First of all, I would like to apologize for leaving you hanging. On Wednesday I led you all to believe I would be finishing this up on Thursday, but I forgot it was Thankful Thursday. I then intended to finish up on Friday, but it was just not coming together. It has always been my practice to not post anything unless I was 100% sure it was from God. I hope you all can understand and respect my decision.
We left off on Wednesday talking about grace and obedience. For those of you just jumping in, I would like to encourage you to go back and read the Introduction posted on Tuesday and Part Two posted on Wednesday.
It is the purpose of this short series to get a better understanding of grace and obedience and how they work together to help us become the people God created us to be. Today, we will specifically look at how God calls us to lay down our former selves and become new creatures in Christ and how that relates to grace and obedience.
I don’t know about you, but I get so frustrated reading the Old Testament stories about the Israelites. I mean, do these people do anything but wine, complain, and disobey? Seriously, God just parted the Red Sea for you, I would think you’d have a little more faith and loyalty! Nope, one story after another of where they deliberately disobey and God steps in to save them only to have them go and do it over and over again. Seriously? It was not that much better with the disciples in the New Testament. Jesus had to tell them over and over, show them over and over,to the point of ridiculousness! I mean this is Jesus, the Son of God, I think he knows what he is talking about!
While these biblical characters are a little frustrating, are we really that different from them? I used to believe that the people in biblical times had it easier than we do because God was more present and others had Jesus. However, we have something just as great or maybe even greater; we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Yeah, the disciples may have walked with Jesus, but he lives in my heart. How much better can it get? Unfortunately, a great many of us fail to operate in the full power of that spirit because we are trapped in a cycle of disobedience.
As we touched base on last week, obedience has become a four letter word to some. It has become a taboo subject because it is not an attractive part of Christianity; it is neither warm nor fuzzy. Society is not the only victim of the acceptance of watered down Christianity, but our churches have become susceptible too in the hopes of attracting more members or attendees. Church leaders are basing their effectiveness on numbers rather than the hearts and actions of their congregation. It is beginning to get harder and harder to see the difference between the world and the church.
Nothing frustrates me more than Christians who believe they can live anyway they like during the week, as long as they are in a pew on Sunday morning. It is my belief that not only may they be surprised on Judgment day (Matthew 7:22-23 “22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”), but they are setting a bad example for others and making it harder for others to believe in the message of Jesus Christ. [Now, I would like to add that for many this is an easy excuse to use and not necessarily the absolute truth. In addition, some people have unrealistic expectations of Christians. Just because we believe in Jesus and his ways does not mean we are perfect and will act perfectly every day. No, we will make mistakes and that is where His grace comes back in.]
I believe Joyce Meyer calls these types of people Sunday Morning Warriors and Monday Morning Whiners and I think the name fits perfectly as they are all fired up on Sunday morning but run scurrying at the first sign of trouble on Monday. Unfortunately, as indicated in scripture, these Christians in questions are not the sporadic attenders, but quite possibly prominent members of the church (i.e. trustees, elders, committee leaders, worship leaders, etc.) as they are casting out demons, prophesying, and so forth. No, this type is often very active in church, believe in Christ whole-heartedly, but continue to live their lives anyway they choose. Why? I think it there are a few reasons. One, they are relying too strongly on their grace. Two, they don’t know how to implement what they know into their lives. Third, they don’t want to have to make the necessary changes. You see, most of us “Christians” want the good Jesus can bring, but we don’t want to make the hard choices or sacrifices to truly follow Him. We want salvation, but we don’t want any strings attached. We have a tendency to pick and choose parts of the bible we want to follow and disregard the rest. This watered down version of the gospel is more attractive and appealing, but it will never allow us to be all that God has called us to be, and in the long run, it will render His message ineffective.
It is clear from scripture that we are to set the example for others and not the other way around. We are supposed to obey Christ and not let outside influences sway us.
Romans 12:2 (NKJ): 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJ): casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
It is clear in Scripture that we are not to live as the world lives. We are not to do what the world does. When we were saved (by grace) and baptized, we were born again. We were new creatures in Christ and called to no longer live as we did before we knew Christ.
Ephesians 4:17-32 (NKJ): 17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of[d] the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[e] for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”:[f] do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Galatians 5:24-26 (NKJ): And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
We are supposed to live for Christ and not ourselves.
Galatians 2 :20 (NKJ) have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Mark 8:34-35 (NKJ): When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them,“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Can it get any clearer? We are not to live our lives for ourselves. Our wants, wills, desires must die in order for Christ’s to live. When we get up each day, our purpose is not to make ourselves happy, but to lead a life pleasing to the Lord so that we can build his Kingdom. My purpose on this earth is not to make myself happy. My purpose is to lead as many people as I can into God’s Kingdom. Christians do not have to live a marred and miserable life, but if our main focus is our own happiness, we are truly missing the point.
