I love the times when God gives you a clear repeating message. A few days ago was most definitely one of those days for me. It encourages my heart to see God confirm a conviction of mine through repeated messages. I had lunch with a friend in the beginning of the week and we were talking about the seriousness of sin, and not only that, but the precautions we should take before falling into sin. We talked about the idea of how we justify something that is not necessarily the wisest thing with “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Then we talked about how we should yearn for what stirs our affections for Jesus, not merely avoid what’s wrong. That conversation in itself was encouraging for us both to redirect our thoughts and set them on Jesus. There’s really almost nothing that brings more joy to me than to have those conversations with a friend.
Two days later, I went to lunch with another friend and I confessed some areas where I feel I have been led astray to an extent and we pretty much had an identical conversation- how we ask the wrong question when we approach a situation or activity and ask “What is wrong with it?” When I got back to the office at work I received a text from that same friend who sent a few paragraphs of something she had just read from a book right after our conversation. I want to share some of these words because they challenged me and because it seemed ironic. It says: “People who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior. They ask, What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with this movie? Or this music?…This kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commends Christ as all-satisfying and makes people glad in God. It simply results in a list of don’ts. It feeds the avoidance ethic. The better question to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ?…How can I enjoy making much of Him in this behavior?”
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” In that same section of scripture in verse 10:31 he says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So the question to ask when approaching a situation or engaging in some activity would be, “Is it helpful for my faith? Does it build up?” And if it isn’t, I would say it is wise to steer clear if you’re aware that it is not helpful or doesn’t build up. I’ve had to come to terms with certain situations I just don’t want to put myself in for that reason- not necessarily because it’s wrong, but just not helpful or encouraging for me. If I am able to glorify God and not myself in whatever it is that I’m doing (1 Cor. 10:31) then that’s helpful and brings the most joy.
As if it wasn’t enough for God to remind me about giving things up for the sake of knowing Christ more through two friends, he used another that same night. At our bible study, my friend shared a small clip of a John Piper sermon (you can watch it below) that reiterated everything I just mentioned. I was taken back when I heard it because I genuinely felt God was reminding me why I am to fight sin and treasure Jesus. I had been burdened with the idea of coasting through life, allowing things to be a hindrance to my faith, and then not one, but three separate times, God blatantly laid it out for me by allowing me to hear “Don’t ask: What’s wrong with it?” It was his grace to remind me that I don’t have to approach that question in a negative way, but get to redirect the question in a positive way by asking if it is helpful for my walk with Christ.
Side tangent: I don’t fight sin or struggle for the sake of the fight, but to get more of Jesus- to find joy in what is supremely good, which is Him. There’s purpose in the fight. I’m always forgetting that. Also, I don’t pursue the scriptures or worship music or Bible studies as an end in themselves, but to get to Christ himself. If you’re involved in all these things and running but not running toward Christ himself, it’s all in vain. And if you’re avoiding sin and certain things just for the sake of avoiding them, but not looking to Jesus, you won’t truly be at peace and filled with joy. So may we look to him more than the way we go about fighting or the way we go about pursuing certain things.
Friends, if you are a Christian, don’t settle for the question “What’s wrong with ___?” Challenge yourself by asking “How will ___ help me treasure Christ more?” because ultimately that is the goal in this life, to get more of Christ and to look more like Christ. He truly wants what’s best for you, he doesn’t want you to miss out on the greatest joy to be had. He already purchased freedom for you. And if you aren’t a Christian, I’d challenge you to simply look to Jesus. Look at Scripture and see that he has made a way for you to not have to settle for what is temporary. He has given you the opportunity to experience a relationship with God as he took on your sin and died so that you might be set free and pursue holiness, not in your own strength, but through his. That’s where true freedom is found.
Christ is all,