Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you just had to insist? You couldn’t let it go? Well, that’s how Scripture is on some points. Because the content is from God, the writers often say (in so many words), “I insist!” In Eph. 4:17, the Apostle Paul says he “insists on it in the Lord.” He feels strongly about how God’s people should live – and not live. Let’s unpack this.
A Little More of This Insistence
You know, as I think about it, we could use a little more of this kind of insistence. Socially accepted practices have infiltrated the church to the point some of Christ’s principles and standards have been watered down. Even Jesus followers have compromised and interpreted His messages to serve their own desires and interests. They then give reasons and excuses why it’s OK to change things up a bit. Sometimes they sacrifice critical issues God values to sound more current and contemporary.
This kind of witness by Jesus followers to the world is not effective. Plus, it doesn’t give you, the believer, practice growing and wielding Jesus’ character. Yes, Jesus gives righteousness freely to every person who trusts Him for salvation. But it takes a lifetime of hard work to hone Christ’s character in our lives. This work is a “must.” We are told to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) This suggests commitment and respect for God. It takes Him seriously with a great deal of gratitude and a sense of indebtedness. Living the same as those who don’t know Jesus is disrespectful and dishonoring to God. He went to the cross for the very actions some engage daily. His holy, pure, perfect principles have been dummied-down into mere suggestions – if it’s convenient.
So – How Do You Work It Out?
When you become a follower of Jesus, there must be a complete change. All or nothing. Even if it takes time to fully adopt, the changes should be observable. It takes time for a baby to learn how to walk. In the same way, it takes time to learn to maneuver in faith. Yet, just like a toddler eventually gets around and into everything, a growing believer in Jesus should be clearly making progress in Christ-like character, development, and action steps. Otherwise, you are lukewarm, ineffective, and still in bondage.
Old habits, practices, and patterns need to be put off. (v. 22) A Jesus follower who truly loves God will willingly work to set aside old patterns. They will eagerly jump forward to put on (v. 24) new practices that refine personal character and prove their heart wants to be holy like Jesus. Put off. Put on. You work as God works. Your work partners with God as He transforms you. This is the path to freedom in Christ. Jude 21 says, “Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and bless you.” To put it another way – you need to insist on staying where God wants you. Agree with God. Insist!
What Does “Insist” Mean?
Insist means to be emphatically firm or resolute in something. There is usually a good reason. For example, we mentioned Scripture says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” That sounds like a strong directive – insisting. Yet, this one little phrase describes the difference between a believer who grows strong and lives in freedom, and a Christian who stays stuck in the same place for a long time. Paul says you must “no longer live” a certain way. (v. 17) This implies participation. You don’t have to stay stuck with the Spirit of God living in you. God has given you “say so” to partner with Him in this new life He has made possible. In fact, He insists. There’s no other way to live a holy life. This is the path of transformation.
Have you felt discouraged that your experience seems futile? Perhaps you sense your understanding of life is muddled, always lurking in the gray. Your reality is different from the life you thought it would be when you trusted Jesus for salvation. You don’t feel very free. Perhaps you feel trapped. Paul is writing to believers in Jesus, not to non-believers. Apparently, you are not alone in this place. Others join you.
Trapped in Old Patterns
Paul says it’s possible to be a Christian and still be trapped in old patterns. He is as tough as nails on this point of insisting. Interestingly, he then gives an instructional message of hope as he explains how straight-jacket-living is because of a kind of ignorance that comes from hardening one’s heart. That hardening can be a deliberate choice – or it can result from not deliberately choosing to not harden your heart This is passive hardening.
How to Apply, “I Insist!”
The territory of the soul is where believers are forged, and this happens in every-day living. Big decisions, little choices. Big problems, little irritations. Choosing to align everything with God, you learn how to put off and put on. God cleanses the deep recesses in your life and makes you new in your attitudes and mind. If you follow His training, you will notice stability and balance forming in your life with frustrations slipping off. Even though you will still have stresses and frustrations, they won’t control you like they used to. You are becoming a new person. Plus, you can be current and contemporary without sacrificing God’s holiness and messages. Some of the most refreshing believers are current and contemporary without sacrificing anything. They’ve learned how to insist. Yet, they have “come into themselves.” Chances are they are living in freedom, enjoying their unique personality, and having fun. Plus they know how to roll up their sleeves and get things done. And they are faithful when trouble-shooting life hardships.
Are you willing to practice these new strokes? You need to insist. Literally participate in becoming the new creation. You become what you practice.You can be hard on yourself in the right way. Why not eagerly embrace this process? Why not insist?
This training will help you be an effective, intentional life e-pistle others can read. If you respond to God’s training, you will leave a powerful mark on the i-generation that needs Jesus. Will you commit to this? Just say, “I insist!”
Article developed from Eph. 4:17-24 .
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Description – It’s hard to change habits and establish new patterns. Old, unhealthy patterns can feel like a ball and chain you drag around. It seems to take a mammoth effort to dump the old and introduce the new. Practicing new strokes takes energy, focus, and resolve. It almost seems easier to just put up with the old even though you know it’s not your best – or the best for you. So, what do you do?