When we gave up our rights, we gained privileges

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I’m down in Tampa caring for Chloe and Vera while my son and our daughter-in-law enjoy an anniversary trip to Tucson.  The girls attend a Christian school about 40 minutes away. This morning, I tuned into their radio station of choice, Joy FM, for the commute.

Songs filled the air, as melodic lyrics wove truth, planting seeds of life, hope and beauty about Christ.  During the chat segment one of the radio hosts recounted a profound reminder from her pastor that obviously resonated with her: “We gave up our rights at the Cross!”

Too bad we Christians haven’t fully absorbed that reality!  We have no more rights, but we do have PRIVILEGES that came with our adoption into God’s forever family.

One gift accompanying our new birth is spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith/ fidelity, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Yes, this harvest is ours for the taking as sons and daughters of King Jesus.  But there is a catch. We have to submit to the discipline and practice inherent in mastering any skill before we taste and savor the sweetness of the fruit.

Here’s what I mean:  Let’s say you have always wanted to ride a horse. In your Father’s stable you are free to choose and enjoy any horse you want.  But first you’ll need a horse-riding instructor to teach you the basics.  But that’s not all.  You’ll have to practice and do the kinds of exercises this master horseman recommends.

Acquiring any skill is hard work and demands hour upon hour of practice. Well, how many hours?

Have you ever heard of the ‘10,000-hour rule’?  Malcolm Gladwell popularized it in his book Outliers.  It goes like this: to become an expert or master at anything, you need to rack up that number of hours.  The Beatles did just that, prior to hopping over the Pond from Europe.  Violin virtuosos, ice hockey players, chess maestros, chefs de cuisine and even second language learners like me. (I’m only up to 1659 hours working with Spanish, the reason why my spoken Spanish still feels halting!)

But what is so great about reaching the goal of expert?  MUCH!  You get to enjoy, finally, the fruit of all those dedicated hours of hard work and practice. Scales for a violin player are probably no fun, nor are sweat-producing drills for athletes.  Do you remember ‘wax on, wax off’ from the 1984 movie The Karate Kid?  (look it up if you are too young to know this movie!). Those hours that Daniel spends painting Mr. Miyagi’s fence and waxing his car build muscle memory that translates eventually into winning karate skills.

So, what is the spiritual application?  Just this:  The 9 ‘flavors’ of the fruit of the Spirit are ours, too!  But just like the novice horse-rider, it takes hours of practice and discipline to become skilled enough to enjoy the freedom that comes with having paid one’s dues to become a master.

What is the equivalent of our practice and the fruit of the Spirit?  I think it’s our obedience and submission to God. Each time we obey God’s commands, we are chalking up one more hour of discipline toward eventual delight.  Think flavorful peaches, sweet but tart apples, refreshing grapes, juicy strawberries.

Submissive obedience with cheerfulness to God’s commands like:

  • Don’t fear, grumble, envy, covet, worry, hoard, criticize a person behind their back, place any created thing above God, think more highly of yourself than is true……

The list goes on.  You get the point.

To sum up the payoff – obedience and submission to King Jesus (with His supernatural help!) grow our holiness which creates our genuine happiness.  And true happiness looks like love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Sticking to my word is costly

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But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. Matthew 5:37 (NASB)

I bet you’d agree with me, that it’s easy to fall into trouble through what comes out of our own mouths.

Just a couple days ago I had one of those pop quizzes from God. It wasn’t new material; in fact it was a review of a character trait that he is working to form in me – that of being true to my word. Apparently, I still need the reinforcement!

I have a cousin in another state. Let’s call her ‘Sue’. Sue and her husband ‘Pete’ and I usually check in with each other by phone once every couple of months. She works during the day, so our catch-up calls are in the evening. The least convenient time for me.

When Mike gets home from work, I focus on him during our ‘sacred’ happy hour/dinner prep/sharing prayers and dining part of the evening. Then when the dishes are done, I enjoy sipping my tea, nibbling on my 100 % cacao dark chocolate and reading – ‘Maria Time’.

I knew that Pete’s oldest grandson was to start college this fall, so while I was cooking blackened salmon on Monday night, I texted Pete and asked for an update. He immediately called back, but I didn’t answer because it was time to flip the blackened salmon in my cast iron pan. Once safely searing on the other side I texted back: ‘Can’t talk now, I’m cooking salmon!’

He texted back: Call us when you finish dinner and I’ll tell you about the grandkids.

I inwardly grimaced and said, ‘How about tomorrow night!’ And so, it was settled.

The next day, my selfishness started kicking in. The urge to postpone grew stronger and stronger. Finally, I decided to ‘just be honest’ and propose a different time, maybe during the day (when it isn’t so costly to me to spend time with someone on the phone). But if it were during the day, I knew it would have to be a chat just with Pete who is retired, because Sue works full time still.

After dinner I texted Pete with that proposal. We ate dinner. I was relieved that I had been forthcoming with Pete, sharing that the reason I wanted to reschedule the chat to a day time was because I focused on my husband during the evenings, (leaving out the ‘Maria Time’ part of the truth).

But God began to chide me! I was not at peace.

Ignoring the lack of peace while we cleaned up the kitchen, I made some tea, sat down to check my texts and emails before settling in to read. I saw a response from Pete.

He simply had texted back: “Call Sue’s cell, mine is dying.”

There it was…foiled by God! Cornered into keeping my original word to Pete.

So, I called Sue’s cell. The three of us chatted, catching up. Toward the end of our call Sue asked me to pray about an important meeting happening the next day. I realize that had I allowed my selfishness to rule, I would have missed knowing about Sue and her need. I even took the opportunity DURING our chat to pray out loud for her.

When she wrote me after her meeting, she thanked me and reported that knowing that I was praying for her had kept her calm and at peace. Pinged!!!

Had it NOT been for the persistent nagging of the Holy Spirit I would not have kept my word. Thank you, Father!! I think I understand why keeping one’s word is important.

But I don’t think the Father believed I had REALLY learned my lesson. Two days later, He gave me another opportunity to practice faithfulness to what I had assured a friend I would do. She had asked me to listen to one of her pastor’s sermons. I replied that I would the next time I was on the treadmill.

I did set my iPhone to the podcast and started to listen to the 40-minute sermon once I hopped on the treadmill. But halfway through Satan ganged up against me WITH my natural selfish bent and whispered: ‘You can stop now, halfway through and shift to what you rather listen to. As long as you are honest and tell your friend that you listened to a good chunk of the sermon…..’

My response THIS time was immediate. I spoke back: ‘But I TOLD her, my words were explicit, that I would listen to the sermon during my treadmill time!’

This time it felt good to stick to my word, the FULL intent of my word. And you know what? I finished the sermon and STILL had time to listen to the podcast I wanted to hear.

God is SO good and gentle. And I am SO selfish, but…..I take comfort in his promise in Phil 1:6: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in ME will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

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