*I do not own the copyrights to the above photo*
Romans 12:1-2 (CEV)
"My Christian friends, God has been very kind to us. Because of that, I really want you to serve God with your whole life. Offer your bodies to him like a sacrifice that continues to live. Serve him with everything that you have and that will please him. That is the true way to worship God.
Do not become like the people who belong to this world but let God completely change the way that you think, so that you live differently. Then you will understand what God wants you to do. You will know what is good. You will know what pleases God. You will know what is completely right."
If I were to ask you if you resemble people in the world, you will quickly answer "No"! You will also let me know that you are a Christian, blood bought, and fear the Lord God. Praise God for that! But I'd like to share some of the ways we Christians are resembling the world. Conformity doesn't always come in the form of the 'big things' or 'bad things'. Sometimes it comes in more subtle ways.
Let me preface my remarks by saying that technology has been helpful and useful, and I appreciate all that it helps me to do that I couldn't have done years ago. The downside to technology is that it has introduced, those of us who participate by having its devices, to great distractions and has made us mentally lazy at times. What do I mean by this? For example, I get more You Tube videos with religious messages than ever. Are they good? Profitable? They can be at times, but I'd much rather that individual pick up the phone and share a word with me that the Lord has laid on their hearts. That's where the power lies, that's the life changing stuff that impacts my heart, my mind and my soul. While the You Tube video is someone else's thoughts given to them by God and flows through cyberspace over and over again. Some believers think that this is the way to go when trying to encourage someone. They may even feel as though sharing these videos allows them to share fellowship and is counted as service to God.
I don't think God had social media tools in mind when He commanded us to encourage one another and edify one another in spiritual things. We cannot use the excuse of a Pandemic because this has been going on long before Covid-19 struck. Have we become lazy as Christians? Are we sitting in His presence, hearing His voice daily and enjoying fellowship with God? If so, why are we resorting to online video messages primarily as a way to pass along God's thoughts?
We have conformed to the ways and practices of the world whether we want to believe it or not. Many of us don't even communicate by hearing the other person's voice on the phone. We send a text instead. We call that 'keeping in touch', 'checking in', 'talking to' or 'hearing from'. This is not what God calls fellowship. Many of us don't have people over for dinner like we use to or make time for getting together. Bible study groups have lessened and dwindled. What I noticed that has increased majorly over the years has been group travels. While nothing is wrong with traveling with groups of friends; it's important to have down time, we seem to make time for it, plan for it, and it's on some of our must do list.
Technology is useful as I said earlier, but when it gets to the point where we are inseparable from our cell phones and are impacted by clicks and likes on social media or checking in regularly to see who is paying attention to our posts, that's conforming to the world by way of our behavior. When it gets to the point where we are following all the social media advice on how to sell our product, or how to get noticed, find the right circles, or how to get more clicks, we have conformed to the ways and practices of the world.
The ways of the world will cause us to ignore God and the things He has given us to do. Our occupation will be so consumed by investing in Bit coins and Cryptocurrency. Satan has devised these things to occupy the minds and hearts of people to the point where there is no thought of God. Christians are getting caught up with the same mentality. Satan is hoping to distract us and make us invest in things that will bring us wealth and prosperity. Little by little we will find ourselves trusting in these things and not in the Lord and the promises of His Word.
The perspective of Christians is changing more and more. Many are turning from the God of the Bible to the God of this world. The falling away is in full swing. Individuals who once believed and served God are now walking away from spiritual things. Even believers are failing to invest in the care of other believers as they ought. The phone calls have stopped, but if there is something to criticize or put one in the position to give advice, you may get an isolated phone call from them. This is not what God had in mind when He gave us the following scriptures:
John 13:34-35 "Love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another." This cannot be done via You Tube videos or texting. What are unbelievers observing from you?
Romans 12:10 "Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor." This is a sincere and pure love that involves being around one another, helping one another, when need be, praying for one another and interacting with one another.
Philippians 2:4 "Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." Are we spending enough time around one another to know what the other needs?
Galatians 5:13 "Carry one another's burdens." Are we praying together? Do we have prayer partners?
1 Peter 4:9 " Be hospitable to one another without complaining." It's important to get together for home Bible study, and fellowship. Merely socializing isn't going to help anyone spiritually. Use Zoom for Bible study to edify one another.
There are many scriptures that speak to the things we should be conforming to. God intended that in renewing our minds, we would think more in terms of what pleases Him and what builds His kingdom not Satan's. Let us re-evaluate how we're doing what we're doing and make the necessary changes that will honor God.
Are You Standing Out?
"The weak you have not strengthened, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them."
What a sad picture of the extent of where things got to in Israel, among the Lord's people. The scripture goes on to say, "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth and no one was seeking or searching for them" (Ezekiel 34: 5-8).
What is the spiritual work of a shepherd, also known as an overseer, or spiritual leader in the local church/assembly? The spiritual work of a shepherd is to feed the flock, strengthen the weak, bind up the wounds of the broken and to go after the sheep who have wandered away.
