By Drew Zuverink
"The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations that you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.'"
Israel was about to start a new life in the land that God had promised them. Part of this new adventure was figuring out how to do life once they had their own homeland. All they had known for many years was following God's directions through the wilderness. Often times they would camp in a place for a week or a month and then God would direct them to pack up and move on to a different location. They didn't have a real home and a lot of their time revolved around being on the move. Now that they were finally about to take possession of their own land and live there permanently, they were going to have to figure out how to structure their new life.
God was aware of this and essentially commanded them not to look at how the nations around them did things and then imitate what they do - but instead God wanted them to be different. God knew that the Israelites would be tempted to structure their worship services the way that the nations around them did, but God wanted them to worship him the way that he wanted to be worshiped.
Have you ever wondered how you came to structure your days the way that you do?
For example: after reading this passage I stopped reading for a few minutes, took another sip of one of God's greatest gifts to earth (coffee) and reflected, "How did I learn to spend my time the way that I do?" It's kind of a funny question isn't it? Most of us have never sat down with a pen and paper and made a budget for our time the way that we do for our money, so how did we learn how to structure our days?
Time is just one example, there are many elements that make up our daily lives, but the question I'm trying to get us to reflect on is how did we learn to live our days the way that we do?
Here is the connection to our passage from Deuteronomy: Israel was God's special people, now his special people are the church. The nations around Israel were the groups of people that were living near them that would influence the ways that they did things, now that is the society that we don't just live near, we live in it. Could it be that, we too, copy far too much from the ways that the people around us do things?
Much of the ways that we structure our lives from the time that we can decide things for ourselves all the way through retirement is modeled after the ways that we've seen other people do things. But what if the way that other people are doing things isn't the way that God wants us to be living?
Most people spend around an hour or more watching some sort of TV each day, but is that even good for us? And does God want us to be spending that much time brainlessly staring at a screen? I'm not sure, but have we even thought about those things? Or do we just assume it's fine because everyone else is doing it?
It's almost unheard of for a teenager to not have a smart phone or some kind of social media but are phones and social media good for teenagers to have? What if God didn't want us to have social media, would we even be willing to make that change? Again, it must not be that big of a deal if we have social media right? I mean only weirdos don't have at least one form of social media. (That's a joke but it's also the very real perception that young people have).
What about retirement. Who doesn't look forward to the day that they can retire from work now days. It's hard for us to even imagine what life was like before people retired around 60 or 70 years old. We start saving in our 20's so that we can have enough money to quit our jobs and enjoy the latter parts of our lives. Maybe I'll travel the world. Maybe I'll buy a boat. Maybe I'll move some place warm. Who knows? I just can't wait to enjoy those years doing what makes me happy. Have we ever examined the idea of retirement from a Christian perspective? I know the world celebrates it but does God? Is there a way that a person could spend their retirement that would please God? Is there a way that they could spend it that would not please God?
The examples could be endless. The world has all sorts of ways of doing things and a lot of those things are just accepted as totally normal and fine for a Christian because we think, "Why wouldn't they be?" Or maybe a better way of saying that is - We've just never wondered if they are OK for a Christian to do.
The Christian is intended to live different lives than the rest of the world. Like the Israelites, we are not supposed to look at the world around us and ask "How do they do life?" But instead God has other ways for us to live. When we are trying to decide how to live we ought to search the scriptures and try to model our lives after the life of Christ to the best of our abilities. Jesus' life was marked by things like selflessness, devotion to God, radical love for people, sacrificial giving of his time, and sharing the good news of salvation with the lost.
I'm writing under the assumption that those who are reading this genuinely want to live a life that is pleasing to Christ. And for those of us who do want to live that way I think there are a few steps we must take.
First, we must understand that the world operates under the ultimate value of self. Doing what makes you happy is how you should live your life. This is selfishness.
Second, We must remember that Christ commands his "followers" to follow him. Christ did not live his life for himself he lived it in service to others and with the ultimate goal of saving people.
Third, we must stop just assuming that the way that we were brought up, the way that our friends and our family do things, and the way that we have been living is how God wants us to be living. Some of the ways that we live we copied from the people around us.
Fourth, Instead of unconsciously copying how those around us are living - we must start searching the scriptures and copying the life of Christ.
Fifth and finally, we must earnestly seek God's help in prayer. Knowing how God wants us to live our days in the year 2022 can be difficult. It's a different time and culture than back when Jesus lived and we need God's help and direction to do this.
If we will commit to these changes I believe God will reward our imperfect faithfulness with the assurance that we have transitioned from a life of imitating the world to a new way of life that pleases God much more. Who knows, we might even start to see more people becoming Christian's because of our change.