In early March I had the opportunity to give a sermon at The Well. It was my first time to preach, and I wanted to speak about something impactful, something that was relevant to young adults with regard to the mindsets we often adopt. I chose to cover Philippians 3:17-21, in which the apostle Paul implored members of the church of Philippi to imitate him and others like him in the cause of following Christ. He contrasted true followers with pretenders, who follow the world and their own appetites. I talked about how we often behave as if we can have it both ways, professing Jesus as Lord in one moment, then indulging our flesh the next. But is that behavior we can sustain as believers? There was a challenge in the contrast Paul presented: since we cannot follow both Christ and the world, who are we following?
Truthfully, I chose this emphasis because it’s something I struggle with frequently. My head is usually at home in the clouds somewhere, and I have a consumer mentality to rival anyone else when it comes to entertainment. Theological books sit untouched on my bookshelf, but I will consume the next 1000-page volume from my favorite fantasy author within two weeks. I own a couple of documentaries on apologetics I haven’t gotten around to, and yet I’ve watched through all three seasons of my favorite television show five times. I’m a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda video game series, and the newest edition, along with Nintendo’s newest console, released three days before I gave the sermon. Since I had forgotten to pre-order it, there haven’t been any consoles available, and the only way to get one guaranteed is to pre-order an expensive bundle including several items I don’t really want. I considered it, but my consideration gave me pause. Was I really willing to spend a comparatively large sum just to get it sooner, or could I wait a few months? Where were my priorities?
I have my fair share of sin struggles, too, but– as I’ve just described– my conviction here isn’t due to just sinful thoughts and activities. Paul used a phrase in Philippians 3:19 to describe the root of the problem with those who only pretend at following Jesus: “minds set on earthly things”. Upon reflection, this doesn’t refer only to sin, but to distraction and immersion in worldly culture. Activities that may be mostly harmless on their own become a major stumbling block for Christians when they begin to out-prioritize our walks with Christ.
Paul mentions this again in Colossians. Chapter 3, verses 1 and 2 say, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Considering the conditioning I’ve had all of my life, that command seems impossible to follow. The next thing I can get completely wrapped up in is always just to my left or my right. The next consuming distraction that will take my thoughts and desires somewhere other than my Savior is right at my fingertips. How do I enjoy a game, a movie, a TV series, or a book and still keep my focus on Jesus?
I’m still trying to find the answer. What I do know is that if the culture threatens to immerse me, I must respond by being immersed in the Lord. I must not forsake daily time with God, praying and reading his Word, memorizing Scripture. If worldly things demand more of me, I must give more of myself to the One who makes me new every day. More of Him, by necessity, means less of worldly things. I believe that is the key, and despite the fact that I haven’t got it all figured out, I take comfort in knowing my heavenly Father does, and He will be faithful to shape me in the way He desires.
Written by: Tyler Huggins