Thursday, August 9, 2018

Do I measure up?

There is much written in the letter to the Roman church to describe the conduct becoming of a child of God. There is also this idea of the futility of trying to impose your way of believing on another individual. Sometimes we find there are certain issues at hand in the church causing the members to be at odds about some 'doctrine' or another. It could be the 'age-old' argument of 'is this right for you to do' once you become a Christian, or it could be much deeper, such as what does the Bible say about a certain 'hot topic' in culture today. It could even be if we are free to worship this way, or if there is another 'more acceptable' way in which to worship Christ. It seems there are always individuals trying to impose "rules" into the relationship they have come to experience in Christ - bringing freedom of heart and soul into the bondage of rules and rituals instead of allowing grace to break one free from the need for 'ritualistic worship'.

Cultivate 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)

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 our passage is driving at is the idea that we cannot share the message of freedom in Christ if we are still living in bondage to certain 'forms or rituals' in our lives - there is an inconsistency in what we are saying and doing. It isn't that the 'rules' are bad, or that the 'rituals' are incorrect - it is that we seem to focus on the rules or rituals MORE THAN we are focusing on the relationship we cultivate with Christ.

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 somehow believe we just cannot let go of right now. Past hurt becomes an influencing factor by which we interpret present day events. Jesus proclaimed we are free from that past hurt. We "say" we believe that we are free of it - but our behavior reveals that we are still responding to that past hurt (either in our expression of bitterness, regret, or mistrust; 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 in our lives. When there is a lack of agreement in what we say compared to what we do, we struggle with feeling like we aren't making any progress in our Christian walk. The fact of the matter is that there ARE inconsistencies in our daily 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.

There is a need to bring those inconsistencies frequently before God - asking him to align the parts of our character that are not in total agreement. Through his Holy Spirit and his Word, he gives us the tools that 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 what we see or feel in 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 or totally "aligned" yet. Congruent behavior is a matter of a yielded heart - mind, will and emotions fully surrendered to his control. The change will come - you just need to remain committed to the steps you know are right for you to follow! Just sayin!