“A Christian’s Call to Duty”
By Nicholas Butler
Parnall Correctional Facility, Jackson, MI
As I have come to discover, being a Christian isn’t easy. There are many self-inflicted trials and tribulations along the way. Jesus transforms our lives and the Holy Spirit convicts us when we commit ourselves to Him. But, an essential component of commitment is action and responsibility. In 1 Peter 1:15, we are called to be holy in conduct because He who called us is holy. Additionally, 1 John 3:3 states: “…everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Most of us fear the words “holy” and “pure,” they send us off running. This is because of our mental conception of these words. We render them unobtainable and we sincerely believe that these are characteristics or attributes only reserved for God. And as such, we justify or minimize our intentional misconduct by believing we cannot be holy or pure on this earthly plane. In essence, we lack accountability and make excuses for deliberately choosing to engage in presumptuous sins.
I can remember a time in my life, not that long ago, when I rode the fence between my Christian daily walk and participating in gang behavior. In my time alone in a single-man cell, I felt the desire to do better, to change, and surrender myself to God. I completed over 100 Bible correspondence courses and retained the intellectual Christianity, but I lacked the emotional connectedness to God experience. It didn’t dawn on me until years later and a second prison sentence that desire had to translate into action. Inert desire is a body at rest, willing it to move will not move it.
The man with the infirmity for 38 years couldn’t will his healing in John 5. What did Jesus tell him? Verse 8, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” His healing was contingent upon him getting up and walking to the pool for the healing action. Again, in Luke 13:10-17, Jesus healed a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for 18 years and was bent over, not able to raise herself up. Her willingness did no good for eighteen years of her life but when Jesus called her to Him, she came, her will became action and she was healed.
Paul, in Romans 12:2 instructs us “. . . to be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” but I didn’t and the majority of us haven’t. Some of us still glorify our past negative experiences with associates, wanting to be accepted by them.
Some still use profane language to sound tough and appear acceptable. And others still cling to false beliefs which influence and impact our thinking, attitudes, feelings, and behavior. Such false beliefs as “Death Before Dishonor,” “No Snitching”; and ‘”If I Get Punched I Have to Hit Back.” Jesus was beaten, murdered, and then resurrected but never considered vengeful actions against those responsible for these behaviors. However, what does the second half of verse 2 read: “. . . that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
In order to prove a thing, an action has to be done, the will moves to action.
Commitment to Christ and the Christian lifestyle is action. Changing our thoughts and interactions is imperative if we are “. . . not to be conformed to this world . . .” (Romans 12:2) On Judgment Day, intentions in a world of action will mean nothing, Romans 2:6 reads that “. . . the righteous judgment of God will be rendered according to our deeds,” or actions. Commitment requires that we not only understand the emotional, social, relational, and psychological causes for our behavior, but that we stop quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) by using these behaviors as a license to sin. 1 John 3:9 reads, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
All of the past adjectives we used or continue to use to self-identify had contributed to the old man who we no longer are. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us that we were washed and sanctified, as well as justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit of God. Sanctification means that we were set apart and consecrated by Christ when He died on the cross for our sins. He took or sins and gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our new man is created according to God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We need not look outside of Christ for acceptance or for the opinion of others, we are acceptable to Him (Ephesians 1:3-6).
A significant aspect of walking daily with Christ is allowing the Word of God to penetrate our defense mechanisms and to reach our most intimate thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and others. We make our walk with Christ easy when we become objective enough to encounter our pain, worry, and doubt. It is essential that we recognize how our past experiences and expectations have influenced how we not only perceive, but also how we receive God’s truth and love.
Oftentimes, God’s glorious character isn’t reflected in our intellectual, free-will, and emotional capacities because we have suppressed His truth for a lie. An example would be the excuse that true change can’t occur until we leave our environment or circumstance. This excuse validates the behavior and makes it seem like it is all right to continue sinning. This makes our walk difficult because we allow Satan to twist and distort our perceptions so that his deceit becomes reasonable and attractive to us.
In Genesis 3, Satan, in the disguise of a serpent did just this. He appealed to Eve by making her question God’s truthfulness and by inferring that eating of the tree she would have greater significance apart from God. Specifically, that some type of hidden knowledge would be revealed to her and that she would be equal to God by knowing good and evil. We have the victory, Christ defeated sin and all things leading to death, we just need to start acting from our victory.
Be responsible for your commitment to Christ, knowing that Christ dwells in us and the Holy Spirit lives in us.