to get us refocused back on ourselves, or things of this world.
So how do you convince yourself to look back up, to get refocused on Him again?
One of the ways you can do this is by remembering the end of the story.
Look again at verse 2 of Hebrews 12:
(Hebrews 12:2) – NIV
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We’re told that Jesus was able to endure the painful death of the cross because of “the joy set before him”
He’s able to go through with it…to stay focused on His father…because he knows the joy that is coming.
He knows that soon enough, He will be sitting down at the right hand of the Father.
He knows that soon enough, billions of people will be saved because of his one act.
And so how do we convince ourselves to keep focused on our purpose, living for Him, not us, when times get hard?
We remember the end of the story.
We speak truth into our lives about what life is really about!
It’s our purpose that gives us strength in hard times.
For the number of you that have been on international missions trips with us, you know that one of the themes we hammer into your head is “whatever it takes”
That whatever opposition or struggle we will encounter on the field, we will do whatever it takes to live for God (not ourselves) and get the Word out about Jesus.
Let me give you an example of this:
Just this past week, one of our team members was taking a shower in Rwanda, and just as he got all lathered up with soap, the water stopped working.
He said, he just shook his head, said, “Whatever it takes,” grabbed a few water bottles and wet wipes he had in his room and rinsed off.
And here’s what I want you to see: Purpose is what allows you to really persevere in life.
We wrongly think that what we need is more self-fulfillment (more things & more successes) and then we’ll be better able to handle life
But self-fulfillment (living for oneself) actually does the opposite.
Because when you’re living for your own happiness, and things go wrong, you tend to develop a “Why is the world not working for me?” attitude?
“Why is the world always out to get me?”
And the only reason we ask those sort questions, is because we believe that the PURPOSE of life is to make ME happy.
But when you believe that the purpose of life is to serve Him, not ourselves, then when the “water shuts off,” it’s that much easier to say, “Whatever it takes”
You won’t say, “Huh! Why does nothing ever seem to go MY way!”
You’ll just say, “Whatever it takes, I just want to serve my God.”
See, focus/purpose determines attitude.
When my focus is on me, and I’m living with the purpose of life serving ME…
I’m always bothered by the little things going wrong
I’m always worrying about the little things that might go wrong (for me!) in the future
And I’m spending my time focusing in the wrong things.
But a change of focus…can bring significant change to how you live your life
Let me give you an example.
A few years ago, Lindsey and I had a great opportunity to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Canada.
(Show Capilano Picture) – LEAVE UP UNTIL THE END
Here’s a photo I took of it when we visited.
It’s 460 feet long (about 1.5 football fields) and 230 feet above the river it crosses in the middle.
The bridge itself is quite safe and crossed by almost a million people every year.
But if you don’t like heights or crossing bridges over water, it might not be your favorite experience.
But if you are afraid while crossing it….where you focus…means everything.
If you focus on yourself…you’re going to struggle.
You’ll be thinking about each movement, and pretty soon, you’ll start looking down at your feet.
And when you’re afraid…and walking across a high bridge…what’s the one thing you’re not supposed to do??
And when you get focused on your fears…you succumb to them.
But if you refocus somewhere else…if you look…not down, and not at yourself…but just straight ahead…and keep walking, you’re going to make it.
And this applies to your walk with God.
The focus cannot be on yourself or the world around you.
Life won’t work that way.
But if you can refocus on Him.
And you begin to orient the purpose of your life on serving Him…your life will change.
Things will seem easier.
When things go wrong, you’ll be less frustrated.
Everything changes based upon where you focus.
Focus changes attitude.
Because if you’re looking down at your own feet when the “bridge of life” starts shaking…you’re going to feel anxiety, & worry, & fear.
But if you can fix your eyes upon Jesus on the other side…and keep walking towards Him & for Him…life will be different.
And when life gets hard, remember the joy set before you
I’ve run two half marathons now…and when I get to that point of the race…where it just feels super painful…
I keep running because of the same principle that Hebrews is talking about today.
Because of the “joy set before me” I keep going.
Because I know how amazing that feeling of finishing is.
That’s what keeps me going.
And we keep running for Jesus even when life gets really hard because we know that our lives are just 2/5ths of a second, and then…we’ll meet Jesus face to face.
And we’ll get to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
And when we see how the glory of God and splendor of heaven makes the things of this world seem like a slum…we’ll be able to say, “it was worth it…and it was right”
So I want you to leave here today with a renewed to commit about the purpose of your life.
And my prayer is that you realize that every week, our necks will once again get heavy, and our sin will pull our focus back down to ourselves.
So keep renewing your commit to fix your eyes on Jesus…every day.
And walk across that bridge…focused on Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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