Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WITHOUT DISTRACTION”*

First Corinthians 7.35

 Let us begin this evening by briefly considering the most fundamental relationships you have established with others; your parents, your spouse, your friends, perhaps your children, or your colleagues. With respect to your usefulness to God, your dedication to serving your Savior, and your effectiveness in bearing fruit and worshiping God, are these relationships helpful or are they detrimental?

Turn to First Corinthians 7.35, a verse that comprises part of the Apostle Paul’s response to the questions posed by the Christians in the Corinthian church concerning marriage, divorce, and related matters affecting the Christian life and worship. When you find that verse, stand and read along silently while I read aloud: “And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” Notice that Paul wants them to profit, to benefit, from what he is writing to them.

The Apostle Paul is here suggesting the considerations of a virgin contemplating marriage as a Christian. However, the principle that he refers to is overarching in its importance to every human being and in every situation of life. First, the specific to which Paul speaks: If you cannot serve God after you have married, or if you anticipate that bearing children will make it impossible for you to serve God effectively and attend to the things of the Lord faithfully, then do not get married. In short, contrary to the thinking of the lost of this world, even the churchgoing lost of this world, it is unthinkable for Christians to marry and then stay home from church when boopsie-woopsie has the sniffles. Believing moms do not stay home with baby junior just because he is cranky and fussy.

What kind of people forsake the assembling of themselves together for so lame an excuse as, “We need time together,” when they live together, sleep together, and eat most meals together? Which is better family time, sitting shoulder together while silently looking at a large flat screen television, or sitting in the church auditorium and interacting with those with whom you will spend eternity? Loving someone, leading to marriage, resulting in children, should not have as its end a diminishing of any Christian’s effectiveness in worshiping and service to God. You marry because God has not graced you to remain single, with the knowledge that marriage is God’s protection against serious and testimony destroying sin. Thus, while being married does to some extent make some aspects of service and ministry more difficult, it reduces the danger to the Christian of falling into serious sins due to unmet physical needs. The Christian spouse certainly knows that defrauding your partner not only increases the distractions to serving God by making life more complicated (since each person must now consider the spouse), but you have done so without in any way diminishing the temptations to commit sexual sins as a result of defrauding your partner.

Whether you are married or not, through prayerful creativity and a diligent determination to glorify God, the child of God should strive to demonstrate to the world of men and the universe of angels that God and His service is more important than any mortal consideration. In bed during church on Sunday so you will be able to work on Monday? Saving yourself from Christian service so you will maintain a good reputation in your career? Is that the end for which you were bought with a price? I don’t think so. Please consider that my own personal physician is a dedicated Christian who did not so much as miss church the following Sunday after his kidney transplant. Does that shock you? Does that horrify you? Remember that his actions were the result of choices that he made in demonstration of his level of personal commitment to Christ, just as your actions are the result of choices you make in demonstration of your level of personal commitment to Christ. For that reason, focus your attention on the final phrase of our text, a consideration of vital importance to all men: “. . . that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.”

Some vigorous and energetic Christians seem to live their lives as though the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ should be the central theme of the Christian life, that our reason for being is to bring people to Christ, to baptize converts, and then to teach them to observe all things commanded by our Savior. Of course, that is a mistaken notion. The Great Commission, important as it is, and looming as large in the Christian’s life priorities as it properly should, is even more properly understood to be the means to a greater end, that of worshiping God, that of fulfilling our roles of giving God glory. After all, Revelation 4.11 reveals to us what our existence is really about. Listen as I read the words of the four and twenty elders surrounding the throne in heaven, as they fall down before Him, worship Him, and cast their crowns at His feet: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Why should the child of God concern himself with worshiping God above all else? You mean, in addition to worshiping God above all else being the right thing to do because it is the best thing to do, the most noble thing to do, the most beneficial thing to do, and the most personally rewarding and fulfilling thing to do? First Corinthians 6.20: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” How about because you have been bought with the precious blood of Christ and you do not belong to yourself? Please remember that misappropriation of resources, using someone else’s property without his permission to advance your own goals, is always unethical and usually illegal, yet that is what a Christian does when he treats his body as if it was his own to do with as he pleases.

