ORIENTED TOWARD GOD
While driving back from West Virginia on Sunday, we had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful hills of that scenic part of the country. As we headed East, I began to notice that the ground to my right was completely snow-covered, while the ground to my left was completely bare. Having plenty of time to think, I began to wonder what made the difference. Of course, it did not take long to figure out that the ground to my right was facing north while the ground to my left was facing south. A north-facing hill (one which is oriented away from the sun) does not receive direct sunlight. Therefore, snow on its slopes takes longer to melt. On the other hand, a south-facing hill (a hill which is oriented toward the sun) enjoys the unbroken attention of the sun and subsequently the snow quickly melts away.
After coming to this conclusion, I turned to Sarah and said, “There has to be a spiritual application in there somewhere!” Much like the hills of West Virginia and Maryland, there is a vast difference between someone who is oriented toward God, as opposed to one who is oriented away from God. The direction we are facing makes all the difference. I have often said that God is more concerned with our direction than He is with our perfection.
Now, before I emphasize our “direction” or “orientation” I want to make clear that “perfection” is something we should strive after. Matthew 5:48 commands us to be “perfect, even as [our] Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Yes, the term perfect in the Greek language generally refers to that which is complete or mature (i.e. it has come to an end), however the inclusion of the words “even as” means our maturity is to reach to the level of God’s own maturity of completion. However you slice it, we are called to a level of perfection men and women cannot attain on their own.
We all know by experience how far we fall short of perfection. Romans 3:23 reminds us: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” No man can even begin to approach a perfectly pure and righteous God. Beyond that, James 2:10 seals our fate with the chilling assessment: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The Scripture is plain: even if we could somehow keep every commandment in the Bible, if we stumble at just one point (i.e. break just one of those commandments), we are guilty as if we had broken every single one. Anyone who thinks they can escape God’s judgment for sin by their own goodness has never grappled with God’s hatred for and vengeance toward sin.
So, even though perfection is commanded, no one will ever attain it in this life. Even the Apostle Paul made this clear in Philippians 3:12 when he said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” If the Apostle Paul said he had not “arrived,” we can rest confidently that we will never “arrive” at perfection either.
But in spite of these realities, this does not mean that we should simple throw our hands up in the air, give up, and live how we please. No, this is where our “direction” comes into play. There is comfort in knowing that God knows we will never be perfect. The times we fall short are frequent reminders (like mile markers in our lives) of our need for God’s grace. But as we travel along the path, we should be able to see steady spiritual growth as we become more and more like Jesus. Whether we see this growth or not is dependent upon the direction we are heading, and whether we are oriented toward God, or oriented away from Him. A person who is oriented toward God is first one who has come to know God personally through His Son, Jesus Christ (Col 1:20-23). A person who is oriented toward God basks in the light of His Word and is slowly changed into the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:15-18). A person who is oriented toward God will live a life marked by prayer, selfless service, and purity (1 Pet 4:7-8; 2 Tim 4:12). So, as you look at the direction (not perfection) of your life, what do you see? Are you oriented toward God, or away from Him?
Just to tell a little about our weekend, we had the privilege to spend time with Pastor Bill and Michele Toothman and their church at Marion Independent Baptist Church. What a blessing to spend time with these dear, faithful servants of the Lord, and the church family in Rivesville, WV. We are once more reminded of the great privilege we have to serve alongside of these wonderful men and women of God.