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Month: December 2013

The Danger of Comfort

For the past few months, I have been reading about some of the heroes of the faith, and as I read, I could not help but ask myself if I would be willing to suffer as they did for Christ. My heart ached inside me, because although I would readily say yes; I do not know as though I would. This troubled me greatly; how could I not be willing to die for the One Who gave Himself for me? It is simple really; it is too far out of my comfort zone. In today’s Christianity, we are willing to readily reject Christ if it causes us to be uncomfortable. We refuse to give up friends, music, or even padded seats for God, so why would suffering and dying for Him be any different? As I was talking to my friend about this, she made this awesome statement:

Honestly I think part of it is due to the fact that the early Christians had such a deeper love for The Lord and appreciation for what He had done for them that to deny Him just to avoid suffering was unthinkable to them. We live in such a ‘comfort zone’ mentality that we avoid anything that causes pain or makes us uncomfortable. We take God and our relationship with Him for granted, and as a result, [we] don’t think it’s a big deal to deny Him. We have it ‘easier’, but I dare say those saints of old knew Him much deeper and appreciated Him so much more than is common today. We’re willing to settle for less of Him to make our lives easier.

We are called to live the crucified life, but we refuse because it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. I once read this quote, “We have simply chosen to mix our standards with God’s standards. Since we found God’s standards too difficult, we created a mixture– something new, something comfortable, something mediocre.” In an earlier article I wrote these words, “God created us to do great things through Him, yet we settle for the mediocre. Because mediocracy is easy, and being great is hard, stretching, and challenging. We do not want to put forth the effort; therefore we choose to be comfortable. As we sit comfortably, we marvel at those doing great things when they are simply doing what God created them to do.” How sad. Instead of our most prized possession being Christ, it is comfort.

When Christ came to earth, His life was far from comfortable. Isaiah vividly describes how uncomfortable Christ’s life would be in Isaiah 53:

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

If Christ is to be our example, this is the life in which Christians are called to live. There are two ways in which we live this life. The first is being crucified. We must die to ourselves daily. When I was a junior in high school, my Bible teacher taught us about some of the heroines of the faith; to go along with this, she had us memorize this verse:

Galatians 2:20
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

I never really knew why she had us memorize this verse to go along with the women we were studying, but now I realize that the only way they were able to do the things in which they did is because they were dead, and Christ lived through them. You cannot be comfortable if you are dead.

The second way is to give God the glory in everything we do, great or small.

1Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

John 3:30
He must increase, but I must decrease.

When we are giving God the glory in our lives, and He is continually increasing while we are decreasing, our comforts will not matter to us. The only thing that will matter is Christ and that He is glorified. A.W. Tozer wrote in his book The Crucified Life:

The worth of any journey can always be measure by the difficulties encountered along the way. The more difficult the journey, the more satisfying the destination. I have been thinking of the crucified life as a journey. It has a beginning, of course, but the end is never this side of glory. Not many Christians consider themselves strangers ‘within a foreign land.’ But that is exactly what we are if we are Christians. If we have begun the journey and are living the crucified life, this world certainly is not our home. That is why we should never be comfortable in this life.
Some people have been misinformed about the Christian life and living the crucified life. For some reason, they think that it is an easy path. They believe that God will take away all their problems and difficulties and that they will be able to love their lives without any kind of distraction or disturbance. As everybody who has traveled knows, such is not the case. If your journey is not cluttered with difficulties and hardships and burdens, you just might be on the wrong path.
It is impossible to read the Bible and not see that every man and woman of God faced some extreme difficulties and troubles. Church history is also filled with stories of the struggles that believers have had, even beyond what the martyrs of the Church faced.
Allowing yourself to be put in such a position that God is exalted is the goal of living the crucified life. When you allow God to be exalted in your difficulties, you will be in the perfect position to smell the sweet fragrance of His presence.

God wants to conform you into His image, but He cannot do so without taking you out of your comfort zone. It will not be easy living the comfortless life, but it will worth it in the end. Someone once said that we are closest to God when we are furthest from our comfort zone. Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort so that you can be closer to Him, that you can know Him, and that you can be conformed into His image?

Philippians 3:10
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Be Careful; Your Passion is Showing.

Have you ever met someone who is truly passionate about something? It is incredible; is it not? What is even more incredible is the fact that their passion is contagious. When you get around someone who is passionate, you want to be passionate as well. The funny thing about passion is it reveals itself over time whether or not you want to show it. Your passion or lack thereof reveals who you truly are. So, be careful; your passion is showing.

