Saturday, November 19, 2016

Set apart, yet Undivided

“One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas— the sacred and the secular.” - A.W. Tozer

This has been one of the most convicting topics I’ve encountered recently. A divided life. As I read this statement, I began seeking the truth behind it, reflecting on my life, and searching for understanding in a practical way. I have heard it taught in church before, most commonly out of the encouragement throughout Paul's letters to the churches to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31); however; if we’re being totally honest, I was never quite sure what anyone was talking about when they would suggest I could make brushing my teeth a glorifying act to God. So naturally, I accepted it and moved on without aiming to gain understanding. (Psalm 119:144)


But Tozer goes on to note that most of us today are caught in this trap between two worlds. A spiritual world, and a natural world. And as a people we have acquired this ability to compartmentalize different aspects of our lives— to bring them up when appropriate and shut them down as necessary and we, Christians, are no different. The spiritual world for the Christian may consist of praying, and going to church, and singing worship songs, and other activities that provide a “feeling of satisfaction and a firm assurance that these actions are pleasing to God”. In other words, spiritual acts are the scared acts that apart from faith would be meaningless, but because of faith give us access to another world. On the other hand because we are merely human, we all live our lives "subject to the limitations of the flesh”, which is the secular world where eating, sleeping, working, driving, and other such things take place. There is a clear picture of how these worlds are very different; however, I could argue along with Tozer that as we try to live and maintain lives in both kingdoms, our strength is reduced, outlooks confused, and joy taken from us. 

“The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our perfect example, and he knew no divided life [between the scared and secular worlds]. In the presence of His Father He lived on earth without strain from babyhood to His death on the cross. God accepted the offering of His total life, and made no distinction between act and act.”

When we look at the life of Jesus as he intentionally walked on earth, we can see that he performed no non-sacred act— he is our perfect example of living a unified life. Everything Jesus did glorified His Heavenly Father, everything. I’m just going to pause here for a moment and let that sink in…



This thought alone has humbled me, over and over again.

And this is how I am called to live, how Christians are called to live— set apart, yet undivided. Paul’s words can no longer be brushed to the side and misunderstood as a mere suggestion. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31Every act of my life should contribute to the glory of God. That’s eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom, that’s driving across the city to meet with a friend, that’s FaceTiming my nephew, that’s sitting at the car mechanic shop, that’s reading a book or watching Netflix, that’s brewing a cup of coffee or sweeping all the cat hairs in the world up off my living room floor, that’s helping organize my grandma’s garage or thumbing through old vinyl records, that’s teaching a curriculum to a vulnerable population, that’s journaling and writing and drawing; that’s attending a baby shower or hosting a bonfire, that’s while I run or simply walk through a parking lot, that’s anything and everything that I do— and it should all be done as if I were praying, singing songs of praise and worship, or partaking in the Lord’s Supper. And “to say this is this is not to bring all acts down to one dead level; it is rather to lift every act up into a living kingdom and turn the whole life into a sacrament”.

Unfortunately, understanding this as necessary doesn’t necessarily give me the understanding to put it into practice. So in order to activate this newfound truth in my own life, I decided to get my friends, family, and spiritual mentors involved in the conversation with these questions, "What does it mean for you to make the ordinary and mundane tasks in life "gospel-centered" and “sacred"? How do you make showering, or driving, or going to work, or working out, or reading a book, or cleaning the house, or drinking a cup of coffee/soda, sacred? God has been extremely gracious in providing different perspectives, experiences, and theologies to consider throughout this quest to ultimately apply a fundamental truth and to continually pursue a unified life in Christ Jesus.


    As Thanksgiving approaches, we naturally begin to consider the blessings in our lives and as a result live out a short, yet potentially intentional season where we are overly “thankful" for everything. This is only good; however, when it is not done in vain. We shouldn’t just be thankful because a day calls us to, but it can be a good place to start... “Thanksgiving without thanks*feeling* is empty.” (John Piper) Further, God is glorified more fully when we feel thankfulness, not when we only say ‘Thank You’. All of this is to say that as Christians, our thankfulness should be more than a day out of the year, but rather a lifestyle where thankfulness flows from everything that we do “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) We are able to do this because God has declared everything as good (1 Timothy 4:4-5), so when we are showering, having a coke, riding our bike, or taking care of a family member, we can view our activities and circumstances as blessings and be thankful because these things have been called good by our Heavenly Father, therefore "our authentic thankfulness makes secular acts holy.” (paraphrased from Mark Young)

