A sign along a road in Alaska reads, “Choose your rut carefully, for you’ll be in it for the next 200 miles!” We are given a free will to make choices that affect eternity! With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can pursue God’s will and make right choices. We get into trouble when we misuse the gift of choice and end up going after the flesh. Many Christians are in all kinds of tormenting habits and addictions—all because of pursuing bad choices. How can we let God help us in our choice making and in doing the right thing? The key to great victory is having great passion for the right things. How is our passion for the Lord Jesus himself? The Word tells us that “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Therefore, receiving and appropriating Jesus is the “secret” to an overcoming life. Judges 11:24 gives us this challenge: “Likewise, whatever the Lord our God has given us, we will possess.” God has already given us great and mighty promises and “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Make up your mind to “possess” all that God has for you. Don’t have the attitude, “Well, I may want more of Jesus.” Rather, proclaim, “I must and will have a close relationship with Christ.” You have as much of God right now as you’re willing to hunger and thirst for. How do we possess the life of God? The Bible teaches us the principle of putting off the old self and putting on the new (Colossians 3:9-10). A bad habit doesn’t just go away; it must be replaced by Christ’s newness. Take a portion of Scripture that deals with new qualities, such as love in 1 Corinthians 13. Read, meditate, and pray over each verse. Possess the Word through sincere repentance and appropriate it to your life through prayer and waiting upon God. You will discover that if you are serious with God and about growing in Christ, good things will happen! Your choices will turn into godly habits which will grow into a life that shines for God! You will possess what you pursue!
This past week, Terry and I had the opportunity to vacation with our daughter, Nicole, and her husband, Tirus. It also happened to be their first wedding anniversary. As I observed the love and devotion between them, I was reminded of the relationship God wants with each one of us. The Lord, speaking through Jeremiah, said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert…” (v. 2:2a). This Scripture made me think about my own devotion to the Lord Jesus. I asked myself, “Do I love Jesus more now than at the beginning?” “Has my devotion cooled to a mere formality?” “Is there anything in my life that means more to me than Jesus himself?” In Jeremiah’s time, the Lord pointed out to the Israelites their neglect in seeking Him. “They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness…?’” (v. 6). The downward path into lukewarm “religion” begins with a lack of prayer. Even the priests of Jeremiah’s day “did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord…?’” It’s interesting that God sums up our prayer relationship with Him with the question “Where is the Lord?” God is not asking us to try to figure out where He dwells or doubt that He is around. When we are asking “Where are you, Lord?”, we are pressing beyond the things of the world to seek His presence. We are saying to God, “I choose to seek You and involve You in everything I go through in life. I want to know You and invite You into all of my experiences.” So, I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to seek the Lord with all your heart. Don’t allow a dull or hardened attitude to keep you distant from Him. As the years pass, our relationship with God has the potential to be closer and deeper than when we first received Him. First love is wonderful, but love forged through the years is even greater and more satisfying. God is lovingly and faithfully devoted to us. Direct your heart to seek Him!
When I was in my twenties, a friend of mine gave me an inflatable bop bag. You may have had one as a child—a three-foot plastic boxing toy on a rounded base, made to bounce back up every time someone punched it and knocked it over. No matter how many times it was knocked to the ground, it would bounce right back—still smiling. One day, my nephew, who was about a year old at the time, visited my apartment and, seeing the familiar face of the cartoon character printed on the bop bag, ran over to give it a hug. Much to his surprise, the toy—which was meant to be hit, not hugged—tumbled to the ground, taking him along with it. The Bible tells us that we are to “put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). What makes life difficult is that, however often we strike with what we think is a death blow, our old nature—like that bop bag—just pops right back up again. It’s frustrating to see our old attitudes popping back into our lives again after we think that we had put them to death once and for all. The reality is that we will have to deal with our old nature for as long as we’re alive on earth. That nature is resilient, so we must be relentless and keep on punching. The mistake that Christians too often make is letting their frustrations get the best of them and, instead of fighting, they run like my nephew and embrace those sinful attitudes. The outcome is the same: They fall crashing to the ground. Never give up! “Fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience!” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).
Suppose you have a child and you love her dearly. You have invested in her and spent time praying for, giving to, and loving her with all your heart…all because you want the best for her. And, let’s also suppose she turns away from you. She not only doesn’t want anything to do with you, but also slanders you about not being a good parent. If you can relate to this, you can begin to feel the “angst” God feels about His children who ignore Him. I am reading through the Book of Isaiah in my devotions. Page after page I see the passion of God’s love for the Israelites and their blatant turning away. As I consider the people of our country, I feel like I’m at the ocean watching the horizon and seeing a huge “rogue” wave approaching. Hardly anyone notices…it’s all just fun and games and soaking in the blessings. But, the wave is building. Listen to the message of Isaiah as he prepares us to meet God. “The Lord will rise up…to do his work, his strange work, and perform his task, his alien task. Now stop mocking, or your chains will become heavier; the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has told me of the destruction decreed against the whole land” (28:21-22). First, God is just, and He will judge sin. While it may seem that people get away with a lot of evil, God takes into account every deed. God doesn’t enjoy judging, but He is the God of truth and justice and must judge sin. Jesus’ death on the cross shows us what God thinks of sin, and the only payment to wash away sin (atonement). Second, Isaiah reveals that God provides mercy and is able to keep His own during the most trying times. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (26:3). We don’t need to wring our hands or stress out over increasing evil. Our greatest need is to keep close to Jesus which leads to our greatest blessing…His perfect peace. Be blessed!