Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Won't Build a Tower

Riley Grace’s favorite Bible story at the moment is the “Tower of Babel.” It seems like a peculiar choice, but she loves it! In this story, the people were trying to build a really tall tower because they wanted to reach heaven. Successfully building this tower would display their power and dominance on the earth. The Lord did not intend for their ventures to be successful. He was not pleased with their tower and the heart behind its construction. Therefore, He confused their speech so that they could no longer communicate with each other. Their tower was not completed because the Lord stopped their efforts. While we read the story each night, Riley Grace explains that God didn’t want them to build it, but they did anyway. Every night at the end of the story, she says, “Well, I won’t build a tower.”

From the story, Riley Grace concluded that building a tower was displeasing to God, and therefore, she decided that she would never build a tower because God didn’t want them to build a tower. What a sweet heart and simple thought!

Oh, that obedience to the Lord would be this black and white!

Rather than adopt this mindset behind obedience, I find myself oftentimes trying to see just how close I can get to the line of obedience/disobedience rather that making a clear-cut decision to do what it takes to please the Lord. In Riley Grace’s childlike perspective, building a tower was wrong. Therefore, she wasn’t gonna do it. Black and white. End of story. How often is that my perspective? X is displeasing to God; therefore, I’m not going to participate in X. God is pleased in X, Y, and Z; therefore, I will do X, Y, and Z. Period.

What things hinder this clear-cut perspective of obedience in our lives?

-       A cloudy line of which behaviors are pleasing/displeasing to the Lord What has made the line cloudy? How has our vision been blurred?

o   Cultural influences on the practice of Christianity: Our culture has negatively impacted how we interpret Scripture and practice Christianity. So, at the risk on stepping on a few toes (don’t worry, my toes are already bruised at this point!), I’ll name a few examples of how our culture has affected our practice of Christianity.

Culture says this movie is rated PG-13, so it must be acceptable to watch if it’s considered appropriate for preteens. Culture says that these songs are harmless; the curse words have even been blotted out. However, the profanity, innuendos, and “love” aka lust scenes in no way honor the Lord or reflect the Christian life. But, we watch it anyways. We listen to it anyways. Line blurred.

You occasionally use profanity, and it’s no big deal. You aren’t meaning to be vulgar; it’s just habit. It just flows with the conversation. You don’t want to make it obvious that you’re refraining from it in front of your friends. Is it really that bad? But, is profane speech honoring to the Lord? Yes or no? Line blurred.

You aren’t intending to gossip about this situation, but you havvvvee to tell someone. So it’s not gossip; it’s a prayer request! Come on, now, we all know that trick Line blurred.

In your desire to look and feel attractive, the clothes you wear might just be a little too tight or a little too revealing. But surely it’s ok to feel good about yourself, even if the V is a little deep. And isn’t it a guy’s responsibility to “keep his mind out of the gutter” even if your cleavage is “hanging out” And plus, you can’t find anything these days that’s actually modest! Really, nothing?? Line blurred.

You and your fiancé are in love and will be married soon. The physical lines that have been crossed would have been crossed really soon anyways, so you go for it. Remaining pure until marriage is old school. Come on, we see sex in basically every movie and sitcom these days. (But that doesn’t make it ok!) Line blurred.

Some friends within my circle use alcohol to relax, and sometimes we take it to far. I know that I should have self-control in this area, but I don’t need to be legalistic about it, right? So, I continue in this behavior even though I’m not sure it’s honoring to God. Line blurred.

Do you see how easy it is blur the lines because our culture says these behaviors are ok? All too easy, I’m afraid. But, it’s not ok. Disobeying because we’ve believed our culture rather than Scripture is unacceptable and not an excuse for the sin in which we willingly engage. Ouch. We have let our culture influence too many areas of our daily life. How we respond along these blurred lines reveal our true character Something to ponder.

o   Misinterpretation of Scripture: It’s very easy to put our own spin on Scripture, especially if we don’t know the context behind why the verse was written to its original audience. We may not mean to interpret it wrongly, but if we take it out of the context in which the author meant for it, then our interpretation will be wrong. It is our responsibility as Christians to study the history behind the Scriptures so that we can learn the context and therefore discern it’s proper application to our lives. Also, our world TV, Internet, authors, local churches is full of false teachers that misinterpret Scripture to fulfill their own agenda. We have to be wary of these false teachers as well as our own misguided interpretations. Be a student of the Word so that you can discern its true meaning and protect your mind and heart against blurred lines and false interpretations.

o   Our hearts and minds being far from the Lord so we are unsure of what the Word actually says about certain issues, behaviors, attitudes, etc.: If we are not consistently in the Word, we won’t know what it says. That sounds like a “Duh!” statement, but many times we just don’t know what is right because we aren’t even reading God’s Word! That’s a simple fix; Dive into the Word, and stay there! Soak it up. Guard your heart and mind against the blurry lines we’ve created regarding what constitutes obedience/disobedience.

