Christian Devotion or “Christian” Deception?

By Jacob Speer |

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 HCSB)

The Apostle Paul was fond of using athletic metaphors in his call for believers to live distinctly Christian lives. Romans 12:1 (quoted above) is an example.

However, there is an important difference between the commitment of an athlete and that of a Christian: An athlete’s commitment is to himself or to his team, while the commitment of the Christian is to God alone! So we must ask ourselves: Where does our devotion lie??? To Christ or to self???

One way that we can completely miss the mark is when we commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness. We must ensure that our commitment is actually to God, and that it is not simply to a holy lifestyle or a set of moral values. The people of previous generations were generally honest, hard working, and responsible. They were committed to those values, but they were not necessarily committed to God. Many of them were outstanding moralists and even church people, but they were not committed to God.

Could the same be true of us?

As believers we need to be careful that we do not make a similar mistake. We can be committed to a set of Christian values, or to a lifestyle of discipleship, without being committed to God Himself. Paul said: Offer yourself to God, and only in that offering, commit yourselves to the pursuit of holiness in order to please Him.

This is a warning we would do well to heed. Is our commitment to God truly a commitment to God, or is it a disguised selfish pursuit? We should not seek holiness in order to feel good about ourselves, or to blend in with our Christian peer group, or to avoid the sense of shame and guilt that follows the committing of persistent sin in our lives. Far too often our concern with sin arises from how it makes us feel. Sinful habits, sometimes called ‘besetting sins,’ cause us to feel defeated, and we don’t like to be defeated in anything, whether it’s a game of Fortnite, sports, or our struggle with sin.

Here’s the important application. As we commit to the disciplines of the Christian life, our first commitment is to pursue a life that is pleasing to God, which is to say that we must strive to live a life of obedience (not legalism or works based salvation). We commit to obey, which means we must make it our aim not to take liberty in sin. We commit to fight the battle daily! That is our base-level, fundamental commitment! We will obey God by not taking our sinfulness lightly.

We need to take a deep look at our intentions in all of this. It is the intention to please God in all our actions that is the key to a commitment to a life of holiness. If we do not make such a commitment to obedience without exception, we will constantly find ourselves making exceptions. We will have a “just one more time” syndrome in our lives. But the truth is, the “one more time” manner of thinking undermines our commitment. Every time we give in to a temptation, even though it may seem small and insignificant to us, we make it easier to give in the next time.

Sin has a tendency to exert an ever-increasing power on us if it is not resisted on every occasion. I think every Christian can attest to this: sin’s power grows when we allow ourselves to continue to give in to it.

But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 HCSB)

When we allow ourselves to sin just that one time, it is just that much easier to sin the next time.

And here is one thing Christians too often neglect. When we make a commitment not to sin, we also need to make a positive commitment to do something else–something better. It is not enough to break the idols in our lives; we need to replace them with a holy, godly trait. It is not enough to avoid being bitter against those who have wronged us; we need to forgive as God has forgiven us. It is not enough to pray that God will enable us to deal with a volatile temper; we must also ask Him to help us put on compassion and kindness. We must put off sin and put on Christ!

I will close by emphasizing the necessity of preaching the gospel to yourself. An all-out, unreserved, nothing-held-back commitment to the pursuit of holiness may be exhausting, but it will not be oppressive if it is grounded in grace. But to be truly grounded in grace it must be continually referred back to the gospel.

So don’t just preach the gospel to yourself every day merely to experience the cleansing of your conscience. You certainly need to do so for that reason. But as you do, reaffirm, as a response of love and gratitude to God, your commitment to Him. And do so in reliance on His Spirit, that by His grace He will enable you to carry out your commitment. And as you are able to, He will daily conform you more into the image of Christ.

If you have not submitted your life to Christ then I plead with you now. Give up your former ways of sin, which have earned you only death in eternity, and turn from sin to the Savior! Put on the righteousness of Christ by crying out in faith to Him alone for forgiveness, and be blessed by His grace to believe and be saved.

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