    James encourages us to “submit ourselves to God” rather than the things of this world. To “submit" is to yield to a superior force, authority or the will of another person… and in this case, God. As stated earlier, we have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives into the spiritual world and the natural world— everything we do falls into either one OR the other. We have fallen into a trap of keeping them separate; however, when we categorize our lives in this way, we identify the sacred things such as prayer and bible study, while slowly beginning to view the secular acts of everyday life as mundane and non-spiritual. This hinders our internal peace in the natural world and can eventually lead to a life of prayerlessness. To counter, we must make it a habit to practice the act of submission to the god that has promised good to us (Romans 8:28), who loves us (John 3:16), and who fights for us (Exodus 14:14) because there is an enemy who seeks to kill and destroy (John 10:10). So as we live and work in the confines of this world, we should make a daily practice of "putting on the full armor of God, so we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)


    However, as we partake in the necessary secular acts and guard our hearts against the evil principalities of this world, we should not allow them to rob us of an intimate fellowship with God. Of course, it is my belief, and many of my friends, that it is our responsibility to seek this intimacy with God, have our hearts set on Him (Sarah West), and to keep our perspectives aligned with eternity in mind (Renee Young). Ephesians 4:1 says we are to “walk (live our life) in a manner worthy of our calling.” This means we are to continually pursue growth as we live, always increasing our awareness of Christ in our midst. My friend illustrated a simple but complex example of what her everyday life looks like when she slows down to seek intimacy with God; "as I'm going about in awe at the sovereignty of God— driving past people thinking, 'You not only made all these people, but You know their entire story and the entire story of their family history and the entire story of their family to come; every car has people in it and You made them, and You made the person who invented cars, and You made the person singing on the radio… that yes, God, You've seen that tree and that bird before, and I am so small’— and just being struck by [His sovereignty] in the busy places, but also realizing the intimacy of God as Father in the quiet places… I feel like when I get both of these my day is shot with new perspective.” In my opinion, Lindsey exemplifies “walking” with God as she moves throughout her day just by thinking about God, making a common drive around town holy. And it’s not that we should just think about God, but should incorporate “prayer without ceasing”, (1 Thessalonians 5:17) too. 

    I think prayer is one of the most applicable ways we are able to enrich our fellowship with God in our daily tasks. To pray without ceasing would mean to literally never stop praying; and this is what the Word of God says to do. And while I believe it is easy applied, I don’t want to say that it’s actually easy to do. There are several reasons we don’t pray— we’re too distracted, we’re too overwhelmed, we lack confidence, we have unconfessed sin, we have bitterness in our hearts, we have unresolved conflict, we approach the throne with the wrong motives, or we just simply don’t believe prayer works (Aaron Brockett); however, prayer is something that can be learned with the intervention of the Holy Spirit and by the example of Jesus himself (Luke 11:2-4). I believe that incorporating prayer into our ordinary lives should, and will, enhance our understanding of who God is and bring us under his divine authority  So we are taught throughout the bible to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12), to continue steadfastly in prayer (Colossians 4:2), to pray and not lose heart (Luke18:1), and to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18) which leads me to believe that in order to reap the benefits of a faithful life, we must pray in all circumstances and for all things! 

    "By meditation upon this truth, by talking it over with God often in our prayers, by recalling it to our minds frequently as we move about among men, a sense of its wondrous meaning will take hold of us, and the old painful quality will go down before a restful unity of life” (Tozer). But first we must live our ordinary lives with gospel-intentionality, meaning instead of "adding more activities into our lives in hopes to become more effective as ambassadors of Jesus, we need to add more intentionality as we remember our identity in Jesus (Redeemer Church). In his book SaturateJeff Vanderstelt provides six rhythms of life (eat, listen, bless, story, celebrate, rest/create) that we can begin approaching with the kind of intentionality today. You can learn more about each rhythm here, but since we are being transparent here, I want to take a moment to first expand upon the personal conviction that led me to this hunt for truth. I had spent some time reflecting on a recent week and began to create a thought inventory of sorts. This brought me to a wild realization that I often times will say I think about God throughout my day, but when I began tallying my “God” vs. “Elsewhere” thoughts, I was not so pleasantly surprised and hurt by this lie I had been telling myself— and even worse— believing. My list of thoughts on things other than God more than doubled the thoughts that were directly related to God. So I sat there dumbfounded with this truth and brought to mind the "sacred vs. secular dilemma" and sought God for new direction, which brought me to this word “intention". I had gotten myself into a habit of being consumed by meaningless things that took up space in my mind, that magnified my importance, that stifled me from hearing God’s voice, and ultimately undermined the sweet fellowship with Jesus that He desires for all of His children— and it made me sad. The idea that I, too, had become a victim of a divided life was an immediate call to action. But this is what I think it means to unify our worlds; to recognize that we do participate in things of this earth, but to intentionally incorporate things that are from above (Colossians 3:23).


