Friday, December 28, 2018

What? It isn't all about me?

There are commands in the scripture that are not 'optional' behaviors or attitudes. We are to embrace them as a way of life regardless of how we feel. Too many of us are reliant upon 'feelings-based' actions. If we feel like it, we do. If we don't feel the urge, we don't. Don't love the world's ways is not optional. Don't love the world's goods is also not optional. Neither of these commands are 'optional' or dependent on how we feel at the moment. We might want to gloss over these commands, but there is much value in considering them as guiding principles in our lives as the consequences of being too caught up in the ways of this world system or in seeking after what it offers carry some heavy burdens for us. When we are in love with this world and what it offers us, we isolate ourselves from God - although we may align with others in this world, isolation from him is just not good.

Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.  (I John 2:15-17)

What is the 'world' in scripture? In the plainest terms, it is that which sets itself against the ways of God. The idea is that of being in opposition to, or living in such a manner as to take one's focus off of grace and love of God. Don't love this world's system of doing things, or treating people, as the world spends so much time just focusing on self is really a means of helping us not be so 'me-focused'. The plain truth is laid out for us - the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure - those things that will please our 'self' while paying little attention to the things another needs. It offers us what will build our pride and what will fill our coffers. In the end, we are left empty - devoid of the connection with God that fills our spirit to overflowing. The world system teaches us that "our way" is the most important - we need to look out for #1 (us). God's way is contrary to this - look out for your brother, and then let me look out for you. 

The second command is to not love the world's goods - meaning we are not to be so consumed with getting everything we see, amassing to ourselves great storehouses of physical wealth and "things" that will eventually deteriorate, break, and be of no value in the end. Craving attention is natural to human nature - we like to be the center of our universe! As a matter of fact, we learned this quite young. When we were not considered the center of all that was going on around us, we learned we could throw a little tantrum until we got our own way - until attention was focused on us - even before we could speak, we figured this one out! God's plans and "systems" are different. His desire is that we would place our attention on him - first and foremost. That means that we consider all we do in light of answering a few simple questions: 1)If I pursue this course of action, will it keep Christ central in my thoughts, attitude, and actions? 2) If I pursue this moment of pleasure, will I regret the consequences? 3) If I bring this "thing" into my life, will it add unwanted distraction to my life?

These are not really "rocket-science" kind of questions. They are practical questions that help us to evaluate decisions "in the moment". The world only offers us a continual craving for physical pleasure - what we see and hear is that if it feels good, we should do it. We are encouraged to want what it is that we see - even if we don't really need it. After all, isn't that the concept behind 'end-cap' sales in the stores? The world also encourages us to become puffed up in pride over our achievements and those physical possessions that we acquire or amass. If we ask ourselves those questions (run our decisions through those "filters" before making them), we might just avoid some heartache in our life. The reminder to us is that when we fail to use some "filters" to guide our thoughts, intentions, and actions, we will drive a wedge in between God and ourselves - we isolate ourselves from God's fellowship. Isolation is really disconnection. When something is isolated, it is "set away from" that which it was designed to be connected to. We isolate very contagious people in hospitals because if they were "connected to" others in the hospital without taking the proper precautions to avoid the spread of disease, we'd have an epidemic!

Isolation from God occurs when our heart or mind places anything else in the position of authority in our lives that is designed specifically for God. We are allowing ourselves to be "exposed" over and over to those thought patterns, cravings of our bodies, etc., that connect us more with the "disease" of our sin instead of the "remedy" for our sin. The best thing we can do is to use the "filters" we are provided: the Word of God, our conscience, and the Holy Spirit resident within. When we do, we find that they answer the questions posed above with pretty reliable truth - directing our behavior, our thoughts, and our intentions toward God and away from the world's systems/ways. If you are in a place where you are realizing that your love for God has been "squeezed out" by the things you have been pursuing, it may be the perfect time to begin to evaluate your focus. If all we can see is "us", there is not much room for God. In other words, we have "isolated" ourselves unto ourselves - taking God out of the equation of our lives. It may be time to step out of that isolated place and into the safety of God's arms. Just sayin!