Day to Day

Abusing God

There are many Christians today who choose an active lifestyle in defiance against God. The frightening part is, many of them are probably unaware, or have chosen to overlook the consequences that brings about. They have excused themselves into a self-seeking lifestyle so much that it’s become acceptable to them. They’ve replaced the standards of God with their own standards, and their justification for their defiance is nothing short of an abuse of the grace God gives.

Before I go any further in writing, I want to list two synonyms for the word ‘abuse’.

  • Mistreat
  • Misuse

I want to focus on these two words, and how devastating they are to Christians. Even though they both share the same definition, they each hold specific connotations which can be attributed to a defiant lifestyle against God.

Ephesians 4:30 says “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” NIV

What causes a person to grieve? Mistreating someone is a guaranteed way to cause grief. When I was around the age of thirteen I stole five dollars from my dad. I needed it to pay a debt to someone, and I was fearful of the consequences if I didn’t pay it. I knew where my dad kept his money, and I had open access to it if I needed it. Kids are notorious for always wanting small amounts of change, so all I ever needed to do was ask, and most of the time he would let me get what I needed. It was that easy, because my dad trusted me not to take anything more. Why, then, didn’t I just ask my dad for the money to pay off this debt? It meant having to explain the situation to him, which I severely wanted to avoid, and I wasn’t sure my dad would give it to me. I didn’t want to deal with the impending consequence of getting my butt kicked by the person I owed money to, and I thought sidestepping around the chance of being told no by my dad would be the best option. I decided to just take it. It was easier to mistreat the trust my dad had in me and abuse the already open access to it than it was for me to ask him and run the risk being told no. This mistreatment and abuse of privilege didn’t happen because I didn’t love my dad, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I used my dad’s love and trust to my advantage to do and get what I wanted.

My mistreatment of my dad’s love and trust in me upset him. It hurt him. I had caused my dad to grieve. The defiance I had toward my dad caused a set of consequences that were far more severe than what would have been physically issued by the kid I owed money to had I not paid him. My dad cut me off. Not from his love, of course, but from his trust in me. When we grieve the Holy Spirit we cause the same consequence of being cut off from God, only God isn’t the one who is doing the cutting – we are. With each act of willful defiance we have in our lives, we separate ourselves from God’s presence, and trust. God’s trust in us is different from that of human trust. When people lose trust in other people it causes them to grow leery and cautious. God’s trust in us is rooted in our trust in Him. God already knows what we’re going to do before we do it, but God continually searches our hearts and reveals Himself to us through our obedience to his will. You could say that when God loses his trust in us, what’s really happening is we’re losing our trust in God.

So why do we mistreat God? Why did I mistreat my dad the way I did? I wanted something from my dad, but I wasn’t sure he would give it to me, so I did what I wanted to ensure I got my way, and I paid the price for that. God provides for us what we need, but not always what we want. Our wants can quickly lead to a path of self-seeking behavior to fulfill our own desires, and that will always come at a price.

James 1:14 says “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” NIV

“Dragged away” is an interesting way for the author to put it. It suggests that we are being ripped away from something much better than what our own sinful desires could ever offer.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” NIV

We were created to do good things. Good things bring about good things. God has a plan for our lives that has been perfectly prepared for us, but just because we have knowledge of that doesn’t mean we fully accept it or apply it to our lives. Our flesh is in a constant state of conflict with what God has in mind vs our wants. Not that every want is bad, but our wants often come from a place of our own fleshly desires that contradict what God has in mind for us, so, like I did with my dad, we’re afraid God will say no. We’ve lost our trust in God, and in turn we mistreat him to get our way. So where does that lead us? We begin to misuse God’s grace.

It may seem like an impossible thing to misuse God,  but we do it everyday. We hold on to things in our life that are keeping us from submersing ourselves in the richness and fullness of God’s presence, and we excuse it by saying things such as “I think God would be okay with this.” or “I’m just being me. This is who I am, and God understands that.” I can’t even begin to tell you how dead wrong that concept is, yet it’s a concept that far too many of us Christians have. Not only is it dead wrong, it’s extremely dangerous territory for anyone to be in.

Ephesians 4:27 says “and do not give the devil a foothold.” NIV

Anything, I repeat, anything that diverts your eyes away from God will with absolute certainty destroy you. It’s that simple. If it’s so simple, then why do we constantly entertain the things that are contradictory to Christ? There’s another simple answer: Because we want to. We choose to. We’re not ready to give up our desires, so we continue to flirt with them and indulge them. We disregard what the bible says, and create our own set of rules to follow. We’re essentially rewriting the Word of God to suit our own standards. How arrogant and foolish. And we do this with the full expectation that God will meet us and honor his covenant with us by continuing to give us grace. What I’m going to say next will probably be met with great opposition, but I firmly believe it to be true: God does not accept us unconditionally. He loves us unconditionally, he offers salvation unconditionally, but love and acceptance are two different things. The scripture has this to say:

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” NIV

Proverbs 8:17 ” I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” NIV

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” NIV

Romans 2:7-11 “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” NIV

Luke 13:27 “But he will reply, I don’t know you or where you came from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” NIV

These five passages of scripture very clearly tell us everything we need to know about God’s grace.

