Often times when I'm seeking to encourage a fellow sinner-sufferer I ask, "What am I doing or saying that is distracting them from Jesus?" The only worthy encouragement I can ever offer comes from Jesus and the good news. I also know that if people see me instead of Jesus, hope given will be short-lived. This has led me to wonder how I distract even myself and stray from my relationship with him. I began thinking about the balance between enjoying God's gifts to us on earth versus indulging in them to the point of gluttony and distraction from Jesus… like TV, coffee, spending, community, food, sleep, being healthy, working, alcohol, children, learning or even weather. Lately I've spent moment after moment thinking about relaxing on a beach instead of hustling through a freezing city.
Where am I choosing apostasy (total desertion from believing the gospel) in certain areas because it's more comfortable than being changed by the Spirit of God?
Where does my flesh dictate what I do instead of God's Word?
What are the objects of my greatest wants that I put before Jesus (idolatry)?
It could be a degree, a future husband or even a clean house. For many of us, this apostasy creeps up and sneaks in. It doesn't announce its presence and is often embedded so deeply that we feel like it belongs. We get confused because these idols can originally be good things, but why we want them can be very wrong. We are often steeped in gluttony because it put on a hat of fake holiness and a cloak of phony righteousness; then we let it stay and call it "grace" or "freedom."
Isaiah 57:14-15 says,
". . . 'Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people's way.' For thus says the One who is high and lifted up. . .'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit. . ."
And the truth rears its ugly head: I don’t want to be lowly. I want to feel good. I want to feel comfortable. I want things my way. It is the exact opposite of the person of Jesus and supplies the exact opposite of what my soul really longs for. Lowly means inferior or plain, not having any feelings of superiority. It's the opposite of what the world and my flesh tell me to be. As I read the antonyms for lowly, I was struck by "brazen, presumptuous, pretentious, upp-ish, lordly" and mostly. . . "self-important". I think of the many times I find myself to not only be more important than others, but also more important than a holy and perfect God.
Where in my life am I refusing to be lowly and finding comfort in the world instead of with Christ?
Where am I choosing self-importance over God-importance?
Where am I quenching my thirst in places other than Christ, but having to always stuff myself because I'm never satisfied there?
One place I’m often uncomfortable is when Jesus asks me to consider others as more significant than myself. He calls me to bear other's burden, not just the ones I choose to carry. In Galatians 6, God did not give a list of when to and when not to bear someone's burdens. He didn't say only when you've had coffee and a good night's rest. Can you imagine our perfect Lord saying, "Hey, only bear someone's burdens when things are great for you… only when you like the person or they can give something back in return. . .only when it's comfortable for you. . .only when you don't have a deadline. . .only when other people are watching you"? By not loving others, I am saying no to God. And when I love others only because I feel like it, as opposed to doing it because I love Him, I attempt to theft God's glory for my own trophy case.
When I choose to gratify my own desires and stay comfortable in my selfish habits, I am like the kid who gets full on juice instead of eating a full, healthy meal. It never lasts, never satisfies and doesn't meet your actual needs. But when I walk by the Spirit in obedience, I get to experience an amazing God who reminds me that I am lowly and desperately in need of only him. I don't get the glory, but I also don't get the shame and guilt. Instead, I get a worshipful heart because I see whom he is and I experience him without obstructions. The most beautiful part of this is that Jesus is the ultimate burden-bearer for me. Regardless of my denial of him, he still loves me and pursues me. So much so that He took my shame and guilt upon himself. Jesus claimed it and said, "Her sin is mine. Punish me instead of her". And in return, I get to experience a newness of life and the freedom to love others in the same way.
So I pose the same question to you: Where are you being distracted from a deeper relationship with Jesus?
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.