Kingdom principle: The submission of your heart is a matter of choices in your mind.
The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart… , but you can’t get to the heart of the matter without making a choice to move in that direction.
|Deuteronomy 30:15-20||Psalm 119:1-8||1 Corinthians 3:1-9||Matthew 5:21-37|
We often talk about life in the kingdom being a matter of the heart – and this is true. Yet we must not overlook, that the matter of the heart is confirmed, sustained, and even simultaneously initiated by small, insignificant choices. These choices are as impressive as a baby’s first steps, yet as insignificant as one “baby-step” unfolding against the backdrop of life.
Your character began to be shaped and forged the moment the you were conceived. A child conceived out of wed-lock will have unique character forming “issues” both spiritual and emotional presented to them on the journey of life. This is not an condemnation on children conceived out of wed-lock, but the choices of others do have profound effect on us. For in the same way, the child conceived within an abusive relationship will begin to suffer the emotional trauma long before leaving the womb… this child will have unique “issues” on their journey. The point is that character and life formation begins at conception, not birth, not at 2,3…. 5, or 18… The choices we make and that are made around us have a profound effect on our lives. This is why the call is to Choose this day – TODAY – NOW – wait no longer…. Make the choice to have life and prosperity, which is a blessing from God.
We all must learn to walk with Jesus, and that walking begins with a first step. Those first steps can be filled with many falls, bruises and mishaps. For this is how we all learn to walk. It is actually healthier to crawl before you take a step. There are studies – (forgive me for not finding or citing them here) that present that crawling makes you a better reader later in life… It is also true that walking is more difficult while are wearing a large diaper, crawling however is not impeded by a diaper. Further as you learn to stand, which is prior to walking, many episodes of “plopping back on your butt” occur and for this the diaper again serve a dual purpose. But what about those that don’t lose the diaper… will their walking be adversely affected? What about those who breast feed until the age of 4, 5, even 6 or 7 or more… is there a time when it goes too far? Who sets that time? There are many psychologists who certainly believe they have the answer. Paul does not set a time table on our Christian walk, but he does go so far to say to the Church in Corinth, “you are infants in Christ” – because you are not growing up. In a very real sense, you are still wearing your diaper, it is clear you are still drinking milk, by this time (3-5 years since they converted to Christianity) you ought to be eating solid food and living with discipline.
What if their response to Paul is… “What does it matter… we are in Christ! You said so yourself. You address us as being brothers (and sisters), you call us fellow-workers and at the opening of the letter, you reminded us that we are saints because God makes us Holy.” Then they continue “What’s the big deal? We like to drink milk – it tastes good. It doesn’t bother us if we wear a diaper, all of us agreed – it is just easier this way.” So we say to you Paul, “What’s your issue?– You are not even here with us, How are you to judge us?”
Paul’s issue is – that being the Church is about following Jesus, the Christian life is not about us, it’s about transformation through the power of Jesus Christ. The Church of Corinth and all too many today have chosen to make “following Jesus” all about our comfort and ease. The Christian walk is not about misery, but it is filled with mystery, it is not about pain, but it is a demonstration of power. Jesus already called his followers the Salt & Light, and charged them that their righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisee’s if they wished to enter the Kingdom of Heaven according to the law… This call to perfection is the mystery that requires power from on high. But all too often, believers simply settle for – a cheap interpretation of grace that requires nothing and makes all choices depend on my desires rather than God’s decrees. It is not about just upholding the law – for this is mere child’s-play (do what your told, and you won’t get hurt)… but to truly fulfill the law – this is impossible without God. Jesus presents this in the Sermon on the Mount… Saying “you heard it said, But I say to you”… this brings Jesus’ understanding and interpretation of the Law into an everyday experience which one must chose to accept and pursue if they are to walk with Jesus. Not everyone chooses to walk with Jesus, many prefer to remain diaper bound sucking on bottle of milk. What will you Choose today?
Do not Murder – is a major choice of actions which most of us have no problem avoiding, is now understood as an act of anger and how you use your tongue. In this way, when you are offended you have to give account for your choices. But even if you are not the offended one , but it is another – You remain called to seek reconciliation and peace (rather than allowing another to remain uptight – see last week) You cannot pretend that it is okay for someone else to be in a state of conflict with you, regardless of the reason that it developed. This is tantamount to Murder.
Do not commit Adultery – The modern day understanding of this word has been completely lost. (In my opinion) So let us up-hold a value and an understanding of marriage and monogamy that is established by God. But beware, it is far too easy to commit murder in our hearts against who hold a different view. In regards to adultery; again – the call is to look at the little choices that lead up to the big “sin”. The church is often quick to condemn the big “sin”… but overlook the little stuff, this is the opposite of what Jesus teaches. And again – the call is to be accountable and that you are to have no willingness to make a choice that is going to cause another person to be caught under the judgment of the law…
Up-hold all Oaths & Vows – While this may not seem as major as Murder or Adultery, it drives home the point about how important your choices are – especially the ones you make in relationship with others. It is about the little decision that you make today that will lead you to the actions which are expressed tomorrow. Remember – let your light shine, be the salt – what you do and how you do it matters. Further you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. As the Temple of the Holy Spirit – your word is to be Truth! Therefore there is no reason to wear by another name or higher power, for the most powerful source of all life is already with in you.
This is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. The challenge I hope your catching here is about the renewal of your mind, not the righteousness of your heart. Make a Choice! Begin to choose life, even if there is wickedness in your heart. There may be poop in your diaper, but the only way to see change is for you to choose to be changed.
How to move from drinking milk to eating solid food:
1. Read your Bible on your own…. Even if you don’t think you understand it, begin to read it. Set an achievable plan and go for it. Read the Book of Acts in one setting… about 2 hours…. Read a Psalm a day for the month of March. Get an App – that gives you a bible verse every day….
2. Start Praying…. This may be before meals, this may be every time before you get out of your car, this may be for your wants and needs of life. Again set a goal that you believe you can achieve and choose to do it. You may not “know” what to say… but just tell God you don’t know what to say… but you are talking to Him…. If this is no big deal, begin to pray out-loud or in a public setting. I am not talking about street evangelism – but pray out loud with a trusted believer, pray at your desk before you turn your computer on….
3. Ask the Lord, to show you His Glory. If you really want to move to solid food, you are going to need to see the Spiritual…. The two things above are not to “feed” you spiritually they are physical practices and choices that move you in this direction. You need spiritual food. Jesus calls this doing the will of the Father. (John 4:34) you need to see the movements of God if you are going to feast with Him.
How to move from diapers to discipline and crawling to walking:
1. Find a mentor or person who will hold your hand…. Babies don’t learn to walk without holding on to something… and everyone has their diapers changed by someone who cares. You need someone in your life who will encourage you to succeed. This person does not need to be a pastor or even “ahead of you on the Christian journey”, this person needs to be honest and willing to hold a mirror up for you when you settle for what is easy and “stinky”.
2. Read a book – my suggestion is to find one that will encourage your mental formation if you find yourself knowing your want to grow but not being able to follow-through, and one for your spiritual formation if you find yourself now really knowing what it means to learn to walk with Jesus. But don’t read this book alone… either dialogue with me via this blog or email or find a friend to ask if you to you tell them about what you are reading…(they don’t need to read the book, you are just going to tell them what you are learning.)
3. Finally – Ask the Lord, to teach you his Holiness. By the Lord teaching you His Holiness, you will learn to do your good works in such a way as to bring Glory to God. This is the process of Sanctification. This is not a work in and of yourself, it is a work of God – being worked out in your as you choose to seek first the Kingdom and His Righteousness.