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Securing Undistracted Devotion to Christ

Updated: May 28

 

(These are the notes I preached off of this morning in our church worship gathering. Here's the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceu9xWsxAis. May the Holy Spirit increase your hunger for Him today!).


In the sovereign wisdom and moving of God, the Holy Spirit chose certain writings out of many in that first century after Christ died and rose again - - to be to us what we’ve come to know as the Bible or the Holy Scriptures. In the sovereign wisdom and moving of God, He chose many of the apostle Paul’s letters to various churches to make up a significant portion of the New Testament.

 

Two of Paul’s longest letters are to the church in Corinth. This church Paul was writing to was the first church birthed in that general area – planted or established by Paul himself. This small but growing church was birthed out of a morass of sexual immorality, idolatry, worldly arrogance, etc. The average person, perhaps every person coming together to worship the Savior in this new church had lived for decades pursuing the lusts of their flesh and minds – having no moral restraint of any kind outwardly or especially inwardly.

 

These two letters of Paul’s in Scripture are referred to as I and II Corinthians. In these letters Paul addresses many issues that they were struggling with. But his overriding concern for them in prayer and in his letters is what I want to bring your attention this morning. Because his overriding concern for them is God’s overriding concern for us throughout scripture. Sadly we often lose sight of this overriding concern for lesser concerns. And when we settle for lesser concerns – well everyone suffers.

 

This overriding concern is first seen in:

I Corinthians 7:35, where the apostle explains, “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

 

This overriding concern is seen for the second time in:

II Corinthians 11:2,3, where Paul again explains, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

 

When the apostle Paul later in this chapter speaks of and I quote “…the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches” his chief concern is that the church in Corinth and all the other churches  Paul had any influence over would be churches that are growing in “….undistracted devotion to the Lord”  and in “…the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

 

Yes we as Christ’s church or Christ’s people are to feed the poor, and proclaim the gospel to the lost, and heal the sick, and care for the widows and orphans, and pursue oneness with our spouses and raise up our children and grandchildren in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, etc., etc., but more than anything else – we are to be an increasingly undistracted people in the pursuit of intimacy and oneness with our Lord and Savior.

 

Now I don’t know about you, but I majored in distraction in my first 20 years as a human being. And I have not easily been delivered from such since.

 

If the serpent could by his cunning craftiness cause Eve to forsake a perfect environment, a sinless society, a perfect marriage and a perfect relationship with the living God for a bite of fruit from the one forsaken tree of all the amazing trees in that sprawling garden area called Eden, imagine what the evil one could do with Randy Nash, who was born in sin, and who grew up in a home and neighborhood and society that was far from what God intended for such.

 

Those of you who know me well know that one of the ways Satan and sin deceived me in later years and caused me to be distracted from my supreme calling to know and love and pursue Jesus over and above all else - was all the good things I was doing for Him in His kingdom. Those good things increased significantly in my latter years as lead pastor as I became acquainted with more people and more and more ministry opportunities both in our region and beyond. And it wasn’t until we appointed Joshua as lead pastor in June of 2015 and I was granted a three month sabbatical that God began to get through my thick skull that what He was really after with me was not my production, but rather my purity of devotion to Christ alone.

 

And one of the things He used to get me back on track was truth.  He spoke to me at some point in those first few years after Joshua took over these words, “The higher the calling, the more truth is required to support the pursuit of that calling.”   Since there is no higher calling or pursuit in life than knowing and loving and walking with Jesus, we can’t get too much truth under our belt or in our spirits to help us pursue that calling.

 

Now we know that Paul & Peter & John and the other apostles and disciples in that first century developed this kind of refusal to be distracted with lesser things. But they did not have the New Testament, so how did they get there? For that matter, how did Jesus – as one who though fully God was also fully man get there and stay there in His 33 years or so on earth?  Well one of the things we know about Jesus from His forty days of fasting and praying in the wilderness – was that He must have been meditating on the book of Deuteronomy – because His replies to Satan’s temptations were quotes from there. I’ve recently read through that book and was greatly ministered to by it. So I’m going to share some truth from there, and then some other scriptures in the O.T. that have helped me see the need to stay focused on the main thing.

 

I want to start with Deut. 4:29, wherein Moses says, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”  This passage is very similar to Jeremiah 29:13, wherein God told Israel, ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart.” The point of both passages being that intimacy with God is not easily obtained. Many things war against it. It cannot be one of our many pursuits or hobbies - or we will find it quite illusive. Please know that the reason we must seek and search for Him with all our hearts is not that He is hard to find or that He is playing hard to get. No the reason we must seek and search for Him with all our hearts is that we are too easily distracted and thrown off course.

In Deut. 6:4-9 Moses again exhorts Israel - “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when your rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  In other words knowing and loving and pursuing God should be your consuming passion Israel. Nothing else in life should get anywhere near comparing with this or competing with this.

 

Because Israel was so apt to minimize and compromise this high call to pursue God with all their heart and soul, twice God commanded them to cling to Him in Deut. Here’s the second time, “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” Deut. 13:4

Can I ask you something?

If your relationship with God were video’d 24/7 for a week, would it be obvious that you cling to Him? Or would He be seen more as a casual acquaintance by your actions and your time and effort devoted to seeking and knowing and loving Him?

 

I’ve found Joshua’s charge to the Rebuenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh helpful in this regard,  where he admonished them, “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:5    When we hold fast to something, it doesn’t slip through our fingers so easily. The picture I get when thinking about this concept of holding fast is a child or grandchild holding on to their parents neck for all their worth when they have been scared or possibly hurt or maybe they had to hang with their grandparents for a few days and Mommy and Daddy return for them.

