So, I issued a challenge to my believing friends -- and myself -- last week. I only had two people respond, but I realize many of you may have taken it up and simply didn't say anything to me about it, which is fine. However, I fear that your thoughts may have been more along the lines of one friend who wrote me.
"This is a huge challenge," she said, "one that will probably send many running for cover behind walls of denial." True. And this is why I present it to you -- and to me. Because the very fact that we find this so difficult and avoid it so deftly should set off screeching alarms in our spirits. Please consider prayerfully with me some of the scripture God has brought to my attention (more like plastered in my face) lately:
1 John 1:6: If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and the truth is not in us.
1 John 2:3-6: We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands . . . This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to be in him must walk as Jesus did."
1 John 3:6: No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has seen him or known him.
1 John 3:10: This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God, nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
1 John 4:8: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Romans 8:9: You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
John 15:13-14: Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 14:23-24: Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching . . . Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
Those last two are written by Jesus himself, folks. Scripture gives us very obvious and clear indications for the person who is born again, a child of God: they live in the light (nothing is hidden in their lives), they obey Jesus' teaching (they do not continue sinning) and they love their brothers (see the Good Samaritan story regarding who is our neighbor and brother).
Friends, Jesus' first words to the world when he started preaching were, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Repent. That's a command regarding our sin -- confess it, reject it, walk away. And yet, we have trouble choosing one sin in our lives to walk away from? We who claim to have Christ as our Lord? We who claim to have new life, who claim to love God? We refuse to give up our sin? Yes, folks, this should trouble us greatly.
Examining our lives for transgressions . . . asking God to search our hearts and point out any wicked way in us . . . confessing those sins to God, ourselves, and our fellow believers . . . walking away from those sins victoriously . . . these behaviors should be second nature to us! These are the behaviors that should DEFINE and MARK a child of God. If they do not define and mark our lives, if we are so reluctant to attempt it even once -- well, frankly, that should make us wonder if we really are who we claim we are. Is Jesus our Lord, or isn't he?
Someone I read recently mentioned all the Barna surveys and so forth which show how little difference there is between how self-proclaimed born-again Christians live and how the rest of the world lives. I loved his remark: the message here is not that being born again doesn't change our lives; the message is that there are a lot of people who believe they are born again who are NOT.
As I said, I'm preaching to myself also, people. And so I'll start the confession ball rolling. An anonymous commenter (I'd love to know who you are!) on my last post recommended a link regarding scriptural teaching on money. I immediately found myself reluctant to read it, and realized that was because I don't want to be proven wrong. That's pride -- that's refusing to acknowledge and live by truth when it is revealed to me -- that's SIN, my friends. And I hereby confess it. I will now be checking out that website and examining its claims and examining my heart. I'm ready for God to strike down my precious beliefs if they are not correct.
Only by the grace of God.