You can be different!

 

7plus-degrees-of-temptationTwice this past week I was called about marriages that had run into difficulty. Misunderstandings and missed expectations were the garden in which bitterness and brokenness had taken root. People once in love told me that they were ending their relationship.  When I suggested that love could be rediscovered, that with hard work, their marriage could be a place of fulfillment, I was met with disbelief, even something like scorn. To suggest that divorce is not the best choice, that working through the sadness instead of ending the marriage, is counsel that is often rejected – even by Christians – as ‘old-fashioned.’  I have been accused of being too wrapped up in religious rules when I encourage hard work on saving a marriage. Before you conclude that I simply don’t ‘get it,’ let me assure you that in spite of a long and mostly happy marriage to my late wife, there were times when both of us wondered why we had married ‘that person!’

Let me hasten to say that divorce is just one of those sins that we have ‘normalized.’  Greed is another. Selfishness, dressed up as self-fulfillment, has become quite acceptable, too. Laziness, in the guise of leisure, is a sin almost no one ‘sees’ anymore.  Christians must be different.

Are you one of those who wants the benefit of God’s grace through Christ without becoming a disciple?  Do you resist the disciplined life that leads to transformation?   Dr. Gayle Beebe warns of losing our ability to see our way to what right because of the fog that surrounds us. “There is a cultural malaise that touches us all.  … We have become completely accustomed to the normality of dysfunction.  The constant stream of scandal, broken lives, and mayhem of every sort elicits barely a yawn from us.  We have come to expect little else … This overall life dysfunction is so pervasive  in our culture is it nearly impossible for us to  have a clear vision of spiritual progress.  Shining models of holiness are so rare today.” (Longing for God, 2009)

All Christians want to have the hope of Heaven at the end of this life, but many try to reserve the right to live at the fringe of the will of God along the way.  Many are deceived by a diabolical life that insists that life as a Christian disciple will be a dull, joyless, and colorless; an unending slog through religious duty and constant suffering.  I recall reading the slogan on a T-shirt  – “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. – Have no fun!”  and wondering if it was meant to be funny or a statement of the wearer’s philosophy of life? Genesis tells us that Eve allowed the serpent (used by the Devil) to convince her to believe the lie that she could only know happiness if she discarded the will of God. He told her – “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  His lie caused her to throw away her perfect relationship with her Father and Creator.  Yes, she was ‘enlightened’ and the loss of innocence introduced her to a terrible reality!

Are you convinced that there are things you must do, places you must go, in order to be happy? Does God, the Holy Spirit, invite you to walk away, and yet you find yourself so attracted to those things that you refuse to turn away?

When we become disciples of Jesus, making the daily choice to respond to God with obedience, we find rich rewards including these things –

A disciple is blessed with …

  • Serenity because he finds authority over sin and evil and is spared the consequences that of disobedience which is always bitter after the initial illusion of sweet satisfaction.
  • Transparency because he has nothing he must hide from the scrutiny of others.
  • Guidance because he hears the voice of the Spirit more clearly, and thus, lives purposefully.
  • Esteem because his life lends light to the world where he walks, helping others to see their way out of confusion.
  • Trust because he can be a ‘friend of sinners’ without becoming a participant in their ways.

In case you think I am writing from some lofty perch of perfection, think again!  I know the lure of temptation, feel the pull of sin’s seduction. And, I have fallen hard, more than a few times in my Christian life. God does desire that we live a holy life and He matches His call with amazing grace.  He entered this world and experienced every temptation you or I have known.  When we fail, we must not allow shame to cause us to run away from Him. Instead we run to Him and there, in repentance, we are both forgiven and healed!

Overcoming temptation can be a long, hard fight! But, we are not in it alone. Holiness (belonging to God and doing what He desires) is both God’s work and ours! We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis in order to live a holy life. There are choices to be made – sometimes painful, sometimes difficult, sometimes provoking scorn from others – that allow the transformation to continue in us.

Christian, you can be different. Indeed, we must be different for we are God’s own people, invited to the ‘beauty of His holiness.’

Here’s a word from the Word. Think deeply and prayerfully about the application to your life today.  “But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8, The Message)

___________

Lord I Need You

Lord I come I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
And without You I fall apart
You’re the one that guides my heart

 Lord I need You oh I need You
Ev’ry hour I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You

 Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me 

So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus You’re my hope and stay
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus You’re my hope and stay

 Lord I need You oh I need You
Ev’ry hour I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You

Christy Nockels | Daniel Carson | Jesse Reeves | Kristian Stanfill | Matt Maher
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