Friday, 24 October 2014

Swimming Against the Tide: Part 1

Lately in our church we just finished a four part series on love, romance and sex (don’t worry, this isn’t one of “those” blogs!). The series itself was excellent at unwrapping those particular topics (it can be found here) but one thing that also stood out to me is that in practically all aspects of christian life, we are swimming against the tide of our secular western world. Pursuing God and doing things his way and the way he designed them is so counter to what our culture would say. We live in a fallen world, a world that is lost and confused, a world that says identity and satisfaction can be found in sex, money, status, possessions and self worship. Since the fall of man, so many wonderful things that God created for his purpose have been twisted and moulded to fit man’s own selfish wants and desires. So as Christians walking in this broken world, seeking Gods kingdom come and the ultimate reconciliation of man to God, how do we go about living our day to day life against this ever rushing tide of secularity and worldly influence? I was pondering and praying about the ways in which we can go about this and on the drive home from college today, 3 things stood out to me in my mind, the first of these I’d like to share today.

Part 1: A strong personal relationship with the Father

As we look at the life of Jesus in the bible we can soon notice the strong connection he has to his father in heaven. In Luke Chapter 5, news of Jesus’ teaching and his miracles is starting to travel abroad and crowds are starting to gather in wait for him, then in verse 16 it says 

“Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.”

Jesus was a rather busy man back then, healing the sick and teaching the good news all over the place, yet still he understood the importance of quiet time with God. In order for God to use us to win this broken world back for him we need to be like Jesus and take time out to spend with our heavenly Father. Even when we get busy and overloaded with the stresses of life, we need to do what Jesus did and take time to withdraw and spend with God. There’s no use trying to swim against the tide of culture and worldly influence if we don’t have the presence of God and the Holy Spirit with us, it would be like an athlete trying to run a race with no energy, or trying to drive a car without filling it with petrol. The Lords prayer asks God to “give us today our daily bread” He is the bread of life, he is what we need daily in order to live and be more like him. Taking time out for him is the most important thing we can do. 

When Paul writes to the church in Ephesians he says to not get drunk on wine, but keep on being filled with the Spirit. In short, what we put in is what we get out. If we are spending ALL of our time being filled with the things of the world (the wine so to speak) then we can very easily start to drift back downstream and begin to compromise areas of our lives and thoughts. Bearing in mind though, wine itself, like many other things in the world, is not inherently bad when in its right and godly place, but to “get drunk” on these things and engage with them in a way God didn’t intend is what Paul is warning us of. However, If our priority is to be consistently asking for more of the holy spirit, fueling up on the words of the bible and aligning our will with Gods will through prayer, then we will become equipped and ready to go out and be salt and light in the world. 

Something else important to note in that verse is that Jesus withdrew to desolate places, other translations use words like deserted, lonely and wilderness. When Jesus teaches us to pray in Mathew chapter 6, he says to go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father. One important thing I think these passages are saying is that in order to spend good quality time with God, we need to unplug from everything around us and create a space which is quiet and away from the outside world. That means not only closing our door, but also turning off our phones and laptops, switching off Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and all those other things that can so easily distract us with constant notifications, messages, invites etc. With technology the way it is, it’s so easy to be wired in and connected 24/7. More information is accessible at our fingertips than every before and communicating with friends and family is only a few clicks away. Like the wine Paul speaks of, all that stuff is great in it’s right place. However to become addicted and unable to be without these things for long enough to collect our thoughts and begin to draw close to God is a huge danger we face in modern life and even more so in our relationship and our quiet times with God. When we take time out for our Father in heaven we need to make sure we are removing any and all distractions and obstacles that can hinder our relationship with him. Being aware of technology and it’s right place in the kingdom of God is something that as Christians we should be really aware of on a daily basis. By letting ourselves conform to the worlds constant need to be plugged in, we may miss opportunities to plant gospel seeds, do good for others, have important conversations and most importantly, hear from God.

Without spending consistent quality time with our provider and our sustainer, the tide we swim against is one that can seem relentless and unbearable. But by spending time with the Father and learning what it means to withdraw to the desolate places to pray as Jesus did, we soon realise that it’s a battle that has already been won.  

“What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, then who can be against us” 
-Romans 8:31

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