We act out of what we really believe, not what we think we believe! Yesterday I prayed with a woman of astonishingly deep (for this age, anyway) commitment to her marriage. Her husband has failed her in just about every way that a man can fail a woman, yet she still cares for him and not just with a card on his birthday. Despite a separation that was necessary because of his irresponsibility; she pays his bills, shops for his groceries, and prays for him! When she says the word, ‘covenant,’ she means it. How do I know? I only have to look at her choices to understand her real values.
In the most recent issue of Christianity Today (Feb.,2005) two separate articles were written about choices that revealed how people value Christian love. Two groups in different parts of the country professed love for the members of their group. In one case, it was true; in the other it was not. Gary Parrett, a professor at Gordon Conwell Seminary, S. Hamilton, MA, described how his home church divided over the issue of the conduct of public worship services, i.e, the music style. The disagreement became so intense that the church dissolved. He writes of the final service, “We were asked to form a circle around the sanctuary and to join hands. Together we sang, ‘We are one in the bond of love…’ then the service closed with many hugs and tears followed. It was very emotional and very hypocritical.” Christians who really valued love, modeled on the self-sacrifice of Christ, could never tear apart a congregation over a style of music. They would give up their personal comfort before they allowed such violence in the Body of Christ. You see, no matter their rhetoric and emotions, they didn’t really love much.
By contrast, Roger Dixon, wrote about a community in Texas called Homestead Heritage. Several hundred people, deeply committed to Christ and others, live in close relationship with each other. It isn’t a true commune in that they maintain their own homes and finances. But it is a powerful illustration of deep love. Dixon writes, “Many Christians talk about overcoming American individualism, but the residents of Homestead Heritage go beyond talk… What makes this community tick? .. . Decisions are made by consensus. Individuals are accountable to the group, but the group exists to serve each individual… They view themselves as an extended family and call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ regardless of blood relations.” These Believers value Jesus’ call to love above personal convenience and comfort- and it shows in their choices.
Jesus said it like this, “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” (Luke 6:43-45, The Message)
A well known pollster who studies trends and practices of people in these United States, spoke recently to Southern Baptist leaders. George Gallup said, “We find there is very little difference in ethical behavior between churchgoers and those who are not active religiously…The levels of lying, cheating, and stealing are remarkable similar in both groups.” What is apparent in that discovery is that for a significant number of professed Believers, the core truth of the transforming Gospel of Christ is not really owned in their hearts and minds. They do not possess the truth they profess!
What do your choices reveal about your heart’s real values?
Ask a few trusted friends if they consistently see evidence of Christian values in your words and actions. Ask them to think about the unguarded moments!
Don’t be discouraged if you are not yet all that you want to be! This process of sanctification (becoming a godly person whose life serves God’s purposes) is life-long and involves daily decisions. Don’t attempt to effect the changes you desire solely with discipline or rigid rules of control. That will only work until you blow up in anger or are crushed by some life altering event that shatters your dreams and hopes.
Our hearts are changed by cultivating intimacy with God – in meditation, prayer, and worship. His character ‘rubs off’ on us when we’re with Him!
Our minds are changed by the wisdom of His Word as we study it and interact with it. That’s right. Just reading the Bible doesn’t change our values. We must wrestle with it, chew on it, and discuss the implications of what we find in those pages with other Believers. As we do, the seed of the Word germinates, take root, and grows to produce fruit- visible evidence that we are the people of God.
God promises us that IF we choose Him, He will work deeply in us. Take this promise with you today even as you pray, “Change my heart, O God!”
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we…. are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, NIV)