Ya’ll, God has been dealing with me something serious lately about the sacred…about His innate holiness…about the weight of His presence…about the blessing that comes with walking in the fear of the Lord. I don’t think I am the only One. I think the Lord is beginning to call His Church back to lives set apart.
The last great movement of the American church, in particular, was an overcorrection from what had become tradition and legalistic hypocrisy to another extreme of anything goes…”we’re FREE!”…party hardy “Christianity”. In the name of Pharisee avoidance, we have become hedonists instead. Hedonism is defined as seeking of pleasure: a devotion, especially a self-indulgent one, to pleasure and happiness as a way of life. It is believing that we can live like the world and still belong to the Kingdom, when the very act of truly devoting your life to Jesus exempts you from chasing pleasure
I don’t expect this blog to travel very far, because this is something that we don’t want to hear. This is the stuff of self control, discipline, and rejection of instant gratification. What I write about requires setting EVERYTHING aside and struggling with the Words of Christ. It requires saying “no” to a bunch of stuff that your flesh wants to say “yes” to. It requires putting conscious, daily effort into your relationship with Christ. It requires letting Christ take on the priority…I mean, the priority that you give your parenting, your career, your education, your entertainment…no, wait, actually I mean that He requires a place ABOVE all of that. He becomes MOST important.
What exactly have we given up with the new trend of sloppy Christian living? Well, I think for one thing that we have given up our power…power over the enemy…power to live above circumstances…power to persevere in the HARD. We have become lazy in our spiritual walk, blind to the devil’s tactics, and slaves to our circumstances. When we give up the sacred and the holy, the power goes with it.
We have also given up fulfillment. God designed us for the sacred. He created us to be set apart…to live differently than the world. When we give this up, we miss out on the blessing of His pleasure, of His favor, of His “well done”. You might say to me, “yes, but Candace, we don’t have to do ANYTHING to earn the love of God” and I will totally agree with you. He loves us because we are His creation, because we are the CROWN of creation…and salvation is certainly FREE, come as you are, you don’t have to do anything to deserve it, but the Bible is FILLED with references that I could list for you about our “doing” AFTER we are saved and how it is directly linked to God’s pleasure and to His favor…how we cannot hear the “well done” if we have not “done” the good…if we have not “done” the Father’s Will. He was very clear about this when He tells the parable of the Master who went away and left the talents in the hands of His servants. When He came back, the servant who had done NOTHING with those talents was cast into “utter darkness where there is weeping and knashing of teeth”. There is expectation when we give our lives to Christ.
And we have given up the Glory of God. There is a song that says “Show us Your Glory, Lord.” How can we sing this and think it has any chance when we are living half-heartedly for the Kingdom? How can we sing this if we have no concept of God’s glory and what we would actually see if He brought it? Yes, He is a God who is NEAR…He is not far off, but He is a God even the angels circle the throne in heaven crying “Holy, Holy, Holy”. We avoid the book of Revelation like the plague because it describes a “post-resurrection” God who looks exactly the same as the Old Testament God. We cannot ask Him to show us His Glory…to bring revival…or to come breathe on us, if we are only prepared for a small, nice, inattentive god. Who do we think He is?
What I think we have labeled legalism and thrown out of the church because of it is the fear of God… the very awesomeness of His character and the glory of His Name. We have turned it into the “ME” show. He died for ME. He wants ME to be happy. He loves ME just the way I am. He blesses ME. He gave his life so I could do what satisfies ME. And it’s here in the ME, ME, ME that we have to set ourselves straight… We were created for HIM. We sinned against HIM. The Son came to glorify HIM. Jesus died to fulfill HIM. When we become Christians we live for HIM. We make HIM happy. We bless HIM. We give EVERYTHING to HIM. Our perspective on this changes the way that we live out the Christian life. It is not about ME… it IS about HIM.
So if it glorifies HIM that I remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (which by the way, is the only one of the 10 commandments that most Christians totally ignore), shouldn’t I be ultra careful that I am using the 7th day to rest and honor God? This is a sacred command…one of the FIRST that the Lord ever mentions in the Bible and He mentions it many, many times. If God LOVES purity, why in the world would we skirt the edges of it…would we let ourselves be entertained by impurity…would we dress and act immodestly in any regard? If the cry of our Savior’s heart is that His people be holy, above reproach, and living for the good…why would we let down our guard and invite the enemy into our lives?
We have come up with this great excuse to make room for the flesh. We don’t want to be legalistic. It sounds really good and it lets us get by with much crud before we even look to the Holy Spirit for conviction and repentance. If feels so right that it can’t be wrong…but it is. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make NO plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.” Romans 13:14 Sloppy Christianity may make us look a little “cooler” to the world, but it sure doesn’t get us very far with a holy and righteous God.
So lately these words and thoughts have been the forefront of my conversations with the Lord. I have lived in the legalist camp and it is not a pleasant place to be. I know better than some how guilt and shame from being unable to measure up can freeze your walk with the Lord and keep you from Kingdom living. I have struggled with the tendencies that come with legalism…judgment of others, critical of everything, self righteous in my walk…because I was raised in this. It is NOT the way to live for Christ and it is NOT what the Bible teaches. But to say that Jesus came to destroy the law, tear up all the rules, and promote a “feel good” relationship is to totally MISS our Savior’s work. Jesus did EVERYTHING His Father commanded Him and He lived by EVERY command that His Father had already given. He was without sin. He kept His Father’s Name sacred and holy. He followed after those things and ONLY those things that pleased the Father. He lived a life of sacrifice, NOT pleasure, and ultimately He died a horrible death because it was His Father’s Will. Just because God made Himself man for the purpose of bringing salvation to the human race, does not give us the right to now to treat Him as a mere man. Yes, He came down to our level, but really He didn’t at all. While He walked with us, He was still very much God…and after He left this earth, His Name was lifted FAR above any other Name.