There were shepherds in Israel who failed to do this. These shepherds were acting as though the sheep personally belonged to them. They were neglectful of the flock. The sheep belong to God. 1 Peter 5:2-3 says, "Shepherd the flock of God, which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." These shepherds were unfaithful and lacked concern for the flock.
In Israel some of these shepherds used coercion, forms of manipulating the sheep, threatening them which is cruelty at best. As a result, God pronounced punishment as a judgement against them via the mouth of the prophet, Ezekiel (during the Babylonian captivity).
What does that look like in our time? We have some of the same failings among the people of God where the sheep are concerned. There are shepherds who are ungodly shepherds. They neither risk nor sacrifice themselves for the sheep. They may even act as though the sheep belong to them and they can respond to them or not respond to them as they please. Some shepherds feed themselves and not the flock and for this God says He will hold them responsible for such actions.
But here is a most blessed word from God himself. He says, "I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. I will feed them in good pasture, I will feed them and make them lie down. I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick;" (Ezekiel 34:11-16). Praise the Lord God for this!! Yes, this right here!!
How many instances have sheep among the flock been neglected.? Their bleating's gone unheard, and their brokenness ignored broke the heart of God. And what about the sheep that went astray? Sometimes sheep are fickle and silly like that, they get separated from the flock and wander off. They become distracted. Who goes after them? Who tries to find them? And beloved, what about the ones who were driven away? Who even cared to bear their concerns or to hear them out? Who tried to sit down with them for God's sake? Is God disturbed by this? Yes, He is! The sheep belong to God, and He expects the shepherds, the overseers, the leaders to care for His sheep. So, what happens when there is failure in this matter? What does God do about it?
God goes after the sheep and rescues them from whatever situations they're in! This is so precious to me because I have firsthand experience with The Good Shepherd, The Good Shepherd who didn't rest at just giving His life for me. He continued to shepherd me. Praise The Lord! For He, He alone, not only came after me as a wandering sheep, He, on another occasion bound up my wounds and provided good pasture for me to feed in.
Let all who assume positions in the church as shepherds, leaders, and overseers take this very seriously; sheep belong to God, and He expects you to risk and sacrifice for them when need becomes evident. God expects that none of His sheep will be abandoned, ignored, or neglected for any reason. God loves and cherishes His flock of sheep, and He expects that you will do the same. God's sheep are priceless and hold much value in His eyes. No sheep are insignificant, useless, or not needed. There is no respect of persons when it comes to God and His sheep.
May God help us to love and value what He loves and values, and remember, we must give an account of how we handle the Lord's people!
"I may be able to speak different languages that people or angels speak. But that is worth nothing if I do not love other people. I would only be making a loud noise, like someone who hits a piece of metal. I may be able to speak messages from God. I may understand all God's secret things and know all facts. I may have great faith so that I trust God enough to move mountains. But I am nothing if I do not love others. I may give all my things to help poor people. I may let other people take my body to burn it. But that would not help me if I do not love others."
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (EASY)
Are we noise makers in the ears of others; always having a bible verse to apply to everyone's situation? Do we go around spouting biblical knowledge and feeling proud of ourselves as we hear our own voices? Are you and I simply just a bible toting Christian without empathy, patience, and understanding? Do others feel loved by us?
It has been the habit of some to lean so heavily on the doctrinal side of things and forget that the example the Lord showed, when He walked this earth, was one of humility, grace, and empathy for others. The Lord came to give the knowledge and much needed information concerning God, His father, along with the Good News of Salvation. His message was not void of empathy. He brought also the Social Gospel, the one that fed the people, clothed the people and healed the people. Jesus met the everyday needs of people and that made His doctrine all the more impactful.
Are we sensitive to the needs of others or are we only interested in our own things? Are we prideful and boastful of our spiritual gifts and abilities and want to put them on display as often as possible? Any 'Yeses' to these questions means that we are 'Clanging Cymbals'; we are noise makers in the ears of others. We are also hypocrites because the words we speak do not match the way we handle and treat others. We see others as merely audience members who we want to look up to us while we look down on them.
If we love people, we will be patient with them. We will encourage them every opportunity we get because we want to see them thrive and grow, becoming more like Christ. If we love people, we will be kind. Jealousy would never enter the picture. We will put their interests and concerns above our own. There would be no interest or desire to please ourselves. We wouldn't be quick to become angry neither would we be glad when something bad happens to them, instead we would weep with them in times of sadness and rejoice with them in times of happiness (vs. 4-7).
There is an old saying that states, "People don't care how much you know, they only want to know how much you care." God is telling us by way of these scriptures, that if love isn't the motive behind the use of our gift, we are not being impactful at all. People eventually will want us to shut up, sit down and be quiet. Clanging cymbals grate on the ears and create headaches. The sound is annoying and aggravating to say the least.
Let's look within ourselves and search our hearts to see if the real reason behind what we do is laced with love or pride. Love or look at me. Love or I'm great. Love or jealousy. Love or envy. Love or the need for attention. Love or I need to fill a void within me.
Are you a CLANGING CYMBAL?