Throughout my spiritual transition, I’ve encountered criticism regarding what others feel my walk with Christ should look like, particularly in the area of lifestyle changes and struggle with sin. There are some who simply do not understand the changes and there are others that were just more comfortable with my sinful nature. There have been a number of reasons. Either way, I found myself in a position of constantly having to explain or defend my faith walk.
Let’s just say, for me that got old pretty quickly. However, I felt led to share some insight from my personal experience.
No true believer will ever tell you living for Christ is easy. As a matter of fact, living for Christ can be one of the most challenging processes you will ever face in life since it is a decision you will be challenged to make daily. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31 “I die every day…”(NCV) Living for Him means daily you will have to humbly submit your will to God. This can become difficult to do when faced with opposition, whether external or internal. However, even Jesus submit himself to the will of God in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)
Many non-believers and even some believers tend to think that once you become saved, you will exhibit perfect behavior. They want to see a person that never says or does the wrong thing. Some even expect life to become roses and lullabies, believing that nothing bad happens to you. On the contrary, things start to get real. The struggle with sin and hardships you face may even increase for a season.
God knows that we battle with our flesh (sin). For this reason, he sent his son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could be set free. This however, does not mean that you will NEVER fall short of his glory. It does not mean you will become perfect as Jesus was. There are levels to this transformation.
You may struggle with parts of your old nature. “You’ll still sin because you are still in your old flesh, but your sensitivity to spiritual things will cause an intense struggle in your soul because now you have to try to ignore the new appetites God has placed within you”, as Dr. Tony Evans, explains in his book, Life Essentials. “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other….” (Galatians 5:17 NIV) I still battle with my old nature daily. However, the closer I draw to God, through studying his word and prayer, the more my perspective begins to line up with his. My convictions change. My desires change. Before you know it, I’m no longer going to the same places I once went to. I am no longer associating with the people that influenced a sinful way of living.
Once these positive changes began to take place in my life, I realized everyone does not have to understand the activities and behavior I choose to forfeit. You may experience people that feel the changes you’ve made are a bit “extreme” because their journey may be different. This brought to mind the chorus of a song I used to know. It expressed my exact presumption when it comes to dealing with those who are critical of the change you make when become more serious about your relationship with God… “You don’t know my struggle, so you can’t feel my hustle!” YES! I quoted Boosie. HAHA! I am not fan of the author just the phrase as it applies to my journey. My struggle is REAL. I cannot allow anyone to discredit my hustle toward righteousness. I may have to refrain from drinking, even in moderation, so I am not tempted by what comes with drunkenness. I may have to avoid tempting environments like clubs or bars, because these places house much of the secular activities I’ve been delivered from. I have a deep love for music, but I must be careful of the type of music I listen to because of the strong influence. These are just a few of the things I deal with.
“When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” It may not be clear at first glance, but if you pay close attention to John 21:21, 22 (NIV), you will find that Jesus is advising Peter that what he is doing in John’s life is between He (Christ) and John, not Peter. My convictions may not be your convictions. Although certain areas may not plague you, they could be critical areas for someone else. There are a number of seemingly harmless things that become a gateway to some form of sin, whether it is lust, drunkenness, immorality, and so forth. All it takes is a spark to ignite a massive fire. Therefore, the hustle has to become as real as the struggle.
It is so important to remember if there is a struggle that means there is a fight. Be careful not to confuse, struggle with rebellion. Struggling with sin, and rebelling are two different things. Living in rebellion means you are not fighting at all. It is choosing to live against the word of God and conforming to the ways you should turn away from.
You will have moments of weakness. However, the idea of repentance is to acknowledge the sin, and turn from it. Even if you repeat this process a million times in a lifetime. God knew you before you were born. He tells us in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…..” (NIV) Therefore, he knew exactly what temptation you would be faced with and what you could succumb to. Ask God to help you to see yourself as He does so that your perspective of who you are does not change throughout your journey. Sometimes it can be challenging to remember who you are in Christ while dealing with temptation of who you once were.
Hebrews 10:16 tells us “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” (NIV) As you draw closer to Him, you will advance to new levels with Him and begin to operate with a holy perspective. We cannot become holy without Christ. The idea is to learn to depend on his holiness to work through us. James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you….” (NKJV)
I pray you are inspired. Stay encouraged.