Friday, January 6, 2017

a sheep's guide away from conformity

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

"Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." This really gets to the point, doesn't it? According to God's word, Christians will be visible in how they live their lives and represent His kingdom. Scripture also tells us that false prophets (those who claim to be Christians who are really impostors working against God's plan) will also be recognizable by their own words and deeds.

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23)

Whenever I read these passages, I always ask myself these two very important questions: First, "Is the fruit of my life (my words, deeds, thoughts, actions, intentions)... is the fruit of my life good?" Good as God defines "good"? And secondly, "What truly is the will of my Father in heaven?" For I know that God's way is the only way for me to be healthy, happy and at peace forever. Yet I also know how easy it can be for my own sinful plans to selfishly take over and blindly overshadow my eyes from focusing on God's perfect will. I am fully aware of the many spiritual leaders, teachers and followers out there that proclaim Jesus as their own, but who will one day be denied and called evildoers by the Almighty Father and Judge of mankind. That is not my desire. These are not the people with whom I wish to emulate or follow... Jesus is.

So, I am wise to review these passages and assess my heart. I must consider... Am I an evildoer? To answer this question honestly, I can safely confess to my King - of course I am an evildoer, Lord! I am the worst there is. I am selfish and stubborn. I have sinned and have desired to sin. My thoughts are impure. My lips are lying. My motives are selfish. My heart is corrupt. So, how can I (or anyone else for that matter) measure up to God's commands and be certain that my fruit is recognized as "good"... that my life is in keeping with the will of the Almighty Father?

By merely looking at the depths of my own character, I already know that to live a holy life is clearly something I am incapable of accomplishing on my own. I NEED a Savior. Graciously, God has given every person the opportunity to choose His Son. To eternally follow after the One Good Shepherd who can safely lead us as His own, all be it selfish, stubborn sheep. But in His uncompromising love, God has also granted every person a choice to follow after their own way and this world's unhealthy reasoning and definition of comfort. The first choice (to choose Christ) will grant me freedom from all sin while showering me in perfect love and forgiveness forever. The second choice (to choose my own path) has promised false comfort and pleasure, and is coated with everlasting death and separation from my Maker. Hmmm. Seems like an easy choice - but our sinful nature makes it sooooo complicated.

Is the fruit of my life good? Am I following the will of the Father in heaven? The answer is not found in how one views or believes in the Good Shepherd. For even Satan and his demons believe in God.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. (James 2:19)

The answer is found in our decision to receive, repent, and follow the teaching and instruction of our Savior. Teachings that we will naturally be prone to work against in order to feed our own human nature and earthly desires... Teachings that we will try to barter against God to find an acceptable work-around. We will attempt to stretch and alter His commands to somehow work in tandem with the sin of mankind so everyone can come out of this "life on earth" thing happy. But is God happy with those who barter around the truth of His absolute, unchanging word? I think not. I think conformity to the sinful ways of this world is in direct violation of God's will and reveals the ways of those led astray by wolves disguised in sheep's clothing. Conformity is not a path that leads to righteousness or truth. We are warned against conformity in scripture.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. (1 Peter 1:14)

This "wolf" belief system of conformity will sooner or later cause us to question God. To go against His word in some subtle way. As a result, this "wolf" belief system can lead us astray from the will of our Father in heaven. By conforming, we begin to accept sin as normal and debate against what is holy. We reason: Even though God hates divorce, it must be acceptable in certain situations, right? Even though God speaks many times against homosexual relationships, surely it must be different in this day and age, right? Sure, there are numerous verses against drunkenness, but I can't believe that God wouldn't OK "boozing it up" in times of celebration, right? What about living together before marriage to make sure my partner is the right one? What about lying to protect someones life? What about aborting a baby caused by rape? What about judging our enemies who have wronged or disagreed with us? What about swearing against His Name for the sake of dramatic art? What about this or that or the other, Lord? Sin is here, so we must conform and accept it, right? We must work around it and agree that You can make an exception against Your law, Your commands, Your ways. Right?

