Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Get Rid of Lesser Things

 It is easy to go through the motions and miss out on what is really important, which is following Jesus.  When we go through the motions our traditions and rituals become more important than living by faith, and that is why Henry Blackaby can write; “Many of our church services sound like funerals.  I have watched some congregations sing praise songs, and if you looked at them five minutes later you would think you were in a funeral service.  Praise songs are no substitute for a clean heart.  We are leaving people in a terrible condition and somehow we need to have lives that walk in holiness with Him" (Holiness).

We can attend church, sing songs, give money, and live a moral life; but if we are not putting aside our traditions, possessions, and passions to follow Jesus we are not really living by faith.  Faith requires that we give up the control of our lives and surrender to Christ Jesus.

“As he (Jesus) was starting out on a trip, a man came running up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked, ‘God Teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?’

“‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked. ‘Only God is truly good.  But as for your question, you know the commandments: ‘Do not murder.  Do not commit adultery.  Do not steal.  Do not testify falsely. Do not cheat.  Honor your father and mother.’

“‘Teacher,’ the man replied, ‘I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was a child.’

“Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him.  ‘You lack only one thing,’ he told him. ‘Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, and follow me.’  At this the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions”
  (Mark 10:17-22; NLT).

This is one of my favorite stories found in the Bible.  The reason I like it is because I identify with this wealthy young man.  While I may be considered rich to most of the rest of the world, I would hardly be considered rich in the United States, so the money isn't the reason I identify with him.

This guy grew up knowing right from wrong and he had done his best to live a moral life.  I too had the advantage of growing up in a family where I was taught right and wrong and was encouraged to live a moral life.  This young man had a desire to know God and to get to be part of His Kingdom.  That desire burns in me as well.  I want to strengthen my relationship with God and I pray for His Kingdom to come to earth.  This is a guy I think I could have gotten along with very well.

What gets me about this encounter with Jesus is that the young man walked away from Jesus, and he walked away sad.  He realized that Jesus had what he was looking for, but he couldn't let go of his wealth to trust Him for life.  The young man chose the present security of his wealth over an eternity with God.  He was sad because he realized his desire for God would never be fulfilled.

I bring this up because what gets in the way of holiness in our lives is the fact that we cling so tightly to the things of this world.  We haven't, as Paul commands us to do in Colossians 3, set our minds on things that are above.  Our focus continues to be on the here and now rather than on God.

  Holiness comes from a relationship with God.  A person cannot be in a relationship with God and not start changing his/her priorities and behaviors.  If you are sad about the state of your life and you are depressed by unfilled desire; the most likely reason is that you have put something else before God. 

Each of us find comfort, security, and pleasure from different sources.  For some they have put knowledge and education before God.  They mistakenly believe that knowledge will deliver them through the troubles of this life.  Other people find security in family.  Without a doubt family is important.  Family gives us unconditional love and people to lean on when we need help, but if we put them before God they will become a hindrance to all that He wants us to experience.  Science is the security for others.  There is this belief that science is the ultimate reality, but there are some things science can’t explain or control.  A person who puts their trust in science will one day come to a place where there are no explanations, for science is incapable of explaining God.  Still others place comfort in pleasure.  There motto is; “If it feels good do it,” and “Life is short, play hard.”  They try to ignore their desire for God by numbing it with lesser pleasures, but no matter how much they experience an emptiness remains in their lives.  If we chose anything ahead of God, we will walk through this life with a sadness in our hearts, because our greatest desire will not be fulfilled.

The reason why so many Christians are not joyful, and in fact seem to be mournful, is because they have chosen something of lesser value over God.  Yes, they may sing the praise songs, but the songs are just words put to music, the song doesn’t convey the truth.  So what is the answer?  We have to take a deep long look at our lives to see what we are putting before God.  When we discover it, we have to put it in its place.  We will never have true joy in our live apart from holiness.  We will never be holy outside a relationship with God.  Holiness, learning to put God first in our lives, provides a bridge over which joy can pass into our lives.  Holiness is not dull and boring, rather it makes life worth living.

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