Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Put on Christ

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:2-15

Question of the Day: Would it take a gentle rinse for God to wash away all of your selfishness or a pressure washer? For me, I think that a gentle or moderate rinse would get rid of most of it, but the problem is that last bit. I'm afraid it would take a serious pressure washer to remove that. How about you?

The reason I ask is that I believe selfishness is at the root of all sin. Many say pride is at the root, but I disagree with them except to the extent they mean selfishness. All pride is selfishness and all pride is sin, but not all sin is pride, whereas all sin is selfishness. Why else are we called to die to SELF and live to Christ? Because what comes out of our hearts defiles us, that's why. Pride is one of those things, but they are all "self" and that's why we need Jesus to regenerate us and fill us with Himself. He's the only one who can help us. Only He is perfect.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.  Matthew 15:19-20 a

Most people, at least at some point in their lives, are too proud to acknowledge that they are created beings who answer to God. At the core of it is wanting one's own SELF to be in control.  Some of us spend the majority of our lives denying who we are:  created beings answerable to our Creator.  By denying His existence, we are left with what we really want--to be in charge.  Even when we acknowledge that God exists, very few of us are truly willing to submit to His will in all things instead of exercising our own will.  We think we know what we want and what is best for us, but God's way is better than what we thought we wanted.  Look at the evil that has been done in rebellion against and defiance of God and His perfect, beautiful ways.  This is not the way God designed it to be, and for those who lay down their selfish pride, all will one day be perfect again.  For those who don't, the evil will increase to an unbearable level and will never end.

God has given us evidence of Himself not only in the Bible, but in everything He created.  We know in our hearts that He exists, so why do so many deny it? Because if we have to answer to God, then we have to admit that our ways are not right.  By our very nature what is in our selfish hearts is sin.  Let's look at the definitions of the list of earthly behaviors that we believers are to put to death because they incur God's wrath:
  • earthly: wordly, often implies a contrast with what is heavenly or spiritual.
  • sexual immorality: evil, wrong, licentious, dishonorable, depraved activity involving sexual organs, against God's design for gender and marriage.
  • impurity: contaminated, degraded, corrupted.
  • passion: strong and barely controllable emotion.
  • evil desire: strongly wish for or want something profoundly immoral or wicked
  • covetousness: inordinately or wrongly desirous of wealth or possessions, often those that belong to someone else; greedy.
  • idolatry: extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.
  • anger: a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.
  • wrath: vengeance or punishment as the consequence of anger.
  • malice: the intention or desire to do evil; ill will.
  • slander: oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed.
  • obscene talk: uttering words that are offensive or disgusting by (God's) standards of morality and decency.
  • lie: a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth
I will add this one that's not on the list, but needless to say stems from selfishness.  Believers are only allowed to boast in the Lord.  pride: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Besides not wanting to admit and submit to God, most people are also at some point are too proud to admit they can't handle things on their own and that they need God. The center of it is SELF reliance. Needless to say, coveting, greed and stealing are wanting to have for one's SELF what others have. Committing sins against another's person out of lust and/or violence is disregard for the other person's well being in favor of the desire of one's own SELF. Speaking ill of others is a way of feeling more "right" or "better" than they are, tearing them down and building up SELF. Someone who mistreats or disrespects others, especially their parent(s), is valuing their own SELF above them. Lying is often a cover to prevent being held responsible for things done by SELF.

Let's look at another commandment (we are not under the law, but we obey it because we love and respect the One who created it for our good - if we do not believe, then we cannot please God by our actions - faith MUST come FIRST). How about honoring the Sabbath? Most people consider attending worship services to fulfill that these days (although there is more to it). Why don't people go? Because of SELF. They have something in their life that they are doing with that time instead, whether it's work, participating in or watching sports, sleeping, etc. God gives His people rest. Anyone who says they have no choice and cannot make time for God is not trusting in Him and is not putting Him first. He takes care of His own. He can do anything! Feeding, clothing and sheltering His children is not too hard for Him.