Wrong. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is perfect and does not change. Also, God hates sin... all sin. If one person sins, it does not excuse us to alter God's plan and act out another sin. Two wrongs will never, ever make a right. If men defy God's way, it does not excuse us to nod it by because it is politically correct. And just because we may want something, does not mean that we are excused to necessarily receive it. These choices are our own path... not God's. For God hates ALL SIN. Period. He died to ultimately rid us of sin. So, we would be wise to altogether avoid it (any form or question of it) and only seek after what God loves instead.

What does God love? God loves Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, "The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." (John 16:27)

As a people, we look for loop holes. Yes, we spiritually long for the benefits of spending eternity within God's richness, but our sinful natures never tire of hungering after "self" and our own "sound reasoning"... the reasoning and sense of mankind rather than the absolute word of God Almighty.

To really follow the will of the Father... to be the good and recognizable fruit that He speaks of, we must be willing to die to ourselves, our reasoning... our work-arounds and loop holes. We must be willing to lay down our comforts and feelings and identify ALL SIN as unacceptable and unholy while trusting and following the teachings of our Redeemer. Our eternal life was bought by Christ's blood. So, if we truly accept Jesus as Lord, what He says goes. Living and loving as He sacrificially has demonstrated, we must follow Him with the willingness and submission to accept the hard absolute truths of our Almighty Father, the unpopular way... the small gate, the narrow road leading to His kingdom. I say this not in judgement against any sins from our past, but in encouragement in how to live as followers of Jesus both today and forever. I too have my own laundry list of sinful regrets. But thankfully, He has Redeemed me and is teaching me to live anew... holy in His name and mirroring His image!

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

God's ways are indeed difficult in contrast to the conforming ways of this sinful world. But we must always remember that this world is lost and dying. It is temporary and corrupt. It would be wise to spiritually invest in His eternal grace - to accept His will fully and without apology. Willfully giving over the well being of "who we are" and the meaning and bounty of our lives to the one, true Savior to prune us into His holy image. We must accept His word completely and allow Jesus to take over - no matter what man may say... no matter how we may feel or think. Christ's way is absolute. He is eternal and unchanging. He is life and health and wealth and goodness. Jesus is love alive!!! To be His sheep... to bear His perfect fruit... we must harvest His holiness in our daily lives and accept His ways over our own.

In ever decision, in every circumstance, I encourage each DW to frequently assess whose kingdom you are truly promoting when you speak on behalf of God's will. Whose way are you revealing in how you live your life? Assess if you are representing real truth or attempting to work-around and compromise His perfect word. Furthermore, I encourage each DW to take time to know the eternal words of the Creator. To hide them in your hearts. To follow the plan He has laid out for His children... honestly, openly, and sacrificially.

Sure, Jesus' way is narrow and challenging to follow on this earth. But with Him, you are able. He promises to be enough. His grace is complete and sufficient. His way is the only WAY, TRUTH, LIFE. Our lives are intended to glorify His grace. Let's strive to really KNOW HIM by remaining spiritually strong in His word - secure as a flock destined to enjoy His eternal kingdom. Let us LIVE TODAY in Christ and claim Him as our only focus... our only God. His way, His yoke, promises us freedom - eternal peace from the annoying burden of sin.

Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:25-30)

Today and everyday, I challenge you to humbly and obediently die to your "self"... to lay on God's altar all loop holes and the work-arounds that serve Satan and the ways of this sinful, desolate planet... and to make Christ your new love life - the precious Prince of Peace who is more worthy than any other person, concept, idea, thing or lifestyle! Let us not be led astray by our desires, comforts or public acceptance. Let us follow the Good, Loving Shepherd. He is everything we selfish and stubborn sheep will ever need to find our way safely home to the arms of our Almighty LOVING Father.

But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert. (Psalm 78:52)

Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. (Jeremiah 7:23; 25:5)

When Jesus saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34)

Yes Lord. Teach us. Bless us. We wish to receive and illuminate YOU ALONE. Guide us down the narrow road and lead us to everlasting LIFE IN YOUR PRESENCE! Let our short time on this earth visibly point others to know YOU! Reveal Yourself through our lives. We live to serve only You, dear Jesus! Amen!

Blessings!

~Victoria

© The Devoted Woman | Victoria Anderson

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