An ongoing battle that every Christian faces is the one between the person you were before you met Jesus and the one you are now that you have met Him. Old temptations beckon. Old habits resurface. Old desires rekindle. Old loyalties divide. Old beliefs hinder. Old memories haunt. When you feel this tension, remember that you have a new identity, a new life and a new you because you believe in and belong to Jesus! You have been changed, are being changed and will be changed by His transforming grace. So fight the good fight of faith against sin as you rejoice in this today: that’s not you anymore.
Here’s a simple, but significant, lens through which life looks radically different than we often see it… will this matter 100 years from now? How we think, feel, speak, act, and react would be wonderfully different if we saw things in light of eternity, and remember that this short life is not all that there is. Our lives would create an everlasting ripple if we could look a century into our future to see the impact of our today. As we live by grace, in dependence upon the presence and power of Jesus, let us give less priority to the things that really don’t matter and more priority to the things that do.
The paths will divide. The objectives will conflict. The plans will differ. The desires will compete. The advice will disagree. We will often find ourselves having to choose sides for who we will listen to, go with and live to the satisfaction of … God or people. We simply cannot be and do what will make Him happy and others happy at the same time, all the time. Rather than compromising to satisfy the crowd, let us show others the better path, the better objective, the better plan, the better desire and the better advice found in the good news of Jesus. Today, by grace, let us prioritize pleasing God over pleasing people.
Every single day you and I should do whatever it takes to be happier in Jesus. That’s how we win against temptation, frustration and dissatisfaction in this life. The attempts we make to improve ourselves, improve our circumstances, and improve our lives should not simply be about trying to take away things we dislike and add in things we do like. Instead, our goal should be to know and enjoy Jesus more and more and more. We grow in our inner peace, rest, security, confidence, hope and joy not because over and over we figure out a way to make things better, but because over and over we find our way to Jesus.
Many people see God’s commandments as a life-draining set of rules that is unpleasant, unnecessary and unwanted. They are seeing them wrongly. Do you know how bridges are designed, built and maintained for our safety? By “rules.” Do you know how meals are prepared, served and consumed for our nourishment? By “rules.” Do you know how music is composed, recorded and performed for our delight? By “rules.” God has decided how things should work for our … Safety. Nourishment. Delight. God’s good design for all things in our lives and in our universe is not life-draining; it is life-giving.
Faith in Jesus is followed by following Jesus in faith. Saving belief leads us to step off the throne, take off the crown, and let Jesus take over ruling our hearts and lives. We haven’t really put our faith in Jesus if we are indifferent to what He wants and resistant to what He says. That’s not trust. That’s a lack of trust. That’s mistrust. Real faith in Jesus makes us want to give up our sin and self-rule to follow His steps, His ways and His commands (although imperfectly executed) more fully over time. Why? Because we are confident that life His way is better than any other option, and that for eternal life He is the only option.
It is defined in different ways. It is pursued in different ways. It is measured in different ways. But what happiness has in common no matter how it is defined, pursued and measured is this: every single human being wants it. The message of the world is to “do what you want to do and be who you want to be” and this will make you happy. Only it … Does. Not. Work. The message of Jesus is “do what I want you to do and be who I made you to be.” In doing so, we will experience His joy, and our joy can be full no matter what else is happening in our lives. Want to be happy? His. Way. Works.
The enemy of your soul doesn’t care about you. His only interest in you is as a victim. He wants to “steal and kill and destroy,” and a primary way he attempts to do this is by leading you astray. How? By making sin look attractive, and obedience seem restrictive. He wants you and me to believe that sin isn’t sin, that sin is worth it, that sin isn’t that serious, and that sin won’t cost too much. Jesus leads our lives to deliver us from sin and deliver to us abundant life now and eternal life later. When He calls us to follow Him in loving obedience, it is not because He’s a tyrant; it’s because He intends to set us free from one.
The gospel emboldens us to not draw back when others push back against our countercultural loyalty to God and His ways. Because Jesus has overcome sin, Satan and death, we can have courage; the kind of courage that does not shrink back from saying and doing the right things no matter what people might think of us, what might happen to us, and what it might cost us if we remain faithful to Jesus. Our courage and encouragement are based on this truth: Jesus has overcome all the tribulations, troubles, trials, tests, and temptations of this world! And… He is for us. He is with us. He is coming to get us.
Following Jesus means leaving some places, people, and pursuits behind to go wherever Jesus leads us, to do whatever Jesus says to us when we get there. It also means being faithful in the season, situation and spot He has already led us, to do whatever He brought us here to do. Sometimes this faith journey will require us to go to hard places, have hard conversations, do hard things, endure hard circumstances and deal with hard people. But Jesus will be with us every step of the way to make a way for us to take every step. Be encouraged! He never said it would be easy; He only said it would be worth it.
You are not someone else; someone else is not you. God has ordained that each of His children be equipped with gifts, abilities, opportunities and resources to fulfil a specific purpose in a specific place to a specific people. Some are more visible and more vast than others, but all are important. To avoid falling into the trap of comparison as we seek to live out the plans Jesus has for us in His kingdom, it is important for us to remember that the measurement of godly stewardship is not fruitfulness, but faithfulness. It is not the size of your platform that is most important; it is what you do with what you have been given.