Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Running Strong, Part 2

We hear it all the time, "Don't judge me."  Yet, those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus for the salvation from their sin, are to keep one another accountable.  Why?  Because we are now a part of the family of God and that's what families do.  They love unconditionally, but they also keep their brother and sister in check on the right path. . . because they care about them.

In my last post I spoke of how we each need to be about what God has directed us to do, yet in our passion for that one thing, cannot make assumptions on others.   While true, there is another side to the coin.  As followers of Jesus Christ we are to judge one another.  (Gal. 6:1,2  John 7:24)  And in fact, we have a responsibility to speak truth to our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially if we have a relationship with them. 

The reason is bound up in the purpose for which Christ died, for "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness..."  (1 Pet. 2:24)  We are redeemed for the purpose of living in holiness, because He has "called us from darkness to light."  (1 Pet. 2:9)  If we make choices to live contrary to God's clear commands of Scripture, then it is right and good for other believers in Christ to rebuke us. 

Yet, the judgement is for the purpose of restoration, not to demean or to chase away.  Matt. 18:15 states that "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over."  That is a big "if".  It takes great humility to listen and so it is often not the rebuke that causes us to be defensive, but rather our own pride seeking its own way.  If we respond correctly to rebuke, then we are restored. 

By contrast, those who do not know Jesus as their Savior cannot be expected to live by our rules because they are not part of the family of God.  We cannot make the same type of judgements on them.  Furthermore, they do not have the power of the Holy Spirit living within them to follow God's laws such as we have.   But we, as followers of Christ, have no excuse for disobedience.  Most of the time it is not that we cannot obey God, but that we won't.  Herein lies the battle.

We need each other.  So often I isolate myself from others in self-sufficiency and pride thinking I can make it on my own, but inevitably I say the wrong things or live the wrong way.   I need the fellowship of believers to keep my heart on track.

I'm reminded of the Shepherd's staff which has a long reach, snatching me from the distant places I've gotten myself into, and drawing me back to the place I belong, near the heart of God.  How easily I veer off the path of righteousness.  I think I'm doing fairly well and the next minute I've crashed.  We need the encouragement of one another, but also the gentle nudges from other believers in Christ who keep us on the right path.

We are on the same team and to fight each other is to weaken ourselves and our effectiveness.  Those "who are spiritual should restore...gently."  (Gal. 6:1)  In our instruction, it is so easy to slip into only speaking our minds in defense of ourselves.  That verse in Galatians goes on to say that we must "watch ourselves, or you also may be tempted."  Exhortation is delicate ground to be handled only by those experienced in Christ.

That man on the track of whom I spoke of in my last post may not have known the Lord, but I think he may have been sent of God to rebuke me for my gluttony of the past weekend.  And I resisted and so got defensive over it, a sure sign that I am guilty.  And this morning as I ran, there were others out there, even someone I knew.  And because of that person, I was motivated to run just a little faster and to work a little harder than I usually do.  This reveals to me that though we do not all run the same course, we do spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Lastly, we are to "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ."  (Gal. 6:2) If I'm off doing my own thing and never concerned about that for which I cannot fulfill, then I lack compassion and understanding.  Besides the fact that God commands we "care for the orphan and widow in their distress." (James 1:27)  I cannot ignore God's commands and yet I must determine what that looks like for my own life personally and what place God would have me fill.

I do desire to "love life and see good days."  Yet, to have a good day I must "keep my tongue from evil and my lips from deceitful speech.  I must turn from evil and do good...seek peace and pursue it." (1 Pet. 3:10-11)  Each day is a new day, a clean slate that we write our lives on.  I'm praying this day will not be one of regret, but of victory. 


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