By Dennis Rainey
Fortunately, my wife Barbara was not in a hurry that unforgettable morning.
On her way to run errands, she topped a hill on a busy highway, gently curving left. She couldn’t believe what she saw—a two-year-old, diaper-clad toddler standing on the yellow line in the middle of the road.
Instantly Barbara swerved right, barely missing the child. She screeched to a stop, threw open her door, and started running back to rescue the child. Meanwhile, the toddler’s mom heard the squealing tires and came sprinting from her home. She gathered the boy in her arms and carried him to safety.
Undoubtedly, that mom impressed her toddler with the life or death lesson:
THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD IS NO PLACE TO BE!
The problem today is that far too many people who claim to be Christians have wandered to the middle of the road—morally and spiritually. There they sit in their recliner, sipping ice tea and watching cable news while danger whizzes by. Some even take comfort by comparing themselves with others, saying, “We’re no worse than anyone else.”
I wonder if a family like that would be willing to post that “mission statement” in their front yard?
“WE ARE NO WORSE THAN ANYONE ELSE.”
Weak convictions result in conformity to the world. Compliance with the culture has cost Christians and their families their moral and spiritual distinctives and thus their influence for good. Compromise seems so safe, it doesn’t ruffle feathers, it fits in with the culture. But it’s the beginning of a long, slow slide of a person, a family, and ultimately the culture into very dark places.
Examples of conformity and spiritual complacency
We are all tempted to conform to the culture and drop our standards in various ways. Here are some examples of conformity I see in my own life and others:
We don’t wake up thinking about how we can walk with God, get to know Him, and share His fame with others (Psalm 145).
We don’t live our lives in light of eternity. Practically we don’t think we are going to have to stand before Almighty God and give an account of our lives (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
We don’t really believe that people we work with, do life with, and see every day are eternal beings, who will spend all of eternity in either heaven or hell (Revelation 20:11-15).
We don’t believe that a dusty Bible will lead to a dirty life, so we don’t read the Bible daily. (Matthew 4:4).
We don’t understand that the “unlovable” people in our lives is really an opportunity for us to display the love and forgiveness of God (John 15:12-17).
We complain about “politics” and don’t pray for our country (2 Chronicles 7:14). Al Mohler recently said, “If now is not the time to pray for our country, then when would it be time?”
We don’t carry a daily burden for introducing the next generation to God—His work, His character, and His mighty acts (Psalm 145:4-7).
We don’t really believe that each of us are image bearers of The Creator, and that we have Divine assignments every day. We forget we are ambassadors for the King of kings.
We really don’t care that we are not engaged in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus challenges us to be “salt and light” to the world. As Matthew 5:13 tells us, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Salt is a preservative. As we follow Christ, He gives us opportunities to be a preservative in the world by loving others as He loved, and living as He lived. When we stand for truth we protect our children, our neighborhoods, and our communities from the harm that evil brings.
When harm and evil came near
Sometimes harm comes very near us and demands that we step up and speak up.
I’m reminded of reading the newspaper one Saturday morning and learning that an NC-17 movie was coming to our community. As a father of six children I was astonished that Hollywood and its rating system had once again betrayed us with a pornographic movie, normally “X” rated but now reclassified to a new category, NC-17.
I looked at my three daughters, Rebecca, Deborah and Laura, ages 11, 8 and 6, and said, “Come on, let’s go have a visit with the manager of the movie theater.” I explained what we were going to do as we all hopped in the car and headed out.
I took my daughters with me for three reasons. First, to help the manager see who their company was victimizing. Second, I wanted my daughters observe what it looks like to confront something wrong and push back on it firmly with a gracious spirit. And third, I took them with me to hold me accountable to not lose my Christian witness. (I was angry at Hollywood for dumping sewage in our community). Fortunately I kept my cool.
In the days that followed over 30 families from the community had a visit with the manager. They pulled the film.
A few weeks later Hollywood flew a handful of leaders to our community to find out what prompted so many parents (just 30!!!) to take a firm but peaceful protest to the movie. It was just a bunch of mommies and daddies who were following Jesus, who loved their daughters and sons, and who stepped up to protect them from evil. Eventually Hollywood decided that the NC-17 rating was toxic and stopped making movies that earned that designation.
What’s the solution?
I firmly believe that now, more than ever, it’s time for a fresh reading of Paul’s words to a bunch of believers who found themselves gripped by the affluence of the Roman Empire. Paul’s book, Romans, was written to a culture in chaos, a culture spiritually and morally confused and lost, a culture not unlike ours. Young men were shirking their responsibilities, refusing to grow up and assume a real man’s obligations. They were rebuked by the politicians because they weren’t getting married and having families. The institutions of marriage and family were under attack from the culture with all its compromising enticements, entitlements, and temptations.
Check out Paul’s “spiritual life challenge” below and read it slowly, asking yourself a question I once asked myself: “If I were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
Paul’s appeal is to get serious about Jesus Christ and lay your life on the altar. Evangelist D.L. Moody once said, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” And I might add, onto the yellow line in the middle of the road!
I was a junior in college in 1968, an election year. A man who grew up in Brooklyn by the name of Tom Skinner challenged me, “Dennis, Jesus didn’t come to take sides. He came to take over.”
The Jesus who went to the cross, died for your sins, defeated death and is alive today invites you to: SURRENDER.
Presenting your body as a living sacrifice begins with individual surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. You or I will never be a true follower of Christ until we are “all in.”
Our first Christmas together, in 1972, remains a spiritual milestone for Barbara and me. Before we gave one another our gifts, Barbara and I decided we would sign personal letters of surrender to Jesus Christ. We called the documents, “The Title Deed to Our Lives.” We both gave God all we had and all we hoped to have, then signed and dated the documents. We’ve kept those two pages with our most important papers since that first Christmas.
Why did we sign those papers of surrender?
Think with me for a moment … think of the great teachings of Jesus, the Golden Rule, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the Great Commandment to love God and others, and the Great Commission to go and teach what He taught. Now consider all the teachings of Jesus, and all the love He modeled. If all this is a lie, a hoax, or a con job, then everything He said and did does not matter.
But if He is who He claimed to be … God, the Son of God, God incarnate, the Savior of the world, the Bread of life … if all this is true, then nothing else matters.
So what are you waiting for?
And begin the greatest adventure of your lifetime … getting to know Him, His love, His grace and forgiveness, and His teachings about life. Begin to walk with Him, read His Word and enjoy Him as He teaches you how to live life and do battle with evil.
Have you ever signed your life over to Him?
Get down on your knees and hold your hands out to Him and SURRENDER.
My Shield Plaque
This gray and cream plaque proclaims the truth of Psalm 28:7 and was created with a weathered look and vintage embellishment to be used as a wall or door plaque. 16”x18” (burlap ribbon not included)
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