For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

Isaiah 55: 8

When the things that I am thinking about and the way that I am thinking are different than what God says that I should be thinking, which set of thoughts is right? When the thing that I am doing and the actions that I have taken are focused on what I want or think that I need, how well am I doing at following the example of healthy living that Jesus gave me? It is easy to argue that I know what is required for this moment in life or that this particular situation was extraordinary, and it demanded that I do and say what I did. Yet, those arguments are the same ones that people have been using for thousands of years to justify going against the Lord’s will. God has heard them all, and there is no real creativity that the human mind can utilize successfully in its attempt to rationalize living in ways that are different from God’s design for life. 

There are ways of thinking and ways of living that God has told us will work; there are others that He has clearly marked as bad ideas. The road map to follow through life is universally available. The system even comes with an on board set of helps and an interpreter for those hard to understand situations. All that is required of us is a willingness to join with Jesus, to allow Him into our lives. It is very simple; yet, the decision to let Him in is the most elusive action point in life for many people. There is something in our natures that clings very tightly to a mind-set and a heart-felt determination to live life the way that we think is best. The problem with this way of thinking is that God’s way is proven to actually work, and for every person this is always true.

The proof of this statement is recorded throughout human history in the Bible. The living proof of the fact that God’s ways are superior to anything that we people can come up with on our own is demonstrated in each of our lives. The Lord designed life this way, He made it so that we can look closely at each other, and we can observe the way that other people think and the actions that they take. The challenge for me and for any of us who know God is to examine our own thoughts and our own actions; then, we can to allow Christ access to our hearts and our minds to change us so that we think and act like Him. One way of thinking and one way of acting works; for, one has wisdom, peace, joy, and life sustaining grace driving it. One has the Father’s love flowing out of it. We get to choose to make God’s way ours.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,”

John 14: 6

 

Life is precious to most people. This is especially true when it comes to our own lives. We like the idea of drawing in breath, and we really embrace the concept of continuing to get up each day and to walk about engaging in the activities and in the relationships that make up the world that we inhabit. Life means something to us, and it meant something to Jesus, too. Still, He gave it up, and He did so painfully, with dread, and in absolute submission to the will of the Father. The life that Jesus surrendered is the reason that He can make the statement that He did here to Timothy and to us. His death and resurrection from the grave that followed it as night does the day have brought about a miracle that defies the powers of this world and that takes anyone who accepts the gift that Christ is offering out of a state of living death and transforms us into beings that experience life as God comprehends it during our remaining days on earth and into all of time beyond this life.

 

This new life that is given to us by and through Christ is not without its requirements. In fact, the Lord is rather demanding of each of us if we wish to truly experience the freedom that comes to us through our new relationship with God. He requires for us to forfeit, to surrender, our old lives in full to Him and to allow the Spirit full and absolute access to each and every corner of our hearts, minds, and spirits. We are not permitted to retain any vestige of hold-back or some parts of ourselves in reserve as a sort of cushion against the shock that change causes or in the form of old pleasures that we can turn to in moments of self-determined need. Jesus held nothing back, and He demands that His followers truly walk in His footsteps without deviation; so, He requires the same of us. This is not to say that there is not grace and understanding in all of this, for Christ is remarkably patient with us, and He knows that this sort of total surrender takes time to enter into and then to accomplish.

 

Yet, as we follow along Christ’s way, we are led deeper into understanding of why God desires for us to think and to act in a certain manner, and we are granted a continuously expanding knowledge of the heart and the manner of our Lord. The Spirit works within us to transform our old selves with their ways of viewing life into a new beings that are more and more like Christ. So, God’s way takes us ever farther and deeper into His truth. We are made to be beings that know truth and that can seek it as near to its source as is possible to do in this life. This is done by virtue of engaging earnestly with God’s Word and by wrestling with it in fellowship with other followers of Christ while the Spirit reveals its deep mysteries to our hearts and to our minds. A life that is lived out in submission to Christ while continuously seeking out the wisdom and guidance of God’s Word is one in which we are truly alive. Then Christ’s blood is our blood, and His love is what defines us. This new life is one in which our purpose is formed around caring for and about others in a manner that demonstrates Christ’s redeeming love to all of the world.

Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them.

Deuteronomy 11: 16

 

It seems that there are many things in which we need to trust in living our lives. We trust in the rising of the sun every day, and we rest in the certainty of the fact that gravity will hold us onto the earth’s surface. When we get into a car we start it and proceed believing that it will go where we direct it. Of greater importance is the fact that I have no question at all that I can trust God to be who He has always been and to do what He promises to do. However, I know that I need to be very careful about trusting my own heart to remain true to Christ’s calling and to always follow the righteous path that God has set out for me.

