Living Like Christ, and Other Hard Things (Part Two)

A few days ago, I wrote a post about how sometimes, on this walk of faith we’re on as Christians, we need to just turn off the news…yes, stick our heads in the sand, if you will…and tune out of anything that inspires the unchristlike character in us.

So, in the real world I had a few conversations about this topic with some folks, and also on Facebook, so I decided to make this a two-parter. You may want to read part one over here. 

Life’s Classroom

Although I excelled at book learnin’ in school, I quickly realized out here in the real world that simple knowledge is useless without an understanding of how to apply it to our lives. You can call it common sense or wisdom.

God has been moving me away from just knowing stuff, and onto actually figuring out how to apply this to my life in real world ways….and I’ve found that the more I apply the more He shows me, and the more I grow in His likeness. That’s just how He works in our lives.

It took many hard situations in our lives to figure out that some of the goals we had in our lives were not quite lined up with what God wanted (though they did line up with what other Christians would say).

I also realized that much of my world view had been shaped not by Jesus Christ Himself and His Word, but by others…particularly the media I consumed, the things I read, the company I kept, etc.

Purging out Bad Theology based on Culture

Oddly, some of what I’ve been shown recently has actually been more of a rediscovery of things I believed earlier in my Christian walk. When I first gave my heart to Christ as an adult (back in 1990 at the age of 20), I was living in unique circumstances. I was backpacking and sometimes hitch-hiking around Europe, trying to figure out just who I was and where I fit in the world. The Berlin wall had just fallen, and I just had to be there. The first church I attended and was disciplined in was a Quaker house church meeting in a small town in Austria.  Later, I lived in Vienna and attended an Evangelical Lutheran Church, and later still I was in Salzburg and attended a Baptist (BWA) church.

My theology and my Christian practice in those early months were largely shaped by those around me….radical things like actually taking the Sermon on the Mount literally and attempting to practice it literally, instead of explaining it away or inserting exception clauses where there are none. As a young idealist, this seemed logical and entirely possible, though quite difficult. I had been through some hard things over the years, but this brought peace.

Then I got deported from Austria over some misfiled paperwork (boy do the Austrians ever love their paperwork!) and came to America where I discovered that I had “wrong beliefs”, primarily from taking Jesus at His word in areas that are not popular in this country and culture.

Over the next several years, my beliefs and practices became warped to what everyone around me said, did, believed, and taught… and it feels great to the flesh that wants justice, and revenge, and those who have been victimized who want justice, and on and on. Young, impressionable, and trying to figure out what pleases God, I rolled with it. Added to this was all of the crazy fear mongering that goes on in the media, and then on social media. Then you have the smaller movements within the church, such as patriarchal beliefs, extra-biblical standards, Quiverfull, and dominion theology. That kind of thing can mess you up royally, by taking the clear teachings of the Bible and filtering them through a few out of context verses.

Then…life happened.

A series of things in my life over the last several years, including the foreclosure situation, food insecurity/job issues, marriage challenges, abusive extended family, seeing the train wreck that others’ lives had become following bad theology, doing a media fast in the wake of the car accident, and then deciding to change up my Bible study routine. Normally, I read Proverbs and Psalms all the way through each month, plus I read one shorter book of the Bible (an Epistle or Minor Prophet) every day of the month all the way through. For the last six months, I’ve read Psalms and Proverbs, plus one Gospel book every day for a month, alternating between the four Gospels.

It was like rediscovering Jesus.

Is the Goal of our lives to Win, to be Safe, or to be Christ-like?

One of the things I have had to face is the reality of the ultimate purpose of my life. What do I mean? If you are a Christian, you need to get honest with your own heart. What is the goal here, ultimately, in your life?

  • Is it to be on the winning team in this world?
  • Is it to “successfully change the culture” and “win the culture wars”?
  • Is it to be safe and secure, and keep your family safe and secure?
  • Is it to fight for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way?”
  • Is it to fight to preserve “Western Values”?
  • Is it to glorify God and be more Christ-like in every part of your life?

In reading the Bible, I think theologically speaking, we all know that the last one is the correct answer, but in practical living, it’s not so easy, is it?

Our fleshly, natural nature wants to be safe, we want to win the argument, we want the culture to like us and we want the culture to glorify God…we want things to be easy, don’t we?

Well, in this world, we will have trouble. Our only job is to become more like the One who has overcome the world, even though that is far more difficult than anything else we could be doing right now.

 Jesus said to take heed to ourselves

Jesus Addressed our Modern Culture, but with Different Commands

As I was reading through the Gospels, I started to realize some of what we’re going through today is addressed to them by Christ Himself.

Ironically, right as I was in the process of writing this (While working 58 hours during the week of Thanksgiving…whew!), I attended a church with an earlier service because of my work schedule and the sermon was on this exact passage…with the same conclusion. Don’t you just love it when God confirms what you are learning from Him?

