"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" Hebrews 12:1-2
I'm writing this because this particular topic has really been laid on my heart lately. I feel like as Christians, we can get into this routine of going to church on Sundays (maybe even Wednesdays if you want to get crazy), reading a few verses if we have time during the day, and saying a quick prayer before meals. None of these are bad things. They're all good, actually. The problem is that overtime, slowly, most likely without conscious effort, these activities have stolen our relationship and changed it into a religion. Isaiah 29:13 depicts this perfectly by saying: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Sound familiar? And what about this verse that really puts everything into perspective when Christ states: "I know you deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm- neither cold nor hot- I am about to spit you out of my mouth!" Revelation 3:15-16.
Our automatic response to these verses may be to think that our hearts aren't really that far from Christ, and that we definitely are NOT lukewarm Christians. But how many times do we catch ourselves sitting around worried about the future, trying to figure things out on our own? Have we become dependent on ourselves? I have always been one to overanalyze everything, which just really shows a lack of trust. For me, this has always been a struggle.
We live in a world that is filled with so many distractions. We know that we are suppose to graduate high school and go to college where we should pick a major to work towards our future career. In college, we should be a part of every club there is, maintain a high GPA, work a part-time job, and meet our future spouse (definitely speaking from a Christian college perspective here). After college (you should probably go to grad school, but at least) we should find a job in a dream career, get married, and start working towards promotions. Give it a couple of years and you should start your family and the list goes on and on!
We've forgotten our purpose as Christians and in turn, lost our effectiveness. Christianity is not something we can do half way and why would we want to? Why would we want to set ourselves apart and abstain from things that everyone else is enjoying here on earth to simply practice empty religion? We know that our works don't get us to heaven (Eph. 2:8-9) so we have to be striving for a greater purpose. We have to be so in love with Jesus and what He did on the cross that we can't stand to sit back and watch anyone else live another minute without experiencing the life we have through Him.
So because all of this has been consistently a convicting source in my life, I decided to start making my quiet time a time to look into what Christ's word says about centering our focus. And I truly believe that this is the single most important thing we can do to really kick start growth in our lives. We hear it all the time, but how do we actually do that? I'm a very organized, listy person, and love hearing messages and even lectures with a few simple points. That's how I am able to learn, apply, and really make a change. That's what I tried to do here. Simplify it for myself and then find specific "plans of action" to accomplish this. The first point I found in scripture to learn to begin making this change is to...
1. Start thinking with an eternal perspective.
vs. Colossians 3:1-4 "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
-Like I mentioned above, we live in a world of expectations. Expectations to pack our schedules so full that we don't have a second of spare time during the day. Expectations to constantly further our education. Expectations to have a job that brings in enough to buy the newest clothing trends, have the newest car model, and not miss the iPhone 7s. When do we have time for God? When do we even have time to think about furthering The Kingdom? When do we have time to say yes to doors God has opened or accept new offers to serve. We don't! This is the problem...In addition, we are so prone to let such little, earthly things ruin our days and diminish our effectiveness. How many times has a shattered iPhone screen made us treat everyone around us terribly out of frustration? What about a dented car door ruining our entire week? (p.s. all from personal experience). We have to stop taking life so seriously. Is your iPhone going with you to heaven? Didn't think so. So following this last paragraph...
Something that really stuck out in the verse to me (I did not dig deeper into this, it's just a feeling I have) that Paul's wording when he says "Christ who is your life", was very intentional. Intentional, but something he didn't even have to think about it, because he just assumed that as Christians, Christ was the purpose, definition, and entire meaning of our lives.
Especially in America, it is so easy to call ourselves Christians at this time. Many people even do it because it's what everyone else is doing around them (in the south). Paul lived in a time of persecution. A time where to be a Christian, you had to be serious about it. Serious as in, devote your entire life to Him. It definitely was not the popular thing to do, and to commit your life to Christ meant rejection, persecution, and a high chance of being murdered. So when people decided to follow Christ, there was no looking back and Christ truly DID become their lives (I mean these people were willing to die for Him). I think this is what we have lost in the church today. I'm not saying we should want to be persecuted. It's such a blessing to live with such freedom to worship. I'm simply saying that because we don't have anything at stake, we don't take our faith seriously and Christ is more like a life enhancement instead of our lives. I think an eternal mindset can fix this.
