Note to Self: Transcending a broken environment
Updated: Jun 11, 2019
“Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”
God requires that you understand your world, and then transcend it through study and a vigorous dedication to self-improvement.
The real test of our faith is living true to it outside church, in our natural habitats where sin may have become the norm. Places where sin becomes so normal, that it’s no longer called that.
A few weeks ago, as I tried to apply for a new travel passport, I got insight into how tough it had to be sticking to principles in certain places: Although there is an obscure official process in place for applying for passports, many immigration officers help clients bypass the lengthy process. However they charge slightly more than the actual costs…or that’s how a benefactor/ participant of the system would put it. Objectively, its officers accepting bribes to side-step a defined process.
Whether you think there is anything wrong with this, or which definition you accept is up to you. I know that "established" believers and I have benefited from this process.
The purpose of this blog is to acknowledge how easy it is, sometimes, to sidestep our principles just because this is the norm and then how to Transcend i.e. develop a mindset that sticks to what is right, no matter the cost.
Acknowledging that we often fall short is not easy. Religious focus also does not help: by assigning spirituality on a comparative basis (For example a notion that Pastor is more "spiritual" than a deacon and therefore expectations are different), also it glorifies certain sins above others. However, Christ represents grace as the will to acknowledge our weaknesses and then lean on God for strength. See John 8:7, Luke 7:40 - 47
“I Corinthians 10:12: Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
It is important to note that I say “we all have weaknesses” not as an excuse, in fact I mean the opposite. “no one is perfect” means that there is always a bit more “God-likeness” that we must aspire towards. 2 Corinthians paints a wonderful image of this, our transformation into Christ’s form remains “ever-increasing”
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
My favorite analogy for this - consider being on the market for a house to rent. The house may be clean enough for you to pay for but not clean enough to move in – but it’s relatively clean. After you’ve moved your furniture in, the house (and surroundings) may not be clean enough for you to live in, so you clean again – a different level of clean. When you live in the house, you continue to clean, perhaps daily, not because it’s as dirty as when you first saw it or when you first moved in but because each day you notice smaller details and make changes (general cleaning, painting, furniture etc.). The cleaning process never stops as long as you live there. We can extend this analogy to our bodies & minds – the home (vessel) of the Holy Spirit.
Living in a principled culture always helps but it is like the proverbial chicken & egg problem – when we live in a principled environment, where everything should and does work a certain defined way, it’s is easier to act principled because doing otherwise just makes you seem like an outsider (For example, the same Nigerians who religiously obey traffic lights always in the UK, somehow forget what the green-amber-yellow lights mean once we’re back on Nigerian roads). However, to create such an environment, living with principles must be a norm for most people.
For many of us, our natural habitats are stuck in a vicious cycle where wrongdoing has been normalized. Romans 12:2 reveals to us that such cycles can be broken, but only by individuals who rise above it. How does this happen?
First, we must know what is right through personal study of God’s words. We must obtain a Christ-based worldview, and this is developed through a personal relationship with God.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15
The devil, in the temptations of both Christ and Eve demonstrates why this is so important. All he does in both cases is to describe an alternate view of the world to both Eve and Christ. Christ, knowing God and His words resisted the view of the devil. Think for a moment ... what was wrong, strictly speaking, with turning stone to bread? Or jumping from the temple top? Nothing, if you follow the devil’s narrative. But Christ was wise and worked from a different narrative. It doesn’t have to be scripturally wrong, obeying the devil under any guise is wrong.
When you know what is right – from God’s point of view, follow it up by being the light. Do what is right. Theoretical Christianity only goes so far. Christ asks that we become His representatives in deeds.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you[a] shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8
Joshua 1:8 illustrates the evolution. Find the book, speak the words, think about the words – then do what it says. Doing as it says brings success.
The last portion of Joshua 1:8 takes faith to accept and practice. Will going against the accepted norm in the office not make me an outcast or worse still I could lose my next promotion, or I would not be as wealthy as my colleagues. From my experience as a professional, standing out for the right reasons makes you more successful - people reward trust with responsibility and if you have an outstanding work ethic and deliver quality results, you get promoted. Also, the words of God guide us to do things in ways that we produce higher quality and more durable results, whether at work or in our private lives. The devil perpetuates a worldview that good people don’t succeed amid evil. This is just not true.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven Matthew 5:16
Finally, ignite the light in others. Paul encapsulates this, he has a ministry to gentile nations that most of the original disciples have refused to take on. While he works remarkably hard to set up churches in so many cities, he sustained that legacy by mentoring and then establishing leaders for every church. It takes one to start a fire, but often you need a team to sustain it.
3 things required to transcend your world - finding out God’s will, standing up to do God’s will and mentoring others to learn about and follow God’s will. Any or all these requirements are daunting, but this is Paul’s advice to Timothy when he faced being in an ungodly ecosystem, and these are my words to you:
Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.