This is post #4 in a twelve blog/podcast series entitled REAL LIFE CHRISTIANITY. In this series, we’ll look at very practical matters like how we must learn to love and honor both ourselves and others in order to be the Christ-centered followers the Master wants us to be here in the twenty-first century. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Our Lectio Divina for today: Galatians 5: 19-23 (MsgB)
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s Kingdom. But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Have you noticed?
Living in this world, with devils and fleshly temptations filled, is not an easy place for those who desire to follow Jesus. And as we discussed last time, God is not just interested in our spiritual side, but He’s also concerned how you and I live out this faith of ours in very practical ways. You see, in God’s economy, it’s simply not good enough for a follower of Christ to sit piously in a church pew on a Sunday morning, believing himself to be holy. But it’s the life we live throughout the rest of the week, out there in the real world, that truly makes or breaks our Christian discipleship.
That’s why the New Testament contains warnings like we find in today’s passage (Galatians 5). Just because a person prays a prayer of confession, goes to church regularly, and drops some money in an offering plate, doesn’t mean their lives have become radically converted to the life of Christ. A true conversion is more like the radical change in lifestyle Paul talks about here. First, let’s unpack the characteristics of a human life lived outside the in-breaking power of God’s love…
- trying to get your own way all the time;
- repetitive, loveless, cheap sex;
- a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage;
- frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;
- trinket gods;
- magic-show religion;
- paranoid loneliness;
- cutthroat competition;
- all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants;
- a brutal temper;
- an impotence to love or be loved;
- divided homes and divided lives;
- small-minded and lopsided pursuits;
- the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival;
- uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions;
- ugly parodies of community.
Ouch! Any of these things sound painfully familiar to you? I hope so. Because without the amazing power of Jesus and His agape love, you and I are predestined to live lives that traffic in these hideous conditions.
But wait. Let’s not stop there. Here’s the hope that should keep us alive. When we allow God, our Creator/King, to lead us each day in this life, preferring and deferring to the Lordship of Jesus and the indwelling and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, here’s what can happen. God brings gifts into our lives; gifts such as…
- an affection for others;
- an exuberance about life;
- a serenity;
- a willingness to stick with things;
- a sense of compassion in the heart;
- a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people;
- an ability to be involved in loyal commitments;
- no need to force our way in life;
- an ability to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
In other words, in this life, you and I have a choice to make. We can choose to walk down a pathway where folks are motivated by self-centeredness and shame. Or we can choose to journey alongside Jesus, a path where you and I can learn to live this life in a different way…the Jesus way. A life motivated by God’s agape love. A life that becomes a blessing to others around us, and not a curse.
Hmm. Which pathway seems best for you today?
My prayer: Father God, Paul’s words to the Galatians describe clearly the two choices before me. The descriptions are easily understood, but the pathway is not always as clear as I’d like it to be. Holy Spirit, please illuminate for me, with great detail, the pathway of life and love today. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: When I see the two choices clearly spelled out for me, it should be crystal-clear which choice I should make. What self-centered and love-less strongholds and motivations are still working inside me, keeping me from freely choosing the better path…the path of God’s agape love?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Thank you for joining us on this 12-session journey we call Real-Life Christianity. We suggest you bookmark our blog/podcast homepage for this series to keep all the blogs and podcasts in one place for your future reference.
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