Monday, May 24, 2010

You Look Like A Stranger To Me

One of the most important decisions a Christian makes is what their attitude is toward the place we live. We all know what our attitude should be, that we do not belong here but we are here with a mission. However, what we know and what we do are seldom the same thing. There are natural consequences that affect us when we begin to get attached to this world, consequences that affect our desires and perspective. Our priorities start getting out of whack and we find ourselves distracted from the mission and then, eventually, forgetting the mission altogether. Then we are a "sitting duck", because we become so weak that we have no defense against the many temptations we face every day. Peter reminds of this:

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

It is hard to abstain from something that you begin to see as being natural and when you cease to see yourself as a stranger in this world then everything starts becoming natural. It is hard enough as a strong Christian to avoid the attractions of our society. It is not that they are so attractive as they are distracting. Many of the things we are drawn to are great consumers of our time but they have no profit for us. We watch hours of tv, get caught up in FaceBook games, fill our days with news of celebrities. Some people fill their lives with alcohol, drugs, pornography but at the end of the day what has it done for them? A temporary escape? Eventually you have to return to your reality. Then what? You start the cycle all over again? Believers may not be that far gone but we get caught up in romance novels, movies, music, television shows, computers and many other "soft" distractions. Nothing wrong with an occasional taste but when it becomes a steady diet you know that you no longer consider yourself an "alien" in this place; you are assimilated.

Peter reminds us here that there is a war being waged for our souls. The enemy wants to destroy us and our sinful nature wants to be back in control and our spirit only wants communion with God's Spirit. Every day we need to be reminded of this fact because we cannot hide away and avoid temptation. We have been left in this place with a purpose, a mission, and we can't do it hiding from temptation. So our eyes are deluged with images we do not want to see and our ears hear things we do not want to listen to. These things will play on us and tempt us. This is ordinary living. Do we want to add on to that things we choose to see and listen to on purpose? How long can we resist if we are not giving the priority to our saviour Jesus Christ? No, we have to be different than those without Jesus because our nature is different:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)

Accusation is not truth; it is only accusation. Someone's opinion is not truth; it is only opinion. If we live the truth and die by the truth; if we respond to people according to the truth and love them by this same truth; if we respond to things around us by this truth and tell others the truth, then they will see a difference. We will be like strangers and aliens to them. They may hate us for it; they may try to destroy us by accusing us of doing wrong, but we ourselves know the truth because the only truth there is is Jesus. There is absolute truth, and his name is Jesus. By not becoming distracted by the temporary pleasures of this world we will be able to live good lives, not by the standards of this world but by the greater standard of Jesus Christ. We have a purpose and we need to live it every day of our life as we journey through this place.

Just a footnote to this: we have been given life to live in abundance and we are to live it. Let me clarify that just because you find something pleasurable does not make it a sin unless it distracts you from our purpose. People love to do gardening, others enjoy exercise, some enjoy interior decorating and I can go on. There are certain activities which profit us and others that take away from us. These are a matter for you to know for yourself and if you are honest with Jesus then the Spirit will convict you in these matters. Just don't let anything possess you so that you lose your focus on Jesus Christ. 

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