And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Jos 24:15)
And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. (Jos 24:21-24)
Being new covenant saints, it is easy to miss the nuggets of truth we have recorded in the old testament. Even though we as gentiles, have never been under the covenant made with Abraham or with the nation of Israel, it still deals with people in covenant relationship with God Almighty and there is much we can glean from these relationships.
The above mentioned verses once again indicates that we, who have a covenant relationship with God, do have choices. Unfortunately all those who have not come to accept his amazing grace are free only to continue in sin, but we as believers in the risen Lord, are under a covenant that gives us choice in how obedient we are to his commands. We are given the choice to become like Him by yielding to the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit or we can selectively reject many of his commands and subject ourselves to being tempted by own lusts to be drawn away from him.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. (John 8:31-35)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Rom 6:12-18)
As you can see we have the choice of who we yield to as a believer and it takes an active participation by the child of God to not continue as servants of sin. Just because we have been regenerated and brought into a restored relationship with God through confessing and repenting of our sins does not mean that we are safe from falling into sin again to the point where we loose eternal fellowship with God.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:3-4)
I realize that most people who are reading this would have no dispute in regards to understanding that we have the choice to flee from evil but many of us do not truly understand what this means. Many choose to substitute fleeing from evil with good and noble activities that they believe keep them away from these evils but the reality is that regardless how carnal or devout of a believer you are we all are subject to putting our energies into choosing whether we are going to yield to sin or to yield to the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us in right relationship before the lord. We can not circumvent making these choices by making other choices that actually are humanly good but have nothing to do with obeying his commands.
His commandment are put there as a foundation and anchor for the new covenant saint to obey and in order to obey them it actually takes a choice on our part. Ever since the fall mankind has always been in an ever continuing cycle of choosing to reject God and his commandments. So also the citizen of the kingdom has a choice to put aside his old allegiances as servants to sin or yield himself to the life changing power of the Holy Spirit.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Pet 5:8-10)
For many, what we have just written may seem obvious, and over the years it was for me, until I began to realize that my choices went far beyond that of just doctrine. They also included the everyday physical activities that I would engage in. Most of the sins that we become entrapped in are intitially physical experiences that affect our hearts and minds. As believers we have a tendency to skip over the physical sin issues of our lives because we typically do not wrestle with sins of adultery, murder, robbery, rape etc. and therefore do not place enough emphasis on the day to day things we expose ourselves to.
With the world so full of these more blatant sins we forget that they started somewhere else deep within that only eventually manifested themselves into much greater examples of sinful mankind behavior. The people that we see, know, or read about who committed these horrid acts did not become like this over night. They started with entertaining small indulgences of sin that eventually mushroomed into their evil actions that offends and outrages almost all of mankind, regardless of race, color, or religion.
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 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. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? (Jas 4:1-5)
Do we really apply the truth of what Paul writes below or?
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Php 4:8)
So how do we do this? Where do we start? There are so many commands that it is hard to know which ones to begin with. Most of us try to follow and obey the commands that affect something that is dear to our heart but usually we end up getting sidetracked into the world's method of confronting or dealing with this and we loose focus on what Christ would have us do.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luk 9:23)
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Gal 6:14)
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:16-22)
Bearing our cross is similar, but completely separate, from enduring persecution. Persecution is something that is imposed on us from others while bearing our cross is something we should be joyfully imposing upon ourselves. In every area that I have experienced picking up my cross I have found there has been some sacrifice on my fleshly carnal nature. We are also called to bear our cross on a regular basis, it is not something that we only experience occasionally. If it is just occasional then we have not gotten as serious about our faith like those who were gifted to write what is in scripture. It is this seriousness of becoming Christ like that should wholly consume the servant of the king accompanied with the presence of his joy and peace.
How serious have you been lately about making the choice to bear your cross? If you are anything like me it is difficult to find that I have spent a week with this seriousness of attitude and servanthood to the master. How often do we pursue the conveniences of the world, to the point of even the food that we eat to ensure that we do not suffer in our diet and offend our taste buds? Are we willing to live even simpler to the point where we no longer lust after certain foods requiring us to make a certain amount of money each week so we can purchase these things that bring pleasure to our tastebuds? I have found many things that grow in our garden conflict with my worldly appetite but I have been faithful to eat that which the lord provides through it. This was an active involvment on my part to die to self and I found joy in my squash, green tomato and zuchinni stir fry today that I would never have eaten before, until I began to understand that this was part of the sacrifice of living simpler in order to reduce the influences of the world on my household.
