December 8, 2003
Encouragement for Today
Step Out of the Buffet Line
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Recently I confronted a friend of mine who seems to be headed in the wrong direction. I felt that her friends had influenced her to live by the world’s standard rather than God’s. She no longer seemed to be seeking God and His holiness but rather a lifestyle in which she could call herself a Christian but live like the world lives. She agreed with me to some extent, but argued that her faith looks different to me because I live in the "Bible Belt" where I am spiritually sheltered. She, on the other hand, lives in a place where Christianity is not so radical. There was a nuance of resignation as she explained, "But the more I get to know people, the more I realize they simply think that messing up or sinning, whatever you want to call it, is just a natural part of life." And so, my friend had chosen to agree with and accept this line of thinking.
My first reaction to her response was sheer frustration. Scripture tells us that our actions are an overflow of the heart. If our actions are falling short of God’s standard, they’re merely a reflection of the extent to which God has control over our heart.
And that is what I wanted to tell her—but I couldn’t. Every time I sat down to write her back, I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had many eloquent thoughts concerning holiness, and grace, and passion, but every time I attempted to put it down, I looked inward and asked, "Does my life lend credibility to this argument?" The answer was of course "no." I couldn’t tell her to shed her lukewarm Christianity and start living a life sold out for Christ, because I had not done so myself.
Ephesians tells us to avoid coarse joking, but I constantly employ sarcasm. The parable of the widow’s mite tells us to give sacrificially, but I still have enough money to drive an SUV and pay for the gas it wastes. Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven times, but I have often held a grudge because I "deserved to be treated better." And let’s not even get started on my road rage. The sins of greed, jealousy, pride, and gossip are all listed next to murder and God-haters, yet we only see the last two as being truly bad. The first four sins are much more acceptable by society’s standards. Is this really what God wants for us?
Most of the Apostle Paul’s letters were written to churches battling the prevailing moral standards of their time. The church of Corinth had been influenced by sexual immorality, the church in Ephesus was influenced by pagan religions, and the church of Galatia had been corrupted by false prophets. No church was immune to its culture’s practices, which is why Paul teaches the Romans, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Paul is teaching us to be set apart. We will have zero credibility in today’s moral debates if we live as the world lives. We have turned into buffet style Christians, picking and choosing Scripture that suits our already comfortable lives. Yet the Bible is not merely a self-help book; it is a God glorifying, Lord magnifying, Christ exalting, "me" minimizing, divine work of supernatural revelation. The way we pick and choose from the Bible merely reflects our true sentiments on its authority. Yes, it is about the heart, but a heart wildly on fire for the Lord cannot be hidden. It should stand out!
So where does your heart stand? Is God truly the Ruler of your life, or just parts of it? In a world where we are combating moral relativism, we cannot afford to be relativists ourselves. But more importantly, we will never win hearts to Christ if Christ has not conquered ours. Is your life proof of this faith you profess? The choice is yours to make.
My prayer for today:
Heavenly Father, I thank You for loving me in spite of myself, but please don’t allow my heart to take this gift for granted. Light a fire within my heart to run after You with total abandon, cheerfully giving You all areas of my life. Help me to pursue holiness with more urgency; because You are more than my Savior, You are also my Lord. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness, and it is in Your name I pray, Amen.
This week, pray for God to reveal one area of your life that does not align with His teachings. Once you discover it, turn it over to the Lord in prayer, but also start fighting it each day yourself. You may want to consider having someone hold you accountable on it.
Why do we pick and choose which passages in the Bible to follow?
Do we simply want God to change our circumstances, rather than changing us?
Romans tells us not to conform to the world, but is it possible that "the world" could refer to our Christian brothers and sisters as well?
Our family, pastors and friends all influence the way in which we approach our faith. But when sinful people are setting the standards for other sinful people, we are bound to miss the mark sometimes. Who in your life influences you as to what you think a Christian should look like? What is a good way to respect them as a wonderful example, yet continue to hold Christ as your clear and ultimate example?
Oh, how I delight in your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. Psalm 119:97-100 (NIV)
He said, "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it." Luke 11:28 (NIV)
Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight. Psalm 119:35 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst
The Ultimate Makeover by Sharon Jaynes
The Power of a Simple Life by Mary Southerland
A Woman after God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George
Originally published Monday, 08 December 2003.