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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cultivate your relationship with God

 22-23Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.
(Romans 14:22-23)

Paul spends almost two chapters in his letter to the Roman church to describe the conduct becoming of a child of God.  In summary, he spent a full chapter on the futility of trying to impose your way of believing on another individual.  This summary was in response to the issues at hand in the church whereby the members were at odds about whether you were free to worship this way or another in Christ.  They were trying to impose "rules" into the relationship they had come to experience in Christ - bringing freedom of heart and soul into the bondage of rules and rituals again.

In summary, he tells us that we have a responsibility to cultivate our own relationship with God - not imposing it on others.  This may seem contrary to the idea that we are called to share the gospel message with those who have not heard it.  In actuality, what Paul was driving at was the idea that we cannot share the message of freedom in Christ if we are still living in bondage in our lives - there is an inconsistency in what we are saying and doing.

For most believers, we start our Christian walk with a whole lot of inconsistencies in our pursuit of holiness.  We believe with all our heart that we are free from our past, but we hold onto something we "just cannot let go of".  Past hurt becomes an influencing factor by which we interpret present day events.  Jesus proclaims we are free from that past hurt - we "say" we believe that we are free - but our behavior reveals that we are still responding to that past hurt (either in our expression of bitterness or in our inability to step out in newness of faith in that area). 

Mind, will and emotions all play a part in what we "hold onto" from our life prior to Christ.  It is only to the degree we submit the mind, will and emotions to the influence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that we will be transformed.  Congruent behavior is based on consistency - all the pieces aligned.  When there is a lack of agreement in what we say compared to what we do, we struggle with feeling like we are making any progress in our Christian walk.


The fact of the matter is that there ARE inconsistencies in our character - mind not agreeing with emotions (we think one way, but respond another); spirit not agreeing with will (we are prompted to do one thing, yet act totally contrary to what we are prompted to do).  This is the truth for ALL of God's children - there is a continual struggle with having our actions align with our beliefs.  No one is exempt from this challenge.


Paul simply reminds us of the need to bring those inconsistencies frequently before God - asking him to align the parts of our character that are not in agreement.  Through his Holy Spirit and his Word, he gives us the tools to begin to affect our mind (helping us adopt the right way of interpreting life); align our will with his (giving us stability in our motivations); and to dissuade us from relying on our emotions to interpret life (providing us congruence between what we believe and how we respond to it).


Since the struggle of living "aligned" or "consistent" lives is common to all mankind, we must bring our struggle to the ONLY source for congruency - Christ Jesus.  As I indicated above, mind and will come into alignment, followed by our emotions.  We often get this backward - wanting to "feel" changed before the work is really "final" within us. The mind must be assured, the will must be submitted, and the emotions will follow.


Ask God today where there are inconsistencies in your character - what is it that you are "saying" (believing), but are not "doing" (acting)?  When he exposes those areas in your life, trust him to align those areas with his Word, even when you may not "feel" fully "aligned" yet.  Congruent behavior is a matter of a yielded heart - mind, will and emotions fully surrendered to his control.