Sometimes taking responsibility for our lives means completing unfinished business. Some of us may have left a trail of broken laws and relationships’things that need addressing before moving on. Others may be burdened by debts that inhibit spiritual pursuits. Part of moving forward spiritually is to take full responsibility for wrongs done in the past.
New life in Christ doesn’t excuse past obligations or erase ongoing consequences of past sins. When the apostle Paul was in prison he led a runaway slave to Christ. But then Paul sent him back to his master’even though the slave faced a possible death penalty for his offense! Paul sent a letter back with the fugitive saying that if he had caused any harm or stolen anything that Paul would pay for it. Paul recognized that even though the slave was now a Christian and forgiven of his sins, he needed to address the wrongs he’d committed in the past.
Likewise, before you can move ahead, you must face the unfinished business of the past. This may include facing up to some cowardly behavior, crooked schemes, or quick-fix solutions to difficult problems that just didn’t work. While you can be certain that God will meet you where you are, He calls you to take responsibility for the sins that brought you to whatever circumstances you’re presently in. Once you accept ownership of your past, God will help you move ahead. But He’ll do it His way, not yours.
Okay, guys, it’s time for a Pop-Quiz. Are you ready? When an e-mail with an obviously suggestive subject appears on your computer screen, what’s your instant reaction?
- Do you feel a tug and wonder, ‘Should I open this?’
- Or is it a non-event, and with a simple click you delete the message without a hint of struggle?
If you still believe that you have the right to choose your behavior, which means you’re feeling that tug and asking: ‘Should I open this?’ You’re opening yourself to Satan’s influence. And men, he’d absolutely love to influence you and take hold of your heart and mind.
He cajoles and lies. He’ll have you thinking about minimizing the risk and how to hide what you see so you don’t notice your heart slipping ever so subtly down the slope of lust. If you don’t look out, by the time he’s finished with you, you’ll respond with: ‘Yes, I should look at it; I can handle it.’
Therein lies the power of temptation, guys. But temptation loses its power if you don’t give it the chance to even get its foot in the door. Let God’s Holy Spirit into your heart and your mind. Spend time in God’s Word and with other Christian men. If you do, you experience the transforming of your mind, affection and appetites.
Yesterday I spoke about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the difference between what he called ‘cheap and costly grace.’ Unlike Bonhoeffer, most of us probably won’t be called to martyrdom. But all of us are called to lay down our lives as living sacrifices in response to the grace given to us by our living God. All of us, in other words, are called to acknowledge that there’s a cost to Christian discipleship.
- It costs very little to attend church, join a men’s group, or go to a conference for Christian men. But it costs a great deal to come home and remain committed to following Christ when it means loving your family sacrificially.
- It costs very little to avoid pornographic magazines, videos and websites. But it costs much more to submit your mind and eyes to purity on a moment-by-moment basis.
- It costs something to send your children to Christian schools to be taught from a Christian world view. But it costs a lot more to live by example before your children’to shepherd their hearts with wisdom, consistency, strength, and compassion.
- It costs something to insist that your kids dress modestly. But it costs a lot more to help them to think and act modestly — with humility of spirit.
So, Christian man’husband’dad’where do you stand? Are you comfortable? Have you made too much peace with sin? If so, I challenge you to think about the cost of Christian discipleship, and be willing to spend what it takes to be a true disciple.