How do we navigate life in a culturally driven world, with those we love, those who are religious, those who have failed, messy folks, good folks, and how in the world are they going to get along with the worst version of me as we travel?
1st, Realize, Nobody’s Perfect!
You can have all the training in theology, and doctrine, be an expert counselor and still not get it! However, Salvation, Sanctification, Justification, Propitiation, Mercy and Grace are all being worked out and into the lives of believers all around us. We must cut each other some slack. Too often in our cultural Christianity we have a knee-jerk response to the weakness of those around us. Nowhere is this more readily identified than in rants on various blogs where folks will take the opportunity to flog their masochistic constituents in an effort to drive a point home, thus slowly killing their following while elevating their self righteousness. We must begin to realize that in the case of the self righteous, they are the weaker brothers! They are not our enemy and we stand to benefit a great deal by forgiving them and praying for them.
Luke 18:9-14 KJV
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Fix your eyes on Jesus
Hebrews 12:2 KJV
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus has a way of bringing fit and finish to even a tough project like myself. It is one of the many inherent benefits of being the son of the Master Creator. Being a man who for much of his life has been involved in construction, born of a father who was and still is a master craftsman, I can relate to the idea of looking to the author and finisher to bring completion to my present project!
See the signals for what they are.
Do you ever feel like you are traveling alone? Let the seasons of isolation turn into opportunity to develop your intimacy with your Heavenly Father. The first response to the typical isolation scenario is to recoil. I have found, however, that it is an opportunity to understand just how our Heavenly Father feels about us without the distractions and influence of others. I firmly believe that God allows these kinds of seasons to produce a great spiritual awakening in us and to prepare us for ministry in the next season. For more insight to this kind of living, study guys like Elijah at the Brook of Kidron. (See 1 Kings 17). I’m sure at some point he would have characterized His circumstances as - “for the birds.” God on the other hand was preparing a miracle at the end of this season he was in.
Set the dial to Jesus!
Hebrews 10:16 KJV
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
Jesus is the one real resource for discipleship! I’m not implying we don’t need relationship with one another, rather I would say that true relationship and discipleship is a response to the work that Christ does on our behalf and is what His Spirit does in us. This drastically changes the impact that our disciple-making has on those who are part of the body of Christ. No mixed signals! God has made a covenant with us, His will is written on our hearts and in our minds to the point that it is transformational.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Forgive, Forgive, Forgive, and Forget!
Hebrews 10:17-18 KJV
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
If we believe in forgiveness for all then we must begin to function properly in the area of forgiveness. The way to do this is simple. Forgive others in the same way you have been forgiven. To further amplify this idea, we must forgive in the same way Christ forgave. This conjures characterizations and words like; completely, forgotten, undeserved, just as if I’d never sinned, free pass, it’s ok now, and my favorite, “What you talk’n bout Willis.” If one’s idea of forgiveness is doling it out over a period of time as it is deserved or merited, then your idea of forgiveness is flawed!
Choose your accountability well!
A true story was shared with me about a pastor who fell in his own sinful pride and had an affair. I won’t go into details except to say that many will identify two things about the restoration process that he was made to go through. First, He did “The walk of shame.” This is to simply say that those in authority around him and ultimately those he was accountable to, made an example of him. This is where he was made to walk the isle of his church and stand before that body while he divulged the details of his sin. This is no more than man perverting the authority that was given to Christ alone. I will say no more! Suffice it to say that His peers in the denomination he belonged to have formulated the conclusion that He chose the wrong accountability partners. Sad!
What to look for
Commoner, Sinner, Saved by Grace!
Getting off the cultural bandwagon.
One of the biggest distractions we are faced with today is the Cultural Bandwagon. It comes rolling into our lives laden with packages of social blogs and friendly forums with the promise of keeping everyone connected as one big happy family. The highlights of life are displayed in an array of spectacular photos and videos and then compared to the messiness of our own lives. Real life is held captive just out of our reach and the byproduct of this pseudo community is the belief that everyone will come to our defense on the messy matters of life and what we end up with is an emoticon or likes.
