I Chronicles 29:11 "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Deep Thought Thursday: Put On or Put Off Indefinitely

I know it's long. Bear with me. Please.

This devotion really comes as a culmination of conversations I’ve had with people, observations I’ve made in myself and others, and the wisdom of God’s Word. The title “Put On, or Put Off Indefinitely” is really the challenge we’re given from God when dealing with our sin issues, and things He has shown us we need to change. We either change to put on righteousness, or we seem to harden just a little, and put off doing it indefinitely.

I had been meditating on, and discussing with friends the issue of “being real”, and how in Christianity it seems that just about everyone I know seems ‘almost perfect’. Sure, we all admit to “having sin”, but we’re quick to add that ‘we’re all sinners anyway, right?’.

Why do we do that? Why can’t we be a little more transparent? We need to acknowledge our faults- people know anyway. Wouldn’t it be great if we could admit them to ourselves? I was reading in Proverbs 20. Verse 6 really stood out to me:

“Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?”

We all toot our own horn. It’s part of human nature to want to look good to others. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Time surely tells if we are what we say. If we’re all as ‘good’ as we claim to be, why are our churches filled with apathy, with people living in hidden sin, with those who won’t make time to pray or be involved in ministry? Why do we hear sermons, feel conviction, but never go to the altar?

We, as humans in general, have a disease. It’s called ‘Delusions of Grandeur’. It can apply to any area of life. Let’s look at an example.

Maybe you know a woman who’s children are “less than angels”. But she has a good friend whose children are angels. The first woman constantly compares their children, making comments about how similar they are. She sees the second woman’s children, wants her kids to be that way, and has deluded herself into thinking that is reality. However, EVERYONE else knows how things truly are. This woman just will not admit it to herself. She is suffering from delusions of grandeur.

This applies to our spiritual life too. We all have an ideal in mind of what we want our spiritual life to be like, and when we talk to others that is the life we portray. This is wrong!! It causes others to believe we are something we are not, and gives Satan just what he needs to isolate us in our weakness. There are other women out there struggling with what you struggle with, whether it be: swearing, overeating, uncontrolled temper, lacking a desire to pray, not loving your husband, feeling inadequate, internet or other pornography, eating disorders, divorce, sexual abuse, overspending, doubting your salvation- someone has been through it, or is going through it right now- and we can help one another!!

How can we be a vessel God can use to minister to others if we portray ourselves as being untouchable? No one wants to approach human perfection and admit their own weakness. Much less ask for help.

A rising trend I've noticed in Christian circles that scares me, is the trend of accepting sin, and making excuses for it in the name of "being sympathetic".

“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.”

This verse is about laziness. The man does not plow because it is cold outside. That sounds like a legitimate excuse. But does he know the consequences of not plowing? If someone came to him and said: “I know it’s cold outside and you don’t feel like plowing, but if you don’t your family will starve come harvest time, and we will not help you then as we have our own families to feed. I’m almost done plowing. If you want help, get your coat on and lets work together.”

Maybe that would be all the motivation he needed to do it?

Many times we have excuses for not changing behavior, or for being spiritually lazy that sound like good reasons. But when all is said and done, and we stand before the Lord, they will sound pathetic.

One way to help each other avoid this is to not accept your friends’ excuses to sin. Don’t listen to gossip, or allow them to continue behaviors that hurt them. Lovingly warn them of the consequences, the impact “little” things have on their watching children, the limit they are imposing on themselves of what God can do in their lives. We all need to be this way for each other.

Colossians 3:8-11 gives us the tools to do right.

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.”

We have no excuses to continue to walk in old sin. That life is gone. It is crucified with Christ. It is very clear that we are to rid ourselves of these things. It says to “put off all these.” That’s an action phrase. We need to take action in order to ‘git-r-done’.

Nothing happens by accident, true? Then why do we think behaviors will change on their own over time?

People say about bad habits and sin: “Well, God’s going to have to take it away from me, because I just can’t do it.” Can’t- or won’t? That’s just a nice blanket excuse for laziness. Yes, God must be the One to convict of sin, but once He does that it is then our responsibility to respond. We are to depend on His strength, but we must take action if we truly want change.
Verses 12-14 continue this thought:

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

Action words again: ‘put on’. The ‘you’ is understood. It doesn’t say “hold still and put your arms up so God can dress you with these good qualities.” NO! It says we must put on these things ourselves. Why? Because it’s a choice! It comes from a desire to do right.

We’ve already taken off a whole list of sin and bad habits. We are basically a clean slate now. Naked, if you will. But nobody likes being naked, right? Especially in front of other people. Delusions of grandeur kinda fade at that point: the ugly truth is just there for all to see.

But, if we’ve taken these old things off and we have nothing to put on, our natural tendency will be to reach for the old things, just so we’re covered up. God does not desire that for us. We need to whip off the old stuff and fling it so far away that we won’t dare come out of the bushes to get it back on.

We must have purpose and direction in our lives. Not just stopping old habits, but replacing them with good habits. No, this isn’t advice from Dr. Phil- it’s right here in God’s Word! It’s what these verses are all about! We replace the old bad habits with good so we don’t go running to our old ways when something is uncomfortable.

Notice the last verse says to put on charity above all these things. Why do you think that is? Because we get mad when people confront us, like it’s not their business what we do in our spiritual life. You know, God never intended it to be a private thing. The body of Christ is deeply affected when we continue in sin.

That being said, we also must have charity when we approach people, and when
we receive rebuke from others. Expect it as part of a godly friendship. Set the standard for others. Don’t be offended or outraged if you are confronted. Thank God you have friends who will do that for you. If we commit to this, we can have the victory over ourselves. It all comes down to doing what we know is right: speaking the truth, overcoming laziness, loving the Word of God, and putting on the things of Christ. Listen to these encouraging scriptures:

Psa 71:16 “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD: I will make mention of thy
righteousness, even of thine only.” (Remember- the only goodness is God’s.)
Eph 4:25 “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” (Lying about yourself to avoid change affects the
whole body)
Psa 119:97 “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (Do you love God’s Word- even when it convicts you of sin?)

Let me share something with you. I honestly cannot cook rice. Every time it comes
out a tad crunchy. I can’t figure it out. No one wants crunchy rice. What’s the problem with me that I can’t even make rice right?! Well, my mother-in-law makes perfect rice.

My husband is Greek, you know. I just knew she had the secret of some awesome rice.

So I asked her one day, “How do you make your rice? Can you teach me?” She kind of
laughed and said “Sure, come with me.” She stooped down and opened the bottom
cupboard in her kitchen.

I was waiting for her to bring out the secret ingredient, the special Greek rice that would solve all my problems.

Instead, she pulled out a box of Uncle Ben’s Instant rice.

My jaw hit the floor. “But how do you get your rice so perfect? That’s what I use!” I said.

“I just follow the instructions.” She told me.

Ah, follow the instructions. See, I have this bad habit of peeking in the pot, stirring it a little to make sure it’s not sticking or burning. I can never seem to leave the lid on the whole time. Following the instructions never occurred to me.

Many times I had worked my way through a meal where I had made rice, pretending it
was great. My family pretended it was great. You probably would have pretended it was great. No one complained or said the rice was crunchy. My kids didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be. So, I never changed the way I made it.

It’s the same with our spiritual life. Ask successful Christians what their secret is, and they will tell you to follow the instructions: read the Word of God and pray. It’s really not complicated. And if we see or hear something from someone that seems a little “crunchy”, we need to say something- otherwise how will they know to do something differently?

We need to stop making excuses for our sin, stop accepting excuses from others, and
really take action to do right. Let’s truly be a help to one another for the glory of God!

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