When was the last time that you evaluated the work that you are employed in? Do we make exceptions for our carnal, worldly work places because of the income it allows us to bring in so we can pretend to be obeying God's commands to provide for our families? Are we willing to have our incomes dramatically affected in such away that we are willing to walk away from these places of employment that continually challenge and compromise our relationship with God? He is not impressed with your evangelical efforts with some lost soul while you are shopping at some upscale store. He is not amused and pleased with your Christian attitude while you vainly visit the salon. He is not encouraged with your honesty at work while you are taking a Christian stand on principles that involve your work while you willing, by choice, being exposed to the sensual dress of your coworker because there is nothing you can do about it.
Does your work environment expose you to unnecessary sinful activities and such as worldly music and worldly dress that causes your ears and eyes to wander after the delights of the world? You do realize you have the choice? Can you truly say that you trust God to meet your needs and walk away from places of employment that if you sincerely prayed about are one of the areas that makes your Christian faith anemic?
The Author and Finisher of our faith is not impressed with your new vehicle that your good worldly stewardship has blessed you with that you attribute to as being from the blessings of God. He is not impressed that you share your home and meals with the impoverished while you are in debt and servant to the systems of this world. He is not impressed with your claiming that God has healed you while you just came from the world's system of prolonging life in contradiction to God's direction to go to the Elders and have them lay hands on you. He is not glad that you where able to dedicate years of your life in some seminary where you were finally able to learn his word to be an effective teacher or minister. God does not need our help in anything but to pickup our cross daily and follow him. He will do all the rest. He does not need our help, he needs our obedience. He is still in control and it is always displayed in the righteousness that is declared through the fruit of the believer that makes his choice to be pure, worshipping him in spirit and in truth.
Now I am not saying that we are to become judgmental of the world in a self righteous sort of way because this would be the very next step that Satan would love to deceive us in, in the sense that we are more righteous that the heathen. The question is how serious are you about keeping yourself spotless as the bride of Christ? We have read it many times throughout the new testament regarding his church, the bride of Christ.
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:27)
That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Tim 6:14)
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:14)
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. (2Pe 3:14)
As I journey down this path laid out before us by the first generation church I find that I come up lacking most of the time when it comes to how spotless I am. This I know is why God lead me to move my family further away from the materialistic and carnal environment that I was so much a part of before. I was so busy trying to be Christ like without dying to self and taking up my cross that I was easily persuaded to believe the lies of the devil when it came to serving God. And the lies mostly were that I was making a difference in the world because of how I lived and raised my family. The problem with this is that I can not find a verse in scripture that backs up this sort of thinking. What I can find is the scripture consistently tells me that as a believer I am given complete freedom to become like him or reject him.
I found that my carnal desire for the news, politics, entertainment, church recognition were the easier lusts to deal with but as I journey further I find that this is just the beginning for getting me to the place where God can start dealing with my heart. Christ spent most of his ministry on earth just getting people, disciples included, to a point where he could change their hearts. Are you at a point where God can deal with your heart?
If not why? Is the world to distracting? You have a choice, more so than most for those here in the U.S., to simplify your life. Many, if not most, will say it is not necessary but as of yet I see a church that's garments are polluted and stained with the lusts and cares of the world to the point where it is all but indistinguishable from the world. You will never be able to change the world, all you can be is a light or the salt, so why are you working so hard at trying to do both? It is impossible to pickup your cross in disguise, for it defies all spiritual principles.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Gal 6:7)
In closing it is my prayer that this article has encouraged you to willingly act upon fleeing the cares of this world for that is most of what bearing or cross is about. Once we do this we begin to find that we will face a different kinds of tests and temptations, and for some even persecution, but now we will be prepared for holding fast upon his truth and finishing victorious even if it were to mean death. So I leave you with the Apostle Paul's encouraging words recorded in Ephesians.
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Eph 3:16-21)
Oh that we may choose him as diligently as he chose us.