Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Make No Provision

11Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. ~ Romans 13:11-13
Are we putting on Christ, or are we feeding the flesh?
The Greek word used for "provision" in verse 14 means forethought, or provident care and supply. When you take a trip, you typically make "provisions"- packing the food, securing a place to stay, and ensuring you have plenty of clothes, etc. As a Christian, we are to fill our lives, thoughts, and hearts with the things of Christ, starving the flesh and not making provisions for it. By allowing compromises in our lives we allow openings for the flesh and for sin.

The Bible offers clear warnings that we should make the effort to live with purity and to have the mind of Christ. When we ignore these and rationalize worldly things we open the door for the flesh. Once the door is open and "provisions" have been laid, temptation creeps in. The more provisions, the less temptation it takes to lead us down the path of sin.

What are our alternatives? Instead of laying provisions out for sin to grab hold of, we are to "put on Christ." This particular expression is used throughout the new testament to describe how we are to clothe ourselves in righteousness. We are to literally wear the character of Christ so that when others see us, they instead see Him. When we begin to dress our intentions and thoughts in the righteousness of Christ, the flesh will find fewer and fewer opportunities to take root and spread throughout us.

Allowing fleshly compromises, or making provision for them, takes forethought. We can't pretend that we are helpless to the temptation of sin, powerlessly led in that direction, because feeding it takes just as much intentional action as starving it. Choosing to watch or listen to something that is damaging to your witness is no less a choice than choosing not to.

When walking this Christian path, don't carry with you provisions to feed the flesh, take up your cross and feed your spiritual self. Choose to put on Christ.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So That We May Not Grow Weary

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary, and lose heart."

I'm not sure about you, but as I have read the Bible in the past and formed for myself the picture of Christ, perfect God in human flesh, I assumed that this scripture was read differently. When Paul tells us "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" struck me though. For years, I interpreted that as "With joy, He endured the cross and shame." I envisioned His perfection coming into play and bringing Him complete joy as He hung on the cross, knowing that He was fulfilling the perfect will of the Father. However, this scripture paints a bit of a different picture.

The joy in the scripture is set before Him. Not joy that he was bearing the shame of the world, but a hope and a promise of what was to come. He knew that His death would redeem the human race, and as His last breath seeped out, He had faith that this joy would one day be His. The state on the cross, however? Despising. That's a word that we don't often associate with Christ. Sure, He despises sin. But despising His state? Surely not! Yet there it is for us to read. Despising the shame of holding the sins of the world, reduced to no more than a mere criminal, beaten and bruised, handed the most humiliating death, bearing the shame of the world in front of His holy Father. He did not hang with a smile plastered on His face, rejoicing in the humiliation. He despised the shame. He endured such hostility from sinners.

How many of us would take the fall for someone else's actions that we considered worse than our own? How many of us would take the fall for people who hated us?

Christ's example, as Paul says, remains. He endured so that we too may endure and not lose heart; so that we may not grow weary. We may have difficulty finding joy in our situation. However, we have joy set before us. We are redeemed from a condemned life and promised eternal life. We have been given promise after promise in God's word of His faithfulness to sustain us. We know that He will bring His perfect will to bear in our lives.

We can have joy, because we have the hope of what is to come.
Run the race with endurance. He did.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reflecting the Son's Light

As someone who could spend hours looking into the night sky, I often find that God chooses to reveal things to me about His character and the vastness of His power through the expanse of the heavens.

As humans, we see everything around us only when light is able to bounce off of the object and reflect the image to our eyes. The greatest example of this is the moon, which we can see almost every night shining brilliantly in the sky with bright white, yellow, or orange depending on the season. The beauty of the moon often causes us to forget that on its own, it is no more than an asteroid, a lifeless rock floating in space, until the light of the sun transforms it into the shining light of our evenings.

As Christians, we are like the moon. On our own we are no different than the millions of humans on the planet, but when we allow Him to transform our lives, we become a beacon in the dying world, shining with His life and love to those around us.

The moon rarely looks the same every night as it changes through its phases. While the moon moves through space, the sun shines on it in different angles causing it to shine anywhere from its full potential to barely even appearing to our eyes. When we stay diligently in the presence of God and accept His plan for us at the "perfect angle" we are able to reflect Him best. But when we move out of His presence and stop allowing Him to flow through us, our light slowly diminishes until we are no longer reflections of His glory.

The greatest tragedy comes when we as Christians allow either our own selves or the world to eclipse God in our lives. When the moon comes between the earth and the sun, the world is no longer able to see the light of the sun. The moon is darkened and stands in the place of the sun. As Christians, when we see the talent and works that God does through us we are tempted to look at everything He has done through us and say "wow, look what I did!" forgetting that we are merely vessels and reflections of His power. When this happens, we lose our ability to reflect Him to others. and the world around us is no longer able to see Him in us, but instead sees a selfish and prideful human being.

The other thing that can happen is when the earth moves between the sun and the moon. This lunar eclipse causes the moon to not shine properly because the earth is blocking the light from the sun. When we allow the things of the world to creep into our lives and when we let sin appeal to our fleshly desires, we find that they overcome Christ's importance in our lives. We soon find that our fleshly desires have eclipsed our hunger for God and we no longer reflect Him, but rather the trappings of society.

We are created in God's image. Are you allowing Him to transform your life and shine through you, or are you mimicking the things of the world instead and attempting to reflect the world's standards? (Romans 12:2) Don't allow sin to darken your potential. The moon is a testament to the greatness of the Sun, showing none of its own glory but magnifying the glory of our Sun. Make your life a testament and expression of glory to the Son. What are you reflecting? 

Bebo Norman expresses something similar to this in one of my favorite songs, called "Disappear". Before I go on stage in the theatre or even before Sunday morning worship, I have to remind myself that the applause and reactions are not a testament to me or because of anything I have done. On my own, I do not shine at all. Allow yourself to disappear as people see His reflection. Here is the chorus and second verse.

I want to hide in You
The Way, the Life, the Truth
So I can disappear
And love is all there is to see
Coming out of me
And You become clear
As I disappear

I don't want to care about earthly things
Be caught up in all the lies that trick my eyes
They say it's all about me
I'm so tired of it being about me