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Monday, February 27, 2012

Giving Up Things for God

Last time, I asked the question, "What is my faith costing me?" while speaking about persecution for Christ.  Carrying that thought forward today, I want to reiterate that Christians have found something that cannot be bought at any price we can offer, but must be held at great cost to us.  This great personal cost doesn't begin at the point of persecution, for most of us.  It's a cost of daily living.

I mean that, on a daily basis, from the point of salvation and forever afterwards, "we must obey God rather than human beings" (Acts 5: 29 NIV).  This isn't another way to purchase our salvation, but rather a natural outpouring of gratitude, and an expression of the strength and freedom that God has given us through victory over our sins.  When we see the value and the blessings that come when we obey God at all costs, nothing other than obedience has real value to us.  Disobedience loses its appeal.

Obeying God has its costs in daily living, which may not be as extreme as martyrdom at the hands of persecutors.  We feel the pull when obedience costs us something we enjoy, such as pleasure, safety, power, or approval.  In case I'm being too vague, I'm talking about times when we stop ourselves from lying to avoid an uncomfortable discussion, or times when we speak gently to someone who angered us, instead of telling them off as we would like to do.  I'm talking about the decision to do our best on a test or our homework, or a project at work, rather than looking for ways to cheat or take shortcuts.  I'm talking about trusting God with our futures instead of looking for answers in the stars or a crystal ball, as it is trendy to do.  I'm talking about the decision to abstain from sex before marriage, even if the boyfriend or girlfriend walks away or we get ostracized by every cool person in school. Finally, I'm talking about the decision to stay true to our spouse, even when the person we married couldn't make us more angry, or hurt, or lonely than we feel right now.

Faith is a very costly thing, but it is worth the extravagance.

We most want to disobey God when it looks like everyone else is having more fun than we are.  When we reach this point, and it seems that obedience is too costly, we have to remind ourselves of why we are taking a stand for what is right.  We are standing up for something bigger than ourselves and our daily problems and needs.  We are standing with Christ, and honoring what is good.  We will never have to be ashamed of this!  What's more, by this gesture, we are casting off what is bad, so it can never hold us again.  Freedom from shame, freedom from guilt, freedom from cravings and things that don't fulfill us--these are only the first rewards we receive for our obedience!  Nothing can outshine them, no matter how attractive they may seem in the moment.

This time of year, many people give up things temporarily for God, but God has called us to do something even bigger.  He asks us to give up ourselves, from a million little "losses" every day at work, home, or school, to a spectacular last stand at the hands of our persecutors.  He has asked us to give up ourselves every day, forevermore.  God wants us to value Him above all other things.  Can we do that?
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them,“no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18: 28-30 NIV)