Ahh…the much sought after “spiritual high”! The amazing spiritual experience I chased for a good decade of my life. Do you know what I’m talking about? When you go to a retreat or conference, and are just overwhelmed with the unexplained“feeling” that makes you cry and share inspirational spiritual stories with everyone around you?
When is the last time you experienced a spiritual high?
There is no shortage of inspirational moments in our lives from which we can get one. Passionate speakers, thought provoking quotes on Facebook, an awesome lesson in Sunday School, a moving praise and worship session, etc.. But why is it that so few of these moments actually lead to real life change?
Christians are not short on guidance, we are short on obedience.
Let’s face it, no matter how much something has an impression on us when we first hear it, there is no guarantee that our lives are going to change because of it. How often have we experienced a spiritual high and gotten all fired up, but then turned around and did absolutely nothing with it to change our lives?
In my own life, I spent a lot of time listening to Christian music, reading Christian books, and being as involved as I could possibly be in spiritual things. I was able to fill myself up with knowledge about God and the Bible, but I saw that without obedience to the truths that were being revealed to me, there was not a lot of change in my life. I wasn’t doing anything to apply the lessons I was learning in any way. I felt good hearing them and acknowledged the truth behind them, but that was about as far as it went.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
For those of us who have been Christians for many years, consider all the different lessons we are able to recall, but wind up ignoring ourselves. Everything ranging from living righteously and letting go of sin, loving others, seeking intimacy with God through prayer, gaining godly wisdom through Bible study, forgiving others…we know that we are supposed to be doing all these things. It is staggering how much godly knowledge we have stored up without making any effort to apply it to our lives.
Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy. (James 1:22-25)
It is interesting that James says that when we listen and do nothing, we are fooling ourselves. Many believers enjoy feeling inspired, but it’s rare that the inspiration leads to anything godly in their lives, yet there is still some momentary satisfaction in it.
Why do we selectively choose to honor some teachings and not others, do we serve a God who has a history of giving bad advice or has proven himself to be untrustworthy? Of course not! Also, what goes through our heads to make us think we know better than God when it comes to anything?
We don’t follow what we are taught because we don’t want to, especially when there are no immediate consequences for disobeying. It’s a simple equation, when we think nothing bad will happen if we violate God’s laws, we are most likely going to do what seems most beneficial to us at the time
The simple fact is that many Christians accept God for his love, forgiveness, and blessings, but do not want to accept His commands. Most have no desire to be Christ-like, and no burden to share God’s love with others. A mature believer follows God’s commands, even when they are tempted to do the exact opposite. It is impossible to become spiritually mature by consistently choosing our own will over God’s commands.
The worst part about our rebellion and disobedience is that we disobey for reasons that are completely selfish:
“Someone else will help the poor, that’s not my job”
“I know it says not to do this in the Bible, but I’m pretty sure God wants me to be happy”
“If God did not want me to do this, He wouldn’t have put this in front of me”
“God will forgive me anyway, so I’m going to do what I want”
“That was written a long time ago, our culture is different now”
When God commanded us to live righteously according to his standards, he did not put an expiration date on his instructions. We are not allowed to overrule God’s commands when following them means changing our lives in ways we do not feel comfortable with. Having an attitude like this will keep our faith and relationship with God weak, which is exactly where the enemy wants us. We will continue living a lukewarm Christian life, convinced everything is okay, yet being far from the one we profess to serve. We will be totally ineffective Christians.
As Christians we are called to obey God’s truth as an expression of our respect, gratitude, and love for him–all of which reflect our spiritual maturity. Living disobediently keeps us from becoming spiritually mature, and from living in a way that pleases God.
As Christians, despite all the “you are fine just how you are, there is no need to change your life because you will go to heaven no matter what, and God loves you exactly the same no matter what you do” messages out there, obedience is vital if we are seeking spiritual maturity, and real life change.
For example, Paul taught how our faith in God should manifest itself outwardly through obedience to God’s truth, he did not say we should accept Jesus and then take a relaxed attitude about sin, continuing to follow our old, self-centered, worldly desires–our faith should be visibly expressed through a change of both our hearts and lifestyles!
Peter took this point even further, by saying we are called specifically “for obedience to Jesus”, not just to receive his forgiveness and blessings.
We are not called to simply receive God’s blessings, we are called to live obediently, upholding God’s standards, and obeying his will, not our own
Our spiritual maturity is demonstrated in by our obedience, righteousness, and sincere love for both man and God, not by living sinfully through continual disobedience. Only the spiritually immature, with a weak relationship with God, go on rebelliously sinning
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:6
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9
This makes sense though, as a lifestyle of disobedience is like saying: “God, you are awesome, thank you for all the love you have given me, but I am still going to live however I feel like, regardless of what it says in the Bible, but I still expect you to answer all my prayers, help me when I am in trouble, shower me with blessings, and I am looking forward to cashing in that free ticket to heaven when the time comes!”
We all know sin can be a struggle to overcome, but when people choose to hold onto it without a desire to change that is much different, as living like that involves flagrantly ignoring God’s instructions in a way that shows no love, gratitude or respect.
No matter how many inspirational books, guest speakers, and Bible studies we immerse ourselves in, none of these things will help us mature unless we honor what they are trying to teach us. God’s commands require us to actively obey them in order to see their benefit, we cannot be lazy about our growth and expect to grow into mature Christians.