I had two very similar questions last week from two completely different people who don’t even know each other.
- “Do you think smoking is a sin?”
- “Do you think it’s wrong to drink alcohol?”
Now, I think we can agree that our goal in everything should be wholehearted obedience. So how does that fit with these questions?
The first thing to notice is that these questions look/read very innocent and sincere. One of them, I believe, was. The other was put across in a confrontational way. I believe that there are times when people ask with the sincerest motives, in order to learn. And other times when people are only trying to prove a point and justify their own sin. Sometimes it’s hard to know at first which it is, but after a few minutes, you’ll be able to tell.
I once read a very striking definition of purity. It was in Joshua Harris’s book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and it goes like this:
“True purity is a direction. A persistent, determined pursuit of righteousness. This direction starts in the heart, and we express it in a lifestyle that flees opportunities for compromise.”
I wholeheartedly agree. Purity is a direction. There’s no line in the sand where you can say “this action is pure” and “this one is impure.” But even if there were a line, as Christians we should not be focused on where the line is, but how far away from the line and toward Jesus we can get! Likewise, we should not try to find a line where righteousness is concerned. Because when we are looking for a line so we can be careful not to cross it, we are not focused on Jesus and how much we can be like Him, but on how much we can get away with and still be “ok.”
And so we have two different lifestyles here. There’s the one where someone is so intent on finding a line on the issues closest to them so they can still do what they want and not be “in trouble” with God. This lifestyle “can only end in tears,” as my favorite saying goes. You will end up spending too much time on you and your sin and issues and not nearly enough time learning how to be like Jesus, which is supposed to be our goal. You’ll be frustrated, discontent, and always on the defense.
There’s another lifestyle. This is of a person who doesn’t care what’s behind them or where the line is, because they are so focused on the prize and being like Him who has gone before (Jesus). Their issues and sin aren’t in the way because they’ve surrendered all. And whenever Jesus comes and says, “do this,” or, “give this up,” they don’t have to stop and think about if there’s a verse they can use to explain why they shouldn’t have to. Because they want to. Because giving up the things Jesus requires of you is a joy when you remember that He is making you more like Him. You’ll be happy. You’ll be peaceful. You’ll be content.
You can’t look behind you while you’re running forward or you’ll run into a tree. It’s unnatural to look behind us while running, because our head doesn’t really turn that way. We look where we want to go, instead. We watch out for curbs and trees and other people and adjust our steps as needed. We keep our gaze on the finish line. It’s the same way in life. We look where we want to go. Your gaze reveals your goal.
I would label the first lifestyle I mentioned as “half-hearted obedience.” This person will obey when it makes sense, or if it doesn’t threaten something they care about or makes them feel good. Basically, it’s “God-on-my-terms.” Ultimately, this person needs to reach the second lifestyle.
I call the second lifestyle “wholehearted obedience,” because this person is so focused on obedience it’s evidenced in everything they do. Instead of moving in the direction of “what can I get away with?” this person moves in the direction of “what can I do to be more like Jesus?”
If you’ll remember, at the beginning of this post, we all agreed that wholehearted obedience is our goal. But it’s more than just not doing stuff. It’s actually a lot more about what do. So how do we put this all together? What does it really look like, practically? Allow me to give some examples.
- If God tells you to serve in the church, don’t just mention it in passing to someone and wait till they ask for your help. Be proactive. And go after it in a big way – serve every chance you get! Do as much as you can, as often as you can!
- If God tells you to give financially, don’t just tack on another dollar or two, go for the gold! Give big! Do it as much as you can, as often as you can!
- If God tells you to evangelize, don’t just tell a token person once or twice a month, get out there and beat the bushes! Tell all your friends! Go door-to-door! Join a team at church to do visitation! Go every chance you get! Do as much as you can, as often as you can!
- If God tells you to go to church, don’t just give a token Sunday morning now and then, go every single time the doors are open! Go as much as you can, as often as you can!
- If God tells you to smoke, don’t just smoke one at a time throughout the day, do it a pack at a time! As much as you can, as often as you can!
- If God tells you to drink, don’t just do it for special occasions or a glass or bottle at a time, drink as much as you can, as often as you can!
- If God tells you to use drugs, don’t just do it recreationally or socially, do it every chance you get! Do as much as you can, as often as you can!
1 Chronicles 31:20-21
This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.
Obedience is serious. Make sure you’re doing it wholeheartedly.
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.