 

This world surrounds us with a very active campaign of deception and lies that Satan is fully committed to waging. I might say that I am clear about who I am and regarding the way that I will choose to travel through life. Of course, I wouldn’t deviate from the direction that is spelled out in God’s Word. After all, I am a new being, a redeemed soul, and Christ is lord of my life! All true statements, but also, they can be dangerous if they are claimed with the sort of arrogance and pride that convinces me that I have it all together. There is enough of the old, sin-influenced self left in me to provide evil with a place to start turning my mind a little left or a little right of God’s singular way. Unfortunately, small deviations from the righteous path can have disastrous consequences.

 

That is why Moses warned his people with such stern language. That is why God’s Word continues to warn us today in the same manner. The gods that I can turn to may not be stone carvings, but they demand my loyalty and my worship in ways that are just as compelling as those ancient false deities with their promises of health, power, contentment, and success. Anything that turns me away from humble dependence on God and submission to His will can become my personal idol. Thoughts and actions that seem to meet my needs and desires at the expense of trust and commitment are dangerous deviations from God’s direction for living. God demands and requires that I turn over all of my life to Him in sacrifice and worship. When I hold any of it back, I am dedicating that part of me to idolatry, and God is a jealous god who desires all of me. He is also a loving God who has given all of Himself to me.

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me,

fight against those who fight against me!

Psalm 35: 1

 

Have you ever faced the beginning of a day with an attitude that looks like you are getting ready to head into the gladiatorial arena? There is no shower to take, no shaving to do, and no pretty face to be applied. You desire for your appearance to be ruggedly natural and fiercely confrontational. Next comes a very careful process of selecting and putting on armor; then, this is followed by the best part of all, for now weapons are chosen. Each of them is grasped and its heft and balance considered. The mind contemplates the sort of harm that this implement of war will cause your opponent, and it relishes in that pain and suffering, too. This is not a very winsome picture. It is also not an especially pleasant way to start a new day, and it is a terrible mind set to try to sleep on.

 

If anyone knew what it was like to face peril and to need to be prepared for the potential fight that this day might bring, it was David. Yet, God seems to have granted him a different approach and a very unnatural way of preparing to handle his adversaries. David does this odd, even crazy thing. He takes his conflicts and those who are trying to harm him to God, and he prays and he sings about the situation at hand. If David’s prayer looked anything like mine in this sort of situation, he would have asked for God to grant him strength and an accurate sword stroke. I want victory, and I want to control it. Yet, David surrenders control to the Lord, and he allows that any victory will be God’s. David, the mighty warrior, trusts his very life to God’s provision and grace.

 

There is a very real lesson to be learned here. When we are dealing with the hard situations and tension-filled relationships that living in this world will bring our way, we can choose to turn over control of the outcome to God. I know that I find it brutally hard to take my hands off and to relinquish my planning in order to seek God’s just and righteous way of stepping into the situation at hand. Perhaps I should admit that one of the things that troubles me is that I know God’s sense of what constitutes victory is radically different from mine. A victory in God’s way of viewing things is accomplished when relational restoration and healing occurs. Frankly, in the heat of the moment, this is hard for my flesh to accept. Yet, God will fight the true fight for me, and He will bring me through to the end of my day and to the end of all of my days as a victor.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Colossians 3: 12

 

Almost every day of the year I get up in the morning and soon after that I need to select the clothing that I am going to wear that day. Here is my basic check list to use in reaching a dressing decision; there is the primary activity of the day, the weather, who I am trying to impress and how, what I might be doing after work, what is clean, and how much ironing it will require. By now, I have this getting dressed thing fairly well figured out. Well, occasionally I put a sock on inside out or miss align the buttons, but I usually catch these small issues before long.

 

The clothing that I wear can seem to be a really big deal, and it helps establish a confident and ready mind set for my day. However, when I consider things that really matter, clothing is inconsequential. It is necessary, mind you, but not of any actual, life impacting, and eternal importance. What does matter is what I choose to put on when I look into the closet of my heart. That is where the truly elegant and impactful wardrobe is stored. As a child of the Living God, His Spirit is alive in me, and He creates in me a new nature that is the true reflection of God, Himself. Unfortunately, the new me doesn’t always take over my functional life, for I get in the way. I keep going back to the old section of my closet, to all of those familiar items of thought and beliefs about life that take me back into selfishness, fear, doubt, anger, and frustration. So I engage my day in the worst possible frame of heart and mind. At those times I am a redeemed being living like I have never encountered Christ. I am conflicted and appear hypocritical to the very people that I seek to love, and this is very discouraging and truly frustrating.

 

Yet, as it so often is in God’s way of dealing with us, He provides very complex things with simple answers. I need to go back to this activity that I have done thousands of times in my life, for by selecting the right spiritual wardrobe to start my day, I am taking the first and the most important step in living in humble submission to Christ throughout this day. Christ has already given me a complete closet makeover; it is up to me to use it. Christ wants me to come to Him. He allows me to talk to my Lord, listen to His words of loving guidance, and put on the exquisite words of truth that He has carefully displayed before my eyes. Then, I can engage my day with the confident and loving heart of Christ as my own true identity.