Thursday, January 24, 2013
I didn't know it at the time but as soon as my Christian "light bulb" came on, back on January 15th, 2006, the man I used to be, the old Bob, the old man, officially died. I became a new creation on that day - officially born again.
When a person makes a decision for Christ, there's a whole lot of changes goin' on inside. "Our old self was crucified with Christ." (Romans 6:6). So what happens after that? What happens after we make Jesus Lord of our life? Not just savior, but savior AND LORD. Making Jesus lord of ones life ain't easy. It's a slow, gradual change. A slow surrender.
This week I had a conversation with one of the kids in our youth group. They had recently given their lives to Jesus but they were struggling with the "pull" of this world upon them. This yearning comes from our old selves as they die a slow, painful death. We become convicted by the Holy Spirit and, feeling guilty for things we've done, we slowly begin to change.
This process is a difficult one. When Jesus told his followers that they must "eat of my flesh and drink of my blood" (John 6:56) many freaked out and left him. So too are those who say they believe and yet cannot bring themselves to give up their sinful lifestyles.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul describes for us the Fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the signs that we have been saved. We cannot fake these. These are characteristics of a Christian. We might not have all of these when we first come to believe but God will instruct us and develop in us the missing pieces of our ever-forming puzzle.
Probably the two biggest areas I struggle with are patience and self-control. Patience I am learning. Self-control, not so much. During the month of December I fasted from desserts and from fast food. That was all good and I made it through the month. I lost four pounds and my blood sugar dropped 30 points. But now I am back at my old ways. Buying a box of donuts or a bag of Doritos at the gas station. Enjoying a double cheeseburger with fries at Dairy Queen. I'm sliding backwards!
God's grace is an amazing and precious gift. But it is not one to be taken lightly. Do we get to keep on sinning because God's grace is our "Get out of Jail Free" card? No! Then why do we do it? Because we are weak. Because the pull of self-enjoyment is a VERY strong force. And we allow it to overpower us because it is what WE want, even though we know it is not what GOD wants.
What is overpowering you in YOUR life?
I remember watching a video once suggesting radical changes in the way we approach youth ministry. In the video one youth pastor said, "If I do what you are suggesting, my church will kill me." The leader of the seminar, Paul Washer, then turned to this young man and said, "Then die."
Being a Christian is NOT thinking about ourselves. It's about thinking about God and about others (Matthew 22:37-39). In doing this, our spiritual fruit will grow like a well-watered tree and it is then we will discover the true meaning of the most enjoyable fruit of the spirit. . . JOY.