How do I grow in faithfulness? That’s the question we’ll explore over the next several posts. The challenge is how to be more consistently obedient to the Lord.
How can we avoid sin?
- In thought?
- In word?
- In action?
How can we obey God’s positive commands?
- To pray faithfully?
- To be at church—and to love it?
- To do good for others?
Here is an orientation to these questions: four principles at the foundation of the faithful life.
1. What you do comes from what you believe. So check your beliefs.
It’s from the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). It’s from our warring inner desires that quarrels grow (James 4:1). You will act based on your beliefs. This is true, whether your beliefs are openly acknowledged or only held in a way that is implicit or unrecognized. Your actions, words, and feelings come from a single source: your ideas.
If you find yourself disobeying God, you don’t merely have a problem in what you are doing. You have a problem in what you are thinking. On some level, you disagree with God. Like Peter on more than one occasion, you have said, “Not so Lord” (Matthew 16:22, Acts 10:14). And that is irrational.
2. Acknowledge that God has the right to judge you.
Is it an innocent mistake to call your Lord a liar? To ignore the priorities of God? To do so is to step outside of his path of blessing.
It is for blessing that he gives his commands. Consider Deuteronomy 5:33: “Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.”
God has every right to set the terms. He has every right to leave you to sorrow and suffering if you ignore the instructions which he specifically sent to you through his Apostles. To “fear” God does not mean to “respect him.” It means to fear him.
3. Refuse to compromise even a corner because it means a compromise of the whole thing.
Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Each one’s work will become manifest, and it will be revealed by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-16). If your work survives, you will receive a reward. If your work is burned up, you will suffer loss. Though you be saved, it will only be “as through fire” (v. 15). Do not even consider destroying the temple of God’s Spirit.
When making the choice between sin and holiness, consider that even to cherish sin in your heart is an act of rebellion. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
Sin is that serious. It ruins our fellowship with God. Don’t risk that, like Esau, you will find yourself someday weeping the tears of bitterness that come when you are able to mourn but not to repent. “For he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:17).
4. When in doubt, follow your mind over your feelings.
No Christian is without sin (Romans 7:15, 1 John 1:8). The old nature dies more each day as the man of God becomes complete; but we should not pretend the sin nature has left us completely. That is why Romans 12:2 tells us, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It is a process.
Your inclinations are not a worthy standard, for the way that seems right to man may still lead to death (Proverbs 14:12). The solution? Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23) and know that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
As Solomon loved the Lord but let his heart turn to worldly passions, so we also stand to gain or to lose, based on our faithfulness. So walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15). Be vigilant (Mark 13:37). The master is coming, and no one knows the hour.
Check your beliefs. Acknowledge that God has the right to judge you. Refuse to compromise even a corner. Follow what you know, not what you wish or feel. These are the foundations of biblical faithfulness.