A number of years ago when I was a salesman, I used to travel quite a bit. I would fly all over the US and drive up and down the state of California. In the beginning, I found the travel exciting. After a short period of time it was no longer exciting but tedious and soul crushing. I would get so tired sometimes that my life was like a twisted science experiment. Like Pavlov’s Dogs, my alarm would sound and I would sit up and then that would set into motion a series of activities that had been conditioned into my brain and body. I would get in the shower, I would get dressed, I would gather my briefcase, I would get in the car, I would drive a specific way to get to a specific place. When I arrived at the office my brain would suddenly reboot and I was left wondering, “How did I get here”?
One morning, the monotony of this ritual was ripped away when I was forced to wake up before it was time. As I cruised along the freeway with my head bobbing up and down as I drifted in and out of sleep, a loud tearing of metal awakened me and I soon found that I had no control over my car. I spun out of control and (by the Lord’s kindness) found myself on the shoulder of the freeway. As I inspected my car, I realized I had fallen asleep and drifted into the large wheel of a very large truck. Its long lug nuts had torn into the body of my car and ripped it apart.
It took a crisis and some significant damage to wake me up on that freeway that beautiful morning. Our lives as followers of Jesus Christ are no different. We can get over the excitement of our conversion to faith in Jesus and slowly be lulled to sleep by the monotony of life and slip back into behaviors, relationships, and situations that will eventually leave us disabled on the roadside wondering what happened. When we allow this to become the pattern of our lives, I like to call it “Crisis Christianity.”
Crisis Christianity begins with our disposition toward God. I can remember studying Ephesians 4:17-19 and it dawned on me that Paul’s warning not to live as the gentiles do was given to the Ephesians because that was entirely possible. I know that sounds silly, but before that I thought of it more as simply the way we were before Jesus. The truth is, I have had many folks come to me frustrated by their relationship with the Lord and the lack of intimacy they have with Him. I would suspect a lot more feel the same, that is until they are wrecked on the side of the road and calling out for God in crisis.
In fact, Paul was warning the Ephesians that we could become estranged from God just like the gentiles when our hearts become hard. How do our hearts become hard toward God? They become calloused when we give ourselves to sensuality and impurity. The difference between the gentiles and us is that they do this out of ignorance. We cannot claim the same ignorance – we have God’s Word and, in particular, Paul’s direction here in Ephesians 4 to not allow our heart’s disposition toward God to be directed by sensuality and impurity.
So how do we ensure we are not lulled into a thoughtless life of crisis Christianity and eventually wreck as our hearts are dominated by sensuality and impurity? The first step is to put off the old self as Paul encourages us in Ephesians 4:22. The way we do this is based on what we know about Jesus as Paul describes in vv. 20-21. We consume truth about Jesus so that we can parse out or identify lies and truth. This enables us to renew our minds with the truth of who we now are because of Jesus, to put on our new self. Romans 6:10 says that we are to consider how we are now united to Jesus in the death of our old self and the new life we have in Him.
What we are and what we have become is sons of the one true living God, Yahweh. We are image bearers. We are worth a Son to God.
The second step to not being lulled into the thoughtless life that ends in wreckage is to live in the way of wisdom. In Ephesians 5 starting in v. 15, Paul encourages the Ephesians to pay attention to how they do life so that they are living as those that are wise as opposed to those that are unwise and literally buying back time with their diligence.
So what does it mean to live as one who is wise? It means to apply acquired knowledge to how you live. Paul continues to develop this thought in v. 17 by saying that we are not to be foolish, but to understand the will of God. The word Paul chooses for “understand” means to make connections between how we live and God’s will or to see how they relate. So wisdom is the application of God’s will to how we do life, obedience.
Now before we discover how we understand or make connections between our life and God’s will I think we have to understand what we are talking about when we talk about God’s will.
- God’s will of decree – God is sovereign and has determined all things and decreed that they will happen before time.
- God’s will of desire – Man is responsible to obey God, this is about obedience and where we have to make connections between what we know and how we should live, the way of wisdom.
Paul tells us a little bit more about what this kind of understanding looks like in the first two verses of Romans 12. He says that discovering the will of God involves three things. First, we must present our bodies or our lives to God as a living sacrifice, that is we offer ourselves, our goals, and our aspirations to His will. Second, we commit to living in obedience, and we do not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world around us. Finally, we commit ourselves to having our minds continually transformed by renewing them with His Word, and then we will discover God’s will for our lives. So this process of offering ourselves, denying the world influence over us, and allowing God’s word to influence us will reveal God’s will so that we can make the necessary connections with how we are to move forward in life.
The final step to avoiding crisis Christianity is a decision between reckless living or yielding control to the Spirit. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 not to get drunk with wine because that is debauchery or reckless living. The alternative he gives us is to be filled with the Spirit. He goes on to explain what we can expect when we yield to the Spirit rather than our sensuality. We can expect four things. One, we will desire to worship together as God’s people. Two, we will desire to worship God on our own. Three, we will desire to give thanks to God for everything all the time (because all that we have comes from God). Four, we will desire to put others before ourselves. Yielding to the Spirit, being filled by the Spirit, will transform the desires of our hearts.
The million-dollar question is how do we yield or allow the Spirit to fill us. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he gives a parallel to our Ephesians passage by citing the same transformed desires and actions being driven by allowing the word of Christ to dwell in us richly. In Colossians 3:16, we get the key to practicing being filled by the Spirit, which is to allow the gospel, God’s word to dwell in, take residence in, or to dominate our hearts. As we yield to the Spirit’s power and allow God’s word to dominate our hearts, our desire for sensuality is overcome by a desire to wake up and actively worship God in every way rather than waiting for disaster to hit.
Simply put, we have to wake up as we travel toward our future glory with Jesus Christ. Doing life awake means that we keep in close proximity to God, seeking His will in His word, applying His word to the choices we make, and allowing His word and the power of the Spirit to give us new desires. Now this is not to say that we might not run into a truck or two, or that they will not run into us, but if we are awake we will not lose control of the car.