Straying from Jesus
When I travel, or exercise, I like to watch the video podcasts from Dallas Theological Seminary. My Dad’s cousin, Dr. Stanley Toussaint, has taught at DTS since about 1960 and for the last five years or so, I have found that I can stay connected to the teachings of the school through their seminary chapel messages. Although Stanley only rarely teaches, depending on the time of year, I may be treated to a lesson from Dr. Pentecost, President Mark Bailey, Charles Swindoll or a host of other top notch theologians and scholars who preach in chapel almost each day during the school year. It’s always a treat.
Yesterday, after I wrote my post from 30,000 feet, I decided to listen to one of the podcasts until we prepared for landing in Indianapolis. I was enthralled with the message by Dr. Stephen Bramer, Department Chair and Professor of Bible Exposition at DTS. Don’t worry – I won’t bore you with all the details, but I was really impressed with a story that he told about his son. A former drug addict, his son Joshua came to Christ after a six month stint in rehab, grew in his faith and then, unexpectedly, suffered a terrible relapse that almost killed him. When Dr. Bramer asked his son what happened, his son explained, “Dad, you should know these things happen when you don’t stay close to Jesus.” Wow…. common sense 101…..
Now I know that this sounds like some cheap excuse on Joshua’s part, but I know that there are many times in my own life that I seek God’s help, and then, when I feel confident enough that I can handle the rest of the issue, I start to push Christ into the background. I sound a bit like Joshua, don’t you think? Maybe you do, also. Thank God I have never had a drug problem; and neither have any of our children, but I have plenty of other examples of times when I ushered Jesus into the background – I didn’t stay close to Him.
One of the things that we talked about when I was in seminary is the fact that when people come to Christ, they get all amped up and are on fire for the Lord. Then, several months, or even perhaps a year later, that intensity starts to fade and that’s the first danger point for losing one’s faith. Because most of us seek encouragement and some identifiable sign from God that He is in our lives; and it is tough to keep going without tangible ongoing demonstrations of Christ’s love for us.
Next, assuming that we don’t abandon our faith, we settle in for the long haul. We attend church, read the Bible and start to do the hard work of living a Christ-like life. And yes, it’s hard work. Because I am convinced that Satan lurks around every corner waiting for a chance to gain entry into our lives and thwart our efforts to follow Christ. Let’s face it – living a life of sin is much easier than living a God-centered life. After all, doing whatever we want takes less discipline that doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do. I don’t know of anyone who is exempt from this temptation.
Yet those times that I can stay connected to Jesus are the best times of my life. I live for those short periods when I feel close to Him. And the more I connect, the more I want to connect. But it’s still easy to go the other direction if I am not disciplined in my efforts. How much easier my life would be if I just did what I thought Jesus would want me to do! It’s when I stray from the narrow path that I get into trouble and before I know it, I find it difficult to live with myself. Then, it’s something like, “Oh, yea… I should have done that differently.” Ever experience something like that?
Of course, then I get angry with myself and wonder why I let stuff like that happen. The answer is simple. Satan – he is just around the corner waiting for a chance to distract us from our God-given mission to follow Christ. It’s insidious – it just creeps up on us. But we do have a responsibility to stay true to Christ. And that takes a lifelong effort. Hopefully, over time, it gets easier and Jesus occupies more of what we call our “top of mind” awareness. In other words, we spend more time thinking about God and how we can become more like Christ in our behavior.
Tonight seems like a good time to reaffirm my commitment to a God-centered life. Having said that, the verse for this evening comes from Psalm 119:10, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” My encouragement this evening is that you will also seek God with all your heart and try to keep Him in the forefront of your thoughts. Yep – as I said earlier, it is hard work. But by providing encouragement for one another, and holding one another accountable, just maybe we won’t be as likely to stray. My prayer is that you will stay on the narrow path and that God will help you stay the course. Have a great day in the Lord….