Are You Paying Attention?
We live in fast paced world. Everything and everyone is on the move, and everyone seems to be busy doing something, and who’s to say what’s being done is not important? But with all the things there are to do, who has the time? With things pulling you in every direction, and everyone wanting a piece of you, what’s important? What is worthy of your valuable time? What do you pass off, and what do you pay attention to? Because as should be obvious, we do need to pay attention to what’s going on around us.
When we look at it from a spiritual perspective, it all becomes even more important to pay attention. Scripture is full of admonitions to ‘take heed’, which means not just to pay attention, but to pay careful attention. Both Old and New Testaments speak at length about this often looked over discipline. We read in Deuteronomy 4:9:
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life…
And then in Hebrews 2:1:
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
Whether you are a babe in Christ, or have been living for the Lord for any number of years, paying careful attention to our walk should not be underestimated.
One of the reasons why so many Christians struggle, is because they live loose, slipshod, and raggedy Christian lives. What I mean by all that is that they live on a ‘whatever sounds right is right’ mentality. A little bit from here, and a little bit from there; a little dab of this and a little dab of that. When it comes to their daily walk, and trying to make practical application of these ‘spiritual tidbits’, the struggle ensues, because what it all amounts to is what resembles a patchwork of belief systems, pulled in from different places to make a whole with no solidity and no root; just a runny doctrinal mess. It needs to be understood that an improper doctrinal foundation will only lead to trouble down the line. For this reason, and several others we will explore, we need to pay careful attention. Are you paying attention?
WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COVENANTS & COMPANIONS
Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: Exodus 34:12
This speaks of our relationship with the world. The Lord is saying that we should not make, or have any close, intimate alliances with the world. We cannot ‘sleep with the enemy’, so to speak. Here’s how the New Testament breaks it down:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
The Israelites were prone to backsliding; they were easily beset by the sin of compromise. The danger lied in becoming too closely entangled with the people and their ways and allowing those ways to become their own. This challenge is also ours: to be in the world, and remain unspotted from the world. I don’t believe any of us do it to any perfection because as one preacher puts it, ‘the clinging vines of the fall’ are not easily broken. However, who you surround yourself with and who you allow into your space matters. We need to pay careful attention to our covenants and our companions. Are you paying attention?
WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE COMPASS OF OUR HEART
Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; Deuteronomy 11:16
The Lord says that we are to pay careful attention to our hearts, because simply put, as the heart goes, so goes the life. King Solomon put it this way:
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that,
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Wherever and whatever our hearts are drawn to, will be the place where our affection lies. Jesus himself said:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21
All this means that we need to pay careful attention to our heart’s trajectory. Where does it lean? In what direction does it constantly point you toward? Which way do you find yourself turning? If we do not get a handle on this, we will slowly find ourselves turning aside, running to, and embracing those things which can only bring us back into bondage. Are you paying attention?
WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CARES OF THIS LIFE
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. Luke 21:34
When there’s too much going on in our lives and around us, our minds and hearts can become dulled, and numbed to it all. Once again, the heart is referenced as we’re told to pay careful attention to our hearts (which can be translated, ‘mind’ here), so it doesn’t become weighed and bogged down with, ‘stuff.’ It is not just our alliances that ought to be selective, but also our activities. We may not have issues with partying or drunkenness, as spoken in this verse, but we all have cares in this life. These are the things that cause us to take our eyes off what is most important. Jesus said that the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life will choke the Word out of our lives and make us unfruitful (Lu.8:14). Are you paying attention?
WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COMMUNICATION
First, we need to pay careful attention how we communicate the Word to others:
And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth? Numbers 23:12
We all feel we have something important to say, and what we have to say is important, except when what is being said clashes with His Word. That’s when my words are no longer important. His word rules. When speaking, relating, explaining or proclaiming the Word of God, we must be careful to speak what the Lord has spoken. In our verse, Balaam speaks this way because he had already proven himself to be willing to tickle the people’s ears for a price, and God found it necessary to chastise him. We must never make the mistake of muzzling, softening, changing, adding or subtracting anything that God has spoken or has done.
Secondly, we must pay careful attention how the Word is communicated to us:
And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. Mark 8:15
When I say ‘how’ the Word is communicated here, I don’t mean the manner in which it is done, but rather the content of what is spoken. Is it truth? Does it line up with the Word of God? It’s important to note also that scripture usually uses the word ‘leaven’ to illustrate sin. Here it means ‘doctrine’ or ‘teaching.’ Jesus says to pay careful attention to, and be on guard for the teachings of two groups: the Pharisees and the Herods.
The leaven of the Pharisees can be defined as, ‘the hypocrisy and religious traditions that overturn and set aside God’s righteous commands, and both invalidate and make of no effect God’s Word and God’s will.’ The leaven of Herod can be similarly regarded as, ‘the spirit of secularism and worldliness, along with the attending immortality and corruptness that accompanies them.’
We have to pay careful attention as to who we allow to speak into our lives. With the myriad of voices around us claiming to have a ‘word from the Lord’ we must be very selective. New believers need especially to arm and equip themselves with basic foundational teaching. But what is right? Who is right? When it comes to doctrine, everything that glitters is not gold. Much of the church’s teaching nowadays can be classified as ‘fool’s gold.’ It looks right, it sounds right, but if I may use the vernacular–it ain’t right. The key is not accepting views of those who preach human ideas, unbiblical traditions, or a secular humanistic type of gospel.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8
Once again the admonition is to be on guard. Receiving and accepting this type of teaching will bring weakness to the church in general and to your personal walk with the Lord. False teaching, properly labeled, ‘doctrines of demons’ in scripture, will always seek to drive a wedge between the Christian and truth. Are you paying attention?
FINALLY, WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CROSS
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; Hebrews 2:3
This great savation is all about the Cross. It is the Cross that saves us, it is the Cross that sanctifies us, and it will be the Cross that keeps us.
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5
The Cross is the power of God, because it was there, at the Cross, that Satan was defeated, and remains defeated. If we neglect and overlook the Cross, we do ourselves great harm. We must embrace it and keep it at the center of all we do, because it is the center of who we are. Are you paying attention?
That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.