After hearing a sermon or Bible study lesson I am often left with one major take away. The sermon can be filled to the brim with noteworthy life application, but I am usually struck between the eyes by one thing in particular. I believe that is God using the pastor or teacher's words to convict and change a behavior or flaw in me that is not honoring to him. This morning was no exception.
As the pastor spoke my mind kept wandering. My mind wasn't landing on any one thing in particular but it was having trouble focusing in during the first few minutes of the sermon. I kept calling my mind back, reminding myself to stay engaged in the moment and to stop scurrying down every little rabbit hole. No sooner had I silently spoken those words to myself did I hear words from the pulpit that God desperately wanted me to hear.
The sermon series we are studying is on the book of Esther, a book I admittedly haven't spent much time reading and even less time learning from. So, this study is very new to me. The plot, names of characters and story line are like reading a new book that just hit the shelves. The only difference is this book isn't at all new and has been on my shelf my entire life. I am convicted of my lack of Bible knowledge when I open to its pages because I am reminded that I am terribly ignorant on so much of the Bible and yet have it so easily accessible. But this wasn't even the main point that God wanted me to see today, that is more of an "added bonus"... added to the list of areas where I need to be more obedient and grow as a child of God.
But back to this morning... The message was clear, short and concise - at least the message God was waving in front of my face: "input influences output."
As is often the case, this has been a principle that has been weighing on my mind. It seems that God often preps me for hearing from him by stirring my heart on a particular matter before having the sit down talk with me. This morning was my sit down talk.
I am guilty of rationalizing what input I allow to penetrate into my every day routine. It is so easy to say, "Going there won't influence me" or "watching that isn't a big deal" or "listening to that music has no impact on me!" Lets face it, it's easier to underestimate the impact of negative influences then to be an outspoken opponent of the world's practices. The world sees nothing wrong with these influences and doesn't appreciate hearing otherwise.
As Christians, we shouldn't take the easy way out. We shouldn't rationalize negative, or even "neutral" influences because they are the way of the world. We shouldn't make excuses as to why we can be in the presence of sin or wrong headed thinking and not have it negatively influence on our own thinking, and ultimately our behavior.
The things that we fill ourselves with have a direct correlation to the things that flow out of us. If we want to become more Godly, more Christ-like, then we must abandon the ways of this world and fill ourselves with things of God. It may seem "extreme" and "radical" to abandon the things of this world but radical obedience is what God demands. In Luke 18:22, Jesus tells one particular follower to take drastic measures to follow him. He told him to "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Wow! Can you imagine Jesus looking you straight in the eye and telling you that this is what you must do to truly, sincerely be a sold out follower of his? And here we are, as Christians in the 21st century America, holding tight to our music and mindless TV. This man in the New Testament wasn't asking to be able to listen to read the latest book to hit the shelves that used corse language or watch the Long Island Medium. He was already what you and I might call a "good Christian." But that wasn't enough. God demanded more.
It is the same with you and I today. From the perspective of the world we may be "good." We may obey the law, volunteer at a soup kitchen, give generously when the offering plate is passed our way and treat our neighbors with respect. But if we are still allowing worldly influences into our day to day living then we are tainting our ultimate output.
We must throw off the things of this world. We can only fill ourselves with so many influences. Which influences will you choose? Will you choose the things of this world, tuning the dial to secular music and TV, choosing trashy books or pure "fluff", wander at the mall instead of attending a Bible study? Or will you trade in the practices and habits that are hallmarks of this world so you can fill yourself with hallmarks of God's eternal kingdom? The world might look at you funny or might call you a loon, but God will be smiling in Heaven. He wants you to get to know him with a deeper intimacy so that, out of you, can flow more of his character. This can only happen when you fill yourself with what he is offering.
And trust me, he isn't the one offering you 50 Shades of Grey.