Another reason people are not active members of their local assembly of believers (the church, which is not a building) is that they don't want to be exposed to truth that doesn't agree with their own SELF-determined views.  They like to pick and choose which parts of the Bible are applicable to their own SELF. They stubbornly and selfishly "protect" themselves from anything that would upset their self-designed world by staying away from anyone they don't agree with.  That includes pastors who are God's servants to shepherd His sheep and those who are supposed to be their brothers and sisters in Christ.  They can't tolerate people who speak truth that they don't agree with, even when its biblical, but believers are meant to hold one another accountable to the only truth, which is that in the Bible.

"Spiritual but not religious" is a cop out!  It just means that someone a) does not want to make time for gathering with other believers, or b) they do not want to be exposed to any doctrine they disagree with, or c) they do not love their brothers and sisters in Christ as Jesus commanded them to, of which writers of the epistles repeatedly reminded us, or d) they do not want to be expected to give a financial offering out of funds they consider their own (but everything we have is a gift from God and belongs to Him).  Those are just a few underlying reasons, but the fact is that about 80% of professed believers do not even read their Bibles regularly and approximately 50% do not attend worship services.  If the 50% is also part of the 80% (which is very likely), then how will their lives be guided by God?  The Holy Spirit reminds us of what we have already been taught and teaches us so we can understand what we read in the Bible.  There are many supposed "prophets" on Youtube who claim to hear from God directly, but the sad fact is that their desire to be special has blinded them from discerning that the "revelations" they receive do not agree with the Bible and thus, they are false and not of God.

Seek God FIRST. Saying we are obeying that basic command but doing nothing about it is deceitful.  (Faith without works is dead--God wants to be worshiped in spirit and TRUTH.)  And if He is not first, then that is idolizing someone or something above Him! Love God with ALL your heart, mind, soul and strength, more than yourself or anyone or anything. He summarized the rest of the commandments as one: Love your neighbor as yourself--because by doing that the rest will be fulfilled. We can't do ANY of them without setting aside our selfish SELF ("dying" to it inside) and letting Him have complete control. Our new list, to replace the old one above, looks like this:
  • renew: restore, re-establish (our relationship with God), make fresh and new.
  • chosen: selected, elected, favored, appointed.
  • holy: dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.
  • beloved: dearly loved, precious, treasured, cherished, adored.
  • compassionate: feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others.
  • kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
  • humility: a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness.
  • meekness: humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.
  • patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
  • forgiving: able to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.
  • love: an intense feeling of deep affection.
  • called: invitation to leave former state (in order to follow Jesus), to join assembly with other invitees.
  • thankful: expressing gratitude and relief.
All we are and have is a gift from God. Our purpose is to love, worship, serve, honor, exalt and obey Him. Those are all wrapped up together, not a la carte. And if we truly worship and honor God above all else, then we won't believe others when they lie about Him (even if they "mean well" but are deceived). We'll read the Bible and "side with" the one, true God as He has revealed Himself to us (not the invention of any man), because whoever isn't FOR Him is against Him.

"Being on God's side" includes supporting those who hold to the truth and not supporting those who are against God.  We can't avoid evil altogether, but we can control what we watch on television, which movies we go to, what kind of music we listen to, where we go on vacation (is it a place where they go out of their way to accommodate people who are opposed to Jesus, where they encourage sin in the name of tolerance and freedom?), how high of an importance we place on things that have no eternal value, such as sports (how many sport celebrities live as enemies of Jesus?), what we consider appropriate entertainment and activities for a child of God, whether we are respecters of people (celebrities, again--very few of them worship the one, true God faithfully) when God said that He is not and neither are we to be (and do we "love" our favorite celebrities--more than God?), etc.  Are we quick to distance ourselves from anyone who rocks the boat by refusing to compromise on God's truth?  Do we want to be liked by the world more than to honor God in all we think, say and do?  If we don't think any of this matters to Him, then do we truly believe in Him for who He really is?  Do we actually believe what He said in the Bible is true, applicable to us today, and that He sees all we do and even into our very thoughts and hearts?

My prayer today is that God will take His pressure washer (and help me to bear it despite the discomfort and even likely pain) and cleanse me of every last trace of selfishness. I want to be able to set aside myself and my own comfort the way that Jesus demonstrated for us so that I can do all of His will and only His will. Only then will I be able to truly look forward to the day when He judges me with great joy, with assurance of hearing "well done, good and faithful servant." Only then will people see Christ in me and want to taste and see that the Lord is good for themselves.  What about you?

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Philippians 3:12-21