Over the years I have lost precious time with my best friend Jesus because I was caught in the net of cyberspace. This place is best described as the place where conjecture breeds an unclear view of others and self. Productivity goes out the window and personal validation of ones self, life, and accomplishments are never affirmed. I can go on for a good while about the snares of the net but I think you get the point and I think if your were to ask Jesus yourself your would arrive at the same conclusions!
One of the most important aspects of my relationship with my Heavenly Father had become non-existent. I will refer to it as “A walk in the park.” You all remember the story of Enoch in scripture.
A walk in the Park
And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
The purpose for identifying Enoch is first in order to glorify the grace of the God who is mightier than death and secondly to understand the simplicity of His walk. Further delving into the other aspects of His life to credit or discredit him only serves to bog one down and miss the whole simple point. The majority of Enoch’s devotion in life was spent walking with the Lord in what must have been a park like setting not far from the original Garden of Eden. It must have been like going to the Redwoods with your bestie!
On the first matter-the grace of the God who is mightier than death.
“He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification.”
“…we were reconciled to the Father through the death of His Son….”
“don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.
On the second matter-the simplicity of his walk.
The achievements of men are vast and varied but their work dies with them, but this man Enoch towers in significance above all the others. “I shall walk with God,” he determines. What greater ambition can there be to a lifetime spent walking with God? You won’t find that kind of perspective to be the priority of the FB!
In the Old Testament we find two related expressions: ‘to walk before God’ and ‘to walk after God.’ In the military a soldier always walks before the eyes of the sergeant. He walks just as he’s been instructed, and so to walk before God suggests the same kind of lifestyle, and one that is pleasing to Him. The psalmist put it this way, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death, yea, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (Psa. 56:13). He has saved us so that we might spend our lives walking before Him.
Then there is this other phrase, to walk after God, and it suggests submission. As you know the sheep follow after the shepherd.
“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice.”
That is where the simplicity of our walk begins. It is the core component of a walk with Jesus. You cannot have Jesus Christ as your Lord and walk like the rest of the world walks, or walk as your piers walk. We must follow the Lord in all sincerity and holiness. Why did God choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world? That we should be holy and blameless before him and that we should walk with him. What kind of Christian is a Christian without these two components?
Now, before you overload yourself with the idea that you will never be able to do anything to warrant this kind of walk with Him, realize that the relationship isn’t about you, it’s about Him and what He has done for you! A walk with God is definitely more than thinking that He is some kind of cosmic sheriff or just being aware that His eyes are on us while we follow Him each day. What God desires is much more! It is a life of communion with Him, a life of lifting up our hearts to Him often and instinctively, as someone we rely on moment by moment. It’s like this. You start a journey and you pray a silent prayer; you go to a event and you pray that God will make it an honorable occasion; you make a phone call as you you’re asking the Lord to be part of the conversation. There are two persons meeting, a Father and his child, and that fellowship makes our sincerity truly sincere, our holiness beautiful, our obedience an inner urge. There was intimacy between Enoch and God, a movement back and forth, a living relationship between them day after day. It wasn’t that Enoch spent five minutes in the morning considering the Word of God, making an occasional comment on it and then a having a brief prayer so he could then dismiss God from his life. There are men like that who say, “I’ve done my daily portion. I’m right with God,” and then they go on with their lives without another thought of God. No, to walk with God is to realize his presence and appropriate him as your Lord and Savior again and again, over and over, everywhere and at all times.
The cultural bandwagon brings community to your area absent of any room for time alone with God. Our devotion to Him is subtly traded in for a false since of community when in contrast, communion with God is not only satisfying but is a friendship that He longs to have with you. Ask yourself why am I so often prone to conjecture, discouraged in my walk, feeling condemned by the enemy and those around me? Last but not least, ask yourself why do I have such a large cyber friend’s list and still feel so isolated?
My prescription for you present predicament.
Cut the net.
Go for a walk with God.
Re-discover true community through communion at His table.
And jump off the cultural bandwagon.
Commoner, Sinner, Saved by Grace!