Courted and Persuaded

Courting is kind of an old fashioned idea, gone out of style except maybe for the occasional Hallmark movie. It’s a flattering thing, when someone finds such value in you that they want to win over your affections. Courting implies a pursuit of some kind, one person chasing after another because they value their affections. It’s a lovely thought.

Until… it’s not. Hallmark movies aside, what about when the pursuing party isn’t all that wonderful? Think of slimy politicians courting their voter base with empty promises. We all would like to be pursued by someone worthy, but what about when something very unworthy is knocking at our door?

I read this morning in Galatians a plea from Paul to the church that struck a chord:

“They zealously court you, but for no good. Yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.” Galatians 4:17

He’s speaking of false teachers who prey on believers for their own benefit. I got to thinking about the world as a whole, how it entices us and knocks at our door… how it courts us with outstretched hand to follow its lead. We fall into a kind of daze at the promise of something better and we follow it right into a dead end, or worse. The promises are empty.

He goes on to say this:

“You ran well, who hindered you from the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” 5:7-8

This persuasion… this arm-twisting, this luring, this tempting… this is not from God! Paul is acknowledging that they were doing so well, until they allowed themselves to be courted and persuaded by the wrong people.

We feel this draw every single day, this almost magnetic pull the world has on us. It holds out its hand and summons us to come and follow. Some of us get lost in hours of scrolling or shopping, hoping the world will fulfill its promise to satisfy us. