Friday, November 9, 2018

Called to Live for Him.

What does it really mean to live for Christ? For your life to no longer be your own, but God's?

I think hashing out this question is something people work on their entire lives, so I hope you won't expect to come away with a clean, organized list of things you can hop to right away and have "living for Christ" all figured out. But, I hope you do leave this post encouraged, ready to look at your daily life with a renewed perspective, realizing that hope for eternity is something you can focus on to give you endurance.

I don't think the bible is unclear about this in any way; we are Called to live for God. Even in the Old Testament, God's Call to His people over and over to seek Him, to live not for the things the world offers, but for the things He loves. This overarching Call included things like obedience, service, sacrifice, and more. But this same Call continues today. To live for God doesn't include all the same things the Old Testament (the old covenant) required, like animal sacrifices and diet restrictions, but the goal is the same: to have fellowship with God.

The whole reason we needed the old covenant was because of our human condition. We were slaves to sin and left to ourselves, with no way to come into the presence of God. Now that Christ has given His own life to pay for our sins, we cannot continue living the same way as before. We aren't saved from our sin so we can then go along our merry way. It's a completely different life that we should have.

The bible describes this difference as being dead or alive. In our sins, we were dead. Not just destined to die, or mostly dead, but completely unable to come alive and know God. We were totally incapable of putting into our lives the kind of goodness that He gives us. We see it in Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1-7. And Paul, who authored both these books of the bible, says again in Romans 6 that because we were dead before, we now need to leave the deadness we were enslaved to. In verse 11 he says "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Being alive in Christ means fighting sin, knowing that we don't have to submit to it, and then choosing to live for God instead.

Living for ourselves naturally leads us into sin. When my thought-life is full of my own ambitions, or consumed with what I am not getting, I am constantly on edge. I snap easier, I do selfish things without thinking, and I usually use my time in ways I later regret (hello Pinterest and Facebook). However, when I am living for God, I am no longer consumed with meeting my own needs. Instead, I look for what God would have me do and He helps me grow to love it.

Living for God doesn't mean you have to have a certain type of job or a particular type of lifestyle. It's more about how you look at your job, about how you look at your life. Instead of constantly looking at what you can do to make things better for yourself, you look at what you are already doing and how it can be done for God. It means you find your motivation not from looking to your future here on earth, but to the future we have in eternity with God.

Colossians 3:1-4 is such a perfect description of the perspective we need to have. When we come to know Jesus, when we accept the Call to be part of God's kingdom, we are raised from the dead and into Christ. Any life we hope to find is in Him alone. It is only seen dimly right now (1 Cor. 13:12) but when Christ appears, we will appear with Him in glory. So as Colossians 3:1 says, we have to seek the things that are above, since that is where Christ is. That's the only place we will find anything of lasting value. It's what we need to pursue.

In order to do that, we will have to lose the life we hope to build here. I'm not saying give up trying to do anything with excellence, or get rid of any nice thing you own, but we need to be honest with the ways we are pursuing the world and our own selfish fulfillment instead of pursuing God.

Jesus makes it very clear in every gospel, in multiple chapters: you will need to lose your life in order to find life in Christ. He says this Matthew 10 and 16, Mark 8, Luke 9 and 17, and John 12. In paraphrase, Jesus says that whoever seeks to keep their life will lose it, and whoever will lose their life for Him will save it.

So, are you currently losing or saving the life you have? Are you investing in the life you'll lose when you die, or in the one you will gain when you meet Jesus?

These are hard questions to answer. I can't say that I am doing this right all the time. I'm constantly confronted with how much of my time is spent on me, or how many of my frustrations are because I want my own way.

As I've thought through all of this during this past month, I have tried to ask myself these questions:

What is the root of my frustration? Myself or others?

What do I hope to accomplish right now? Something for myself or something God desires?

What are my thoughts focused on? My own benefit or God's?

It became pretty obvious that most of my unhappiness stems from my own desire to have a good life here on earth. When I'm upset with my kids, it's generally because I have an idea of how they should be. When I'm frustrated with my circumstances (traffic, bad hair day, giant zit on my chin), it's almost always because I think things should be different, more convenient for my schedule, or work together to make me look good. When I am annoyed with my husband, my friends, or pretty much anyone else I interact with, it's frequently due to my idea that I should be having things my way.

But a life lived for God... that's obviously different. When I am seeking to live out God's will through me, it changes my reactions.

When my kids do something wrong, I ask God how I should deal with it or what He wants to do through it.

When I'm stuck in traffic, I tell myself that God knows and that the details will all be worked out just fine.

When my husband does something I don't like or a friend doesn't invite me into their life, I can take hold of God's perspective and seek to love them despite my feelings and no matter their actions.

This road of living for Him is not easy, but He will help us do it. It will include sacrifice, sanctification, and probably some suffering too. But it's an eternal investment. The more we see the things we want on earth and their limited ability to bring us anything valuable, the easier it will be to lay them down and seek after God's eternal treasures. The more I sought to give what I have to others - including my money, my time, my energies, my gifts - the more I loved living my life!

This is an amazing aspect of living for God: He gives us greater joy now and greater rewards in eternity.

If this feels too challenging, too overwhelming, or not tangible enough for you to embrace right where you are, take a deep breath and relax. It's not an all-or-nothing type of endeavor. Here are a few tips that have helped me.

- When I am doing something boring, mundane, or challenging, something that I really would rather not do, I simply tell myself "This is for God, not me."

- When I get up in the morning, feeling less than enthusiastic about the day, I tell myself "God has something I can do today, and it will be worth my effort."

- When I am annoyed at all the people around me, I say to myself "God can love other people through me, and it is worth the effort."

Overall, the best tool we have for fighting the "right now" mentality that keeps us from living for God is preaching to ourselves. We must point our eyes to Jesus. Remind yourself that God is here, God can fill you, God can enable you to live exactly how He desires. Tell your soul that it is worth it, that even when you fail you will have new mercies to cling to, and that God really will direct you as you choose to step into action.

Give yourself grace. Be open to seeing God in your circumstances. And like I'm finding in all of these calls, everything becomes easier (and honestly, only actually doable) when we look to Jesus's example, rely on the Holy Spirit's power, and submit to God's eternal promises.

I hope God instills in you the desire to live for Him. I cannot convince you that it will be worthwhile, but I know you will find this to be true once you start taking these steps. I'd love to hear how it goes for you! Please consider joining my Called Facebook group and interacting with a bunch of us over there. This journey is always better with more friends to walk beside. You will find more riches here on earth and much more in eternity with a simple willingness to start working with God instead of trying to convince Him to work with you. Are you in?