Passion is an ardent love for something. It is what drives a person; more simply put it is the “why” behind everything we do. If a life was written as a paper, the person’s passion would be their thesis statement. Everything in the paper is there to do one thing: prove the thesis. From one’s main passion come hundreds of other passions that support the overall passion.

I have been around passionate people my whole life, but the first person whose passion ever caught my eye was a student teacher. To be honest, her passion weirded me out. I could not understand it at all. She did everything with an unbelievable passion. I remember once she decorated the classroom, and it was insane. I could not help but thinking you are just a student teacher; you do not have to go all out. But she did, and she went all out in everything, in every big task, and in every small task. Whatever I watched her do, she did it passionately. As I got to know her better over the years, I realized that her passion was not for these tasks, but rather her passion was to know God. Her passion to know God led her to have a love for God. This love for God gave her a passion to please God and serve Him in any way that she could which was displayed in her passion in her simple deeds. A.W. Tozer once said, “Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.” She realized that she could find God in her simple acts of obedience; therefore, she did them with passion, and her passion showed.

The next person whose passion just stooped me was a teacher of mine. From the first moment I met her, her passion for history was evident. She loves it, and her love for history makes me love history. Although her passion for history is abundantly evident, it is not what caught my eye. It was when she prayed. Every time she prayed in class, I felt like I was out of place like I was interrupting a private conversation between her and God. I remember thinking that although she loved history, she loved God even more. Her passion showed. She has taught me so much, but one day she told me this, and I have never forgotten it: Passion is everything.

I believe that there are three main things in which we can be passionate about: Ourselves, The World, or God.

1.We can be passionate about Ourselves.

In today’s culture our image is everything to us. How we appear in society has become a common passion. We spend much of our time, money, and effort on us. We love ourselves. An example of someone who had a passion for themselves was Judas Iscariot. He appeared to follow Christ and have a passion for Christ, but rather, he had a passion for himself and his own advancement, and in the end, his passion showed. But his passion showed in areas throughout his following of Christ. One example of this is found in John 12:4-6, “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” Although he said his passion was one thing, his true passion for himself came to light. His advancement was the reason behind everything he did. It is easy to become as Judas did. It is easy to give into our desires and our advancements, but we must remember what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The only way not to be passionate about yourself is to be dead to self and alive in Christ.

2.We can be passionate about The World.

This is very similar to being passionate about ourselves, but it has its differences. Being passionate about the world is really being passionate about meaningless, temporal things. It is being passionate about things that will not last whether it is sin, sports, people, or stuff; it being passionate about things that do not count for eternity. The Bible tells us of Demas in 2 Timothy 2:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica;” Although Demas said his passion was for the things of Christ, his passion eventually showed; he had a passion for this world. James 4:4 tells us, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” And 1 John 2:15 says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Over and over again, the Bible explains to us that having a passion for this world is to be the enemy of God.

3.We can be passionate about God.

This should be every Christians passion. Christ should be our passion and guide for everything we do. His love should move us to love. His commandment should be heeded by us. His words should give us life. He should be everything to us. When I think of people who are passion it about God in the scriptures I cannot help but think of David and Paul. The Psalms are filled with David’s passion for God. He wrote in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” He later wrote in Psalm 63:1, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;” And again in Psalm 84:2, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” He wrote over, and over, and over again about his passion for God, but he not only wrote of it, he lived it. In 1Samuel 1, David reveals his passion for God in his famous words, “Is there not a cause?” Later in the passage in verses 45-47, he continues to show his passion for Christ, “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands.” When David’s passion was God, it was displayed in everything he said or did, but when he lost his passion for God, the cost was great.

The next person I think of for having a passion for God is Paul. He wrote in Philippians 3:7-10, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” His passion to know God caused him to do things he would not normally do, value things he would not normally value, suffer things he would not normally suffer; but he was willing to because he wanted Christ and was willing to do whatever he could to know Christ.

A passion for God will conform us into His image. It will go against what is normal to us. It will cause us to do things we would not normally do. His love for us will drive us to love others. His mercy will cause us to be merciful. His forgiveness will cause us to forgive. A true passion for God will change you.

What is your passion? Do you have a passion for yourself, for the world, or for Christ? Passion is everything; therefore, you had better have the right one, and be careful; your passion is showing, and it contagious.