December 28, 2011

Obedience or Popularity?

While it is not my aim to make enemies, the Bible tells me that if I do right and stand for truth, I will be in conflict with those who are not interested in either righteousness or truth. I will make enemies.

Lately I’ve realized how easily I can slide into a subtle compromise. Just being silent when I should speak is one way, but there are others. Any time that I go along with the world’s value system, I am denying what I believe. 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)
A worldly value system is more interested in satisfying self and personal desire, being comfortable, even being exalted, than it is interested in obedience to God. It is one thing to love the world more than God, but how often have I encouraged this value system in others as well? How often had I lifted up status over godly character or achievement over integrity? What did I praise in my children’s lives to encourage a love of God rather than the love of things in the world? And did I do things like this to avoid losing relationships?

The motivations for taking the world’s route can be as simple as not wanting to make enemies. Christ may be the Prince of Peace, but He also said this . . . 

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Matthew 10:34–36)
When His light came into my life, it did not necessarily come into the lives of those around me, including my family. The presence of light should make darkness flee, but if resistance to Light refuses to yield, and if truth sticks to its guns, there will be conflict. Truth always puts lies underfoot, and those who believe those lies will shake their fist at the putting.

This includes those close to me, but it goes farther. Spurgeon says, “If you follow Christ, you shall have all the dogs of the world yelping at your heels.” That means that if my life stands under all tests to my faith, the world might first applaud, but it soon will not speak well of me. Those who are true and faithful to Jesus Christ will find others resenting that unflinching stand because it is a testimony against their sin. It was true for Him and is also true for me.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18–25)
Today’s devotional reading also says I need the courage of a lion to pursue such a course, because it will turn my best friend into my fiercest foe. For the love of Jesus, I must be courageous to stand for truth, knowing such a stand is hazardous to popularity and acceptance, even from my own family.

Only the Holy Spirit can do this. When pressed to choose between reputation or obedience that risks the friendship of others, my natural response is to back off and be careful, to say as little as possible. But when I do that, I am a spiritual coward. I am forgetting the life of Christ and how He never wavered.

I’m also forgetting that His life lives in me. When I choose to obey, He will come forth, giving my lips and legs and even my heart all that it needs to do what He asks. Whether my words and actions are embraced or rejected, appreciated or ridiculed, it is better to experience the worst of reactions for a brief time or even a long time, than it is to see a frown on the face of my Savior.

Lord, I’ve an attitude to confess. I want to be a “sweet little old lady” — which is not a bad ambition, but if my motivation is a desire to have everyone love me, then I must ask for Your forgiveness and grace.

Instead, my desire must be to always love You and not be concerned what others think of me. You said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). Abiding in Your love means obedience, not compromise — even for the sake of merely being a sweet little old lady.

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