November 5, 2012

This new life

Yesterday was filled with both encouragement and challenges. We heard the testimony of a man who was severely burned as a child. He shared how he overcame a deeply scarred sense of worth through faith in a God who unconditionally loves him. He challenged us to examine those things that keep us from knowing the love of God, the inner attitudes about ourselves that keep us from becoming all that God desires us to be. 

He also shared his escape from the way he had shut down to protect his emotions. He found freedom does not happen by bravado or bluffing but by allowing himself to be vulnerable. In that brokenness, he discovered the depths of God’s love and a new acceptance of himself. He married, has a family, and has also been blessed with a doctorate and a stellar career. 

His childhood horror led to new laws concerning fire retardant in tents, a ban on firecrackers, the development of a burn unit in a major hospital, and the salvation of his mother and himself. It also took the life of his sister and her friend, and nearly that of his little brother, yet he never said a word about whoever caused this event, only the good that God brought out of it. His attitude of acceptance and forgiveness was also a challenge to our self-protective tendency to fight or hold bitterness in the negatives of life.

Later in the day, I was challenged by an author. His book is about God’s greatness, but one chapter strikes hard at the apathy of those Christians who have all their worldly wants and wishes. I felt accused. At first, I raised my defenses at what seemed an unfair judgment of motivations. Why not show his readers how to be faithful to God, no matter their life situation or the length of their list of assets? 

Apathy toward God is sin, but the Bible does not condemn abundance. Jesus even promised His followers an abundant life. The problems come when we are not content with what He gives us and are constantly seek bigger, better and more of what the world has to offer, ignoring or forgetting God. 

As I thought about these things, I was again challenged about the way I think. Just as I’m to have a biblical self-view (regardless of my scars), I’m also to have a biblical view about the stuff in my life. The book basically said God will not bless anyone who has assets, but I don’t agree. The Bible says He is more concerned about how I use my assets and that I have a godly attitude toward them. Christians are not to think about life like everyone else, nor be involved in life the same way.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1)

Unbelievers are often focused on bigger, better, more — and doing whatever they can to get ahead. Some will break the law, if not the law of the land, then the laws of God. The Word of God challenges me to walk away from any union with sinful and self-centered thinking. I’m not to be like those who do not know Christ or have the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. 

Jesus lives in me. The Bible says that I am the temple of the living God. If I think or act as if He does not defiles His temple and the holiness He bestows on all who believe in Jesus. 

God also made me His child. To carry on as if nothing happened in my life would be a denial of all that God has done and is doing. Instead, I am to avoid thinking and acting like I once did, and have nothing to do with that darkness. What I did in unbelief is outside of my new life in Jesus Christ and should be kept there. 

This brings yesterday’s challenges together. Living as a Christian involves thinking about myself as God thinks about me. Yes, I am a sinner and marred, but I’ve also been saved by grace through faith. God has blessed me even though I’ve done nothing to earn or deserve it. When I slip, His mercy, grace and the blood of Christ cover my sin. When holiness shines in my life, it is because He lives in me. This good life is all about Jesus, not about assets and certainly not about bigger, better and more. 

Of course, Jesus shines through more clearly when I keep away from any defilement that would hide or prevent that. But sin isn’t just about possessions or poverty even though both can be fraught with temptation to forget God.
Actually, my challenges are seldom about externals and more about the selfishness of my heart. In any or every situation, the world, the flesh, and the devil appeal to that old sinful nature to do the opposite of what God says and commands. But God invites me and enables me to stay close to Him rather than be lost in apathy and live my life as if I did not know Him.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

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