So humor me today as I go off on a soapbox. I had a light-bulb moment the other day.
I was working on an assignment for one of my classes and I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around what was being asked of me. I had a lot of unanswered questions about the assignment. I thought, “If only I had an example to follow, it would be so much easier than searching for the answers or contacting my professor for help.”
I wanted a clearer picture, a quick answer, and I didn’t want to have to ask for help from my professor. I just wanted a shortcut. I just wanted an example to follow instead of having to search for it myself.
Leigh Ann and I have been having the conversation for a few years now, about how easy it is to get caught up in the formulas and prescriptions of Christianity. These formulas tend not to be so much biblical, but rather a result of cultural examples in the Christian community.
I referred to it a week or so ago in another post as our “Christian Should Do List.” As long as we are doing good with this list, we tend to feel pretty good about our spiritual lives.
For Leigh Ann and I, it has been the people around us who are well respected and often praised in the church that we look to for that example. Without realizing it, we started to compare and measure ourselves by their lives and began looking up to their example. “Those people! That is how we should live!”
I truly believe we gravitate towards these formulas because it gives us something tangible to aim for. Something we can actually see.
This natural inclination is reflected clearly in Exodus 32 when the people get impatient waiting on Moses to come down from the mountain, and ask Aaron to make them gods to go before them. So Aaron makes a golden calf for them to worship and sacrifice too.
We would be wise to avoid these situations with the encouragement, guidance, and challenge of these verses:
Colossians 3:2 (ESV), “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV), “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Instead of doing the soul searching, and patient listening to the Spirit to guide us, it seems easier to seek the wisdom and example of man. Instead of diving into God’s word to learn it, understand it, and store it in our hearts, it seems easier to seek the advice of others when difficult circumstances come our way.
Simply said, it is often easier to copy than to create.
Unfortunately this shortcut has become a common scenario in our Christian culture today. Instead of seeking God to understand who He is, and what He is calling us to do with our lives, the example and advice of others takes precedence.
When our primary source of spiritual growth comes from following the lead of others instead of God’s word and the life of Christ, we can easily get burned out. We end up chasing a moving target that is misunderstood and misplaced, and it creates a lot of frustration an confusion in our lives.
When we are seeking first to emulate another person or family in the way we live, we often end up striving for their acceptance and approval, all the while carrying a burden that isn’t ours to carry.
Jesus says in Mathew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Many of us unknowingly choose the yoke and burden of our Christian culture rather than that of Jesus. Additionally, many of us allow this burden to fall on other Christians around us, from the example of our own life, without even noticing it.
We Fool Ourselves
The shortcut is not going to save us time or effort. It seems like an easier route that is too good to be true, because it is!
Ask us how we know!
By God’s grace, we have become much more aware of the danger and disappointment of this prescriptive model, but we have had our fair share of frustrations and disappointments. Leigh Ann and I have seen and experienced the painful “removal of the bandaid” seasons more than once, when we have misplaced our aim upon someone other than Jesus. Our understanding of the Christian life has exploded in our face and we were totally caught off guard.
More than once, we have had to reset and rebuild our understanding of who God is, and who we are in Him, by going back to His word and His word alone.
Examples Aren’t All Bad, Just Choose Your Counsel Wisely
Let me be clear that I am not suggesting that seeking the counsel of others is bad, but it is important to note that we are advised to seek “wise” counsel.
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14
“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22
We stumble when we receive counsel that is based opinion rather than scripture. By seeking first, and knowing God’s word, we are able to discern the difference between wise counsel and foolish counsel. Yet another reason to strive to be Bible literate.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” – Psalm 1:1–2
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5
Let us seek first God’s word, and confide in Him, so that when we receive counsel we are able to discern and test accordingly.
In The End
God knows we like examples. That is why he gave us Jesus.
But, Jesus is not simply a prescriptive example for us to follow. He is much more than that! He is an example of God’s love for us. He is an example of what it looks like to live and die for the glory of God. He lived in constant community with the Father, trusting in His plan, and walking in perfect obedience.
He accomplished what we never could. The perfect life.
We are not saved by, or loved because of the life we live. We were saved because we are loved, and so that we would desire to live like Jesus does. So that we would share the life giving transformative power of the GOSPEL with our family and with all those God puts in our path.
I pray that by His grace we would seek first the wisdom and guidance given to us in God’s word, and that our lives would reflect Jesus more and more each day as we are transformed into His image.
May we let this truth transform our lives, our families, our churches, our communities, and on to the far ends of the earth.
Make an honest assessment of your family. Ask yourself if you and your family are following any formula’s and prescriptions of the Christian culture rather than resting in Christ alone and living for Him!
If so, rip the bandaid off, and reset your identity and your sites on Jesus.
What is the hardest formula to avoid for your family? Leave us a comment below.
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