When Springtime arrives and I can fire up the mower and lawn trimmer, I know that happiness is ahead for me. There is something about getting the grass mowed, trimming up around the edges, blowing the clippings off of the driveway, that gives me a sense of accomplishment. After those two hours, more or less, I can go sit on the deck and look out on my work and feel good about it even though I am hot, tired, and sweaty.
Even as I survey the result of my efforts I know that in about 5 days, I will have to do it all over again. Why do I like to mow my lawn? Because I really like the result! No amount of wishing, hoping, or talking can make my lawn attractive. It demands weekly work, applied efforts – and something beyond my control – the sun and the rain. But the simple beauty of a neat lawn makes it worthwhile, for me.
Christian, discipleship requires effort too. We will put in the time if we appreciate the result, a life that enjoys God’s Presence, that is mature and developed in the best ways, that shows evidence of an inner change in the likeness of Jesus.
In this natural world, if we neglect the care of our soul, all kinds of weeds will grow – self-centeredness, anger, sloth, conflict, and anxiety. Christ promises us that He will turn that chaos into beauty – giving us a new heart, a responsiveness to God that changes us – one choice, one day, at a time. We will choose to walk with God. He will, by His Spirit, help us to make those choices. He will correct and encourage, instruct and warn, comfort and convict.
As we live this Christian life, we will encounter ‘surprises’ along the way that bring disruption. I do not want to mislead by implying that do the daily work of being a Christ-follower will eliminate all the troubles. We still live in a world of storms, tragedies, and sin. But, if we have cultivated a life that knows Him, we can lean on this promise – “And do not forget the things I have done throughout history. For I am God—I alone! I am God, and there is no one else like me. Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isaiah 46:9-10, NLT)
In the pursuit of the beauty that we find in a God-centered life, we tend to drift towards one of two extremes.
Some assume all the responsibility for living a life that is pleasing to God, creating crushing burdens of perfectionism.
Such persons become obsessed with pious rules to point of slavery, locked into meaningless ritual, living joylessly. The aim is right, the focus is wrong! Such a person frequently falls into hypocrisy. It is simply impossible for them to admit that they cannot keep the rules they have written for themselves, so they will not ‘see’ the gaps in character that exist in them.
Some choose to be irresponsible,
thinking that the Spirit will do all the work.
They accomplish little for God.
They do not make the real choice to engage in the process of growth.
True Christianity is an interdependence, Christ’s work in us and our response to His Spirit. The daily disciplines of meditation, prayer, Scripture intake, worship, generosity, and such things – do not in themselves change us but in those choices channels are opened in us through which the living Water of the Spirit flows with renewal, making us alive to God and good. That interdependence of our daily choice and God’s Spirit are nowhere any more clear than in Romans 8 where we read – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. …
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. … Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. … Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:1-2, 5, 12-13, NIV)
Here’s a practical word from the Word. Prayerfully read it, focused on Christ’s promise to be with us in the creation of beauty in our chaotic world.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9, NLT)
(Video of this blog at this link)
Lavish love abundant beauty
Gracious gifts for heart and hand
Life that fills the soul and senses
All burst forth at Your command
Lord our Lord Eternal Father
Great Creator God and Friend
Boundless power gave full expression
To Your love which knows no end
Who am I that You should love me
Meet my ev’ry need from birth
Why invest Yourself so fully
In a creature made of earth
In Your loving heart You planned me
Fashioned me with greatest care
Through my soul You breathed Your Spirit
Planted Your own image there
I am Yours Eternal Father
All my body mind and heart
Take and use me to Your glory
Form Yourself in ev’ry part
Lord Your love brings joy and gladness
Flowing forth within my soul
May my very breath and being
Rise to You their source and goal
Ellis, Peter | Rowland Hugh Prichard
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