Careful, that Fence Could Give You a Massive Wedgie: CHOICES {Part 2}

Surely God understood my plight, after all, He knew my heart, He knew our financial situation, He knew we wanted to get married—eventually, so did it really matter that we were living and sleeping together at this point? I mean, we’d been sleeping in the same bed for a couple of years by this time, we even had a child together, it’s not like we had much to “save” ourselves for.

 
It was quite the dilemma. I had recently “come back” to God, after nearly a decade of “debauchery” and rebellion. Our situation wasn’t the greatest, either; we had a new baby, debt out of our eyeballs (tens of thousands of which I hauled along from my first marriage), we lived in a roach-infested apartment, had to spend oodles of money on special formula for our daughter who had digestive issues…it wasn’t the most “fun” we’d had in our relationship.

 
Many times I prayed—begged—God to help us. I was sorry, so sorry for the mess I had made of my life. Please, God, please help us, I want to do what’s right. But rather than answer that request, God began to convict me. He started with the “big” things and immediately my dedication to obedience was tested. I wrestled with the issue for a little while, even calling my dad (who had been a Pastor) to ask his advice, I remember reasoning with him, “We’ve had sex so many times, I mean, we have a kid together! God knows my heart, He knows how I want to do the right thing, but we just don’t have the money for a wedding. What would you tell someone in this situation, if you were counseling them?” He sympathized with me, but still told it like it was. The Bible was clear about sex outside of marriage. It was simply not acceptable, and God would not bless me with peace, and other spiritual blessings, until I was obedient.

 
Keep in mind, at the time I chose to come back to God (or rather, develop a new relationship with Him), my husband was not what you’d consider a man of faith, nor did he care to be. So, you can see how tricky this situation was. But I knew what needed to happen. I informed him that I would have to sleep in a separate room, and we could no longer have sex until we were married. As you can well imagine, the response wasn’t super great.

 
Ultimately, my husband (still “fiancé” at the time) respected my faith and that I wanted to change, so he complied without too much of a fight. Of course, it wasn’t long before we found a way to get married. Six days after our daughters first birthday, a deacon from the tiny Baptist church next to our apartment married us and signed our marriage license, with the mandatory two witnesses in our presence (thanks Mom). The peace I felt once we were officially married can’t be described. It’s the kind of peace you experience when you know you’re walking in God’s will. It was a difficult choice to make, and I had plenty of good reasons (excuses) as to why I shouldn’t obey what I knew was right, but in the end, the desire to walk with God and be at peace won over my physical desires.

 
I can’t emphasize enough just how difficult it is to make the right choice, to follow God’s word, to be “sold out”, recklessly abandoned to Him and His will—it’s not an easy path. The above example is only one of many difficult things God required of me in order to walk in His will. After all, He was taking me from the “world” and re-shaping my thought life one thing at a time, which of course, systematically changed my behavior. This brought about new challenges, especially within my marriage. We were “unequally yoked” now, and our worldviews were significantly different. Each choice I made was not only about my desire to obey God’s word, but also my desire to show my husband that the change in my heart was real, not a “phase” that would pass like so many others (I had previously tried out a Jehovah’s Witness church as well as Wiccan practices…I was searching for something to fill a void only God could fill!). I wanted to live the kind of life and have the type of attitude that was attractive to my husband. It didn’t happen overnight, it took many years of trial and error—but mostly prayer for God to continue to change me (not my husband).

 
In this entire journey, one thing was not an option for me—fence-sitting. I had seen plenty of that growing up, Christians who behaved one way on Sunday but lived an entirely different life Monday through Saturday. I never understood it. Many of these people were quick to judge the lives and choices of others, while failing to see their own issues for what they were. They believed themselves to be “sold out” God-fearing Christians when, in fact, they were nothing more than Pharisees.

 
On the other hand were the “worldly” Christians. They were the ones that looked, talked, and acted like everyone else. There was no noticeable difference in them, other than the fact that they went to church. They could say all the right words, teach Sunday School, quote the verses, and dress the part, but on a day to day basis, God was nowhere to be found. One foot in the world, the other in the church. That was not the Christianity I was “returning” to. So repeatedly I found myself praying in earnest that God would teach me how to love Him with my whole heart.

 
It was during this time God led me to Psalm 119, and I began writing my thoughts (which eventually turned into a short published  Bible study). I wanted the words of that Psalm to be true in my life, so I dedicated over a year to studying it, which served to completely change my heart in ways I never thought possible. Still though, God is not “done” with me. Every time I ask him to cleanse my heart or show me where I need “work” He reveals more. I am thankful He doesn’t show me all the crud in my heart at once, but gently works on me one small step at a time. Some days I choose to follow, and some days I sit on the fence. Sometimes I’m on the fence so long, the painful realty of the spiritual wedgie drives me to one side or the other. Ultimately I just can’t go the other way again because it led to nothing but heartache and pain, and a complete lack of peace and purpose. So, I fall back over the side of Truth and dust myself off and try again.

