For the month of May, I have a goal: To only use one tank of gas in my truck the entire month, while not diminishing ministry or driving the car instead. This means I am having to ride my bike to/from work along with errands when I am at work. The ride goes through cities that are not very bike-friendly along some heavily traveled roads, but with around ten days left in the month, my gas tank is still over half full. This morning as I mounted my bike to take the thirty minute ride to work, I was greeted with a strong head wind. Unfortunately, this wind would be pushing against me the entire trip. I found myself having to shift to lower gears and work much harder peddling up Sarah Drive and Hillcrest Road. The morning ride turned into a forty minute battle against the elements and an arduously cold journey. Cars would pass me with drivers drinking their coffee, talking on the cell phone, listening to the radio and generally enjoying the creature comforts available to modern man. Some of you may be thinking that my riding my bike to work is a wonderful way to exercise and others may think I am doing a great job of cutting down on greenhouse gases while leaving a smaller carbon foot print. However, I can assure you that my motivation is much less altruistic than that. I peddle by four gas stations on the way to work and this morning the price per gallon at these stations were: $4.23, $4.25, $4.29 and $4.30. So though I was facing a strong head wind, I kept on peddling and finally made it to work. Of course, as soon as I made it to work, the wind stopped blowing so strongly and hasn't blown since. And people say God doesn't have a sense of humor!!
While battling the head wind, I began to think about the Sunday School lesson from Sunday. I usually teach the 5th & 6th Graders, but invited the youth to join because we would be discussing peer pressure. As we go through life, we face the pressure from others to veer from the course God has marked out for us. Unfortunately, we all have people in our lives who would rather have us strive for mediocrity than excellence. They want us to cut corners and bring us down to their level. This pressure can come from friends, family members, co-workers, team mates or a host of other relationships in our lives. I wish we no longer faced this pressure when we graduated from high school, but that simply isn't true. The world will pressure the Christian to conform to their standards. If the Christian seeks to live out his faith in a genuine way, he will face incredible head wind and resistance. Unfortunately, much of this resistance comes from fellow Christians who have compromised in their own lives and bought into the world view of the culture. They have used the Bible (When they actually use it) to justify sin, rather than repenting and turning to the truth which would cause much more adversity in their relationships but much more peace with God. And so we are tempted to turn around and just go with the wind rather than keep peddling into such resistance. Or we are tempted to get off the bike and rest for a while because the resistance has worn us out.
Romans 12:2 gives us this incredible admonition when we face a strong head wind of pressure to compromise the truth of Christ: "Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you minds that you may be able to prove what is the good and perfect will of God." That's a pretty radical verse because it warns us as followers of Christ that the culture wants us to conform to them and fit it with them. They don't want us to make waves by living a righteous life. Though they may admire the fact that we eschew divorce and stay married through difficulties, they don't want us to talk about honoring our marriage vows to them. While they may admire our honesty, they will detest our work ethic when they are slacking. The fact is so plain today: The world doesn't mind us being a Christian on Sunday as long as it doesn't affect us on Monday through Saturday. They don't mind us claiming to be followers of Christ as long as we watch the same movies/TV shows they watch, listen to the same music, use the same language, have the same sexual proclivities and are just as critical and cynical as they are. But the call of Romans 12:2 is so much greater than that. We are not to conform, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind in God's Word. When we personally spend time in God's Word each day allowing His genuine truth to change our lives, our mind will become transformed to the mind of Christ. Not overnight and certainly not fully like the mind of Christ, but in baby steps we will find ourselves seeing life from God's perspective. Then we will experience strong head wind, but we will have the proper motivation to go against that head wind in God's direction.
We have seen a slow change in our culture which back in the 50's, 60's and early 70's reinforced the values of the church. The culture embraced marriage while making divorce much more difficult. The stores and restaurants would be closed on Sundays or at least not open until after 12:00. Youth and children sports would never be played on Sundays. The acceptable language of the day was much less verbose and crude. There was a sense of modesty in dress and conduct. BUT that is no longer the case today. We live in a pagan culture which embraces pleasure and shuns discipline. Some Christians rail against that change in the culture and seek to move culture back to where it once was. Other Christians just go with the flow and their behavior and attitudes are identical to culture except on Sunday mornings or when their pastor comes to visit them. A small band of Christians have chosen to transform their minds with God's Word and peddle against the strong head wind. They aren't on the street corners yelling and screaming. They are simply living for Jesus on Monday through Saturday. They are working on their marriages to honor their spouses and their vows. They are seeking to raise their children with Godly values rather than running from one recital to a ball game to the math tutor. They are honest at work and diligent, working as unto the the Lord not unto their boss. They are dedicated in school, seeking to gain an education rather than focus on getting by or getting good grades. They stop to help people in need and accept nothing in return. They allow God to change their schedule to meet His plan rather than asking God to change His schedule to meet their plans. This list could go on and on, but you get the point.
It is time for the Church to evaluate herself and decide who she will follow. We cannot continue to conform to culture and make an impact on culture at the same time. Our world is hungry to see true faith lived out on Monday through Saturday. They have grown weary of coming to church and being entertained by a full blown band singing the latest tunes, hearing a preacher who is an infomercial for Jesus and listening to people talk about prayer but who rarely pray. They are looking for the real deal. They are watching us at work, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in the line at the bank and everywhere else we go. Are you ready to be radical and peddle against a killer head wind? Are you willing to take the barbs and the abuse for going against the flow while seeking to live a righteous life?
The irony of my Sunday School lesson was this: None of my 5th and 6th grade students made it to class for that lesson on peer pressure. Several had been to parties the night before and they/their parents were too tired to make it to church for Sunday School and another had a party that afternoon so they didn't come because they were preparing for the party. So rather than peddle against a strong head wind, that head wind changed their direction. I looked at the weather forecast for this week and on Thursday and Friday the wind is supposed to pick up and the temperature is supposed to drop, which may mean driving the truck because the trip on the bike will become too cold and dangerous. So there is a point where, if we are not careful, culture will overtake us and we won't even be able to withstand the head wind anymore or even know we have changed course.
This afternoon, the wind will be behind me which will make my ride much faster and easier. That's how it is when we follow Jesus passionately and honestly - He gives us a tail wind that moves us through resistance because that resistance is simply confirmation of our direction.
So in which direction are you peddling?