Living for God in the 21st Century isn't easy.
With body image, popularity, endless name-brands, celebrities, lyrics, friends, and the entertainment industry breathing down girl's necks it is hard to live a life devoted to God.
Has it only been hard for Christ-followers to live unashamedly in the 21st Century? Actually, the choice to pick up your cross and live for Christ against the grains of society began way back in the Old Testament. In the book of Ezra, the Israelites were rebuilding the temple for God--they were building their foundation on Jesus Christ. The people that lived around them (culture and society) did not want the Israelites to turn to God for hope. They wanted the Israelites to be just like them, without answers and searching for life in selfish desires. Check it out for yourself: Ezra 4:4-5 says, "Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia." Is life any different today? Sadly, not at all.
If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, you have chosen to live a life devoted to Him--a life against the grains of society. The voices of the culture around us will come pounding on your door trying to convince you that it is OK to compromise. After all, Jesus is a God of forgiveness, right? Culture wants you to turn away from building your foundation on Jesus Christ. They want you to stop building your temple on Him.
What are some lies that culture tries to shove into our lives?
- LIE: It's OK to have sex before you are married. You won't get pregnant the first time. Just try it once.
- TRUTH: It is not OK to have sex before you are married. Sex is a gift from God for marriage. And you can get pregnant the first time that you have sex. Once you make the choice to have sex, you cannot turn back. Will God forgive you? He will forgive a repentant heart that is striving to move forward in purity.
- LIE: Modesty isn't important. Guys should learn to control their emotions anyways. Dress for yourself. Don't worry about messing a guy up. He should learn some self-control anyways.
- TRUTH: Should guys have self-control? Yes! Is it our job to teach them how to be self-controlled? No. We need to leave Spiritual lessons up to God. Only He can change some one's heart. Modesty is important--for our hearts and for the hearts of the guys around us. Have you ever heard the expression, "If it's not for sale, then don't advertise it"? Maybe you remind yourself of that statement when you get dressed in the morning.
- LIE: You have to be skinny in order to be beautiful. Do anything to get skinny. Be thin! If you have to, be anorexic or bulimic. Either one works and they aren't detrimental to your health! Are you kidding!? Many girls have done it to lose a couple pounds and were just fine. Guys won't like you if you are "heavy"--which in this world is over 120.
- TRUTH: Ah, no! You do not have to be super skinny in order to fit in. Life is not about "skinny" but about "healthy." Find out what your healthy, not skinny, weight should be and stay there. Health is not throwing up or starving yourself. Health is filling your body with good nutrients and exercising regularly. And bulimia and anorexia are not good for your body! Many girls have not done it just to lose a couple pounds and then been OK. NO! They have become addicted to it and have needed severe medical treatment in order to be healthy again. Choose health over the world's idea of ideal weight. God made you beautiful! Please believe that!
- LIE: You need to have a boyfriend. If you don't have a boyfriend, then you are just not pretty enough or something because everyone has a boyfriend!
- TRUTH: Again, ah no! You do not have to be dating in order to be truly satisfied in this life! Guys can sometimes only cause more drama and heartbreak to come into your life! Now, is it wrong to have a boyfriend? No! If you have talked to God and He has given you the "OK" to go ahead and date and your parents are fine with it, then that is between you and God. But you do not need to boyfriend to give you your value and identity in this world and not everybody has a boyfriend!
- LIE: You need a lot of money in order to be happy. Don't be happy with just any car. You need to have the best car on the market. Don't settle for clearance rack clothes. Buy whatever you want. Look great. Wear everything designer. Then you will fit in.
- TRUTH: Money does not bring happiness. Money eventually does run out and it can't buy you everything that you want. Please know that everyone wants your money. Everyone is advertising for your money--what you have worked for. You don't need designer labels in order to fit in! Can you really tell the difference between Target jeans and Guess jeans? I know that I sure can't! If you really like the patterns of some designers, that is fine! Just don't get the attitude that you cannot leave your house without your little pink prada tote!
While these are just a few "philosophies" that the world throws our way, I truly believe that they are probably the hardest for us to live with--or without! It is hard to sit home without a date when all of your friends are out with their boyfriend. I know--I have been there! It is hard to look at yourself in the mirror and think that maybe you would be more popular if you just lost a pound or two. Yep, I have been there too. But did I chose to follow Christ because I wanted Him to change my life and I wanted to pursue a relationship with Him or did I choose to follow Him because I could get a simple "get out of hell free" card and still live how I wanted to live?
So, how can we defeat culture? How did the Israelites withstand the pressures from the people around them? They trusted God and stayed "hot on His heels." This is something that I like to call the "Romans 12:2 Lifestyle."
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer 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." In the Message version of the Bible, it goes something like this: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." So, we are not supposed to conform to the culture around us. We are, instead, supposed to........
- Place our lives before God as an offering.
- Trust that God's plans are best.
- Fix our eyes on Jesus--He will change us from the inside-out.
- Respond to God's calling and respond quickly.
- Stay "hot on God's heels" and stay far from the culture's lies.
To live a life devoted to Jesus Christ, to live as a Christ-follower, you must move from the commonplace to the extraordinary. You must move from being a Sunday Christian and a weekday hypocrite. Being a Christ-follower means that you daily pick up your cross to follow Jesus (Luke 14:27).
Ultimately the choices that you make are between you and God. Compare what you hear from culture to God's Words. Really pray and think about the Romans 12:2 Lifestyle. What do you want your life to say?