My wife introduced me to a book by Thomas a Kempis called “The Imitation of Christ.” I am sure many of you know this classic, but I read it for the first time a few months ago. It is one of those books where you read one sentence and have to think about it for three days! Aside from scripture itself, the only other book that has captivated me so is A.W. Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy.”
I was with my accountability partner a couple of weeks ago when he read this passage to me out loud:
“Living on this earth is truly a misery. The more a man desires spiritual life, the more bitter the present becomes to him because he understands better and sees more clearly the defects, the corruption of the human nature. To eat and drink, to watch and sleep, to rest, to labor and to be bound by other human necessities is certainly a great misery and affliction to the devout man who would gladly be released from them and be free from all sin. Truly, the inner man is greatly burdened in this world by the necessities of the body, and for this reason the Prophet prayed the he might be free from them as possible, when he said, ‘From my necessities, O Lord, deliver me.’
“But woe to those who know not their own misery, and greater woe to those who love this miserable and corruptible life. Some, indeed, can scarcely procure its necessities either by work or by begging, yet they love it so much that, if they could live here always, they would care nothing for the kingdom of God.”
Roughly six centuries after he wrote these words, I am finding myself feeling the exact same way as a Kempis did back in 1418.
To put it another way, the closer I get to God the more disdain I have for this world.
God has been doing a significant work with me, stripping me of worldly distractions and focusing me to live scriptural truths. It’s been a double-edged sword. While Jesus tells us to keep our eyes on heavenly things not worldly things, we’re also told that such an attitude will separate us from others who don’t live like this, including Christian brothers and sisters who may be in a different place in their walks.
I’ve had some incidents lately where I’ve had to ask myself, “I’m I being a jerk or am I just holding the line in my faith?” One incident involving a Christian brother and organization had me asking, “Am I being arrogant or as an ordained minister am I simply affirming my authority to which I was called?”
It’s tough because the flesh wants so badly to be accepted by men! We emotionally cringe when we have conflict where others oppose or dislike us! But then I read scripture and I see that all men of God were rejected by men when they held onto their faith, including the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus Himself.
Jesus told us that the world would hate us because we follow Him (Matthew 10:22). In fact, He told us that people would kill us and think they are serving God (John 16:2)!
I’m reminded of the scene where Peter and John are brought before the religious leaders in Jerusalem and told to stop talking about Jesus. Their response is epic: “We must obey God rather than men.” For this, they were beaten and would have been killed had not a Pharisee named Gamaliel intervened. (Acts 5:29-40)
And that’s exactly how I’m feeling lately. I have to obey God rather than men and the worldly rules they put in place that would inhibit my call to preach the full gospel, minister to those in need, and tell God’s truth as lovingly and gently as I can, yet as truthfully as I can as well. But to be honest, it can be a lonely experience at times because you can be so misunderstood, including by fellow Christians, as you try to maneuver around and sometimes have to fight the system.
Yet I am compelled by the fire of the Holy Spirit to drive on! As God continues to strip things away – things for which I used to have passion but now see as only worldly and without value – life is so much clearer. This world can, indeed, be miserable. Every day I am more discouraged and disgusted by what I see in the news, on social media and even in our churches, where God’s word is being replaced by cultural norms. Yet I find solace remembering Solomon’s words in the Book of Ecclesiastes where he boldly tells us everything of this world is meaningless except the fear of the Lord! YES!!!
So, I’ll do my best to do exactly what God has created me to do.
- I’ll preach boldly what God tells me to preach without regard to whether people like what I’m saying or not!
- I’ll share God’s truth in scripture in ways that meet people where they are yet challenge them to meet Jesus in the process!
- I’ll stand up against evil, oppression, injustice, and apostasy calling it what it is and seeking those involved to accept God’s love, forgiveness, grace and mercy.
- I will not fear Satan or his demons and will rebuke them as is my right by the blood of Jesus.
- I will love, have compassion, and have empathy for those who struggle in this fallen world. And where I am allowed, I will counsel them on how Jesus heals.
- I will admit that of all the sinners I am the worst! I will admit that I am the one who needs Jesus in my life the most!
- And I will surrender all to Jesus my Lord and Savior. Whatever He asks I will do – no matter the cost.