The Vaccinated Christian

Something that I’ve observed throughout my very short lifetime is how we are creatures who quickly learn to adapt to our surroundings. We like routine, we like familiarity, and we like consistency. Anytime we change up our lifestyle, diet, environment, job, etc, it is only natural for us to immediately try and revert back to what we know until new habits are established. After being married for almost two years, I can tell you that both my wife and I have had to learn to adapt! And if you’ve ever been a parent, I can guarantee that you have had to get used to some new routines 🙂

Now when I first became a follower of Jesus Christ, I was thrown so far out of my comfort zone that I learned to embrace it. It was definitely a “born again” experience for me. Although everything was unfamiliar, there was something about the spontaneity of encountering and obeying God that awakened my heart. But over time, even the presence of God became an environment I could adapt to. It weighs heavy on mind to know that this is the case for so many Christians who started out full of fresh faith with rivers of living water flowing from within them, but now after years of building dams out of religious routines, all that is left inside them is a stagnate pond that is quickly drying up. Many church leaders often discuss the amount of young people who leave the faith after they leave the home, but could it be that just like our modern medical methods, we have vaccinated a generation with just enough faith to make them immune to the real thing?

Many of you might know about the garden of Gethsemane as the place where Jesus prayed while His disciples fell asleep before He was betrayed by one of them and sentenced to be crucified (Matt. 26:36-56; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-53). Something interesting though is that the gospels also tell us that this was a place where Jesus often met with His disciples (Jn. 18:2; Lk 22:39). If only His disciples knew that this would be the last prayer meeting they would have with their Messiah before He went to the cross, then they might not have fallen asleep. But just like us, these disciples became so over-familiar with their surroundings that they were immune to His presence and the urgency of the moment.

If you feel you are at this place, then don’t give up because there is still hope! I believe Jesus’ remedy for a Christian who has been immunized from having a burning heart is the same remedy that He gave His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”  It’s not enough to be faithful if we are not FULL of FAITH. Of course it’s good and right to implement healthy routines into our life such as gathering with other believers, studying the Bible, eating healthy, going to work on time, and so on. Jesus Himself did things as was His custom, but even in keeping a routine, He modeled how to live in a spontaneous, living and breathing relationship with the Father. At the end of the day, His food was to do His Father’s will (Jn. 4:34).

To be watchful is to be attentive or actively engaged with what is going on around us. To be prayerful is to be attentive or actively engaged with what is going on within us. God is calling us to keep the internal conversation going with Him as well as the external conversation about Him. Don’t settle for a Sunday-only-faith or a crisis-only-faith. Don’t settle for being vaccinated with small doses of the presence of God and life of obedience to Him even if it means some people put you under quarantine.

Like I said about marriage earlier, I know my wife and I have had to make some post-honeymoon lifestyle adaptations, but I also know that what is going to help keep our love alive is that we’re making every effort to keep the conversation going! I have to be willing to walk through new experiences with her outside of my comfortable shell just like God wants to walk through new experiences with us. It’s the tension of faithfully remaining on the potter’s wheel, yet being consistently vulnerable to the potter’s hands. If you are spiritually bored and dull, it’s not as much about needing a change in scenery as much as it is needing a change in vision.

LORD, would you break our immunity to your presence today. Make us tender to your voice. As we draw near to you, would you fill us with a fresh faith. Break down the dams of pride that we’ve built up and let you rivers flow again. Help us to see the urgency of the hour. Help us to see how beautiful you are. Help us to take our focus off of familiar language and scenery, and revive our expectancy by placing our focus on you and what you are doing. Teach us how to raise our children and the next generation without vaccinating them from genuinely encountering and knowing you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

The Pursuit of Holiness

Pursue peace will all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

If the slogan of our American society has to do with pursuing what makes us happy, then why are so many people still disillusioned with life? Why is it that when we set out to chase what we believe will make us happy, we feel as though we are chasing after the wind? The Bible tells us it’s because we are doing just that: chasing the wind (Ecc. 2:11). I remember how I couldn’t wait to get my license when I turned sixteen. I was so ready to obtain the freedom and legal right to drive a car of my own, believing I would achieve happiness once I received it. I was excited for about a week until that flame flickered out. But isn’t that what we do? We think, well, once I get married, when I have kids, buy my own house, get that great job, or win the lottery, THEN I will find true happiness. The truth is, when we spend our strength pursuing happiness on our terms, we are investing in a lifetime of disappointment.

