Other Lovers

Friday, April 12, 2013, 10:44 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song “Follow Him” in mind. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read Ezekiel 14 (NIV): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2014&version=NIV.

John and Jane

John and Jane were in love, so they married each other. They vowed (promised) to love, comfort, honor and keep each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health from this day forward, forsaking all others, and to be faithful only to each other so long as they both would live. John kept his vows without fault. Jane did not. At first maybe she did, but in time “other lovers” began to attract her attention, and she began to seek after them. The more these “other lovers” began to grab her attention and time, the more she withdrew from her husband John. She barely had time for him anymore, and even when they were together, her mind was obviously elsewhere. She told him she loved him, and she even did nice things for him here and there to try to prove her love for him, but her heart was not his. It belonged to her “other lovers.” And, it was obvious to John.

Yet, John loved his wife dearly. He wanted very much for their marriage to work. He also cared very much about her life, and he knew that going after “other lovers” not only was hurting their marriage, but she was hurting herself and others in the process. She would never be at peace this way, because she was going outside the will of God for herself and for their marriage, and she was resisting those God-given boundaries intended for her protection, joy, peace and harmony. So, he spoke to her often, in love, gently and tenderly counseling, encouraging, imploring, pleading and calling her to give up her “other lovers” and to come back to him and to make him her only lover. Yet, she continued to pursue her “other lovers.” Time and time again he would speak to her, gently calling her back to himself, offering full pardon (forgiveness) and restoration, and offering to work with her and to help her in any way he could so she could turn and return, but to no avail.

The Vows

Jesus Christ loved us so much he died on the cross for our sins so we could go free from slavery to sin and so we could be free to love, honor, worship and obey him, and to walk in fellowship with him, and in harmony with his will for our lives, which is what we were created for. God the Father then drew us to Christ and invited us to accept his gift of salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. He was perfectly clear on what it meant to have faith, too. It is a lot like the type of marriage vows that “John and Jane” took with each other. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny (disallow) himself (his self-life) and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him (see Lu. 9:23-25). It is an exclusive relationship. It is a life-time commitment. It is a vow of fidelity, faithfulness, love, honor and forsaking all other lovers as long as we live. Jesus’ first sermon was “Repent and believe the good news, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (see Mk. 1:15; Lu. 13:3). He also said that if we love him we will obey him (see Jn. 14:23-24).

Yet, there are those who would teach that coming to faith in Jesus Christ involves nothing on our part other than an obscure “faith,” which often comes across as an emotional decision or an intellectual assent to who Jesus is, what he did for us, and of our need for him, and perhaps even acknowledging that we are sinners and that we need salvation. Yet, they leave out the required components of repentance and obedience from the true meaning of faith, which then nullifies the whole idea of what it means to be saved from sin.

Jesus didn’t die just so we could go to heaven one day, even as wonderful as that will be. He died to set us free from slavery to sin daily while we still live on this earth, and he died so we could walk in faithful obedience to him, fully surrendered to his plans, will and purposes for our lives. He died so we could have fellowship with him and with the Father, i.e. that we have a marriage with Christ built upon Christ’s faithfulness, but with a heart response to his love that reveals a desire to be faithful to him above all else, too. Yet, we don’t serve and obey him of our own willpower and strength; doing things that we think will please God all the while we continue to follow “other lovers.” God’s grace gives us the strength and power of the Spirit within us to be able to turn from our sins and to walk in faithful obedience to Jesus Christ, fulfilling our marriage vows to him as our only lover.

Idols in our Hearts

Yet, just like Jane, in the story above, many who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord (master) and Savior of their lives, i.e. as their only “lover,” have gone after “other lovers,” and have separated themselves from God in heart, mind, behavior and attitude. In place of God as their husband and true love, they have set up idols in their hearts. An idol is anything in our lives that separates us from our marriage vows to God/Christ. In other words, anything in our lives that takes priority over God, and that has our heart, mind, will and attention above or in place of God is potentially an idol, i.e. is “another lover.” If we could just think of our relationship with Jesus Christ as a marriage relationship, which it is, and we could imagine him, in reality, as either our husband or wife, depending upon whether we are male or female, and we could then give careful thought and consideration to the time, attention and heart we give to God/Christ in comparison to other things, I believe God will help us to see the “other lovers” in our lives that need to be removed.

