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27 November 2007

Some Conscious Effort Required

Modifying our speech patterns obviously takes a conscious effort. As you continue to add words and phrases to the growing list under "Word Search," (a reminder that it's still good to post comments) you'll probably notice that using those particular words has become a habit. In order to discontinue using them (if that is what we wanted to do), we would have to make a decision to stop using them and instead use other words.

(I need to interject that Tony M's comment yesterday was side-splitting. Now I'm going to find it difficult to say "Father" when I pray. That, or I'm going to start calling him "Tony" all the time just to see if it annoys him.)

Similarly, we have to make conscious efforts in our lives to either avoid evil or to do good (the absence of evil is not necessarily the presence of good). If we are not willing to commit ourselves to that which we profess, then should we expect God to do it for us? We offer Him our greatest effort, and in turn He provides the results.

Yes, Jesus said in John 15, "Without Me, you can do nothing." However, He says this in the context of us staying fixed upon His purposes ("abiding" in Him). "When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love..." (John 15:10, NLT) Action is required -- obedience; effort on my part. What are the commandments to which He's referring? "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you." (John 15:12, NLT) And "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38, NLT)

Loving God? I'm good with that. However, my wife and close friends would probably tell you that loving people is not something that I'm particularly predisposed to do. I am the word's worst cynic. (In the words of Kip Dynamite, "Like anyone could ever know that...") Even liking people was something with which I struggled before committing my life to full-time ministry. I understood that this would require effort on my part. That sounds horrible, I know. But I make that effort, and by gum, it works! God provides the "fruit" -- the results.

In response to my taking action -- thinking and assuming the best of people, finding good in them, and truly being concerned about them -- rather than simply generically praying, "God, please help me to love people," God has been diligent to honor His promise.

I intended to get this post to a point at which I could tie it in with Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart," but I'm out of time. Hopefully God will put that verse on my blog subject list over the next couple of days...


Leroy said...

Excellent post today! While it is often wrongly stated that "God only helps those that help themselves", action (towards God's purpose) is required on our part.

And it's been pretty cool to watch you grow (more church speak?) since your commitment to full-time ministry. Believe it or not, I made that observation during my morning prayer time today.

Tony M said...

I didn't mean to make it difficult to say "Father" when praying, just difficult to say it three or four times per sentence... :)

"If we are not willing to commit ourselves to that which we profess, then should we expect God to do it for us?" - I loved that sentence. How easy it is to ask God for something and then sit around and do nothing about it (note: this doesn't necessarily lead to "God helps those who help themselves" preaching). We definitely are supposed to put effort into it (you know, "take up [your] cross daily", "be strong in the Lord... put on the full armor of God... [be always praying]", that sort of thing).

And as far as the evil vs. good thing, I think that the "doing good" part is what is most necessary. If we're concentrating on the good, the love (love God first and foremost and with everything that you have and are, and then love everyone else as yourself), then the "avoidance of evil" will be a natural byproduct. If instead we focus on avoiding evil, as you said, good is not necessarily the byproduct.

Here is an excerpt from a devotional I put together once for our youth choir (when we had it), which was based on 1st Peter 2:9-12 (I was suggesting the name "Alien Crew" for the youth choir based on that passage):

We should live our lives as a reflection of the love and mercy He has shown to us. In this, we will find our pleasure, and we won’t need to fulfill the sinful desires that once consumed us. By constantly praising Him, in both words, thoughts, and actions, we will by default abstain from those things which Peter urges us to avoid. It will be a byproduct of the life He wants us to live; we won’t have to actively abstain from them if we’re actively pursuing the righteousness He desires for and of us. Sure, temptation will come, but it will be much easier to say “no” to temptation by saying “yes” to righteousness than simply attempting, by whatever means we have, to resist. Rather than seeking ways to resist our temptations (they will come), seek ways to please God and live a life worthy of the sacrifice He has made for us. Resisting temptation will then become simply a matter of choosing to do what is right rather than choosing not to do what is wrong.

If you focus on avoiding evil, then that evil, that sinful desire, is in the forefront of your mind. If, instead, you fill your mind with love, devotion to God, and concentration on what is good, then the evil is no longer your focus and you won't have to try to avoid it - it will naturally be avoided as a byproduct of your habitual good-doing. (I worded that weirdly on purpose! :)

Enough from me, sorry for the long comment...

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