Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Importance of Standards

It is difficult to follow Jesus in a world that opposes Him and His message. One of the reasons is because as Followers of Jesus Christ we have committed ourselves to be guided according to the teachings of Jesus. Teachings that urge us to be generous with our giving rather than hoarding the blessings God has given. Teachings that command us to love our enemies and not just our friends and families. Teachings that compel us to sacrifice and serve rather than demanding that our needs be met. Teachings that order us to honor marriage and not even look on another person with lust. To follow Jesus demands that we live radically different lives than the people around us.

We are constantly bombarded with the message to compromise on the standards for living Jesus established and to do things according to the rest of the world. While, it has to be admitted, living according to Jesus' teachings doesn't make life easier for us (in some cases it will make life more difficult) it will make life a whole lot less complicated.

For an example I have a friend who has been concerned about the possibility that he fathered a child by another woman before he got married. I have no such concern because it is impossible for me to have fathered a child because in this area of life I have remained faithful to the standard God has given to us. Living according to the standards of God will not remove life's difficulties and tragedies but it will keep us free from the heavy baggage so many other people are forced to carry because of their decision to violate God's standards.

As we commit ourselves to keeping God's standards in every area of our lives we begin to realize that His way is the best way to live. We will also realize that compromise, even in the smallest area, will make it easier for us to rationalize compromise in other areas as well. The more we are faithful to the teachings of Jesus the more it becomes a habit for us. The more we compromise the easier it is to compromise the next time temptation comes our way.

I like what Rebecca St. James wrote in her little book Wait for Me; "But you know what? It's compromise in those little areas that lead to majorly bad decisions later. It is strength and courage shown in the "small" tests of life that make the "big" decisions easy" (2002/pg. 28).

These standards for living Jesus has given us provide us with the clear direction we need for living when temptation comes into our lives. If we never commit to living a certain standard then we will always be pushed along by the current of our changing desires. This always leads to terrible consequences, not only for you but also for those around you, and a more complicated life. Being committed to the standard Jesus has handed down to us gives us a clear direction on how we are to live.

Let me give you an example. During my 33 years of life I have had but one girlfriend (though I have asked out every girl I have ever wanted to date. Perhaps I have my standards too high?). Her name was Eve and we dated for 6 months during my fourth year at Nebraska Christian College. Most of that time she had an apartment off campus (I lived in the dorm for my entire five years at NCC).

I remember one night I was over at her apartment (in retrospect this was such a bad decision) and she began crying. I asked her what the matter was, but she wouldn't tell me. Since it was getting close to curfew for the dorms (11:00 PM) I gave her a kiss good night and left.

A few weeks later she told me about her past. Before coming to Nebraska Christian College she had gone to another college. While there she kept a dorm room, so her parents would believe that is where she lived, but in actuality she lived in an apartment with her boyfriend. She said that the reason that she was crying that night is because she wanted to do those things with me that she had done with her former boyfriend, but she knew we couldn't.

If I had never committed myself to God's standard of sexual intimacy to be reserved for marriage what would have happened? There is a good possibility that we would have given into our desires. From the experience related to me by friends who did compromise in this area it has led to problems in their marriage (even in the instances when it was their future wife they compromised with). When we compromise God's standard we always end up making our lives more complicated and adding even more negative emotional baggage to our lives.

It was the fact that I committed myself to following God in this area and communicated that standard to Eve that kept us from making a grave mistake. Without that standard both our lives would be more complicated than they needed to be.

The reason I think Christians often find themselves in sinful situations, situations that destroy their ministries and families, is because they do not take the proper precautions of establishing standards for their lives. Rather than setting our standards high we keep them as low as possible so we can have the thrill of dancing around the flames of temptation. The problem is that sooner or later if we play with fire we will be burned.

To live according to the standards that Jesus gave us to govern our speech, what we watch, what we wear, our relationships, professional conduct, or whatever may seem unrealistic, but in the long run those types of standards make life easier for us. If we do not commit to living according to Jesus' standards I will guarantee that we will be swept away by the values of our culture. We will not live radically different lives than those living around us.

Christians are called to live differently than the rest of the world. If we are unwillingly to be different in our entertainment, in our fashion, in the words we use, and in the way we treat others then how will people know we are different? The Apostle Peter wrote:
Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when He comes to judge the world (1 Peter 2:12; NLT).

Being careful in the way we live requires us to live according to the principles that flow out of the standards Jesus has given us for life. If we will not commit ourselves living according to those standards then we will not compel those around us to worship God. The best way to affect the lives of others is to live to a higher standard than they live. To be a Follower of Christ demands that we live differently from the world.

2 comments:

Kari said...

Wow... Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Recently, I've been in a sticky situation. It's not so much that I don't know what the right thing to do is... it's just that sometimes it is hard to follow through on His commands. But we are called to something higher. What a great truth! Thanks for the reminder.

Paul said...

Kari,
Thanks for the comment. It is so easy to get sucked into doing things the world's way, that is why it is so important that as followers of Jesus that we remind each other of His truths.

Our Identity

{Philippians 1:1-2; NLT}   This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God's holy people i...