Tuesday, 16 April 2013

SUBTLE ENTANGLEMENTS


Highlighting the dangers when believers get entangled in various pursuits that impede their progress or lead them off the right path

We have heard of turtles getting entangled in fishermen’s nets. As these poor creatures can no longer roam in search for food, some may eventually die.

Somewhere along the way believers too get entangled in various pursuits that impede their progress or lead them off the intended spiritual path.


                                                                  
Some activities may be harmless such as watching TV or spending time on social media. But, if excessive, they may act as weights, hindering our spiritual growth. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

If we are not vigilant during our leisure time, we may fall into sin. For example, if we continually feed our lust by watching porn, we may be driven to commit fornication or adultery. “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we are to shake off every weight and sin as we run the race with Jesus as our guide and source of strength:  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Paul also warns us of the danger of entanglements: “No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:4). As soldiers enlisted into God’s army, we are to be disciplined and focused. We have to listen to the orders of our superiors and be ready to serve.

In the Parable of the Sower, the seed which fell among thorns represents those who receive God’s message well at first but later get choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures. The result is that they fail to mature and bear fruit, unlike the seed which fell on good soil.

When times are tough, cares and worries might drag us down. When times are good, comfort and blessings might become a two-edged sword, making us complacent.

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:14-15).

It is a sad state of affairs when we think we are spiritually tip-top but we are not. Such was the case of the church in Sardis. The angel’s message for this church was a warning: “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Revelation 3:2-3).

Similarly, the angel warned the church in Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3:15-17, 19).

Jesus warned of the danger of spiritual arrogance in the Parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). The Pharisee was confident in his own righteousness and looked down on the tax collector who had humbled himself before God, asking for mercy.

And that brings us to the topic of self-examination. “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5a).

Are we watchful concerning what we view (Psalm 101:3) and think about (Philippians 4:8) in our leisure hours?

Have we examined the purity of our affections? “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23). What our heart focuses on and cherishes will ultimately express itself  in the way we live. 

As we hold on tightly to the Word, persevere and work out our faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:13), we will bear fruit and be a blessing to others.

As believers, we all have good intentions when we start out in the spiritual race. We want to hang in there come what may. But not all are aware of the dangers of entanglements which impede our progress or worse, lead us off the right track.



RELATED POSTS


WHAT OUR EYES FOCUS ON MATTER
It all starts with the eye, the gateway which allows evil to creep surreptitiously into our hearts and minds.

FROM COMFORT TO COMPLACENCY
Blessing or comfort is, in a sense, a double-edged sword. While we rejoice in the comfort that blessing brings, we also need to recognise that our innate tendency is to forget God when times are good.

SELF-EXAMINATION: HELP OR HINDRANCE?
When is self-examination helpful and when it is not?

FINISHING WELL
What does it take to be a winner in the most important race of all?
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