-       Our own attempts to justify sinful behavior: We blame the culture. We blame other Christians. We blame our circumstances. We blame our scars, this we’ve done and things that have been done to us. We tell ourselves that the blurred lines are not bad. We lie to ourselves in order to engage in the sin that gives us temporary pleasure. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where the adversary wants us.  

-       Our sinful desires waging war in our minds and hearts: When we choose to act in a way that seeks to fulfill these desires, then we are choosing these desires above the Lord. We don’t like to admit that, but it’s true. In seeking these things above the Lord, we are elevating ourselves
o   We want:
§  Comfort

§  Success

§  Money

§  Fame

§  Acceptance

§  Security

§  Beauty

§  Pleasure

§  Power

§  Control

§  Etc.

All of these things hinder our obedience to the Lord and cloud our minds to the truth. The way to combat these things is turning our eyes to the Lord. If we focus on the Lord, He can clarify these truths for us!

The truth is:
-       God demands obedience.
-       He demands it because He loves us.
-       He demands it because He knows that it will bring about our sanctification, which is for our good and His glory.
-       He gives us His Word, which shows us how to live obediently and discern what is truth verses lies. We just have to open it and begin reading!
-       He gives us His Holy Spirit, which empowers us to choose obedience even in the face of worldly pressures.
-       Choosing obedience might be more difficult in the face of strong temptation, but it is much more rewarding than the fleeting pleasure of sinful choices.

That’s the truth, and the truth will bring freedom!

-       READ: Galatians 5 has one major theme: walking in freedom through the Holy Spirit. Freedom from sin is what we struggle for while we are still in our earthly home. Thank the Lord that this home is a temporary one! The Lord promises that even in our earthly existence, we can have freedom. Take the time to read Galatians 5 today. It is rich with encouraging promises that will challenge us to live a life that is pleasing to our Loving Father!
-       STUDY: How many times to we long to walk in the Spirit, but instead find ourselves lured back into the temptations that so easily entangle us? It’s frustrating and even depressing at times. However, we don’t have to live in that defeat! Galatians 5:16 explains it clearly: “But I say, ‘Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” That seems pretty straightforward. If you walk by the Spirit, then you won’t succumb to sinful fleshly desires. I want that kind of freedom from sin! I challenge you to study other passages that explain how to walk in the Spirit. Begin with Galatians 5, Romans 7-8, and Ephesians 4:17-32.
-       EVALUATE: Evaluate your life through the light of His Word in Psalm 139:23-24. Ask Him to search your heart, but ready your mind and heart for tough answers. Even though it is painful to face your sin, it is necessary in the process of sanctification. The Lord is just and mighty and sovereign, but He is also gentle and loving and forgiving. Rest in that as you walk with Him!
-       PRAY: Begin with praising the Lord for His promises. Praise Him that He promises to equip you and empower you to live in the obedience to which He’s called you. Praise Him for desiring for you to live a full life in Christ and for making a way for that to happen. Ask the Lord to give you His mindset toward sin. Ask Him to forgive you for the blurred lines to which you’ve become accustomed. Ask Him to show you specific areas where you have compromised. Ask Him to give you specific Scriptures to pray over your life. Ask Him for accountability. Ask Him for a great desire to please Him. He will answer you!

I pray that the Lord will gently, but firmly convict and challenge you to be obedient. I pray that He will give you the strength, passion, and discipline to be obedient even when it’s hard, and it will be hard. I pray that you will have the resolve to choose Christ over every worldly “pleasure,” even when those around you are choosing to follow the world. I pray that your eyes will be opened and the lines will become clear, even when culture and personal temptations try to blur the line between obedience and disobedience. And rather than trying to inch up to that line, I pray that we will have a strong desire to cling to what is good and hate what is evil. I pray that sin will be as disgusting to us as it is to the Lord. I pray that you will resolve “not to build a tower,” so to speak meaning whatever temptation or blurred line is difficult for you, you will run from it and run to the Lord because He is the only one who can empower you to desire obedience! Run to Him and His Word! He is waiting to meet you and give you His heart!

Always, Jacquelyn

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