Friday, November 21, 2008

Growing Gracefully

Claiming to be a Christian comes with alot of responsibility on our part. We are called to be peculiar people - that means we should be different. Different in the way we behave, the way we raise our children, the way we manage our marriages, and so on. It also means we, as Christians, should be analyzing ourselves for areas in need of change for God's glory (Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1Corinthians 10:31). And, let's face it, there is always going to be something in our lives that has room to change and grow. It really is a necessity.

The book of Ephesians, as a whole is a great book to study the subject of change. To take each chapter, each verse and pull it apart can be tedious, but it is worth it. Paul wrote this book when he was imprisoned. His God-given wisdom surrounding the need for change is given with first hand experience. In chapter 2, Paul describes the conversion experience in which all Christians share.

And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Ephesians 2:1-5 (additions mine)

This conversion, this change, is the saving grace from God. We have no choice in the matter (John 21:18). God does the changing in us, for us.

Our eyes have been opened so that we may see outside of ourselves. Paul talks about the standards to which Christians should hold themselves up against in chapter 4. Specifically, we should have change from our former life.

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But ye have not so learned Christ; (before salvation)
Ephesians 4:17-20 (additions and emphasis mine)

Going right into verses 21 & 22 clearly states that now we are hearers of the truth. Therefore seeing and hearing the truth should cause us to want to change our lifestyle for our Saviour's sake.

If so be that ye have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (after salvation)
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
Ephesians 4:21 & 22 (addition mine)

Let's talk about the free will we are given. The term 'putting off' in verse 22 is talking about an act of change that we must do ourselves. This is where true 'free will' comes into play - AFTER we are saved. We must decide to follow the will of the Lord.

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
Ephesians 4:23

If we are to be renewed in our minds, we must consider what we are choosing to feed it. Are we choosing to read, watch and speak Godly things? Or, do we choose to continue to read, watch and speak worldly things. Because after all, we should 'put on the new man':

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Ephesian 4:24

AND, we should be prepared to work hard at the changes. How?

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Matthew 7:7&8

God is faithful to lead us if we constantly seek His will in every area of our lives. Why should we seek His will?

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in therat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Matthew 7:13-17

To whom are we choosing to read, watch and speak? If not God, who are we choosing to follow?

Turning back to Ephesians 4, verse 27 should be like an arrow to the heart of Christians choosing to keep one foot in worldly ways.

Neither give place to the devil. (4:27)

The devil only needs a small crack in a Christian's life to create a huge chasm. Satan picks and chisels away at that crack so as to be unnoticeable. For example;

Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world:
Philippians 4:14&15

Perhaps as a Christian woman, I am obeying in appearance by serving in my church. However, my spirit is grumbling about it. That grumbling will make it's way to the surface for all to see. Whether it is the bitter look on my face or the misery of my attitude. The witness I should have as an obedient server is destroyed by the grumblings. Satan chipped away at that crack until the glory for God was destroyed.

Going back to Matthew 7:17;
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
What does our tree look like? In our 'free will' are we choosing to follow the world's way or God's way in the different areas of our life? Is there noticeable change on display for God's glory?

Let him that stole, steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:28-32

Choosing to be different is our witness. Choosing to change is the standard. Philippians 2:12 tells us to work our your own salvation with fear and trembling. Why? Because the change is our choice; choosing to seek God so that He may worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Repeat - His good pleasure, not ours.

How do we start? With verses like Ephesians 4:28:

Let him that stole, steal no more

And applying it to our specific needs:

Let her that gossiped, gossip no more;
Let her that manipulated, manipulate no more;
Let her that dishonoured her husband, etc.

Christians can fit into two categories. Those who choose to seek Him and those who choose to nail Christ to the cross repeatedly. Those who fight through the trials and temptations and choose righteousness, and those who choose to sit back on the assurance of salvation and avoid change. Saying "God will forgive me" is not an excuse for willful sin (Romans 6:1-6).
God does not turn a blind eye to those who choose to struggle. He provides them the strength to fight (Phillipians 4:19). And, of course, there is a reward.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1 Peter 1:7

Growing in Christ isn't easy. If it was, everyone would do it. Choosing the hard things, choosing the narrow path, is truly a glory to God. Examining our lives daily, dissecting our choices, and refusing the world's way is a standard for which all Christians should reach.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
For if any be a hearer of the work, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and staightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
James 1:22 - 26

1 comment:

Mrs. Parunak said...

Wow. Good points, Kim. I especially liked your idea about the little chinks that grow and destroy the glory we could be giving the Lord. Such good thoughts to keep in mind.