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December
25
2020

Shun Unhealthy Self-Focus

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? (Isaiah 58:5)

 

 

 

God never commanded you to examine your emotions, experiences, or sins. What He did say is:  The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). Victory over sin comes from focusing on Christ - not beating yourself up! In the Old Testament the Israelites reached a place of despair. They’d fasted and “afflicted” their souls, yet God ignored their efforts. They sought spiritual restoration in their own self-directed way, and God rejected it (re-read the opening scripture).  Clearly, God is not pleased with the misery that comes from self-focus! He has a more effective way to liberate us. Rather than have us weighed down with remorse, He said:  (6) “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? (7) Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7). 

 

God’s way eliminates the “paralysis of self-analysis” by commanding you to forget about yourself completely; to stop dwelling on your imperfections and get involved in the lives and needs of others. His four-point plan for overcoming your flesh is:

 

1.)  Acknowledge His grace and see yourself as ‘righteous’ in Christ.

 

2.)  Fix your eyes on Jesus.

 

3.)  Shun obsessive self-focus.

 

4.)  Serve God by serving others.

 

When you do all these things, your light will rise in the darkness, the Lord will guide and strengthen you:  (9) Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, (10) and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (11) The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:9-11).

 

Read Romans 15 (entire chapter)

 

(1) We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (2) Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (3) For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (4) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (5) May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, (6) so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7) Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (8) For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed (9) and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” (10) Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” (11) And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.” (12) And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” (13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

 

(14) I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (15) Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me (16) to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (17) Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. (18) I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - (19) by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (20) It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. (21) Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” (22) This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

 

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

 

(23) But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, (24) I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. (25) Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. (26) For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. (27) They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. (28) So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. (29) I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ. (30) I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (31) Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, (32) so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. (33) The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

 

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