 
I’m convinced that this “fence-sitting” is an epidemic in the Church today, that and the judgmental segment of Pharisees that are certain everyone except for them are going to hell. Both extremes are equally damaging and have only helped the church look like more of a joke than anything. We need to choose this day who we will serve, but for goodness’ sake, stick with whatever we choice we make instead of oscillating back and forth. Either we’re for God or against Him; either we’re willing to follow Him at all cost, or we need to jump back over to the other side of the fence and abandon our faith, ’cause this fence-sitting crap has got to stop.

 
One of my husband’s chief complaints about Christians (and why he didn’t want to go to church) was how much they “judge” everyone while failing to see their own faults. Or, that they were quick to preach about “heaven” while living like the “devil”. We actually experienced people close to us falling into this category. They would go to church on Sunday and drink and party Friday nights. There was an enormous disconnect from what they said they believed to how they actually lived. These same people were extremely bitter towards God for the hardships He allowed in their lives. Yet, they were never willing to “forsake” the world and cling to Him 100%. This type of thing is killing Christianity, seriously, (our persistent fence-sitting could even be the very thing that keeps someone from coming to Christ!); regrettably, I have been guilty of both extremes.

 
I’m not saying that obedience to God automatically results in perfect circumstances and material blessings. Not at all. In fact, I think I showed with an example from my own life that making the right choice is often much more difficult and can even result in conflict or loss. But choosing the “hard” path of a life completely (like, actually 100%) is much more rewarding both here and after our lives have ended. We shouldn’t ride the fence and then whine about how God isn’t blessing us. He wants to bless us, but He will not reward our complacency and indifference to His word and will.

 
Has God been convicting you of a change? Have you been straddling the fence with a list of reasons why it’s ok to do so? Do you have children or loved ones watching you? (Of course you do, whether you realize it or not). The world is watching us, and we’re kind of sucking at the mission here, folks. Either we want to follow Him or we don’t. Often we’re like Lot’s wife, we turn back with longing, unable to give up something good, or even “fun” for something much greater—abundant life, freedom from bondage, true lasting peace, (and maybe even the opportunity for our lives to be the very thing that influences someone to choose eternal life through Jesus!).

 
I no longer want to contribute to this problem but I can’t make choices for anyone else other than myself. One day I hope my daughter will be able to say with conviction that her mother stood for something, and had a purpose—mainly to share the love of Christ with others through her life. That her mother not only said she believed something, but demonstrated that belief through her choices. That her mother wasn’t perfect, but admitted quickly when she was wrong and asked for forgiveness. That her mother was honest about her struggles, and didn’t take pleasure in pointing out the wrongness in everyone else, but rather chose to seek God’s change in her own life. That is what I hope my daughter will say about me some day. One thing I know I don’t want to hear, “My mom, she said she believed and she took me to church, but during the week, she wasn’t any different than anyone else. I don’t understand what good her faith really did.” Or perhaps even worse, “My mom was always talking about what was wrong with everyone. She couldn’t drive to the grocery store without complaining about all the awfulness in everyone else. Everyone was going to hell, according to her. She seemed to think she had it all together, but she was the only one who couldn’t see herself as she really was.” I can’t think of which scenario terrifies me more.

 
God, help me avoid both extremes and find balance within your grace. Let my life be something my daughter wants to emulate, not because she admires me, but because she wants to emulate You, who she sees in me.

 
Be careful how long you choose to sit on that fence, the wedgie gets worse the longer you let it go on, and the results are far more painful for both you and the ones you love most. Choose today who you will serve, and pray for the will to do it with all your heart, mind, and soul.

 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” (1 John 3:18-19, NIV)

“With my whole heart have I sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10, NKJV)

“Make me walk along the paths of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” (Psalm 119:35, NLT)

 

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See also CHOICES PART 1: Freedom to Choose

 
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

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Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 7)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 7)

 Rebuking the Devil

11. Deadness

“They think he has leukemia,” my heart stopped as a lump formed in my throat. The news seemed, well, unbelievable, “How can that be?! He’s only thirty years old,” I responded to my sister. But deep down something in me just knew. My brother-in-law was going to die. And in fact, less than a year later he passed away. His death was an awful thing to witness. It challenged my faith and even some of my moral convictions. I left the hospital only hours before his last breath, but that final day was dreadful. I’m not even sure what was worse: watching his chest rise and fall awkwardly, or hearing the wails and cries of his mother and sisters who wept as those with no hope. As much as I loved him and would miss him, I prayed for God to take him quickly during those final, torturous hours. The only comfort came in knowing he was leaving his pain and entering the eternal rest of Jesus’ arms.

