His Without Reserve

 We Christians live in a society of millions who have little knowledge of Jesus' radical teachings, and if they do know, they do not practice them. Without realizing it we absorb the attitudes of those around us. One of these attitudes is believing that wealth provides security. We join our secular friends in trying to climb the ladder of wealth so our children can have a better education than we did. Or so we can have a comfortable home with the mortgage paid off by the time we're 60. Or so we'll be able to travel the world in retirement. To make a living, especially a really good living, requires a focused drive for income. We can't imagine it any other way.

There's another way. It's based on this Christian principle: Don't sow your seeds of security in the money field. In the parable of the sower Jesus described seed sown among thorns: "'These are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing'" (Mark 4:18, 19).

We Christians live in a society where godless secularism is rampant. We watch as those around us socialize, handle their money, and climb the ladder of worldly success. We are constantly in danger of flavoring our life decisions with the philosophies and attitudes portrayed on the screen and described in the media. The Lord calls us to separate ourselves from these worldly ways and philosophies. We are to sow our seeds of security in the good soil of love for God and love for neighbor. And we remember that while we must insulate ourselves from godless patterns of thinking, we must not insulate ourselves from the needs of others.

Clinging to the godless ways of the world after conversion prevents us from growing to be like Christ. To function from day to day partly on Christian principles and partly on worldly principles is like trying to study the Word of God and read a pornographic magazine at the same time. In order for the Spirit to complete His work of teaching us to be like Christ, which He began in us at conversion, we must, yes, we must stop using the godless world's vocabulary and grammar. We must think and speak in our new language, the language of heaven.

Fixing Our Attention on How Things Work in Heaven

Paul wrote: "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1-3). Let's examine this counsel closely. What does being "raised with Christ" refer to? It refers to the death of our godless self in baptism and our rising to walk in newness of life."Set your minds." Here Paul urges us to fix our attention on the way things operate in heaven and not on the way they operate on earth. Then he states one of his powerful Christian truths based on "you have died." It is this: "Your [new] life is hidden with Christ in God."

Consider the implications of this statement. If we died to self with all that that means and have been raised with Christ, and if our life is now hidden with Christ in God, why-please tell me-why would we try to drag godless thoughts and worldly philosophies along with us into our new surroundings-the presence of God? Inconceivable! We must practice the art of letting go.

The death of Christ calls for us to release our grip on society's godless goals and let God take full control. Worldliness thrives in our minds when we have not surrendered to a full house cleaning. This operation of holiness involves carrying the consecration of baptism forward into every day of our lives. Let the Scriptures make this very clear.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world" (1 John 2:15). "If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19). Using lying as an example of worldly practice, Paul wrote: "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator" (Col. 3:9, 10).


Letting Go of Society's Godless Ways Completely


In the kingdom of God, everything seems upside down. What's success in Satan's kingdom is failure in the kingdom of God. James, who could turn a phrase with telling effect, addressed some new Christians as adulterers. Why? because their minds were adulterated with impure motives. They were trying to mix the principles of the kingdom of God with the principles of this world. "Adulterers!" he scolded. "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). The call of holiness is the call to let go of society's godless ways completely and grasp Christ with both arms.

Let's be specific: Jesus said the "second" commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. The completely godless pattern of thinking is "I'll help my neighbor if I won't get my clothes dirty" or "I'll visit my neighbor in the hospital, but I don't have time to pick up some groceries for her family on my way home from work. If I do, I'll miss the evening news." We've already shown that Christ-generated love is an active principle of relationship which provides what is best for another person, even at considerable inconvenience to oneself. That certainly stands in contrast to the "love" of screen and stage, doesn't it?

Now let's go back to one of Paul's instructions in Colossians 3:1-3: "Seek the things that are above." It's extremely helpful in dealing with worldliness of mind to be able to focus our thoughts on what's in heaven, not what's on earth. What are the "things that are above"? They are our reconciliation with God, the principles of His government (see the Sermon on the Mount), and His plan to restore in us His divine image. We see Jesus ministering for us and inviting us to come boldly to the throne of grace in every time of need. (Please take a moment now to contemplate the gripping significance of Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-25.) What else is in heaven? Our angels, who minister to us in response to our prayers and on orders from our caring Father. What else is in heaven on which we may focus our thoughts? Our spiritual treasures. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart [thoughts] will be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).

A life of holiness calls us to choose a thought-style that conforms with the thought-style of heaven.

Now to fix our minds on the radical difference between worldliness and holiness, let's

return to Colossians 3: "As God's chosen ones, holy [separated] and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (Col. 3:12-15). A key word here is "hearts," the inner sanctuaries of our beings. This scripture presents the perfect recipe for crucifying worldly principles in our inner sanctuary and bringing into their places the principles of the kingdom of God. This is the nobility of consecration.

Christ demonstrated the holiness that we have been learning about as He set Himself apart for a special purpose, a unique purpose, a dangerous purpose. This is the consecration to which He calls us when He says, Be holy for I am holy. Empty yourself for My sake as I emptied Myself for your sake. Set yourself apart from evil, from impurity, and from worldly attitudes, just as I set Myself apart to make you good and pure and heavenly-minded. Christ's consecrating Himself to meet our needs is to be matched by our consecrating ourselves to show that what He has done for us will prosper in us and in others.

Christ's teachings were radical because it takes radical thinking to overcome the philosophies of the world. It takes a miracle of grace to wrench us away from godless, selfish behavior. How much more is it a heaven-prepared miracle for the Holy Spirit to reprogram the operating system of our minds to think not like our secular society but like Christ!

Once a Getter; Now a Giver

Worldliness is not indicated by our trade or profession. It's indicated by whether we feel superior about our status. Worldliness keeps us from building our characters or encouraging character development in others as we socialize at work and in our neighborhoods. Devotion to heaven's ways leads us to honor our workmates above ourselves and lift them up as Christ has lifted us up.

Worldliness is not a matter of how many possessions we have, but whether we prize them above possessing Christ. It nudges us into thinking about how precious our china is. It draws us to dwell on the thought of how much better we are because we have such nice dinnerware.

Yes, in the kingdom of God, everything seems upside down. It takes time, but after a while we see things in the light of the cross, where "getting" died and "giving" rose in its place. After all, what good does it do to climb the ladder of wealth and security, when the greatest opportunities to reveal the selfless love of Christ to others are located at the bottom rung?