My wife and I ran into an old friend recently whom we hadn’t seen in several years. We briefly caught up with what was happening in each of our lives. She told us of her working with Twelve Step groups, which she said was her passion. During our conversation, she said something that resonated with me: “The worst addiction is to the need to get our own way.”As I observe the state of the world and the state of the Church, this addiction seems to be endemic. People want what THEY want! The Apostle James framed it this way:
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 NIV
What is this desire of which he speaks? The desire to do what we want to do. We cannot be tempted by things which hold no interest to us. It’s only those things that grab our attention and which we decide we want to have no matter what the Lord might say about it. An addiction to getting our own way will lead us into nothing but trouble and, ultimately spiritual death. For our own sakes, this addiction must be broken.
However, it is hard to break free when the culture and, sadly, many churches undergird the belief that we should be able to do what we want. The culture has been that way for a long while; local churches are beginning to catch up. The mantra is: do what’s best for you; we will not judge. It is very enticing because it gives us permission to do and have what we want. Deep down, don’t all of us want that?
Yet, one large truth is ignored when people, particularly those claiming allegiance to Jesus, are given permission to do whatever they want by cultural and church leaders: Jesus is Lord; our lives are longer our own, but belong to him. He is our master and he sets the terms of our behavior and priorities in life. This is not to say that his love and mercy are not enough to forgive us when we relapse into wanting our own way, but the culture and many Christians are trying to convince us that our addiction to getting our way is both healthy and normal. This is akin to letting a young child play in a busy road because he wants to or to have dessert instead of dinner because that’s what she prefers, and then claim this is a proper way to raise a child!
Good parents never assume their children know what’s best for them; neither should we assume we know what’s best for ourselves. We have a Heavenly Father who is wise and knows what’s best; thus, we need to heed his instructions to us. We do this by going to his Word and submitting ourselves to it because we are to submit ourselves to him.
And what does he say about the trends of our culture and of the local church? Many say gender is fluid and it’s up to the person to determine his or her gender, but the Lord says we were each created either male or female (Genesis 1:27). Many say homosexual relationships are approved by the Lord and should be embraced as good, but there is not one scriptural reference that is positive or approving of homosexual relationships. Many in our society, particularly young people, are in a perpetual state of worry and anxiety, and the answer offered up is drug treatment and mindfulness training, but we are told in the Scriptures that the ultimate answer to our unsettled minds is to trust in the Lord and his provision (Matthew 6:25-27; I Peter 5:7). And many advocate to punish our enemies or shun them, but the Lord tells us to love them and pray for them (Matthew 5:44).
It would be easy to go on and on with many more of the Lord’s instructions that are counter to what we are told by those in our culture. The fact we need to realize is that our Enemy seeks to destroy us by tempting us to pursue our own way. And now he is using the cultural mores to normalize disobedience to God’s commands. Just because the culture or your local church says that something is fine, doesn’t make it true. It must be examined in light of God’s teaching in the Word. And his Word must be the last word.
As followers of Jesus, we have given up the right to do whatever we want to do. We are not our own; we were bought at a price. Thus, we are to humble ourselves before God, our Lord and Master, and submit our will to his, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when all he wanted was to avoid his own death and separation from the Father. His prayer was, “not my will, but yours be done.” May ours be the same.
© Jim Musser 2019