We were created, fashioned and formed to pursue holiness. I’m not talking about our typical idea of this ball and chain religion where we attempt to stay off the naughty list and do just enough to make those around us believe we are good Christian people. For Christians, holiness is not about maintaining a perfect resume or position, but it is the pursuit of a person. Deep down we are all wired to go after something with our all, to be utterly fascinated and consumed, living with something to die for. I’m simply saying that this something is a someone—Jesus Christ, the Holy One, our Creator (Col. 1:15-16). Pursuing holiness is our personal expression of love for Him that overflows in response to experiencing His holy love for us. It’s less about us and more about Him, and accepting the invitation to walk near to Him and to experience all He is. This requires us to allow Him in the door of our hearts and cooperate with His Holy Spirit as He passionately conforms our lives to His Word and His ways.

…all things were created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16)

Holiness is very much a relational word emphasizing the gap between God and man, along with our purpose and need for redemption. In fact, the Hebrew word for “holy” is “qadowsh” or “qadosh” which means brightness or separatedness. It is the fundamental quality of God that emphasizes the uniqueness of His nature and all His attributes – His love, wisdom, power and so forth – these are all holy aspects of God that are incomparable to any other being. He alone is the standard, the sole definition of something such as love.

Our God is holy, completely pure and transcendent, dwelling in unapproachable light, yet He draws near to us. He yearns to dwell with us in all His glory (Jn. 17:24). He has the highest quality of life, and He wants to share it with us forever! The entire Bible is telling the story of how the One holy God relentlessly pursues and progressively reveals Himself to fallen humans, for the sake of love and relationship. That’s why He had a salvation plan. How can the holy God share His holy life with His unholy creation without violating His nature? He justly purchased our righteousness (our legal position) by way of the cross and He offers it to us free of charge. Still, He invites us to pursue holiness that we might experience the reality of this truth in our present living condition. We don’t earn holiness, we choose it. In other words, the finished work of the cross did not excuse us from living holy but rather made a way for the Holy One to be pursued and known; freeing us from the requirement of perfection according to the law and giving us the privilege of pursuit according to love. It no longer means we have to be holy to earn salvation but we get to be holy because of salvation, for the sake of His glory. Our holiness, therefore, is a reflection of His holiness as we draw near to Him.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love… (Eph. 1:4)

…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…(1 Pet. 1:16)

The pursuit of holiness and complete obedience to God must be fueled by the love and fear of God, both working together like the pedals of a car. The love of God being the gas pedal that presses us forward, and the fear of God being the brake that helps us stop before we drive into compromise. Without His love, we burn out while going nowhere. Without the fear of God, we become reckless putting ourselves and others around us in danger. We need to earnestly ask Him to give us both of these. We were created to reach a destination! Don’t gaze in the rear view mirror for too long (your past), but only use it as a reference point to see where you are at, to learn from your mistakes and to thank God for all He has done. Be careful who you open your doors to, and always drive under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

There is something far more noble and fulfilling than the American Dream, and it is becoming the dream of the Father; a holy people belonging completely to Him. I long for the day when ‘just enough’ Christianity is nowhere to be found. We must wake up from the swaying cradle of western Christianity that tells us to live on the edges of a religious system to see how much we can get away with and still call ourselves Christians. I’m convinced that there is a generation arising who is done with lukewarm, cruise-control Christianity. If I understand the words of Christ correctly, we are either ALL in or we are NOT in (Mark 8:34-37). There is no in between. He didn’t die to make us happy, He died to make us holy, and when we get this, we will find happiness. Happiness is a side-effect of pursuing holiness.