Wicked Stumbling Blocks

Not only does this passage of scripture speak to the issue of idols we have set up in our hearts, but it also speaks of the wicked stumbling blocks we put before our faces. Think about that with me for a moment. What are some “wicked stumbling blocks” that you or I put daily before our faces? A stumbling block, to me, is anything that has the potential of leading us to stumble in our walks with the Lord, i.e. which leads us to sin.

I can think of many that were in my life previously, and with which some of you may identify. TV shows, or in particular movies were my downfall before. It is amazing to me now to see how subtle messages of temptation to sin are weaved into TV programs and movies, even in ones we think are “innocent.” Have you noticed a trend in “romantic” movies which generally depicts a romantic relationship between people who are married to other people? Romance is thus pictured as going after what we know is not ours to attain. And, have you noticed that “romance” and “love” are often equated with physical attraction and sex? And, have you noticed how they often picture marriage relationships in a bad light, but “affairs” in a good light? – Faithfulness as antiquated, but infidelity as progressive? – Marriage as boring and dull, but extramarital affairs as exciting and exhilarating?

There are all kinds of “wicked stumbling blocks” that we may put before our faces in this day and age when so much of what we do involves the internet, TV, video games, and/or smart phones and the like. We are continually putting before our faces all kinds of potential for “wicked stumbling blocks” if we do not exercise precaution, wisdom, discernment and put the necessary guards and restrictions in place for ourselves. Yet, this is not limited to just the temptations that may come across our faces on TV, in movies or on the internet, either. We need to avoid all areas of temptation, especially in our known areas of weakness where we have given into temptation before, especially if we have battled with any kind of addictions to any type of “wicked stumbling blocks” before our faces previously. The Bible says, and for good reason, to take heed if we think we stand, lest we fall. We should not tempt ourselves by permitting “wicked stumbling blocks” to come before our faces. We should flee all areas of temptation, resist Satan and draw near to God.

Repent, Turn and Renounce!

“Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!’”

God is calling out to us, his children, his church, to repent of our idols and the wicked stumbling blocks we put before our faces. To repent means not to just stop the bad things we are doing, but it means to have a complete change of heart and mind toward our sin, and it means to turn back to following Christ Jesus in faithfulness, obedience, and in surrender to his will for our lives. We can feel sorry for our sin, and feel badly that we sinned again, and we can even work hard at not giving in to those specific sins again, but without a change of heart and mind of the Spirit of God away from those sins and toward faithfulness and surrender to Jesus Christ out of love for him and desire for him only, chances are we will eventually return to our mud. We need to turn and return. We need to be transformed. But we also need to daily put off the misdeeds of the flesh, dying daily to sin and self, walking in the Spirit of God, and daily being purified of all unrighteousness. And, this involves getting rid of all “wicked stumbling blocks” before our eyes, too.

To renounce something means to reject it; to relinquish, abandon, forsake and desert it. This is radical! We can’t play with sin! We can’t toy with temptation. We can’t allow just a little poop in our brownies thinking it will be ok, because it was only a little bit bad. This reminds me of a job I had previously where I was being asked to participate in some illegal practices. I confronted my boss with the fact that what she was asking me to do was illegal. Her response back to me was, “It is just a little bit illegal!” That is like saying, too, that we should prosecute only the “illegal” aliens who are committing crimes. Isn’t the act of doing something illegal a crime? Or, it is like saying, “It is just a little bit sinful.”

Yet, that leads me to one of our biggest problems today with this whole area of not putting “wicked stumbling blocks” before our faces. We rationalize that if it only has a little bad in it that it is ok, because the overall entertainment value of it exceeds the “little poop” or the “little bit illegal” or the “little bit of sin” that we allow for the “greater good.” May that never be! Sin is sin! And, we need to take it seriously!!

Follow Him / An Original Work / February 21, 2013

Based off Luke 9:22-25

Jesus, Son of God,
Died for us on a cross.

Anyone who would come to Him
Must deny himself and follow.
He must take up his cross daily;
Die to sin and self each day.

Father, God above,
Loved us so: gave His Son.

If you want to save your old life;
Keep on sinning, follow your ways,
You will lose your life forever;
Hope of heaven gone away.

Spirit of our God
Gives us life in God’s Son.

Nonetheless, if you die to self;
Forsake your sin; follow Jesus,
You will live with God in heaven,
And forever praise His name!