STOVER: Taking the road less traveled

Published 2:13 pm Saturday, January 13, 2018

By LARRY STOVER | Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene

We are confronted with choices every day. Responding to daily options can determine the direction and outcome of our day to day lives while some choices determine a lifetime. This is just as much an issue for Christians and unbelievers alike. Both are confronted with issues that require decisions that define their moral and ethical behavior. For the believer, they choose to accept the values central to our Judeo-Christian beliefs as the qualifier for those decisions.

There should be a stark contrast between the moral and ethical systems as defined by the Christian and the unbeliever. That is not always the case as we are seeing a shift by “self-proclaimed progressive” Christians toward the more liberal fork in this road.

The Bible is very clear. Galatians 5:19-25 paints a picture of this “fork.”

The destructive fork in the road is mentioned in verses nineteen through twenty-one. They read, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

We often discover a much shorter list among people traveling down the road of life. Sexual immorality, in its many forms, is the main focus for most people. In our society today we are moving away from the traditional ideas of marriage and morality. As our sexual morals continue to shift to the left, the above mentioned behaviors have become more and more acceptable. This lifestyle of debauchery leads a person to believe that they can live anyway that they want, doing as they please.

But, what about the not so blatant acts of the sinful nature that are included on this list? I’ve always been fascinated by the inclusion of “dissentions, factions and fits of rage.” Through the years I have encountered many Believers who were tearing up churches, causing division in those same congregations, and often driving pastors and their families from the church because they did not get things their way. Rather than resolving issues, as Christian should do, they choose to destroy lives and split churches. Most of us have experienced this kind of a nature that is far from the Christian described below.

It is amazing what can happen when selfish, self-centered, egotistical people can do when they get their eyes off of God. One thing we know for sure is that people who act like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. They means they will not go to heaven when they die. That’s the judgment of God.

Contrary to the acts of the sinful nature is what Paul the Apostle calls the “Fruit of the Spirit.” These nine characteristics sum up the Biblical requirements of those who profess Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

They are found in verses twenty-two through twenty-five. They read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Often people read this list and exclaim, “There is no way a person can do this!”  That is very true. A close exegesis of this passage will make it very clear that these attributes are only viable when we are lead by the Holy Spirit. This is a major dilemma of contemporary Christianity. Like our unbelieving counterparts, we don’t want anyone to tell us to do anything, including the Holy Spirit. As a result many Christians today are living far below their potential. They may be Justified by God but they have not experienced the power of being filled with the Holy Spirit or being led by the Holy Spirit.

We are all faced with choices this year. Some may choose to be atheists or agnostics. Others will settle for a mediocre relationship with God. Yet, others will choose the road less travelled that involves allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them every moment of every day. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to eternal life, and only a few find it.” Choosing the Spirit filled fork in the road may be narrow but it will make 2018 “Simply Beautiful.”