For the last few years I chose to not participate in the social media dialogue. But in the last six months I have re-engaged the conversations of the world as they unfold in certain mainstream social media forums. My main reason for doing so was to get a pulse on what is happening in the minds and hearts of people, especially christians. Over the last few months there have been several significant issues that seem to have solicited much dialogue in the christian community. Whether it is same sex marriages, pro-life issues, religious freedom, the refugee crisis, blood moons or the presidential election there seems to be plenty of reasons for people to express their views and opinions. Inevitably the issues always seem to come down to what one person believes is right and this view is either met with wholehearted agreement or it is carefully critiqued as wrong and the opposing view is articulated by those who believe the opposite. The dialogues can be heated and sometimes amusing to read, but more importantly they serve to illustrate a deeper spiritual truth that most of us are either at best unable to recognise or even worse, unwilling to acknowledge. It is a truth that is fundamentally and foundationally essential to the christian life. This truth is that the reality of our life in Christ is not determined by what we perceive as right and wrong.
The predominant desire of the natural man is to assess the issues of life through the moral grid of what is right and what is wrong. This is the direct result of the fall of man in the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In that moment they opened themselves to the animating source of the evil one, the devil, who is the constant author of confusion and death. It is from this place of misalignment with the devil that the natural, fleshly person always engages the issues of life with the wrong starting point which inevitably leads to division, strife, and enmity, all of which never bring peace and unity.
This is exactly why the apostle Paul strongly expressed his concern for the christians in the first century by telling them that he was “afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be lead astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3). Just as today we are faced with so many complex and intriguing issues, the believers of the first century were faced with the same challenges. It is evident from the apostolic teaching of the new testament that believers were faced with many of the same issues we are facing today. Ironically, the response of the apostles was rarely to give the “right” answer to these difficult questions in some type of moral dialogue in the spirit of reason or argument. On the contrary, they focused only on Christ Jesus and the believer’s vital union with Him as the source of life and peace. Paul’s comments in Colossians highlight this very issue. He says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). He finishes by telling them that “no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16–17). Paul is telling us that there will always be many opinions, teachings, ideas, views, etc. by which we can easily be distracted from the one and only thing that ultimately matters and that is Jesus Christ. Anything other than simply Christ will fall desperately short because nothing else can provide life and life is the defining characteristic of the christian experience.
The trap that has been laid by our enemy, the devil, is the trap of religion. By definition religion is a “set of beliefs” or a “system of faith” to which someone ascribes supreme importance. The problem with religion is that it makes its primary focus the set of beliefs or the system to which it adheres. Once the enemy has secured his ground in the heart of the person who holds more firmly to the system rather than Jesus Christ, then his deception is complete. He has “blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The work of God in Christ Jesus causes us to be rescued from this deception once and for all. However, our journey in being conformed to the image of Christ is one of continually choosing by faith to devote ourselves to simple and exclusive devotion to Christ Jesus as our life.
On a practical note, this continual choice often calls for self-control to abstain from participation in discussions that will not ultimately lead to life and peace. There are many issues that are too difficult for us and which must be left in God’s hands for Him to deal with in His time and in His way. As we make these choices on a daily basis we can experience the abundant life that Jesus gives (John 10:10) and He will “dwell in our hearts by faith” and we “will be rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17).