“Giving Up Our Vices”
“You’re gonna have to pray for me, because I already gave up everything else for JESUS,” I lamented to my friend when the Holy Spirit nudged me to give up some of my rap CDs. “And there is no way I am getting rid of this Outkast CD. No. Way.” If you don’t know what a CD is, please take a moment to google the Dark Ages, and there you’ll find my early twenties.
To be honest, the first year or two of my discipleship journey was an uncomfortable process of elimination. I had to give up my vices, my coping mechanisms, the comforts I turned to when I needed a release from pain. Social smoking, drinking too much, binge eating, binge watching television, hiding in relationships, and finally, rap music.
For the record, I still listen to and love that genre, but I began to realize how much death I invited into my life as I considered the negative lyrics coming out of my mouth. I think we underestimate the power of media in our lives.
We’re saturated in pop culture, digital streaming, smart phones and tablets, email and social media, Ted Talks and teaching series. It can be so very difficult to hear God and to allow His word to shape our worldview. In fact, if we’re not careful, the world begins to shape our faith, more than scripture. We even start to think that “just a little bit of this” won’t hurt, right? What’s the big deal anyway?
On the cross, Jesus defeated sin, and He is alive, living in unbroken fellowship with God. Unbroken. There’s not a moment of disconnection between them. Stop with me for a moment and consider what it would be like to never feel a separation from heaven. What kind of joy is that? What would it be like to live without sin? I assure you that I don’t know, but I aspire.
Do you find yourself there in the gap with me? Reading the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans, earnestly desiring Jesus to be Lord of your life, but feeling the painful tension between your flesh and your spirit? Praying to be in deeper relationship with Jesus and others, but choosing a show on Netflix, a glass of wine, or a few hours of anything but meaningful connection, please?
It’s just that relationships are so much work. It feels too hard to find God in every single moment of every single day. Maintaining unbroken fellowship and the intimacy required makes me want to dive headlong into something a bit more mind numbing, with a bit less pressure. (You know, Netflix, wine, Pinterest, fill in yours here.)
You know what I’ve learned? God doesn’t make me perform like a circus monkey. He does not want me to entertain Him, or clean my house first, or be “on” in order to connect. Unlike the culture of this world, He takes me, as I am, hot mess that I am. Whether I am tired, worn out, happy, excited, frustrated, he receives me by His grace. Life in the Spirit relieves pressure; it does not add it.
Sin is not our ruler. Desire is not our master. Jesus is our Lord. Through the finished work of the cross, we do not have to live even a moment feeling disconnected from the presence of God. Together, let’s live receiving the blessing of unbroken fellowship with Him.
PRACTICE: Celebrate what you have already given up, even if it’s rap music. Celebrate your desire to live in unbroken fellowship with God and others. Turn on some Motown and throw yourself a dance party. You may not be where you want to be, but thank God you are not where you were.