For those of you wondering, yes, I noticed verse 21 of the scripture above. I realize we are not to set aside the grace of God, and if you learn nothing more from this message, please know this: walking in obedience does not mean we are living under the Law. The Law points out our sin and says we will never be good enough. Walking in obedience says that we accept the will of God in our lives and are doing the best we can to walk in His ways not because we have to but because we want to. We accept his grace when we fail and we do not beat ourselves up over past mistakes. We use the power of grace to brush ourselves off and get up each and every time we fail. Yes, that is the true power of grace!
For those of you who heard Beth Moore’s message of “No Longer,” you may recall her carrying around her “dummy old self.” She stated something along the lines of when we accepted Christ as our Savior we were freed from sin, yet most of us continue to carry around our former self with us. I honestly believe she was meaning that we continue to do and think a lot of the same things we did or thought before we were saved. We were freed of those sins, yet we continue to do them because we have not made the necessary changes. This is where I believe she was referencing obedience. When we are saved, we become new creatures in Christ. We are longer bound to sin; however, many of us continue on in our sin because we don’t want to make the hard choices to follow the ways of the Lord. We don’t want to give up the things that we believe give us pleasure or we prefer to take the easy road. We carry around our “dummy self” because we are not totally surrendered to the ways of the Lord. “I will do this, this, and this, but I will never give up this!” Sound familiar? Or, “I don’t believe God really thinks this is bad.”
We get so caught up in big sin versus little sin, that we begin to justify our outright disobedience. Have you ever been jealous? Are you holding on to unforgiveness? Jealousy and unforgiveness are sneaky little sins that often get overlooked, but the truth is that jealousy destroys and splits many churches and unforgiveness can destroy a heart. Also remember that in order for God to forgive you, you must forgive others. Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself? When you have a conflict, do you follow the biblical steps to settle the dispute? I am ashamed to say that not many of us do. Why? Because it is too hard? Because you tried once and it didn’t work out?
Once again, we are so quick to judge sin by our own measuring stick that we can’t see our sin for what it really is: disobedience. We are hard on men for their “porn issues,” when in reality a lot of women have the same problem. Say what? Yes, a lot of women suffer from the say problem, just in a different manner. Women are not as visual as men. No, woman are more emotional and intellectual. If I asked all the women reading this to empty out their purses or any bags they carry on a regular basis, how many books of questionable material would we find? Sin is sin, which is sin and comes in all shapes and sizes. “Fifty Shades of Gray,” need I say more?
I know some of you think I am too serious. You may think I am making this was too hard; however, there are certain standards we are called to as children of God:
Philippians 4:8 (NKJ): 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Ephesians 4:29 (NKJ): 9 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Ephesians 5:1-21 (NKJ): 5 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light9 (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.[c]
Once again, we have grace (through Christ) to redeem us when we fail to live up to these standards, but that grace does not negate the standards to which we are to strive to master.
God does not hold us to these standards because he is mean or wants to take all the fun out of our lives, but because he knows the harm these sins will cause. In “Battlefield of the Mind” Joyce points out that often times the very thing God is calling us away from is the very thing that is making us miserable and stuck. I have found that to be true in my own life.
I would also like to point out that we all have different issues in our life that cause us difficulties. It may not necessarily be a sin in and of itself, but has the potential to lead us into sin. I know that may be confusing, but bear with me a moment. Yes, God gives us instructions in Bible detailing how to live our lives, but he also gave us, his children, the Holy Spirit who is to guide us specifically and we must follow his directions as well. For example, drinking a little alcohol may not be an issue for Joe, but for Steve, one sip of alcohol causes him to drink another and another. Therefore, Steve should refrain from drinking any form of alcohol not because the Bible forbids it (because it doesn’t) or because drinking any alcohol is a sin (it isn’t), but because it is a trigger to a sin (being a drunk).
My own personal struggle has revolved around what I read. Books have a strong influence on me, so I must be really selective in regards to my choice of reading materials and right now I only read Christian books. However, I realize that just because God is calling me to do so, doesn’t mean everyone must do so because a book that triggers a sin in my life may not be a trigger for someone else. Now, I want to caution you on excusing away sin. Some things are clearly sin and we must avoid it at all measures. What I am referring to here is some things that may be more in the shade of gray (I am not referencing the book here as I believe the book to be inappropriate for all Christians. Please note that I have not actually read the book, this is based on what I know of the book).
Scripture is more than clear that we are to die of ourselves and live for Christ. Grace did not change that. Grace gives us the power to do so. Grace is the power to get back up when we fail. Grace is not the excuse to be used to keep sinning and being less than we were created to be. Furthermore, God does not want us to see his will for our lives as a list of do’s and don’ts. He doesn’t want us to beat ourselves up each and every time we fail. No, he wants us to desire a relationship with him. He wants our relationship to be the most important thing in our lives. He wants us, all of us. Plain and simple. Remember, God used Saul in his disobedience, so he may use us too in our own disobedience. Also remember how Saul’s story ended: jealousy, sadness, destruction, and death. Don’t know about you, but I am praying for a different ending.
Tomorrow I would like to share how walking in obedience has changed my life and caused me to find a peace I never really believed existed.
Until tomorrow, stay safe and Go bless,