EYES WANDERING AGAIN. Going places they should not go. Places that lead to coveting, lusting, longing and despair. Coveting can cause a feeling of resentment against those who have what you want. You might develop anger, even at God, for what you perceive as lacking. I kept “noticing” every expensive car that drove by. Look at that Dodge Challenger, and it even has a hemi! Oh, wow, look at that Audi R8! There goes a Porsche 911. Oh gees, a Range Rover sport edition! It didn’t stop there. I never failed to notice “the women.” My eyes wandered to legs, breasts, everywhere but the face. Lust. Desire. It kept happening. I committed adultery in both of my marriages. I used sex as a “drug” to escape pain, loneliness, failure. I became addicted to pornography. I grew weary of my habitual sin and finally dropped to my knees and begged God to change my vision. I think we all need a vision change.
“Father God, please change my vision. Give me eyes that see beyond flashiness, lust, wantonness. Let me see people the way you see them. Amen.”
Paul identified sexual sin and other obsessions as a stronghold—a deep-seated habit or compulsion. He wrote, “…though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” The only effective way to destroy a stronghold is through prayer and the Word of God. Yes, this means seeking guidance from Scripture specific to strongholds, but it also includes hiding God’s Word in our hearts so we are prepared to make righteous decisions when tempted. David wrote, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways” (Psa. 119:1-3). Then he added that famous statement, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (119:11).
Shifting Our Focus
Andrea Lowe wrote, “Just as it is the focus and attention of our eyes that determines the direction of a car, it is the focus of our care and concern that determines the trajectory of our lives. And, just as in driving, our decisions and actions affect others for better or for worse.”(1) Our focus must also be ahead, not behind. I heard an analogy that expresses this concept quite nicely. When we get behind the wheel of a car, we notice how much larger the windshield is than the tiny rear-view mirror. This is because what lies ahead, with its possibilities and risks, is much more important than staring backward at where we’ve been. An occasional glance in the rear-view mirror lets us know if anything is coming at us from behind. In this way, it allows us to monitor whether our past is chasing us down, causing our focus to shift to what was instead of what is in front of us.
The apostle Paul wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2). I will unpack this passage shortly, but I want to mention another critical tenet found in Scripture. In Luke 9, we read of a man Jesus met along the road. The man felt called to serve, so he said to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home” (Luke 6:61). Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (6:62) (emphasis mine). Jesus lived during an era where agriculture was a major source of food and wealth. Accordingly, His audience would understand the reference. For a plowman to be successful in His work, he must concentrate on the job he started. He knows that the only way is forward and not being distracted by the things left behind.
Eugene Peterson provides the following paraphrase of Colossians 3:1-3 in The Message: “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (MSG).
Paul’s comment in Colossians 3:1-2 picks up the argument he began in Colossians 2:20, which says, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of the world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules?” This is what he references in 3:1: “Since you have been raised with Christ.” But what does the resurrected life look like? What must we do to change our focus, our vision? First, we need to believe wholeheartedly in the death and resurrection of Christ. Amazingly, the crucifixion has been well documented as an actual event in history. Regardless, it must become true for us individually. Then, having decided for ourselves that Jesus is the Messiah, we must come to believe that we have been crucified with Him. Having identified with His death on our behalf, we must then identify with Him in His resurrection. We died to the old self, and we have been raised to a new life in Christ.
A New Vision Through Christ
So, how does this new life in Christ play out? Paul wrote, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5). We have to set our minds—indeed, our focus, our vision—on Christ. This involves not looking back. After all, that life is dead. It also requires seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not leave us all alone. He said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). This references the Holy Spirit, who is our counselor, our helper, our intercessor, our advocate. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to change our orientation from a side-to-side view of our earthly surroundings (a horizontal orientation) to a heavenward view of God and the things of His kingdom (a vertical orientation).
Peterson paraphrases Paul’s words in Colossians 3:5-8: “That means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk” (MSG). Unfortunately, there are many so-called “carnal” Christians who routinely walk according to the flesh rather than by the Spirit. I was one of those carnal Christians. Much of my fleshly behavior continued after getting clean and sober. I was not able to enlarge my life in Christ until I became committed to walking as He walked.
My reason for choosing the title LORD, Change My Vision! comes from my crying out to God in this manner. I realized how much I looked at cars, watches, clothing, women, fine restaurants, electronic gear, and other flashy or techy stuff. It is very easy to think we need (or deserve) these kinds of things. I thought I deserved a material reward for quitting drugs and alcohol after 40 years. Recognition for a job well done. I was wrong. That type of thinking robbed me of spiritual growth. I had been craving, idolizing, or worshiping “things” over Christ; admiring the “creation” more than its Creator. Yet, it is Christ who died for my sins and broke the chains of addiction over my life. We each have our own reasons why we might feel entitled to a corporeal or fleshly reward outside of the will of God. Much of this type of thinking is spawned by rationalization: the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.
Shifting our focus requires a change of heart. I learned this lesson the hard way. We determine the direction of our lives by our vision. Paul said those who live according to the flesh habitually set their mind on the things of the flesh. This creates a carnal lifestyle. Ultimately, it leads to idolatry. But those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (see Rom. 8:5). John Piper writes, “…that which is begotten by the Spirit has the nature of the Spirit, is permeated by the character of the Spirit, and is animated by the Spirit.”(2)
It has been my experience that if you honestly want to begin walking by the Spirit, clean up your mind and conquer your strongholds; change what you look at and lust after; adjust your view from horizontal to vertical; seek the Spirit of God to help you accomplish these goals. It is my routine to ask the Holy Spirit throughout every day to help me think about what I am thinking about. This allows me to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ; to help me monitor emotions, hurts, hangups, resentments, temptations, triggers. Also, to avoid judging others or looking down on them. My daily prayer is also for opportunities to share Christ with others. It is no longer typical of me to isolate from others. After all, we cannot do ministry or tell others about Christ unless we get up off the couch, turn off the TV, and go out the door.
Steven Barto, B.S. Psy, M.A. Theo.
(1) Andrea Lowe, “Shifting our Focus, Changing our Perspective,” (in) (Aug. 15, 2018), accessed July 12, 2022. URL: https://www.incourage.me/2018/08/shifting-our-focus-changing-our-perspective.html
(2) John Piper, “Let Us Walk by the Spirit,” Desiring God (March 1, 1981), accessed July 12, 2022. URL: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/let-us-walk-by-the-spirit
Unless otherwise specified, all Scripture referenced contained herein are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).