The brief (but very sincere) apology…
It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Since the beginning of summer, it would be safe to say that my schedule has been “fully engaged.” I appreciate those of you who continue to visit my blog and who send me wonderful messages of encouragement. Thank you for your kind words! I’m still here, and I will try to post more regularly in the future.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)
Let me pose an important question...
Who and what do you surround yourself with on a daily basis?
I’ve heard it said that, over time, people begin to look like their animals. At this moment, I fall a little short of filing the validity of that statement away as definitive scientific fact. Spending your life surrounded by your pet may or may not lead to your appearance changing. Let’s just call this a hypothesis that, from a foundational standpoint, might be anchored in somewhat shaky ground. Possibly, more study needs to be done?
However, there is discernible truth in this statement:
Over a given course of time, our character, our desires, and our passions
will be greatly influenced by who and what we expose ourselves to on a daily basis.
We were not simply born with a passion for football, cars, music, etc… Those passions developed over time, and I guarantee you that there’s some proportionality in our passions that developed as a direct result of those people and things we chose to associate ourselves with. We take on the outward appearance of our associations, and, more often than not, we become a direct reflection of them inwardly, as well.
It’s hard to separate ourselves from a very distracting world. So much of the activity within our own nation is purposefully and unapologetically polarizing, and it’s very hard to avoid becoming distracted, or even angered, by what is seen on a daily basis. It appears that we can no longer disagree as a nation and remain friends. We live in a country of great abundance, but we also live in a country that fosters, and even encourages, great greed. We want nice things, and we will casually stroll through the masses of homeless and hurting to acquire those things…not necessarily because we need them, but simply because we want them. We want to be popular and accepted among our peers, but often the peer group from which we desire admittance and validation requires us to live outside the morals and character that should be reflective of the work of Christ in our own life. As disciples of Jesus, I would say one of the greatest challenges we face is how to live in the world but not be of the world.
Romans 12:2 is clear, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We need to be aware that our associations will, over time, directly alter our perception of everything. If we surround ourselves with people who are always pessimistic, we will, at some point, willingly surrender our optimism. If we surround ourselves by people who only find worth and happiness in material possessions, then we too will become materialistic. If we surround ourselves by people who are solely defined by their polarized political affiliation, then we may soon find ourselves becoming more concerned with what’s happening in our national capital than what’s transpiring in the kingdom of God.
The call of the Gospel is for us to live in the world without conforming our lives to the world.
Luke 19:10 tells us, “For the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) came to seek and to save the lost.”
Strangely to some, Jesus did not come to earth to majestically usher Donald Trump into office. He did not come to lay out a plan whereby every American is guaranteed healthcare. He did not come to establish our place among the elite peer groups that culture tends to hold in such high regard. He did not come to make us wealthy in material possessions. Jesus did not come so that we could live in the best house or drive the best car. Jesus did not come to empower our desire to be pessimistic and negative. Instead, Jesus came to offer us a relationship with Himself through salvation and Lordship…a relationship that transforms us from the conformity to the call of culture and transforms us into those called by God. It’s a relationship with the undeniable power to change the world.
We can easily become entangled in worldly issues that hold no eternal relevance, issues that distract us from the daily call of God on our life, issues that strangle our personal walk with Christ, and issues that, when engaged, dilute our witness.
As an example, the most pressing issue in Washington D.C. today is healthcare. It’s hard to not have an opinion on this problem…a problem that I’m quite sure will never be resolved. Everyday, I hear opinions voiced about this in person, on social media, and in the news. It’s a huge issue in our day, and this one debate has assisted in the continuous fracture of a nation that is already painfully divided and losing its grip on internal peace.
Let me again be clear…Jesus did not come to lay out a plan whereby every American is guaranteed health care. Don't be offended by that statement. He really didn't. That's not His purpose. When Christians elevate the debate on healthcare to a level that is of greater importance in their life than their call to personally share the Gospel, then I would feel safe in asserting that they have conformed to the world. They feel it’s a good cause worthy of being addressed, and I agree, but ultimately it’s a distraction from the real call. I’m not personally concerned that every American has healthcare; I’m much more concerned that every American finds the redemptive power of God through salvation in the Lordship of Christ. I can’t provide healthcare to the masses, but I can share Jesus. The healthcare debate is temporal; salvation is eternal. So, I would say that it’s quite possible that people need Jesus more than healthcare. Let’s be more concerned with transforming the world with the message of the Gospel than conforming to the divisiveness of culture and political issues of the moment. If this nation was fully committed to Christ, healthcare may not even be a problem. Either way, our lives, our words, and our actions should point others to Christ…not our opinion of pending legislation.
There’s another saying that you may have heard…”It’s hard to fly like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys.” If we live our life on this earth in disconnect from a real, intimate, and growing relationship with Jesus, then we will find that we have not surrounded ourselves with the world, but, in fact, the world has surrounded us…and it will leave a mark. It will alter our very existence, redefine our character and our priorities, and it will always lead us away from God. We cannot fully embrace the plans God has for us when we become entangled and conformed to a world that has a differing set of priorities. We should be careful who and what we expose ourselves to daily. We should be aware of the catalyst behind our deepest passions. If we’re more concerned with the healthcare debate than we are with sharing Christ, we may not be “choosing Jesus.”
The validation for our very existence is the blood of Jesus. Our lives should definitively point people to Him. A frequent evaluation of who and what we surround ourselves with is important to understanding, not just who we are, but who we’re becoming. Let me encourage you, in the light of everything going on around us all, to choose Jesus. He chose you.
“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… And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
– Colossians 3:1-2, 14-17 (ESV)
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!