  • God loved us while we were still sinners.
  • If we seek out God we will find him
  • If we believe in God, we will live. If we reject God, we will die.
  • If we reject the truth, we will be in trouble.
  • God will not accept us into his house if He does not know us.

When I said earlier that God does not accept us unconditionally, I wasn’t referring to what He offers us. No one deserves anything from God, so his gift of salvation alone speaks to his willingness and longing to want us. Even Paul referred to himself as ‘the chief of sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15), and God used him mightily. It is by His grace through faith we receive it as a gift (Ephesians 2:8). When we accept that gift however, there is a change, a transformation that occurs in our lives that calls us to be free. That is its very purpose.

Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” NIV

We cannot continue to make excuse after excuse after excuse to stay in an ongoing relationship with a past which we were set free from and expect to gain anything good from it. As Paul states, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil”. The bible was written to be a love letter to us as much as it was to be a warning. The Word of God is full of warnings for us to heed. If we continue to misuse God’s grace by indulging our own desires, and mistreating the Holy Spirit by grieving Him, what is that really saying about our relationship with Christ? It sounds like we don’t really have one.

I’m writing this as a plea to anyone who reads it, whether Christian or not. The basic principals outlined here, though biblical in nature, can be applied to any relationship. A true relationship is not one side taking advantage of the other side for their own selfish desires. I urge you, the reader, as much as I do myself, to closely examine your relationship with Christ. Look at the things in your life that prevent you from being completely in His presence. If you have to second guess something, or if you feel the need to defend your choices, or if you feel the slightest bit guilty about something, chances are those are the very things that God is asking you to lay down and walk away from because they are cutting you off from him. It’s not easy. It never is, and it never will be. But we have hope in the one who knows us best, and wants us to draw nearer to him.

Much Love.

Travis

What’s So Difficult About That?

Today’s church is bent on appearing charming and representing itself as a fairy-tale to the world. It’s steadfastly chasing the ‘happily ever after’ that’s been promised in scripture by fulfilling its own agenda far ahead of its appointed time. We use the name of Jesus to condemn the person instead of the sin. We use salvation as a way to feel entitled and pass judgment. We use wealth to prosper in things that expire. Today’s church is impatient, and it wants its reward now. It’s rife with passive aggressive tendencies rooted in hypocrisy and is more invested in having a relationship with itself than it is with Christ. We want to please people instead of pleasing God. We are turning our backs on the very people we are called to minister to because they either don’t fit the lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves, or we’re afraid of offending them. Hell has become more of a concept than an actual place. We’re making excuses to conservatively live liberal lives all in the name of comfort.

The worst thing the church can do is exist to please the consciousness of people. That is lazy and abhorrent behavior. Attendance is down so we contrive new ways of drawing in crowds. We’ve turned church into a gimmick, and Sunday morning has become a sideshow. “Step right up and see what the miracle church can do for you! For a small donation you can by this book that will teach all you need to know about how to have prosperity now!” Televangelism is the new QVC catering to the night owls who will buy anything that’s shiny. Church leaders are selling you on the rags to riches notion of ‘You, too, can have it all!’ But wait…there’s more.

It’s true, the story of Jesus is a real life rags to riches story. There’s no denying that. He was born in a manger. He got a job as a carpenter and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He hung out with fishermen, and befriended a whore. He was homeless and slept wherever and whenever he could. He rode into town on a donkey. One of his friends betrayed him, and another straight up denied knowing him. The authorities thought he was a criminal, so they beat him mercilessly and had him killed. They buried him and went about with their business. I’m not going to lie, that sounds like a pretty rough life. One I wouldn’t want to lead, especially if I didn’t have to. That’s the thing, though. Jesus could have lived a very different life if he wanted to. He had pretty strong connections, and had access to a lot of wealth. So what’s up with this guy anyway? What gives?

I firmly believe that if Jesus were walking the earth today he would be the guy to tell the waitress to have a seat while he clears his own table. He would be the guy on the street hailing a taxi and insist he drive himself to his destination while the driver rides along. He would be the guy who continually serves his neighbor. Servitude, however, doesn’t mean being a ‘yes man’. Christ wasn’t a pushover; he stood up for what he believed in and never backed down. He had many opportunities to just go with the flow and step aside making way for mankind to do its thing, but his perseverance laid in his convictions. He would have done mankind a great disservice by backing down and being a coward. Essentially that is what today’s church has become, cowards. We don’t speak our convictions because we’re too afraid of being off-putting and not being accepted, or we speak them loudly with our own embellishment, because, you know, we believe in Jesus so we’re better than everyone else. Nonsense. We don’t develop relationships with people and let them see Christ through our actions. We hide behind the cross and play hide and seek with the world as it looks for a salvation they may not even be aware of.

