Friday, October 28, 2016

When Others Have Let You Down...

     You are discouraged.  You are surprised.  You would never have guessed them to do _________.

     However, is it sin in their life, that has you low?  Or, is it simply a difference in which God has given liberty?  How would you even know the difference?  These are good questions to ask.

     Myself, I have found, particularly in my more immature days (*gasp!), being bothered by preferential/liberty differences.  Yes, that which is clearly described to be sin, e.g. fornication, did/does bother me; especially when committed by professing believers.  However, I , in ignorance, pride, and immaturity, became upset with those things that I thought were wrong.

     Having lived life as a rebellious child of God in my early twenties, I experienced the subsequent chastening of my Good Father.  I knowingly shamed Him.  Once corrected, humbled, and back on track, I became zealous for a holy life.  I wanted to insure avoidance of anything that would deter me from His ways.  I wanted to leave no stone unturned.

     I was very immature, but zealous.  I had a basic knowledge of what God desired, but had yet to become tempered.  During this time of tempering, I became very protective of my testimony.  Thus, the zeal.

     Not that being zealous for God and His ways are wrong.  However, overemphasizing works and standards is wrong; especially if your focus is skewed.  Mine was.

     In my desperate desire to not mistreat my Lord, I became imbalanced.  I focused too much on hem and neck lines, makeup, hair, places frequented, opinions of others, etc.  My focus turned to me, rather than GOD.

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     Sadly, it also turned to others.  I took it upon myself to police others' behaviors, inwardly.  Oh, I am sure some realized it; way before I ever did.  My self-appointed spiritual policing probably slipped out a time or two.  Thankfully, if folks did notice, they were gracious enough to give God the room to mature me.

     There was not much grace on my part, in my heart.  What liberties God gave to us all, and enjoyed by fellow believers, could irk me.  I would pray about them, but never see a change.  Imagine that!  Yet, God was changing me.

     Over time, God has used many experiences, and chiefly, His word, to show me my error.  First, I was wrong to focus on myself.  I know that we are to be examining ourselves, to see if we be in the faith.  I know that we are to be examining ourselves by the light of God's word, to see if whatever we do/think/feel, is in line with His will.  However, just as I could not save my own soul; just as I could not overcome temptations on my own:  I could not live right, on my own.  I need/ed God!  Showing me that, yes, loving Him = obeying Him, standards (in and of themselves) do not equate to loving Him.  Standards, without the proper motivation and empowerment, are a drudgery and detrimental to one's spiritual growth.  It is one extreme of the spectrum.

     He also showed me that what may be a struggle for me, may not be a struggle for another; and, vice versa.  He showed me to be gracious with others:  all grow at a different pace, and have differing levels of understanding.  However, we can all bless each other, if allowed. 

     For example, some believe it is a sin to eat certain things; just as did the new Jewish converts to Christ, in the early church.  God did not condemn them for it, but rather told the mature Christians to forbear the weak ones:  if eating meat offended a brother/sister in Christ, do not eat meat around them.  However, He coupled that command with one for the weaker siblings:  do not command folks to abstain from eating meats.

     Some folks believe you must attend church meetings on a particular day.  Others see every day as set apart unto God.  God condemns neither party.  It is a matter of your freedom to worship Christ.

"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.  (2)  For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.  (3)  Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.  (4)  Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.  (5)  One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  (6)  He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.  (7)  For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.  (8)  For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.  (9)  For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.  (10)  But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  (11)  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  (12)  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  (13)  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.  (14)  I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.  (15)  But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.  (16)  Let not then your good be evil spoken of:  (17)  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  (18)  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  (19)  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  (20)  For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.  (21)  It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.  (22)  Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.  (23)  And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  (15:1)  We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  (2)  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  (3)  For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.  (4)  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.  (5)  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:  (6)  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (7)  Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God."
Romans 14:1-15:7  

     Another great matter of debate is clothing.  God says to be modest.  He does not give an exact description of what that looks like.  He does not say "Shop only for this outfit at this store," or "Make only this outfit, with this fabric." He says, be modest in our apparel.

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;  (10)  But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works."
1 Timothy 2:9-10 

"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  (2)  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.  (3)  Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;  (4)  But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.  (5)  For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:  (6)  Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement."
1 Peter 3:1-6  

     Yes, in the Old Testament, Levites were prescribed particular outfits with particular fabric and items, Exodus 28.  Yet, we are not Levites, and we are not under the Mosaic covenant.  We are in the New Testament of Jesus' blood, and one day will be getting new, incorruptible robes of white!

    Now, if you want to dress in robes, you have that liberty.  You just need to make it modest.  Oh, and not command others to dress exactly to your specifications.

     If you are needing and/or wanting some help, to discern matters of sin and matters of liberty, listen to sound Bible preachers and teachers--but, always compare what they say, with the Bible.  Get counsel from God-fearing folks.  Study God's word for yourself.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15

     Make sure that you are not ascribing someone's liberty as sin; or, your sin as liberty.  God is pretty clear, though.  Some things, yes, need to be studied more thoroughly than others.  God is not in the business of confusion, though.  If it is a sin, He will let you know. 

     As in the previous post, if it is sin, and not just a difference in preferences, be gracious.  Can you say, can I say, that we are approaching the matter with charity?  Or, are we trying to do the job that only the Holy Ghost can do?

     Convictions about something change, when your belief changes.  If you once believed that you had to do good works to be saved, you would have had a conviction about it.  If you once believed that wearing red was too flashy, you would have held a conviction about it.  Holding a conviction does not necessarily mean you are right:  it simply means that you are persuaded in your current belief.
     I would dare say that there was a time in your life when you once were convicted about something, of which you no longer ascribe yourself.  I know I can say it about myself.  We change.

     The important thing is allow God to be Lord, and not try to do it, yourself.  As a woman, I know the temptation to try to control, to be the boss; and, honestly, when you are bothered by how another's way of life, to the point that you are mentally calculating hem lines, you are trying to control them... From the inside.  Some folks have gotten to the point of trying to do so, outwardly, too:  just take a glance at some rules of the Amish, and you will see what I mean.

     God has created variety, as evidenced in nature.  It is all around us.  I have a friend, who has become an avid bird watcher, thanks to homeschooling.  She can attest to the Creator's love of variety, just amongst her observance of birds with her children!

     So it is with us.  There are different hair colors, skin colors, skills, clothing styles, foods... The list just continues.  The Russian Christian woman, who wears a floral scarf neatly tucking in her hair, as she prepares to worship God with other saints, is no more wrong for that covering, than the lady donning a hat to her local church in the States.  The lady in one of the African countries, who wears a festive robe, is no more wrong than the lady who wears the jean jumper.

     If it lines up with God's word:  be modest; yet, not with your preference, then, let it not bother you.  Rejoice, rather, in the complexity of God's beautiful design amongst us people!  Enjoy your sister's company that enjoys bacon with her eggs, or likes tofu.  Cast not a lowly eye upon the woman who shares the same Father, though she chooses a different color than you would.

     Let us have charity amongst ourselves, that others may know that, indeed, we are God's children.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  (2)  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  (3)  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  (4)  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,  (5)  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  (6)  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  (7)  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  (8)  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  (9)  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  (10)  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  (11)  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  (12)  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  (13)  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
1 Corinthians 13

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