Do our lifestyle choices matter for our relationship with God? We have heard that question many times, but often it is asked in the context whether it is a matter of salvation or not. For some reason we so often focus on whether something is necessary or not, that we completely miss out on the relationship itself. We have made salvation our goal, rather than loving the One who can save. What if instead of asking “do I really have to”, our hearts would be set on asking “how can I love God more”.
What it means to be a Christian
A Christian means a follower of Christ. For us to know how to live, there is no better way than looking at the life of the one we follow. Jesus was always seeking and doing those things that pleased God (John 8:29). The fact that there are things that please God, tells us that there must also be things that do not please God. But Jesus knew God so intimately, that He knew the character of God and knew what pleased Him and what did not. To please God and to do His will is what Jesus lived for (John 4:34). Even in Gethsemane where Jesus faced the hardest trials in His life, He did not let His own desires distract Him from His purpose (Mark 14:36). He was not concerned with doing the things He himself wanted to do. Now what does this mean for us – as His followers?
We are called to have the lifestyle that Jesus had; one that pleases God in everything. Not motivated by the reward that awaits, but because we love Him and He loves us. When we personally understand who God is and what He has done for us, how can we not be concerned whether we do things that please Him or not? Do we want to do things that displease the one we love?
The fight for what is right
Here John contrasts two lifestyles: one of the world and one of the Father. These two opposites do not go hand in hand; you either have one or the other. The implications of the calling to reject the worldly lifestyle are huge. Before we decided to follow Jesus, we were in the world and did things of the world. To not love those things anymore would require change; and change is hard. It is hard because we have fallen in love with those things and don’t want to give them up. In an attempt to hold on to the things in the world we love, we try to make it insignificant for our relationship with God. We avoid talking about it, act like God does not care about our choices and hide behind the increasingly popular phrase: “God is love, and He loves me no matter what”. We try to find a way where we follow Jesus, while still doing and loving the things in the world. But didn’t the Bible just tell us that it’s either one or the other? Why are we holding to the very thing He told us to let go off? Don’t we believe that God knows what is best for us? Instead of trying to find ways to excuse our destructive lifestyle choices, shouldn’t we rather seek ways to live more like how He wants us to live?
Renewing the mind
We are naturally drawn to follow our own desires that do not please God (Romans 8:5-8, read more here). For us to be able to follow Jesus and have a lifestyle that pleases God, our minds need to be renewed through the knowledge of Him (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 4:1). When we surround ourselves with more of God and His word instead of things or ideologies of the world, we start to care less about the things of the world and more about the things of God (Colossians 3:2). This is not a one-time choice, but a choice we are to make every day (1 Corinthians 15:31, Matthew 16:24). We are to die to ourselves daily, pursuing not our will but the one of the Father, just like Jesus Himself did (Romans 6:4, Ephesians 5:8). This does not happen automatically. Having the willingness alone is not enough; it requires action on our part.
If we are serious about it, we need to actively make smart decisions every day. We should question everything we do and see if it contributes to our relationship with God or not. Do I get closer to God when I continue to expose myself to the talk and ideas of friends who do not even believe in God? Do I align my heart with God when I continue to watch ungodly movies, listen to secular music and play violent videogames? Do I glorify God when I continue an unhealthy diet? Do I please God when I continue to make fun of others around me?
The call to respond
Yes, your lifestyle choices matter for your relationship with God. A heart fully given to God is the foundation for a lifestyle that glorifies Him. Over time, you will notice that you will not be drawn to the same things as you once were, because the Holy Spirit is fighting for you to overcome the temptations of the world. Your relationship with God will flourish as you get more quality and quantity time with Him. This is not legalism, it is not something that you do to get saved; it is love that compels you to want to please your Creator and Savior. Not only do you get to live life to the fullest yourself (John 10:10), but through taking on Christ’s character, you lift Him up in your life and it draws people to Him (John 12:32, Matthew 5:14).
Our appeal is not aimed at a specific part of your lifestyle, but it is an appeal straight for your heart. Are you willing to start a lifestyle based on the question “how can I love God more”?
Take some time in prayer and ask God what changes He would want you to make in your lifestyle. It can be tough, but when it is in God’s will, it will be totally worth it.