While we may have a natural tendency to hinder ourselves from experiencing peace that comes from fear of the LORD, I do believe Jesus came to earth to set an example for us, to be a friend who understands our temptations, and to reconcile us to God once and for all by sacrificing Himself on a cross and defeating death. We can be encouraged today because God isn’t finished with His people; He seeks a relationship with each one of us, and as those who already call on His name, let us “make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are your and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)


Implications:

  • give thanks to God in all things
  • submit ourselves to God and practice guarding against the fleshly desires that are of this world
  • seek intimacy with God, always striving for a deeper relationship with Jesus
  • saturate your life with prayer
  • live our ordinary lives with gospel intentionality

"I believe the more we invite, acknowledge and obey his presence our days that are full of ordinary tasks become extraordinary moments to draw hearts closer to God." - Emily Koerner


"I think that finding beauty/meaning in the mundane is the whole point. I think Jesus used parables because He wanted his people to see Him and His processes in their everyday lives, and I think we have an opportunity to find our own present day parables in the way we find the Gospel in our every days. - Lindsey Tucker


Thank you Mark and Renee Young, Sarah West, Darcey Fritz, Emily Koerner, Joy Lane, Lindsey Tucker, Kassandra Gearlds, Sherri Fritz, Michelle Robinson, and many other friends and family members that took the time to humbly speak from experience on the topic above. 
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2 comments:

  1. Really great post Audrey. Just by reading this gave me hope through all things that's happening in life. Jesus is still on the throne and an almighty God.

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  2. "Although I’m not perfect, I live out my faith by listening to sermons while driving, singing along to worship music while cleaning, meditating on Scripture while showering, sharing the Goods News of God’s love and grace with coworkers, thanking Him for each calorie that enters my body, and repeating “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “run with perseverance” while working out. Ok… so that was really a modified version of the game “2 truths and 1 lie.” I’ll call it “1 truth and 5 lies.” Realistically, if I used a quarter of the time I spend in the shower reflecting on God’s word, I’d probably give the Pharisees, who were known to have the first five books of the Bible, up to the entire Old Testament, memorized, a run for their money.

    For the last year and a half, I have spent most of my time behind the wheel listening to my favorite pastors. I like to think this routine has had a positive impact on my faith, but it’s funny how I still find myself getting irrationally angry when I get cut-off, even while listening to a sermon on love and compassion. You see, as the old hymnal goes, I’m “prone to wander… prone to leave the God I love.”

    Not long after I was asked how to make the everyday, mundane tasks sacred, I found myself cleaning my apartment. I debated whether I should also sweep the floors of my roommate’s bedroom and bathroom. As I remembered the question that had so recently been posed, I decided it best to go ahead and spend a couple of extra minutes to sweep his room. After doing this wonderful deed, I struggled to come up with a plan to “discreetly” let him know that I not only cleaned the common areas, but his room as well. I certainly couldn’t let my good deed go unrecognized. If you hadn’t already realized it, I’m more like the Pharisees than I’d care to take credit for.

    Fortunately, we serve a God who does notice and appreciate our service. Yet, Paul reminds us, if we are trying to win the approval of people, we would not be servants of Christ... harsh, Paul. Matthew pours it on by proclaiming that if we practice our righteousness in front of others to be seen by them, then we have already received our reward in full. I’m grateful that our Lord’s grace abounds.

    Getting back to the question. I think there are a number of ways to make ordinary tasks extra-ordinary… even sacred. Christ tells us that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. I’ve heard it said that the only things we can accomplish on earth that we can’t in heaven are to know God and to make God known. How do we achieve this in the monotony of daily life? I believe our friend Paul has the answer… Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus… It seems simple. Yet, I have not once had success in any of these endeavors. I pray (working on the “continually” part) that He who started a good work in me will carry it on to completion.

    What a joy it is to know Him!" - ZG

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About Me

About Me
i'm drey. i'm 25. i have two cats; i love to travel, take pictures, walk around antique shops, and eat donuts... and i'm trembling at the feet of my Savior.

Psalm 111:10

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise."

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