A second question is why we should pay attention to what Paul writes about the matter. You mean, beside the fact that he writes by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God and with the authority granted to him as an apostle of Jesus Christ? Consider what he writes in First Corinthians 7.25: “I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” Since faithfulness is what the Lord Jesus Christ absolutely requires of us, First Corinthians 4.2, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful,” perhaps we should give serious thought this evening to attending upon the Lord without distraction.

We proceed in a very straightforward manner, to address this issue with simplicity. Two things, only, to set before you for your consideration:

 First, WHAT THE CREATURE MUST DO

 Understand that I am not referring here to anyone making you do anything. No one will walk up to you and tell you that you have to do this or that or else. What I am referring to here has to do with integrity, has to do with reality, has to do with the relative position of God and you when all is said and done.

Consider what you must do owing to the nature of God. I will not spend a great deal of time proving what you already know to be true about God, but seek only to remind you of very important considerations. God is high. God is holy. God is omnipresent. God is omnipotent. God is righteous. God is good. God is love. God is gracious. God is Creator. God is Sustainer. God is Governor. God is terrible in majesty. The angels tremble in His presence. In short, God is important. Therefore, when you worship Him, when you serve Him, when you learn of Him, when you pray to Him, when you give to Him, should it be in a halfhearted, nonchalant, or partially attentive manner? Considering the nature of God, what do you think?

Consider what you must do owing to the nature of man. You are just like me, essentially comprised of just so much dirt and spit. When I was a kid, it was determined that the constituent components of the average human body were worth about $1.98. I am sure that with inflation and the improvement in technology’s ability to make use of rare earths and other impurities, you and I may now be worth $30 or $40. If you add to that the fact that we are spiritually impotent, Romans 5.6, acting upon wrongly ordered priorities, and tending toward idolatry with respect to all our affections, does it not stand to reason that we who are so unimportant in and of ourselves should pay attention to God? After all, we can accomplish nothing by ourselves, but are wholly dependent upon His good graces. Are we not?

Thirdly, consider what you must do owing to the realities of the Christian life. Sinner, can you save yourself from sins? No. Christian, did you save yourself from sins? No. Can you in any way sustain yourself, or are you profoundly dependent upon God’s grace every minute of every hour, whether you realize it consciously or not? Is it not true that there is a judgment seat on which the Lord Jesus Christ will someday sit and review your life, my Christian friend? Is it not also true that while one believer will be rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ, another believer will receive no rewards from the Savior, “but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire,” First Corinthians 3.15? That said; take note of the word “attend” in our text. It is a Greek compound word that refers to occupying a good position beside the Lord, as illustrated by Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, in Luke 10.39. Not that you should always be sitting. That is not the lesson we learn from Mary. In our text and with Mary we learn to be fit and ready for God’s service, “meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work,” as Paul wrote to Timothy in Second Timothy 2.21. I illustrate: What is your reaction when you are sitting in your easy chair and you get a phone call summoning you to service for the cause of Christ? Are you disgruntled? Are you frustrated? Does your countenance fall? Or, are you eager to see what God has in store for you as you minister to someone on Christ’s behalf? In addition to being fit and ready for God’s service, to “attend” also has to do with being fixed and settled in His service. The older I get the more I discover that God’s plan for His children may very well include retirement from business and a reduction in professional responsibilities, but it never has in mind the end of ministry. For example: Archie and Shirley no longer teach Sunday School classes, but their commitment to ministry and service is as keen as it ever was, as it should ever be. Ask yourself what should stop you from serving God in and through your church. The answer is simple: Death, disease, or disability. Short of those impediments, your life is simply too important, Christian, your debt of obligation is way too profound, and the contribution God enables you to make to the cause of Christ is far too great for you to stop for anything less than death, disease, or disability. In fact, if you are creative and imaginative, and God gives you the grace to do it, you can be more effective when disabled, more effective when stricken by disease, and more effective as death approaches, than anyone who chooses not to attend unto the Lord.

