Summary: In times of anti-Christian sentiment in our society, let us ask God to grant us the strength to exercise Christian disciplines to do the right things for the right reasons.
DISCIPLINED LIVING COMES NATURALLY TO MATURE BELIEVERS
Long ago the psalmist said poetically what you and I have learned as the years have gone by: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
The Apostle John put it more succinctly than anyone: “We know that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is Son of God and Savior of the world, God dwells in him and he in God.”
Obviously, where we dwell is of utmost importance to our spiritual existence - not only in the here and now but also in the hereafter.
“In Christ” was Paul’s favorite designation of the Christian’s dwelling place in this life - mine too, and hopefully yours.
Therefore, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus . . . All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Now:
What is it that mature Christians have already attained? Disciplined living! It just comes naturally to mature kingdom dwellers! In Christ we have mastered the discipleship requirement of motive. Whatever we respond to, do, act upon tends to occur instinctively and, more often than not, turns out to be the right response, deed, way to go about it.
To get to the mature level which we have attained, question: Whose instructions have we heeded, whose example have we followed in order to behave in a manner that is pleasing unto God and in order to relate to others in a way that elicits from them a sincere desire to know Christ whom to know is life eternal? Let me answer that question this way:
A hundred years ago, Rufus McDaniel penned the text and composed the tune to a hymn which pretty much says it all about the who and how of our spiritual transformation: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!”
Jesus walked up a hillside and, when the people gathered around Him, He preached a Sermon that laid out for His followers how to live a life true to Him.
About mid-way through the Sermon He zeroed in on the fundamental principle of motive – a principle that underlies all of His teachings: “Be cautious about doing the right thing for the wrong reason!”
He developed this principle by citing three Jewish practices that had been given top priority by Rabbis, scribes, and Pharisees – giving, praying, fasting: Matthew 6:1-4 . . . 6:5-8 . . . 6:16-18 . . .
Jesus took these three orthodox practices (laws) and, rather than destroy them, shed light on their intended purpose and real meaning. You might say that Jesus took that which came naturally, routinely, ritualistically and lifted it to a higher level of understanding and personal application.
What is it that comes naturally to us humans from childhood to adulthood?
Desire for attention and approval? “Watch me” . . . “Look at me” . . . secret desire for popularity, even if has to take the nonconformity route . . . that old “What will the neighbors think” hang-up that a lot of folks have –like the British Lady Hyacinth on that TV show Keeping Up Appearances.
Well, on the surface, there may be times when we ought to be concerned about what people think - IF for the right reason – not the false motive of a fella who facetiously made the remark, “I know I’m supposed to be humble, but what if no one notices?” Wrong reason!
Eugene Patterson (The Message) paraphrased it this way: “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good, so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t do it to call attention to yourself.”
Folks: Whose opinion of you really matters? Jesus said: “I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.” YET Jesus also said, “Let your light so shine . . .”
What is the difference between “Let your light so shine” and “Seek not to please oneself”? It has to do with right versus wrong motive. A right motive says, “I see that need and I’m gonna do something about it. It’s the right thing to do.” Why do mature Christians think and act that way? We are kingdom dwellers!