Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Be Good (Part 4)

Dear Friends,

According to a survey taken by U.S. News, 80% of our New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by February. That means that for this year’s most popular resolution: “Be a better person – Be good!” only about 20% of us are still trying to do that. According to the survey, the vast majority of these well-intentioned people have thrown up their hands in despair, decided that it’s futile to become a better person and “being good” is an elusive and unattainable goal! But is it? Not if the power of God is active in your life! 

We’ve seen that in our culture today, right and wrong have morphed into subjective opinion and there are many contradictory beliefs about what is good. We saw that only the true and immutable (unchanging) word of God can define what’s is “good” for the believer and if we want to be a better person, we must read our Bible to find out what God’s definition of a good person really is. We’ve also spent some time examining our own motives to be a good person. Is it for a selfish desire to make us look better in the eyes of people? Or have we placed God first in our life and our only desire is to do the will of the Father and look forward to the day that Jesus says to us, Well done good and faithful servant. We’ve entered into a season of self-evaluation, praying for God to search our hearts and show us what we’ve done to offend Him. Okay. We have our list of what the Holy Spirit has shown us. What’s the next step?

Because I have been, thus so far, unsuccessful in convincing my own loved ones that my sarcasm is a spiritual gift from God, this is one area of my personality that I’ve had to struggle with. And when I pray the prayer of self-examination at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit will replay the tape of the unkind words I’ve used. Many, many years ago God convinced and convicted me that my words were lacking in grace and offensive to Him and He led me to Ephesians 4:29. I began to pray that scripture every morning and throughout my day: “Lord, let no corrupt or unwholesome word proceed forth from my lips but what would be for the edification of others, according to the need of the moment, that it would impart grace to the hearers.”

My flesh still occasionally pulls me toward thoughtless and graceless words, but those who know me from two decades ago would tell you that my speech is very much different today than it used to be and God gets all the glory!  A major part of my personality shifted over the years and it was not due to any psychological trick or self-imposed behavioral modification. It was the power of God actively working in my life. Jesus said that, “What you say flows from your heart,” Luke 6:45 NLT and by my simply praying scripture, God changed my heart.

Now in the month of February, if you, like me, are in the 20% still desiring to be a better person and do good, continue to pray the prayer of self-examination at the end of each day. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 NLT Then ask God to show you a scripture that addresses what you struggle with. That’s your prayer scripture. Pray your scripture every day and pray your scripture when you mess up in that one area. Through His grace, your heart will be changed.  And then...

My brother wanted to be a bull rider. Seriously. We grew up in Los Angeles, but he went to every rodeo in Southern California. He studied the moves and techniques of the famous, top-money-earning, celebrity bull riders. They were his mentors. He wanted to prepare like them, exercise like them, dominate the wildest and most dangerous bulls like them. He wanted to be exactly like them. He went to bull riding school in Colorado. In the middle of this quest to ride bulls, God gave him a holy smack upside the head to knock some sense into him and he became a lineman for the DWP instead. But his passion for learning how to ride bulls by studying those at the top of the game shows us what we need to do to be a better person and be good. 

God already created you to be a good person and do good things with your life. Ephesians 2:10. You thought it was a New Year’s resolution, but it’s been God’s plan for your life all along! It’s your God-given destiny! But how do we turn that promise into a practice that changes our lives? Whether you’re a ballet dancer or a bull rider, we need a mentor to emulate and look up to. And you and I also need a spiritual  mentor to study. Someone that we can become close to so that we can learn from them in the context of a personal relationship. We need to study their techniques, their habits, and then we need to notice and practice their “moves” until they become ours. We need to emulate them. To be like them as much as possible. 

We need a mentor and only one Person fits the bill – His name is Jesus Christ. We are told to “be imitators of God” Ephesians 5:1-2 and “walk in the same manner as God does” 1 John 2:6 and then God sent His only Son as the perfect image of the God we are to imitate. Colossians 1:15 Are you inspired to seek out your mentor Jesus Christ and be like Him? If so, you’ve already found Him! That’s the grace of God! Know Him. Study Him. Meditate upon Him. Give Him your heart and let Him change you from the inside out. Let’s all be a better person in 2018. It’s not just a resolution. It’s a promise from God! It’s our destiny!  Amen?

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