Then, HOW THE CREATURE MUST DO

Consider attending unto the Lord, be it during prayer, be it listening to preaching, be it while worshiping through giving, be it while reading your Bible, or be it while witnessing and living the Christian life before others, both positively and negatively. The word is “without distraction,” and is the opposite of what we learn of Martha in Luke 10.40: “But Martha was cumbered about much serving. . . .” Jesus said about her, in verse 41, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.”

There are two sides to attending unto the Lord without distraction:

First, attending unto the Lord considered positively. Consider Mary and Martha once more. Remember that around Mary was the hustle and bustle of activity and hosting guests in their home. Yet she had chosen to pay attention to the One Who was important and to ignore those things which were unimportant. In Luke 10.42, Jesus said to Martha, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Thus, we see that Mary’s attendance upon her Lord was quiet, unshaken, and immovable. She was not in this way against anyone, but was very much for her Lord. Did those around her think she was against them? Her sister Martha was of that opinion, but she was mistaken. However, Mary did not concern herself with Martha’s opinion of her decision to attend to the Lord in this way. She simply did what was necessary and what was appropriate. So should you.

In order to choose the good part, as Mary did and as Martha did not do, and as Paul urged the Corinthians to do, there are some things you must not do: You must not allow Satan to distract you by tempting you with the good over the best. When you do good instead of doing best, you are not attending unto the Lord without distraction. Your attention has been drawn away. Perhaps you are a wife and a mother. However, you are first and foremost a Christian, so do not allow Satan to convince you otherwise. The same is true of husbands and fathers. You are a Christian first if you are a Christian at all. However, it is not always Satan who is responsible for distractions. Sometimes we laughingly blame it on ADD, or blame it on a squeaky door, an allergy, or a cold or even cancer. No one should walk across the front of the auditorium during the preaching of God’s Word. However, even if someone does precisely that, you decide whether you will allow that to be a distraction to you. Sunday morning a woman stood up and walked out of the auditorium while I was preaching this morning. However, her act was a conscious decision to minimize the possibility of distracting others by coughing. She did a good thing. If her actions distracted you from attending unto the Lord, that is your fault, not hers. Do you see the positive and the negative of attending unto the Lord without distraction? You decide what to do, and you decide what not to do. You do not need to know who opened the door behind you. You do not need to turn and look at the clock to see what time it is. You are responsible to the God Who sees all for the attention that you give to Him, to His service, to and His worship.

It is every human being’s duty to attend upon the Lord without distraction. God deserves your full attention when you are praying, when I am preaching, when we are taking up an offering, and throughout your daily routine. This does not mean every thought you have is focused on and directed toward God. Human beings cannot function in that way. What it does mean is that a proper mental attitude toward God is maintained at all times, even when not consciously thinking of Him. When you are praying, never mind what little noises can be heard in the next room. When you are sitting under preaching, do not be distracted by the friend sitting next to you who wants to show you a text she received. This is God you are worshiping, and He deserves better than halfhearted attention.

Perhaps, as God enables us and as opportunities present themselves, we will spend more time in the future on various kinds of distractions, the causes and remedies of distractions, the evil of distractions, and how we can be encouraged to deal with our tendency to be distracted.

May I close with one application of this principle of attending upon the Lord without distraction? Turn to First Corinthians 14.24-25, where we see the impact that a congregation can have on unsaved people in attendance, an effect that is unimaginable unless the Christians there are attending upon the Lord without distraction:

 24     But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25     And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

** This sermon was developed from "A Remedy For Wandering Thoughts In Worship" by Richard Steele (1629-1692)


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org