**Plan of Action: #1: Simply put, we need to stop packing our schedules so full and stop feeling bad about it. From my experience in North American culture, we feel guilty when we have spare time in our day. Almost like we aren't accomplishing enough or could be doing more. We are a very goal oriented culture. Being goal oriented and driven are great things, but it's easy to pack so much in that we don't give God time to work through us (I'm not saying that God can't still work, but we chose whether to let Him govern over our lives or not). Leave time open so that when Christ brings an opportunity into your life, you can say yes without having to bail on another commitment.
#2: The next time something inconvenient happens, before decided whether to get upset or not, take a step back and ask the question: "how does this play into eternity?" If the answer is: "it doesn't", then move on! It's not worth your time being upset or ruining your testimony taking it out on someone else. From experience, life is a lot more fun and a lot less stressful this way.
2. Place Christ as the most important relationship in your life.
-It's so easy to become dependent on ourselves or others since these are the tangible, physical relationships we have on earth. The problem is that:
~People will fail us.... Even our closest relationships on earth will be disappointing at times. If we attempt to rely on earthly relationships of our happiness, our emotions will constantly be all over the place. Christ is the only constant in our lives. He will never change and we can live confident that He will always fulfill His promises.
vs. Numbers 23:19 "God is not man that He should lie, or a son of man that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and He will not fulfill it?"
~No human has ultimate control of the future. Why would we prioritize human relationships, seeking them first for advice and help when we have a Father who created the entire universe. Can we just sit there and really think about that for a minute? Christ created every single planet, animal, tree, human, star, plant...everything! This is our Father we are talking about. When you really sit and focus on the reality of that, it puts a lot into perspective. Why are we worrying about a paper, or money, or even our health when our Father is the single person in the entire universe that is in control of it all. And even better, His thoughts are far beyond ours AND He has our best interest at heart. Even if we were in control of all these things, I don't know about you but I can guarantee I'd be making the wrong decisions. Nothing is too small or too big to bring to Him. Approach Him first.
-vs. Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." & Romans 8:28 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose".
~There is no redemption or rebirth through anyone but Christ.
Now I know this one is pretty obvious, but it's true. We are broken people. We choose sin over God constantly, think we know best, and make awful decisions all the time. We need a savior, someone to make us new and wash us from all the sins that would otherwise, pile up and pile up throughout our lifetimes causing destruction along the way. We all need a new start and Christ is that new start.
-vs. 2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come."
Ephesians 4:22-24 "To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
**Plan of Action:
#1: Rely on Him in prayer.
-The phrase "communication is key" is not only for earthly relationships. Like I mentioned above, our Father is the creator of the universe. He is the only one in ultimate control. I believe that God can use people in our lives to give us Godly advice. We were meant for community and shouldn't isolate ourselves to only taking our troubles to God. We are created to lean on each other. I do, however, think that we should take our troubles to Him first and foremost. He is the one in control and before we allow ourselves to worry, we should hand our troubles to Him and then extend outwards for prayer and support. Ask Him for His will in your life, His will in others lives, and even your basic needs. Just speak to Him.
#2: Always remember the consistency of Christ and His promises. His love is unconditional, His promises are unfailing, and He always has our best interest in mind.
#3: Acknowledge our brokenness. Without Christ we are the sum of our mistakes. There is no starting over. Guilt is relentless. Realizing that we are forgiven, redeemed, and live for a greater purpose is extremely liberating.
In conclusion, I feel like this entire thing was just a jumbled mess of the spaghetti brain thoughts that are constantly circling my brain, but nevertheless, I hope it made some sense and helped to bring some perspective like it did for me. At this point in my life, I feel like this is the biggest struggle for me and I'm willing to bet it is for most people seeking Christ. So my challenge to myself is to really apply these. Like I said above, you get to his point in your relationship with Christ where you begin feeling lost. You know all the Bible stories, you read your Bible consistently, you've heard thousands upon thousands of sermons and attended numerous small groups, but you feel like your walk is at a stand still. I believe that if we can just take a step back, stop trying to complicate things, and simply focus on Christ...everything will fall into place. It will bring our passion back and refocus our perspective. This is what it's all about.