Life Isn't In Our Control
It is abundantly evident today that life isn't in our control. I saw a Facebook post today that showed the poster's innermost fears - that the world is out of control and everything in it is bad right now. I don't think that's true, but as we talked about last week, sin entered the world, and therefore bad things happen. God, however, is in control.
Psalm 81 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens. 2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
If we can't control the stars, or nature, or other people's actions - who are we? Who are we to try to make a set of rules for a life that doesn't make sense to us?
Our Emotions Change and We Don't Know the Right Thing
In Romans 7, Paul says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing." Even when we think we know the right thing we have a hard time doing it. If we base our actions on what feels right at the time, our actions (and therefore our beliefs) will continue to shift and change.
On Sunday we talked about three responses to the choice of what we do with our lives:
My Life, My Rules - When we simply live our own lives for ourselves, with no thought to our purpose or God's sovereignty and sacrifice, we live on shifting sand that leads to destruction. It sounds harsh, but I think most of us have found that living for ourselves very rarely has good results.
God's Life, My Rules - Sometimes, even when we acknowledge God and believe in Him, we still choose to live by our rules. God has a pretty clear message about that. In Revelation he says, "So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth." And Matthew 7:21 says "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." See, it's not enough to just acknowledge God. He asks for obedience.
God's Life, God's Rules - It is when we are truly submitting ourselves to God and his path that we are right with him, and therefore right in our place in the world. Obedience is an unpopular word in our society, but this is what God asks of us. Jesus says, "if you love me, you will keep my commandments." The Bible also says obedience is an act of worship (Romans 12:1) that will be rewarded (Luke 11:28).
Rules Are Not Enough
But listen, too often in our Christian history, we've gone down the road of rules without relationship. Or maybe, rules above relationship. That's also useless. Our obedience - following God's rules - should come out of relationship and love, not just a set of rules that must be followed. That is also a path to destruction - just ask the Saducees. If you are not in relationship with Jesus Christ, no amount of rules will save you. So please, please, please, start there. Don't try to follow a list of rules that you think are important first; you don't have to be "fixed" or "cleaned up" before you meet Jesus.
Further, don't add rules that aren't there, for others or yourselves. We as Christians also have a bad habit of trying to decide everyone's rules - both those that are in relationship with Christ and those that aren't. Be in relationship with Christ, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, and be hungry for the Word so that you understand what obedience to Him really means.
Did you miss Sunday's sermon? Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/MuskegonFirstWesleyan/videos/2272518576382553/