One of the “turn-offs” of Christianity for many people is the perception that God is a “Party Pooper”, always putting restrictions on us just when life starts getting interesting.
Sadly, some Christians actually strengthen that stereotype where God disapproves of all the stuff they disapprove of, making God in their own image.
I’m not here to lay down the law, making a list of rules about what activity is acceptable to God and what is not. Some things are pretty obvious to most of us of course, but here I’d rather highlight the motivation behind our behaviour. I’m also convinced that God has much more of an interest in what’s going on inside us (“The Heart”), than the goings-on externally.
One illustration has helped me understand this quite well:
There were two boys, doing what boys often do, getting into mischief. They could see a glasshouse just down the street from where they lived with shiny new glass, just crying out to be smashed. They got a stone each, then hesitated.
The first boy dropped his stone and said, “I can’t do this, my Dad would get mad at me.”
The second boy dropped his stone and said, “I can’t do this, it would hurt my Dad.”
Both of the boys restrained themselves. Wonderful!
Yet boy 2 had something boy 1 was missing -- a great relationship with his father.
I believe that would stand him in good stead in his growth into manhood.
Psychologists call this “internalising” the right behaviour.
Another example is from my own experience.
In my teenage development years, talking “dirty” and swearing was considered masculine, a mark of being “cool” and being accepted as part of the “In-Crowd” at school.
I tried doing that, but I was still never accepted as part of the In-Crowd. I was considered too nerdy to be naughty.
I would never do it within Mum and Dad’s hearing of course!
I wasn’t that stupid!
But unfortunately, it started becoming a habit.
The real breakthrough came when I had a real encounter with the Lord Jesus.
It was then that I discovered what “Holiness” really was.
It didn’t fit any of the stereotypes dumped on Christians, and was often disapproved of by both the In-Crowd and the religious people. It was something I realised that I wanted -- not something to strive for by changing my own behaviour (which never worked anyway.)
Anyway, I tried experimenting with a few 4-letter words to see if I’d really changed.
(No, I’m NOT going to tell you what they were!)
I immediately felt a reaction inside that I hadn’t experienced before.
Guilt? Yes, a bit of that. I’d felt that many times before.
But this time I really felt I had defiled myself and my new-found relationship with the Father. The uppermost sensation was the realisation that God would feel disappointed if I continued with it. That was more than enough motivation for me to change. I didn’t want to do it any more.
I’ve never used those words since.
Does that mean I’ve earned the title of “good man”? Maybe, but it’s God that brought the change, not me.
That doesn’t mean I look down on those who still use those words. That’s between them and God.
I just can’t do it, no matter what company I’m in.
But why should we leave it at that?
God didn’t redeem us merely to restrain us from inappropriate behaviour.
Maybe we’ll look at that in our next post.