But it almost didn’t work out that way.

In the minutes after receiving that first phone call, my world began to change as I wrestled with the way I had lived my life and how my choices could have directly affected the eternity of my brother-in-law. He knew I claimed to be a Christian, he knew I was raised in church, he knew what I said I believed, but he also knew that my actions were the exact opposite of everything I had been taught. In fact, it was only a few months after my “prodigal return” to Jesus that I found out he was sick.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, I fell to my knees in prayer for his salvation. He was not saved, he did not know Jesus, and frankly, I couldn’t blame him with the type of Christian examples he had in his life! Unfortunately, this scenario plays out all too often in many families. We find out a loved one is sick, we worry over their soul; we pray for their salvation, we cry out to God in desperation for their physical healing. But where were we and our prayers before we found out about their illness? Tragically, many of us were Christians whose faith was dead.

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (James 2:17, NIV). The Greek rendering for “dead” in the passage is literally, “like a corpse”. It’s like a body without a soul—it’s an empty shell, completely ineffective.**

When I started to witness to my brother in law, he was skeptical to say the least. Sure I had “repented” and been going back to church for a few months, but the whole of my life (as far as what he knew) was nothing but a giant hypocrisy. What was so great about the God I was reflecting in my life? Why should he want that? And now here I was pleading with him to accept Christ before it was too late. Maybe I should have thought about that, oh, say ten years earlier when I was chasing the lusts of the flesh.

In the end, after much prayer and witnessing (and yes, much confession and asking of forgiveness) my brother-in-law did accept Jesus as his Savior before he lost the ability to communicate. I’ll never forget one of the last things he said to me as his face radiated peace during those final days, “I’m going to be with Jesus! I’m going to Heaven!” I had no doubt about his eternal security, but man, that was close! Too close! And for many, sadly, the story does not have a happy ending.

Spiritual deadness is merely the result of spiritual dullness left unchecked. Living as a complacent, lukewarm believer eventually leads to an ineffective faith. What the world needs to see is Christians practicing what they preach (love, grace, mercy, forgiveness), and exuding the peace that passes all understanding in their daily lives. When we choose sin over obedience, self over surrender, and bondage over freedom, our behavior will absolutely reflect those choices—and our choices will affect other people. It may even affect their eternity.

“To suffer deadness is to forget Revelation 3:1,

‘To the angel of the church of Sardis write: “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”’”¹

Our lives are ravaged with trial, suffering, and pain, but that doesn’t mean we should lose hope, abandon our faith, and walk away from God when circumstances don’t turn out the way we’d like. A lot of times our spiritual estrangement is a result of an “entitlement” mentality. We believe God “owes” us a certain way of life, and when He fails to meet our expectations we get angry with Him and rebel. I plead with you to take caution with such an attitude. Satan will tempt us to think our influence doesn’t really matter, or that our choices aren’t hurting anyone else, but that is a lie from the pit. Our spiritual freedom matters, our faith matters, and it matters not only for you and me, but for our families and friends, and anyone we come in contact with in our daily lives. The bank tellers, the grocery store clerks, the other drivers on the road (ever see a crazy driver with a Jesus fish or church sticker on their car?)—our decision to choose to pursue truth and live by it matters to the world.

If you’ve struggled with a dead (ineffective) faith, please pray this prayer out loud, “Jesus, my attitude, actions, and choices do not always align with your truth. In the name of Jesus I now choose to believe what your word says about me, and how you see me, and I reject the lie that my choices and behavior do not matter and won’t hurt anyone else. Give me a heart that is willing to walk by faith while boldly rejecting what is false. When I trusted you as my Savior, you made me alive in righteousness and dead to sin, now create an experience in my life that reflects that position of freedom. Help me live every day as one dead to sin and alive unto righteousness. Thank you for your forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. I choose to reject the voices of condemnation and embrace your word of truth that says simply, ‘Go, and sin no more.’² In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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  1. Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.
  2.  See John 8:1-11
  3. **Before you send me angry emails or attempt to post argumentative comments, I know this verse is often used to prove that one needs works in order to be “truly” saved. But without getting into a theological debate, I will merely state this: in relation to the whole of God’s word and contextual interpretation, I do not believe this verse says faith without works is not a “saving faith”. In fact, if it did, it would contradict many other passages and examples of “carnal” Christians in the Bible. (And that’s as much as I care to comment on this subject. This post is NOT intended to be a doctrinal debate on soteriology!)

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(To review the previous Deadly Ds of the devil, simply click on the “D” of your choice:

#1—Disappointment; #2—Discouragement; #3—Despair; #4—Doubt; #5—Disbelief; #6—Distraction; #7—Double-mindedness; #8—Dishonesty; #9—Deceit; #10–Dullness)