Christian! (part 2)

I’m glad you’re back.  I did promise a possible solution to this apparent “hypocrisy” dilemma; so let’s get right to it.

First, let me point out that we will always be somewhat susceptible to the Hypocrite label.  Why.  Because we are not perfect … nor will we ever be – this side of heaven.  But, (and this is a very big “BUT”) we cannot hide behind the, “…I’m not perfect, just forgiven” mentality.  While it may be true on one level, it is a “cop-out” on another.  And believe me – God, who sees into your heart, will know the difference. 

Second, we must not let Satan sucker us into playing his games (often under the guise of religion).  We simply must not play by Satan’s rules. Christianity is not about never breaking a moral law or committing a sin; let alone breaking the rules or laws of a particular church or denomination.  It certainly isn’t about projecting the false image of living a perfect life – or, having a “holier than thou” attitude.  Nor is it about your “goodie vs baddie” ratio.  In fact those are all ways that Satan keeps you in bondage – and miserable! 

We must get our answers from God’s Word.  Let’s review the homework. John 14:6-7:  “…I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is.  From now on you know him and have seen him!” (NLT)

The first two sentences tell us that there is only one way to God; and that’s through Jesus.  It sounds restrictive when you first hear it. (It’s another frequent excuse non-believers use in their argument against Christianity.)  But, think about it.  First, if God is truly God – the creator of time and the universe – and He is; then He is the only one who can determine what is right and wrong, i.e. what is true.

Jesus is the Son of God, and to know Him is to Know God.  And to know God is to know the truth.  About that “restrictive” concern; it is our choice as to belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  And this is very important…. Everyone who genuinely believes the above and asks Jesus to forgive their sins, repents of their sins, and allows Jesus to become the Lord of their life, will receive not only forgiveness, but also eternal life in the presence of God.  Everyone, anyone! Those who don’t … won’t.  Like I said, “choice”.  Yes or no. Take it or leave it.  And, don’t blame God!

If you could live a perfect life (which you cannot, thanks in part to Adam and Eve) there would have been no reason for God to have sent His son Jesus, to earth to die a horrendous death on the cross.  But we can’t live a perfect life and so He did send Jesus to die in our stead.  A God who loves us, His creation, this much is certainly worthy of our love in return.  (Note the sneaky lead-in to the second part of the homework.)

Mark 12:29-31:  “…The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (NLT)

O.K. That’s about as straight forward as it gets.  The two most important things we are commanded to do.  Love God, Love others.  Did you notice?  You did not see anything there about sin or works, per se. But, where do these two commandments fall on our “To Do” lists? And, how do we (those of us calling ourselves, Christian) follow these commandments? 

Let’s start with loving God.  How much time do we spend worshiping God and praising Him simply for who He is and what He has done – and is doing?  For some, that’s maybe, about an hour a week at church.  And even then, part of the time (usually during the sermon) we end up thinking about something else entirely.  Do you wake up in the morning, thinking about your work, your schedule, your problems, lunch, golf game, etc; and dreading another day of the “same old, same old”?  Oh yes, I’ve done that! And, shame on me!  God truly deserves our best, and we give Him … what?

We need to address that.  Try starting your Day off with God.  Even if it’s only a few minutes at first.  Five minutes praising God, and talking to Jesus about what’s on your mind is likely to work wonders for you over time.  Think of Him as your adviser and consultant. Then, be open to increasing you personal time with God.  You’ll want to, when you see how it works.

You are likely to also become more aware of situations in which you will have the opportunity to ‘stand your ground’ for your belief.  Do it! And, thank God every time it happens.  You will be making a difference and people will be noticing.  That’s a good thing.

Now, the part you knew was coming.  What about that “love your neighbor” thing?  Well, apparently for most of us, we’re not doing very well in that area, either.

Maybe it would help if we asked God to give us Kingdom Eyes.  What does that mean?  Simply this: we need to fully recognize that we are all God’s creation – and as such, we are all equally valuable to God. Additionally, we are all – every last one of us, from Adam to ? – created in God’s image.  Yet we all have differences.  We are unique, all 6 billion +/- of us, on the planet right now.  No one else has your exact genetic make-up.  There is no one else with your personality and psychological profile. Your exact talents and interests, to the same degree.  Nope, … all unique.

And, boy, have we ever gotten good at identifying those differences; and then classifying others according to some set of measures we – not God – have come up with.  (Would you care to guess how our measures will align with God’s?)  We need to think about that, whenever we find ourselves devaluing or running someone down – even if it is “only” in our mind.  To God, every life is precious beyond measure.  Every one has value.  It is our job as Christians to recognize that, reinforce that, and treat them the way we want to be treated.

Love God. Love your neighbors.  The operative word is “LOVE”.  But again, it is our choice.  In 1 Cor 13:1-3, it tells us that love is critical to our faith, and thus, all that we do as Christians. Understand also, if you choose love, it will come at a cost – effort, time, and yes, money.  So, just what is God worth to you?

Here’s something that wasn’t in your homework – but, it is something we can all work on – for the rest of our days here on planet Earth. Think of it as a blueprint or road map. 

Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.  It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Love will last forever….” 1Cor 13:4-8 (NLT)

Ultimately, we must make love the focus of our life.  Jesus has unequivocally told us it is the thing on which we should focus.  If we do, the rest should pretty well take care of itself.

Finally, we will all fail at some levels, some times.  That is NOT an excuse for not trying.  So, here are a couple of things I’ve learned over more years than I care to think about.  I hope they help.

After spending 14 years in the military, I had this “little” problem of swearing and using profane language.  I wanted to break the habit, and no matter how hard I tried, I was very lucky to make a day, let alone two, without a “slip-up”.  Somewhere I read, or heard, what turned out to be excellent advice.  When you use inappropriate language (and, swearing and profanity are never appropriate) you need to immediately stop, and apologize, before saying another word. Example:  “Excuse me.  I apologize for (swearing” or “using that language).  It was inappropriate, rude, and it doesn’t represent my values.”

Each time, I also apologized to God, asked his forgiveness, and renewed my promise to keep working on the problem … with His help.  Doing that a “few” times, gets your attention, and focuses your efforts. What it never did was get me ridiculed or “made light of”.  In fact I, had several positive comments, some were in private, which gave me a small opening to say that I was, “…in the process of developing my relationship with God,” and let it go at that.  If they had other questions or comments, the conversation continued.

Whenever you “screw-up” do not cover-up, make excuses, or try to lay-off the blame.  Be transparent.  Again remember, we are not perfect. Admit the misdeed, error, whatever.  Remember there are usually consequences to our actions.  You earned ’em, accept ’em; and, with God’s help, make every effort to assure you learn from the situation.

Finally, when you mess-up, always take it to Jesus.  Yes, He already knows all about it.  But you really need to talk to Him.  Admit your mistake, ask for forgiveness, and then ask for help in turning your back on that behavior.  (That’s what the word “repent” means, “…to turn your back on….)” You will grow in Christ.  God will grow your love and change you in ways you can’t change yourself.  And, because God knows you far better than you know yourself, and loves you beyond your wildest dreams, you will gain faith, peace and joy beyond your imagination. 

It’s just how our God works.

Avery Goodday

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