 

Well these scriptures speak to the high calling of knowing, loving, seeking, clinging to and holding fast to God. Are there any examples of people actually doing this in the O.T.?  Well Abraham, Moses and Joshua, Daniel come to mind for starters. But no one in the O.T. wrote about it and emoted about it more than King David. “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.” Psalm 27:4           “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, …” Psalm 42:1,2   “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly (lit. early); My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.”    Psalm 63:1

 

One of the prayers I pray for you when I pray through a section of our church directory every morning is that the Holy Spirit will increase your hungering, thirsting, longing and yearning for God.

 

One of the prayers you should pray for yourself every day is that He would increase your hungering, thirsting, longing and yearning for Himself.

One of the prayers you should pray for our elders and wives is that He would increase our hungering, thirsting, longing and yearning for Himself.

 

King David was not perfect; but for a King with so much responsibility and stress, he was in a class all his own when it comes to his hunger for God.


George Whitefield, the great evangelist whom God used powerfully in the first Great Awakening, spoke to these things when he stated, "The heart can never be at unity with itself, till it is wholly centered in God."


A.W. Tozer - the great pastor in Chicago and prolific author of a century or so ago emoted in one of his books, "Almost every day of my life I am praying that a jubilant...longing for God might come back on the evangelical churches. We don't need to have our doctrine straightened out; we are as orthodox as the Pharisees of old. But this longing for God that brings spiritual torrents and whirlwinds of seeking and self-denial - - this is almost gone from our midst."

 

One of the reasons God often had to discipline Israel severely was because they often got distracted and pursued things that He did not delight in, Listen to His rebuke in Isa. 65:12 . “…..Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight."  So the question is - what does our God delight in?

One of the things He most delights in is our pursuing Him relationally. Here are a few passages in the O.T. that speak to this:

 

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight. - Pro 15:8

 

“Thus says the Lord, “let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and  let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23,24

 

God speaking through the prophet Hosea, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”. - Hos 6:6

 

Well that’s a little bit of truth about our highest calling and highest pursuit from the Old Testament. What about the New Testament?  How about the gospels? How did the Holy Spirit help us in the writing of the four gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry regarding this high call to undistracted devotion to Christ?

 

Well for starters -  Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27 all record Jesus stating what the greatest commandment is, which is to “….Love The Lord Your God With All Your Heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,…and …Your Neighbor as Yourself.”  We evangelicals are quick to agree with scripture theologically that this is indeed the greatest commandment, but somehow those little adverbs “all” get greatly minimized in our practice, and we practically replace them with “love the Lord your God with some of your heart, and some of your mind, and some of your strength….”…..sometimes….

 

John does not record Jesus reciting the greatest commandment, but only John records Jesus’s shocking words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” John 6:53 -  This passage speaks to how desperately we need His life, which only is obtainable through His precious blood (as Peter refers to it). The world continues to stumble over this, but true disciples know being daily sprinkled and washed by His blood is the only way sinners can be pure and blameless before a holy God and have increasing intimacy with Him.

 

It is also John who records Jesus’s amazing discussion with the Samaritan woman, wherein He explains that only those who learn to “…..worship Him …in spirit and truth” are those whose worship He will accept and respond to (John 4:24). John later in chapter 14 and 16 speaks much to the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us learn to live undistracted lives of devotion to Christ. You will be hearing a lot more about that in the coming weeks.

 

But perhaps the greatest contribution from the four gospels to this discussion is how they allow us to watch Jesus from early childhood until His last breath on the cross live out an absolutely undistracted life of devotion and communion with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Do you realize that Jesus lived His earthly life and carried out His earthly ministry at a time when Israel was at an all time low spiritually?  The government was corrupt; the religious leadership was corrupt; the people of Israel were perverted, hard hearted, idolatrous, and full of unbelief. His own disciples that He poured His life into day after day failed Him over and over. And yet Jesus lived a perfectly holy and devout life – never for one second letting down His guard or giving into the passing pleasures of sin. He stood alone for much of His life and ministry especially after John the Baptist was murdered.  That’s why the writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him…” Hebrews 3:1,2

 

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

 

He is our model and example. And the amazing thing is He wants to live His perfect life in and through each of us as we learn to abide in Him and walk with Him and cling to Him. One thing the Holy Spirit directed me to do some years ago was to start reading a chapter of a gospel each day for the rest of my days so I can better consider the only One who has ever lived a perfectly sinless holy life. You might consider doing the same.

 

The apostle Paul, after God saved him and delivered him from his hatred and violent temper and self righteousness, came to a place where he gladly died to all of his rights, for the sake of knowing and clinging to Christ. Here is how he described it in Phil. 3:7-11, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

 

By the time Paul met Jesus on that Damascus road, he had many ambitions, many responsibilities and many interests – all religiously driven – though by sinful and selfish motives. But when he began to grow in his relationship with Christ – he realized anything and everything in his former life was worth sacrificing to be able to get some traction with Christ. Anyone who has ever developed a level of intimacy with Christ has had to come to that point of being willing to experience loss so that Christ can be gained.

 

You see the apostle Paul grew up like a lot of us did - placing his sense of value, and identity and spirituality in his own efforts and religious practices. But when his eyes were opened to see Jesus as He is and to then see his sin as it was, he like a child in his mother’s arms, learned to cling to Jesus and place all of his security and hope and righteousness in Him and in Him alone.

 

 

, “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”  I Corinthians 7:35

 

Corporate prayer time

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