What Faith Requires – Focus

Introduction
We live in a world that is defined by being distracted. We do not even relax and watch television anymore. A study by the Mobile Marketing Association found that “88% Of U.S. Consumers Use Mobile As Second Screen While Watching TV”. Clive Thompson, New York Times Magazine, “Information is no longer a scarce resource — attention is.” We are all experienced at being distracted and interrupted in life.

There are many efforts to help us deal with this. Justine Haupt invented a new kind of cell phone. She wrote: In a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.

Inventor Rama Poola “Many of us have some level of dependency on our phones, whether we’d like to admit it or not.I believe that the more intentional time we spend being present with ourselves and engaged with the world around us, the more content we will be and the more capable we can become.”

When we talk about faith, I believe we are talking about something that deserves our focus, but also needs our focus – our attention – our intentional purpose. Faith is not an one-time experience, but a life-time journey. Faith requires that we believe God and we Persist through the challenges we face. Faith requires FOCUS. In our text today, Jesus redirects the attention of religious leaders and disciples of his day, and ours. I want to ask you five questions about the focus of faith that I hope you will consider – if I can get your attention!

Does Faith Focus on Tradition or Scripture? (Mark 7:1-5)

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. 2 They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with unclean—that is, unwashed—hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed. And there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands?”

Mark 7:1-7, CSB

The trouble with traditions is that my tradition is your dogma (and vice versa).

Tradition can be a distraction from Scripture – drawing us away from the teaching of the Bible to comparing ourselves with others and what they do or do not do.

Tradition is not evil – and can be good – but it cannot condemn others or draw us away from Christ.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ.

Colossians 2:8, CSB

Does Faith Focus on Judgment or Grace?

If we condemn others for not keeping our traditions, we are living in judgment and not grace.

You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:1 , CSB

This is grace that teaches us how to to live with God. This is grace that teaches us how to live with others.

Does Faith Focus on Outward Acts or Heartfelt Worship? (Mark 7:6-8)

He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands. Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.”

Mark 7:6-8 , CSB

God has always desired our heartfelt worship – much more important to him than our outward acts.

Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:13

We may think our acts of religious duty are more important than our hearts, but God does not! God desires our hearts, not just our actions.

Does Faith Focus on Arrogance or Confessions? (Mark 7:9-13)

He also said to them, “You have a fine way of invalidating God’s command in order to set up[e] your tradition! 10 For Moses said: Honor your father and your mother; and Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death. 11 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is corban’” (that is, an offering devoted to God), 12 “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”

Mark 7:9-13 , CSB

Jesus zeroes in on the real issue: the hypocrisy of demanding of others what you will not live yourself. Arrogance seeks to justify self, dragging down others, and failing to see yourself as you are. Confession waters down arrogance by recognizing our great need before God and our lack of status among others. We are all sinners – and we all need Jesus – so none of us can afford the price of arrogance.

Does Faith Focus on Self or Jesus? (Mark 7:20-23)

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”

Mark 7:20-23, CSB

This section ends with a description of the human heart. I have two reactions to this list: *I can see now that Jesus knows the real ME. *I can see now that Jesus loves the real ME and died for me BECAUSE he knows and loves me.

“The gospel declares that no matter how dutiful or prayerful we are, we can’t save ourselves. What Jesus did was sufficient.” ― Brennan Manning

The focus of faith is always to be on Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look Full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

– in the light of His glory and grace.

Conclusion

In a world of distractions, we can easily find ourselves focused on tradition, judging others, empty religious practices, and a failure to recognize our own sin.

Faith focuses on Scripture, Grace, Worship, the Real ME: Faith Focuses on Jesus.

We can have a faith focused on Jesus when we…
-Love people the way Jesus loved them
-Serve others from the heart.
-Worship God – not just attend worship.
-Recognize who we are inside, and thus how much we need the Lord in our daily life.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth[e] of everything I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-13, CSB

We Focus on Faith As we Pray the Tax Collector’s prayer: ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’

Faith is Focused on Jesus.

Resources
The Truth About Distraction and How You Can Fix It – Jonah Malin

Rotary Cell Phone – Justine Haupt

Using the Brick Method on My Phone Has Made Me a Better CEO by Rama Poola