When we really, really understand the depth of what God has done for us through Jesus, how can we even let His Name slip off of our lips without the deepest reverence? How can we dress and eat and work and play without honoring Jesus to the knowledge that we have obtained of Him? How can we raise children and work in ministry and interact with others without keeping in mind the standards and boundaries that He has set forth in His Word? How can we love Him and not LOVE His Word? How can we love Him and not spend our lives trying to keep His commandments? How can we love Him and treat Him as if He is just another accessory that we have added to our lives to make them more pleasurable for us?
I think that the sacred is as important as it has ever been, and yes, we must avoid legalism, but not at the expense of losing the fear of the Lord. So let’s get practical… Here’s what He’s saying to me…
- Live in the Whole of the Word. Whatever we do, we should not NOT pick and choose what parts of the Bible we will study and ignore the rest. Yes, we all have favorites. Yes, we all would like to live in Galatians and Psalms and Romans. Unfortunately, we will never get a full picture of God until we have spent time in the whole of Scripture. I fully recommend that you start from the beginning and read through to the end. It will amaze you what you will learn about God and what you will know about Him when you finish that you didn’t before you began. Is that too harsh and legalist? How many books do we read written by mere humans to get our idea of God and yet have never read through the Bible?
- Remember the Sabbath. It was important to God that man have a day of rest and of reflection on His goodness. Man should work 6 days, but on the 7th he needs to rest. God mentions the Sabbath many, many, many times in the Bible. If it was important to Him, it should be important to us. Sunday, or whatever day the Lord convicts you of, should be a day for resting and celebrating and focusing on our Savior. In the Old Testament, on the Sabbath they were told to refrain from working, buying/selling, and cooking/baking. This would require some thought and preparation to go into the day of rest. Is that too harsh and legalistic? Consider how much preparation we put into our work week, our vacations, our children’s activities. We are kidding ourselves if we think God doesn’t notice that we spend our lives preparing for everyone BUT Him.
- Be Reminded. It was a very normal thing for the Israelites to construct things or write things down where they could see them as a reminder of what God had done in their lives. When you are consistently being reminded by the things around you of Scripture, of the goodness of God, of the things He has done in your life, it is much harder to follow the flesh. It is good for us to have the Word on our walls, to carry Scripture with us, to wear things that remind us of who He is. A friend once gave me a little vial of mustard seeds. They are in my car and sometimes when I am floundering in my faith walk, I will glance that way and remember that all it takes is a mustard seed for God to do amazing things. Remind yourself and remind others of the works of the Lord in your life.
- Never let His Name Be Mundane. We live in a society that talks easily of God and uses the Name of Jesus as a swear word. When His Name is not our upmost treasure…when we can listen to others profane it and not be offended in any way… when we can have days worth of conversation without ever mentioning it, we should examine our hearts. His NAME is HOLY. It is AT THAT NAME that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. The Israelites could not even say it in the Old Testament, that is how holy it is…not WAS…IS… He HAS NOT changed. His Name defines us as Christians. It is to be defended, protected, and uplifted.
- Embrace Self Discipline. Freedom is easily an excuse to let our flesh become the ruler of our lives. I don’t care if it is alcohol or dessert…if the flesh is calling the shots, we are in sin. In the culture that we live in of “anything goes” and “truth is relative” and “do what makes you feel good”, I don’t think we can afford to let our guard down and make lists of things that are “okay” for a Christian to do that look an awful lot like the world. Yes, we are called to freedom, only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. If we have a tendency to indulge our flesh in ANY area of our lives, whether it be sex, music, food, clothes, attention, friends, alcohol, sugar, TV, entertainment, we need to KNOW those areas and keep a leash on them continually. I mean, those areas need to be on the top of our “things to fight” list, right after the devil and we need to fight to keep them from ruling us until our very last breath.
- Wait on the Lord. We have to say “no” to instant gratification and say “no” often. More often than not, it is our flesh that will chase the immediate pleasure or immediate relief. Our God is a God of investment. He is a God of wisely prepared plans. All through His Word, He asks us to wait on Him. Now I’ll just be really honest when I say that this is HARD. It means denying everything that is screaming within us to “DO SOMETHING”. It means telling many people that ask what you are going to do, that you don’t know…you are waiting for God to make your next steps clear…and many people will take that as a cop out or a stupid answer. It doesn’t matter…we are told MANY times to wait on the Lord. If we will wait on Him, things will work together for our good…if we choose not to, we may not pay today, but we might pay tomorrow. WAIT, I say on the Lord. I know…harsh and legalist…
- Walk in Repentance. Every day we have things that need to be confessed. It keeps us walking humbly before the Lord when, as a matter of routine, we get before the Lord and pour out our hearts. Not only will we see that leaving our stresses, burdens, and sins at the foot of the cross is much more freeing than pretending that we have it all together, but we will be surprised at how much closer we are to the Lord when there is no hidden sin between us.
We are not going to be perfect! That’s why Christ died. We need His righteousness. We MESS up. We are sloppy sometimes. But it is crucial, if we love Jesus that we are spending our days walking worthy of the calling we have received… to uphold the Name of Jesus… to be His ambassadors, His representatives to the world… to be salt and light. He is a God to be greatly revered and a Father to be afraid of displeasing. So as we are throwing the dirty waters of legalism out the door, we need to be very careful that we don’t throw out the sacred baby too.