“You become what you give your attention to”- Epictetus
Originally, this post was going to be focused on an idea I brought up in my second reflection on the Spirit of Early Christian Thought, however, after having a rather long conversation with my wonderful editor and close friend, I realized that this post would serve better as a practical exploration of what it means to have my attention fixed on Christ rather than a theoretical reflection on why fixing my attention on Christ matters. In sum, my conversation with her has led me to the conviction that this would better serve you, the reader, as an introduction to examining the Christian Life through Biblical Ideals. In essence, what must we give our attention to such that Christ is projected and on display for an unbelieving world when they look upon us and our lives.
I can start with no better foundation for this reflection and opening of my own life than with the passages of Scripture that God has compelled me to depend on for the whole of my life.
- Romans 8, especially verses 1,5-6,10
- “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
- “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,”
- If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
Verses 5 and 6 are critical to our reflection, and they can be brutally summarized as the following. Those who focus on the flesh focus on death, those who focus on the Spirit focus on life and peace. Because of our union with Christ, we are drawn to focusing on the things of the Spirit, however, our flesh is still active and conspires with the devil against Christ within us. So, if our focus is on the flesh we will be drawn to conspiring against God our loving creator, however, if our focus is on Christ within us then we shall be drawn into deeper intimacy and union with Him and our lives will begin to express His love more fully and deeply.
- Psalm 119, especially verse 2,5
- “How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart”
- “Oh that my ways may be established to keep Your statutes”
I’ve spent a growing number of hours and days crying out things very similar to verse 5 here. The more that I have focused on Christ, the more I have found that I desire God to overtake my entire being so that my life would no longer shame Him with my struggles with sin. God is in the process of answering this prayer daily and each day I am carried through the refining fires of His love so that those around me might see His handiwork more clearly in my life and being.
- Galatians 2:20
- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no lionger I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Let me be very blunt here, this passage brutalized me psychologically. I am very emotionally attached to this passage because of my life. I have been and am being crucified with Christ. Every day my flesh is on the Cross as my Spirit walks in the newness of the Empty Tomb. My entire being is waged in a war that God has already won and by God’s grace I endure till my life reaches His final victory. Every moment of my life is either an expression of Christ or an expression of my flesh’s hatred of Christ. I can only pray that God would make my life have more moments of the former, rather than the latter. Christ gave himself up for me, this will become intimately involved with a later passage on the meaning of marriage.
- Matthew 5:3 (Author’s Translation), 16
- “Blessed are the [humble and lowly] in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”
- “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven”
All of life is meant to glorify God, and if some aspect of my life does not produce worship for God when others look upon it then I am in the wrong, especially if my life fails to produce worship of God in my own life. We must move lower, we must strive to have the lowly and humble heart of Christ. We must desire to have affection and care for the people around us as Christ has had affection and care for us.
- Job 42, especially verses 2, 6
- “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted”
- “Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes”
Who am I to stand in the way of God, I have multiple times felt the pains of trying to fight against His will. I cannot dominate or take control of my own life from God, and every time my flesh attempts to do so, the result for those I love and care for is pain. I must stay out of God’s way and strive to faithfully abide in His perfect will.
- Proverbs 1:7 (Author’s Translation from the Septuagint)
- “The reverance of God is the origin of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”
All things that may be known are revealed by God. Our recognition of God’s majesty and His authority, our complete surrender is what lays the foundation for any knowledge. When we despise or hate wisdom and instruction trying to avoid it at all costs we are showing the spaces of our life that have not been surrendered to God. Foolishness is akin to pride!
- 1 Corinthians 6, verses 17-20
- “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
I’ve made many mistakes in my life when it comes to caring for my body as the Temple of God, and for a more thorough treatment of the topic see Health as Pious Worship
- Ephesians 5, especially verses 1, 8, 25
- “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children”
- “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.”
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her”
Men know this, the call to marriage is the call to the cross more intimately than any other call save the call to martyrdom itself. Marriage is a call to suffer and sacrifice for our wives as Christ has suffered and sacrificed for His bride, the church, we give ourselves up in marriage. Marriage is a call to the death of self in an immensely intimate fashion. The standard is impossible, Christ loved us, enduring the Cross and Roman torture… and we are called to the same enduring love in marriage. Would you endure the Cross? Would you willingly feel the flesh torn from your body by flails, scourging, and beatings with reeds? Would you endure the pain Christ suffered for you, for your wife? I can only pray that for her sake that we have dedicated ourselves to striving after this kind of love because otherwise, we have cheated her of the love commanded that she be given.
Women know this, the call to marriage is difficult and arduous, it necessarily includes childbirth, adoption, and parenting. Your husband will fail the standard commanded of him by God and you will endure pain and your own kinds of suffering because of his imperfection and yet you are called to give him grace, to point him toward the cross and help him to chase after Christ.
For both Men and Women chase after Christ and these things will, in time, work themselves out, have patience with one another just as the Lord has had patience with you.
- John 15:12-13
- “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends”
Much of what I discussed for marriage is applicable here as well.
- Matthew 28:19-20
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Everything I have discussed this far boils down to this. Our lives are reflections of our pursuit of the great commission. Yes, we teach by word, but our lives can just as powerfully be a teaching presence. Cling to Christ and let your attention be fixed on Him. Your life will proclaim your beliefs, your fears, your wounds, your loves, and all that goes on within you. Let your life proclaim Christ, keep your eyes fixed on Him. Do not fear life but embrace the one who lives in you, Christ.