Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Way We Are

NOTE: Occasionally, I'll be sharing guest articles and devotionals with you. Today, here's one from my "spiritual father" and friend, Neal Stover, Pastor of the South Haven Church of the Nazarene in Valparaiso, Indiana.

The Way We Are

...for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Greetings in the name of Jesus!

When, as those who profess Christ, we continue to behave in spiritually immature ways, we should not make matters worse by making excuses.

It does no good to minimize the seriousness of sinful decisions that we have made. I might like for my misdeeds to be seen as nothing more than personal quirks or foibles, but unworthy character and unacceptable conduct can't be excused by saying, "Well, that's just the way I am."

It may well be true that one of my personal characteristics is a tendency in a certain sinful direction.

I may, for example, be more prone to anger than my next-door neighbor. But the most important issue is not my nature -- it's my character.

Nature is the package of tendencies that we were born with, but character is what we've done with that package, and that's the only thing we'll be held accountable for at the judgment (II Corinthians 5:10).

Most of us should go ahead and admit that we wouldn't be "the way we are" if we'd been working on our character in constructive ways while we had the chance.

Paul was not complimenting the Corinthians when he said, "You are still carnal."

And in a similar vein, the writer of Hebrews said to his readers, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Hebrews 5:12).

In whatever spiritual condition we find ourselves, God surely understands. He understands, but He also expects better things of us.

He knows how hard it is to go against our personal tendencies, and He's eager to help. But He requires that we make an honest effort. As our Great Physician, He will take a more active approach than simply to give sympathy and say, "Well, I guess that's just the way you are." He gave His life to get us over the way we are.

Our spiritual enemy is an awesome foe, but we can do more than roll over and play the victim. "Resist the devil," James wrote, "and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

Forward is the direction we need to move, but we won't move forward if we don't reach forward.

Let's do it without delay. No more excuses.

"That's just the way I am" is a confession of sloth, not humility.
--Gary L. Thomas

Pastor Neal Stover


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