In Luke 21, Jesus is talking about the End Times. Most theologians say this is about the Great Tribulation, and that is probably true. However, we can also make application for us today. (Luke 21:10-17)

Then He {Jesus} said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.
But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.

Right now, we are in a place where these things are starting to happen, or perhaps it’s just that, with media, we’re more aware of them. Either way, it’s overwhelming, is it not?

In our hearts, in my own heart and my flesh, the gut reaction is to rise up to fight back, to defend, to push back against this situation and try to set things right. On social media, it’s all about defending ourselves against the enemy, or about being afraid, or freaking out about “our way of life” being forever wiped away by the changing world demographics. We must protect our way of life here in the west, amirite?

Jesus’ response, however, is different than ours, and actually quite hard, and against our own human nature. However, this is plagiarized straight for Jesus Christ, so…you have to consider the source. One might conclude this would please Him more than “defending our way of life” through defense, politics, and military power. (Luke 21:29-37)

Then He {Jesus again}  spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Christ’s solution to these dangerous times can be summed up:

1. Take heed to NOT be weighed down by what’s going on around you

I look around on social media, and in talking to people, and everyone is freaking out about all of the things going on around us and in the world. And I totally get it. It’s scary!

However…Jesus reminds us that this is all part of the ultimate plan. Don’t worry. Don’t fear. My word doesn’t pass away. All these things must come to pass, and when you see these things, your redemption is drawing near. The kingdom of God is getting closer.

It’s hard because there are some huge things going on around us. I’m not minimizing them, and I don’t think Christ is trying to either. However, when the Bible says, “magnify the Lord with me” throughout the psalms, what that  means is, the closer you are to something, the bigger it looks. God is bigger than these problems but if you are hanging around closer to the problems than to Christ, the problems are going to look much bigger. Draw close to Jesus Christ. Life looks better from that perspective.

2.Don’t be weighed down by Carousing (KJV: Surfeiting), Drunkenness, and the Cares of this Life

In talking about what’s going on around us, Christ specifies not being weighed down by three things specifically.

Cares of this life are pretty self-explanatory on the surface. People are weighed down by the cares of this life, even good people. Focusing on the wrong things. I had someone who I respect as a sister in Christ come over to bring me something after the car accident, and she said, “Ugh, I cant’ believe your husband still hasn’t fixed that light in the kitchen.”

Do you know what her “encouragement” did to me? It made my focus turn back to the cares of this life. I don’t even notice the darn broken light, but after her comment, it was all I saw. However, I had to get back to “WOWSERS! God gave me a house, you guys, and HE SAVED MY KIDS from death and disability, healing them faster than the doctors predicted. Forget the stupid light!”

In the Greek, cares of this life literally refer to being distracted by worldly things.

The other two words are less clear.

The word “Carousing” (KJV translates it as “Surfeiting”, and NIV says “Dissipations”) actually means a hangover or a headache you get after a night of indulgence. It also refers to a glut of something or gluttonous indulgence. I think most people I know have this, only it’s a Fox News or CNN hangover. Some wake up with a Facebook hangover, or Twitter, or (God forbid) Reddit hangover.

The word “Drunkenness” means the influence of an intoxicant. Overindulgence in any substance or distraction that numbs the senses. I can list a few if none are coming to you: news media, video games, tv, radio, social media…anything you over indulge in to avoid the reality that keeps you from Christlikeness. It also, of course, includes getting drunk to avoid problems.

 3. Watch and Pray

Personally, I’m convicted of the fact that I’ve spent far more time complaining, whining, arguing, and campaigning in the last 20 years than I have spent actually praying for others and praying over situations. How about you?

I was impressed a few months ago, with a sense of Jesus asking me, “What do you suppose pleases Me more? Complaining about it or Praying about it?”

Obviously praying.

4. Stand before the Son of God

Again, looking in original languages, in this case, Greek, the word means not only to Stand Firm (unmoved) but to abide.

These are two things that are pretty impossible in the flesh, without the fruit of the Spirit at work in our lives.

I’ve written before on the topic of productivity because I am a naturally goal-orientated person. I love to get things done.

Sometimes God has to remind me that being busy and getting things done isn’t always the most important thing I can be doing right now. Sometimes it’s abiding in Him and standing firm with Him. Sometimes the most productive thing I can do is simply walk in the Spirit and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, even if it means getting nothing of substance done.

As a productivity junkie, that’s a hard pill for me to swallow sometimes.

In Conclusion

I know this is a more rambling post than i try to share on here. I do apologize.

My friends, I want to encourage you to let not your hearts be troubled.

The world is changing around us, and yes, that can be scary. However Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is working out His ultimate will in our lives, and in the lives of others. May we have the grace to follow Him wherever He leads us.

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