Practical holy living is only legalism if we see it as a means of attaining salvation or a “higher-position” in God’s sight. On the contrary, practical holy living does not earn us anything relating to our salvation or eternal status, for we are “seated with Christ” by grace through faith (Eph. 1-2). Neither does this mean our decisions to continue or not continue in sin don’t matter. Rather, our lifestyle choices begin to reflect our new position, thus as a means of experiencing more of our relationship with Him.

I want to highlight 7 areas we can practically pursue holiness:

  1. Our eyes – what are we looking at?
  2. Our ears – what are we listening to?
  3. Our mouths – what are we talking about?
  4. Our hands – what are we giving our time, energy and money to?
  5. Our feet – what environments are we placing ourselves in?
  6. Our minds  – what are we thinking about?
  7. Our hearts – what are we giving our affection to?

…in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…(Phil. 2:15)

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created. (Rev. 4:11)

All things were created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16)

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)

Blessed (Happy) are the pure in heart for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8)

Death Has Lost Its Sting

Did you know that there are several species of harmless flies that actually look like bees? There are even honey bees that don’t have stingers at all! Our society has done such an excellent job branding the “bee” that every time we see something that looks remotely close to one, we flee in utter terror. I have noticed that Christians react the same way toward sin and death. The Devil has done such a good job branding our minds with lies we hide and cower at these “bees without stingers.” Remember this: Christ will redeem our soul, but we have to renew our mind.

For those who are in Christ, sin thus has no more power over you. It is like a bee without its stinger, though it may appear intimidating, it cannot harm you. God has given you power to overcome! Paul exhorts us to “reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11) because if we don’t see ourselves as such, we will continue to live as if sin had dominion over us. If we don’t see that death has truly lost its sting, then we will continue to live as fearful slaves not faithful servants. 

Before you walk victoriously over your dark habits, emotions and lifestyle, you must first understand that you are already victorious the moment you said yes to Christ. The fight has been fixed. You win because He already won. You just have to keep fighting the good fight of faith and NEVER QUIT. Almost every war has had a turning point, a decisive battle that determined the outcome of the war, yet more battles were fought and the fighting continued until the opponents fully surrendered. The war for your soul has been going on since Satan was kicked out of heaven, but at just the right time, Christ came and turned the tides of the war forever, saying, “It is finished.” As Jesus breathed His last breath, hell rejoiced and heaven wept. The enemy thought he’d won, then Jesus broke through the back door of hell, took the keys of death, and rose again. By doing this, He crushed the serpents head and disarmed the feared killer bee of sin for good. The cross changed everything.

To the worried believer struggling with the fear of death, know that you have a living hope, the hope of glory: Christ in you. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in you, thus you will rise too. No power in hell can keep you in the grave. Death will never hurt you.

To the weary believer who feels stuck in the same cycle of sin, know that your old man was crucified with Him, that we should no longer be slaves of sin (Rom. 6:6-7). Quit trying to wear chains that He already broke. Shake them off. Push delete. Put yourself in healthy and holy environments. Fill your mind with the truth of how God sees you now (Rom. 8, 12:2). There is power in His name! Step into the reign of grace today, for you are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

…so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:21)

Therefore do not LET sin reign in your mortal body… (Rom. 6:12, emphasis added)

The reign of sin: We were under condemnation before God, powerless before sin and satanic attacks, and were in darkness, without the ability to understand God and His Word, etc.

The reign of grace: We received a new position, power, nature, insights, and destiny. We are now enjoyed, indwelt, empowered, and commissioned by God, with a relevant purpose.

“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:55-57)

Study Chapters: Romans 6 & 1 Corinthians 15

*Please don’t misunderstand, I do not promote or advise that you play with real bees. Thank you for reading.