When we’re warm and comfortable inside our home, it’s hard to muster up enough ambition to go outside when it’s minus 40 degrees. Wouldn’t you agree? It’s difficult for us to leave our comfortable environment and venture out into the cold. We’re not real excited about it—I know I’m not. If this winter will be like the winter we had last year, I’m in trouble. But we may have to go out into the cold for our own good. For example, if we have cows to milk, we have to go out; otherwise, we may cause harm to the cows, which may seriously limit our income. We may have to go to work. If we don’t go out into the cold to go to work, we might lose our job. So, even though we may not like to leave our comfortable, warm environment, we have to from time to time for our own good.
What I’ve said so far applies to our spiritual life as well. Quite often, we are comfortable in our material world, in the worldly environment around us. And leaving it all behind for the sake of Jesus Christ isn’t the first thing that comes to our minds. At times, Jesus is the furthest thing from our thoughts.
The apostle Paul in our text claims that he left it all behind for the sake of Jesus. He left the warm, comfortable environment of his past to move forward and live for Christ. He thought being a Pharisee and persecutor of the church was the way to live. There wasn’t anything better. But if we remember his story, how on the way to Damascus Jesus appeared to him, we see that a better way was revealed to him. And now in our text, Paul shares with us how he has left everything behind for the sake of Christ and looks forward to what awaits him in heaven. He encourages us to do the same for our own good.
Not everyone is called to be a missionary like Paul was, but all of us are called to live a life for Christ. If we know what is good for us, we will leave the comfortable environment of this world behind us and embrace the life that God has called us to--which is to serve Him with all our being. What does that mean? It means leaving behind the pride of life and refusing to cling to this life for dear life. It means forsaking our sinful past with the resolve to press on to a glorious future with Christ. It means purging our lives right now of sinful conduct and behavior.
But it’s hard to leave the past. And it’s hard to change our sinful conduct and behavior in the present. Perhaps we have grown comfortable arguing and fighting with others. We enjoy complaining about everything. We think this is the way to live. We’ve never lived life without arguing, fighting, and complaining. We’ve grown comfortable with that way of life.
But if we remain in such an environment it won’t be good for us. Remember when I said that at times, for our own good, we need to move out of our comfortable environment. Well, if we’ve become comfortable in such an environment, we need to move out because in the end it won’t end up good for us. It won’t end up good for us now, either. Who wants to associate with a person given to fighting, arguing, and complaining all the time? I guess if we want to alienate ourselves from people, then that’s the life to live. But remember, that’s not the life Jesus has called us to live. He has called us to live for Him with everything we’ve got. Our entire self must be surrendered to Him.
I hope we are truly committed to Him. I hope our religion or belief in Jesus goes deeper than our skin. On the outside, we put on a good display of being religious but deep inside there is, at times, nothing but emptiness. I’ve heard others say that American religiosity or spirituality is skin deep and that here isn’t much substance to an American when it comes to religion. I would have to agree to an extent. We Americans support God when it’s convenient for us to do so. Our belief in God doesn’t go much deeper than that.
I would have to say that he real religion of most Americans is capitalism; the dollar is king. When the choice is between trusting in our own efforts to acquire worldly success or pursuing a life truly aimed at serving Jesus, we’ll go with the first choice. Let’s not kid ourselves. We’re more comfortable with the first choice than with the second. But is that good for us?
Paul tells us what is good for us and that is forsaking this life and dedicating our all to Jesus. I know we think we know better, and if Paul were standing in my place today and reading his words to us, we’d probably give him a blank look or look at him like he doesn’t know what he is talking about. "He’s telling us to do what’s impossible."
It’s not impossible to live life for Jesus. Of course, we can’t do it on our own. We need Jesus. He died on the cross to free us from the power of the devil and temptation. He gives us the Holy Spirit who empowers us to get out of our comfortable yet sinful environment. Getting out of our sinful environment and giving up our sinful habits is what is good for us.
We have to be reminded each week of this because our memories aren’t long-term. We forget real easily. We forget that Jesus desires that we live for Him, but because we live in a sinful material world we lose sight of Jesus. The longer we are away from Him, the easier it is to forget about Him and the more comfortable it becomes for us to stay away from Him. That’s why we need the weekly reminder in church. We need the support and encouragement from our Christian brothers and sisters.
Maybe some of us don’t come as often to church as we should because "it’s the same thing Sunday after Sunday. I already know everything I need to know." If that’s the case, maybe I should hand out a test right now about our Christian faith and see how well we do.
Often times, when I ask people basic questions about our faith they give me a blank stare or shrug their shoulders. That leads me to believe that they don’t know as much as they think they do. And when you look at how they act, that’s even more of an indication that they don’t know what Christianity is all about. I guess they’ve become comfortable in their own environment and aren’t willing heed Paul’s words in our text for today.
I hope this isn’t the case with us. I hope we don’t act like know-it-alls. We need the constant reminder to forsake everything for the sake of Christ. If the Lord knew that we didn’t need reminding, we wouldn’t need the church, which He established. But He knows us better than we know ourselves.
God is simply trying to make us a better people for Himself. He wants us to get out of our comfortable material environment because it isn’t for our good if we remain in it. I know it seems that we don’t know anything else. All we have ever known is our material world. It’s hard for us to imagine a spiritual world or God’s kingdom. And why should we throw away or forsake a world that we know for God’s kingdom which know very little about? The reason Paul tells us to forsake this world is because a better life awaits us. It is for our good that we leave this life behind.
Now, Paul doesn’t mean that we should take our own lives in order to exit this world, that we should move to an isolated community in the desert away from civilization. No, Paul is encouraging us to live in the world but not be a part of it, meaning not participating in its sinful ways. When we participate in this world’s sinful ways, it means that we are becoming comfortable with the way this world does things.
If we have found that this life has become quite cozy for us, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate our priorities in life. Is Christ at the top of the list? He offers us a much better life than the one we find ourselves in now. Paul tells us in our text that his newfound life in Jesus was far better than the life he had in the past, which was of this world. We’re here for a time, and let’s make the best use of our time by serving our Lord with all we have. Let’s get comfortable with Jesus and with this life.