We are wrapping up our study on the concept of swimming upstream today with the most important concept of all…being compelled to live like Jesus here in the world. We’ve looked at Daniel’s journey in the OT and Paul’s words in the New, now we are turning to the pages of scripture where specifically our Savior Himself teaches us how to live in this world. I am praying that as you read these words you feel the strength of the Lord filtering down through every cell of your being. He means for us to live victoriously, conforming to Himself, and He tells us how. And just to re-cap the baseline concepts we began with in Part 1…
Swimming Upstream: To opt for a difficult course of action when a simpler or safer alternative is available
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Non-conformist: a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices.
It is counter-cultural and it takes a non-conformist mindset to obey Jesus’s commands to love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
to sit at the table with people whose sins are hanging out there for all to see,
to forgive someone seventy times seven.
We are all in equal need of Jesus, it’s just that some of us hide our need better than others.
Jesus never stood holding the stone. He went to the one in need and extending His hand of healing and forgiveness, He commanded in love that the life of sin be left behind. He did not accuse, He never used shame or guilt against someone, He loved and He gave them confidence that He would do the enabling.
The only reason that any of us overcome anything in our lives is because of His grace.
I want to be the kind of person that gives the magnitude of grace that I have been given. I want to have my security so cemented into my Savior that I can emotionally afford for people to have a bad day with me. Does that make sense?
I want for people to be able to act up, act wrong, act tired, act annoyed, act angry, you fill-in-the-blank with whatever behaviors get under your skin. How ever people behave around me, I want it NOT to send me into a sin of my own. <please note that we need extreme discernment to know if we are trying to be a person’s savior rather than pointing them to the ONLY Savior, and we also need extreme wisdom to know if we are in an unhealthy relationship that our God is telling us to flee for our lives, what I’m talking about here is a God-ordained place where He has specifically asked us to engage and love>
Because my security is found in Jesus, I can pray for that person, serve that person, love that person without expecting them to perform a certain way that I might deem them worthy.
“Selah (pause and calmly think of that)!,” as the Psalmist says.
Jesus deemed me worthy for Him to suffer and die on a cross. He died a criminal’s death while I was still a sinner. When He was on the cross, you and I were on His mind. And do you know what He decided? We were worth it to Him.
I wish I could tell you how many faces are popping into my mind of people that I have dismissed because I deemed them unworthy of my time or effort or love. Forgive me, Jesus. Help me see people like You do.
The pattern of the world says that there are throw-away people and throw-away unborn lives.
The prevailing mindset is that you scratch someone’s back only if they scratch yours.
The cultural norm is that you find people who think like you and look like you and do not disagree with you and do things the way you like them done and love those people because they love you back.
The simpler option in life is to go with the flow of the masses, who are walking the self-serving wide-open broad path that leads to destruction.
But none of this matches up with how Jesus taught us to operate.
Let’s look at 4 scriptures in particular, that I believe can open our eyes again to what God really wants from us…the upstream living that is true Christianity. I pray you’ll take the time to let these truths sink in, fight the temptation to read with familiarity. Let His Holy Word pierce your heart as you read like it pierces mine as I did.
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
When Jesus says that there are 2 commandments that stand above the rest, I think we ought to take note. How many times have we heard these truths? I would venture to say quite a few depending on how long you have been following Jesus. But, do His words hit us with the magnitude that they should? Do we feel His heart when we read them so strongly that it compels us to action?
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
He has loved us well, are we then loving others to that same degree? He came not to be served but to serve…do you and I come to serve or to be served?
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.
44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.
47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.
48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
I can tell you that these scriptures provide me with the clearest look into my own heart. I know that I am guilty of playing favorites. It is easy to love people who are lovable, and Jesus says that is no credit to us.
But what about the ones who are difficult to love? Do you have anyone in your family who is like that? How about a co-worker? A teenager who is acting, well, like a teenager. The supervisor who is hateful and rude. Or your toddler who decided he will pitch a fit in the middle of Wal-Mart? A husband who is being difficult to get along with, a sibling with whom you disagree, the lady from church who talks too much and who you really do not have time to stand and listen…Do we only love those who love us well or are we willing to love when it’s difficult?
Do we love when it makes us die to self?
Mmmmm. CON. VICTING.
In verse 47, Jesus Himself says that we are no different than anyone else if we are kind only to people we consider friends. The entire point of swimming upstream is that we are not like everyone else! We choose to live like Jesus and not like the rest.
1 John 4:16-17
16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Lord Jesus, we want to live like You here in this world…
Does it occur to us to hit our knees asking God’s mercy on our politicians who are making decisions of corruption and evil?
Do we grieve over the lost souls in ISIS who are persecuting our Brothers & Sisters across the world? Are we asking God to meet them in the night with visions and dreams and for radical conversions to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Are we asking the Creator of Heaven and Earth to reveal Himself to the scientist in the laboratory using stem cells from aborted babies who are used as throw-away lives in the name of ‘good’ science?
I believe that we all have areas in our life where it’s become very, very easy and comfortable to settle in to our yachts of luxury riding downstream without any effort. That’s what the enemy loves, doesn’t he? If he can convince us that we aren’t really hurting anyone else by floating idly downstream with all the masses that must mean that everything is okay.
You and me, let’s get out of the boat and start swimming upstream to a life that is pleasing to our Savior. It’s a process. It takes time to create endurance and strength. If our muscles of self-denial and radical-obedience are weak, then it will take practice to build them up. No, upstream swimming is not for the weak, it’s for the weak who have been made strong. And, Sister, that’s us. Jesus means for us to believe Him and to trust Him and to take Him up on His offer for the abundant life. I’m in…are you? See you upstream!