I’m reading through Ezekiel, and if I’m honest, I have to say the OT prophets are not my favorite Scriptures to read. Every time I read through those judgment Scriptures I realize how close to the line our culture plays – hanging on to Christian traditions with one hand while partnering with those things that have no place in God’s kingdom.
I remember questions along this line from members of my youth group so many years ago. “Can you do THIS (insert activity) and still be a Christian?” OR “How many times can you do THIS and still be a Christian?” The retreat speaker would always say something like, “Why is your desire to get as FAR from God as you can get and still be “safe”? Why not rather desire to be as CLOSE to Him as you can get?”
I think it was Chuck Milhuff, Nazarene evangelist, who asked why someone would want to sift through garbage for a little piece of hotdog when God offers a banquet.
This idea came up when Michael and I were talking about the tendency of Christians to dismiss the Bible themes that we don’t like, instead of seeking heart change. We fail to ask, “Lord, what would that look like in my life as an American in 2021?”
Need some examples of these hard themes? How about Sabbath keeping? I heard a speaker ask why Christians think this is the only one of the 10 Commandments it is OK to ignore. Whoa. We agree with the ones about adultery, lying, stealing, but Sabbath keeping? That’s so Old Testament! Don’t want to talk about that one? How about submission (both women and men), blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us, tithing, the discipline of renewing our minds that we might be transformed, laying down our rights for the sake of others…
Here’s the part that distresses me these days. We know unbelievers are not going to follow the Word of God. Since they have not yet recognized His love for them, it’s unreasonable for us to expect them to see that God’s ways are good and to surrender to Him.
But what of those of us who have been forgiven, set free, redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit? How can we say, I’ll follow You here, but not there, Lord? What You’re asking of me is unreasonable. Too difficult. Too outside of American culture in 2021. Too offensive. Too lonely.
Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (NIV). The New Living Translation says it this way, “Only those who ACTUALLY do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” (my emphasis).
So, here’s a challenge for all of us who call ourselves Christians. When we feel ourselves rejecting something in God’s word because we feel it’s impractical; it only applied to Old Testament times; it makes us angry; it’s too difficult – let’s instead ask our Lord to reveal His heart in the matter and to show us what it would look like to follow Him in this area – to ACTUALLY do the will of the Father. Maybe He will show us an area we need to repent of, or give us some action steps to begin moving in the direction He’s leading.
Let’s not see how close to the edge we can walk without falling off the cliff, but how closely we can follow Him.
Close enough to hear His heartbeat.
Close enough to make a difference.
Close enough so that others see Him when they see us.
Beth Marie Bearden gave her heart to Christ when she was a young teenager and soon after felt God calling her to ministry.