I’m a Christian. I’m not perfect. I have many, may faults. I’m no better than anyone else just because I believe in Jesus. All Jesus means to me is that I’ve accepted the fact that I live in world full of sin, and as Paul said, I am the chief of them. I’m not going to condemn anyone because they don’t believe in what I believe in. What I will condemn is the lie that saturates this world with the belief that all you need to do is live a good life. It’s so much more than that. Why would God send people to Hell, you might ask. Do you think anyone sends a criminal to prison but themselves? Sure, they are judged and sentenced, but guess why they were judged and sentenced. They’re the ones who committed the crime. No one made them do it. They chose to. We’re born with sin in our lives and we have an out that is so simple. It’s unfortunate that today’s church as convoluted that simplicity with its own judgment and has made Christ nothing more than a farce.

Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as yourself…”

What’s so difficult about that?

I’m Judging You

“I’m judging you”. It’s a phrase we’ve all said jokingly to our friends when we catch them sneaking that extra slice of pizza, or we walk in on them listening to their favorite Nickleback song. It’s all said in fun with no harm done, but what about when we walk out the door and into the lives of everyone else around us? Chances are we’re still assuming the “I’m judging you” attitude only this time with less fun involved.

Let’s be realistic here, it’s fun to judge people. I wouldn’t be honest if I admitted otherwise. It’s a favorite pastime of many people that makes them feel a little better about themselves and might even justify some of their own actions. I’m guilty of it, very much so. When I see certain people at Walmart that really stand out (you know who I’m talking about) it’s almost second nature to pass judgment on them. If we must be honest, then let’s be brutally honest. This world is populated by a lot of overweight people, unfortunate looking people, obnoxious people…I don’t really need to go on, do I? I don’t say this because I think I’m better than they are; I say it to make a point. Earth is a big kitchen with a lot of spices, and some don’t mix well with others. That doesn’t make them any less important in the recipe, though.

Did you ever stop to think that the overweight woman you see milling about in the cookie aisle, the one wearing the mangy looking sweatpants and a tank top that’s stretched a bit too far around the more, shall we say, robust areas of her upper torso, the one with the dirty looking kids that won’t seem to shut up, you know, her – did you ever stop to think that she has feelings that are just as easily damaged as yours? It’s true that there’s some people in the world that are so self-confident they could appear in public in their underwear and feel no shame. And, of course, there are the ones that simply don’t care or perhaps aren’t aware of their appearance due to delusion. Suffice it to say, however, most people will be all too aware of the way they look, and people like that woman may not be at the place in her life to take better care of herself. Maybe all the money she receives is from state support, or maybe she works two jobs so she can pay the bills and feed her family with next to nothing left over. Why am I saying all of this? It’s simple, it’s time we start cutting people some slack. And I’m speaking to myself the most.

We lack conviction and compassion in our lives. We don’t want to be held accountable for our inner most thoughts because they’re ours. They’re locked away in our minds where no one else can hear them but us. If I said out loud half the things I think, I would no doubt offend a great deal of people. Keeping it to an inner monologue doesn’t change the fact that’s it’s any less wrong than making it public. On the contrary, it still has the same effect. You may not be hurting someone’s feelings with your words or your glares, but what you are doing is channeling that judgment from your mind straight into your heart. Eventually, if enough time goes by giving way to these patterns, cynicism and ego will take over and you’re going to start believing that you’re somehow better than everyone else around you., when in fact, you’re just like them.

Romans 2:1

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

And that’s just not talking about the act of wearing dirty sweatpants either. That’s summing up a lot more than that. It’s talking about hypocrisy. In simpler terms, we are a reflection of the people we meet everyday. The guy who is rude to the salesman is the woman who is obnoxiously talking on her cell phone in the check out line. The teenager who is making fun of a classmate in school is the principal who thinks all kids are worthless. The white guy that tells his friend that all black people are lazy is the black guy that tells his friend that all white people are privileged. Am I being bold in these statements? Absolutely. I think it’s time as Christians that we start holding ourselves accountable and recognize in ourselves what has already changed in our lives when Christ’s spirit came to dwell inside of us.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

When we accept Christ as our savior we not only invite Him into our lives, but into our minds, our hearts and our spirit. Christ has taken over who we are. When I said earlier that we are a reflection of the people we see everyday, we are also a reflection for them and it’s time we start letting them see Christ in us. When you see someone smile it makes you want to smile. When you see someone having a good time, you want to join in. Let’s start showing people the joy that Christ has given us so they’ll want what they see. It’s an open invitation and there’s more than enough room.

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

So, the next time you see our friend at Walmart, say a blessing to her as you walk by. It will make her feel good and you might be surprised how it makes you fee, too.