Points to Ponder: The Sacrifice of a Changed Life
Points to Ponder
The Sacrifice of a Changed Life
The deepest and most significant sacrifices of one whose life has been changed by the Lord is not just to avoid the old ways of the past; even more so it is to know how to press forward in the new way. Not doing certain things requires a level of self-discipline; however, there is a predictability about that. Depending on what it is you must deny or avoid, the motives of guilt, probable consequences, penalties, and even because you want to please God, give the believer a sense of control over life. Though that may keep you out of trouble and to some degree gains a measure of holiness before God, still it is limited.
In Psalm 101 David writes of his commitment to living a holy life. Here is a positive, forward-looking portion we can reflect upon:
"I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness." (Psalm 101:3-4 NKJV)
How do you avoid setting anything wicked (or worthless) before your eyes? It's not just a matter of avoiding things (like television, certain reading material and Internet sites); it means redirecting your eyes toward things of greater value. It's hard to stop thinking of certain things, unless you focus your thoughts on something else. Dr. Robert Cook used to give this simple prayer as a means by which one could steer the mind away from the evil and toward the good: "Lord Jesus, help me in this."
So we stop looking back by purposely looking forward. We drive the wicked things out of our line of vision by redirecting our vision toward the Lord. Lifting up His name is a great start. A positive move upward. Can you dwell on His name and dwell on sin at the same time? To hate the work of those who fall away (Psalm 101:3) is to not let it "cling to me." That's a good thought. So, what (or who) will you cling to instead?
Consider the struggle many sincere believers are having in the mainline denominations. The influence of apostate leaders in the church troubles many. In the believer's love for the Lord and the authority of scripture, it becomes painfully difficult for the faithful to remain where these leaders exercise influence, particularly through their heretical teaching (e.g. denying Jesus' virgin birth, resurrection, etc.).
There is a time when God may call some away to "'come out from among them and be separate', says the Lord" (II Cor. 6:17). But sometimes the sacrifice of remaining is called for; the organization has become a mission field, at least for a time.
Recall Jesus' three-step procedure for confronting one in their sin. In Matthew 18:15-17 after a one-on-one confrontation, then a follow up with two or three as witnesses, and finally a hearing before the church, the unrepentant one is to be considered as a "heathen and a tax collector." Remember, these are they whom Jesus came to save. Matthew himself was one of them.
In churches where the drift away from the word has infected the body and many of its leaders and members, God may use a few who still hold fast to the faith once delivered (Jude 3) to shine the light of truth for a time in the hope that at least some would repent and come back to Christ (see II Timothy 2:24-26). The sacrifice of the truly changed life is to remain steadfast for Christ in the face of opposing forces whose modern theology and cultural Christianity can easily begin to "cling" (Psalm 101:3b) to the unfocused mind and heart. "A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness." (Psalm 101:4 NKJV)
Indeed in a world--and even in churches--where some brands of Christianity have little to do with Christ, it takes an intentional walk by the committed believer to stay on the narrow road. Jesus told us it would be a tough one.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV)
When you read these words of Jesus, doesn't it strike you that all of this talk today of tolerance and inclusiveness makes the "broad way" look like the true path? That's why so many are and will be on that road. Jesus walked on that path for three years to call people off of it. Its end is destruction. A life truly changed by Jesus Christ knows that. The sacrifice of living such a life is that the narrow road is often lonely and always difficult. Only His life dwelling in you can help you see it and keep you on it.
The sacrifice comes in the form of being misunderstood, even by your closest friends. It comes as a tough stand to take, a lost dream, a closed door, a burnt bridge you cannot cross again because you obeyed Christ and only He and you knew it.
You make a difference in this world by being different from the world; "In the world, but not of it," Jesus said. (John 17:13-18) And the only One who can make you that kind of different is Christ.
(TALICS)"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NKJV)
This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public web site and encourage all readers to visit for similar material.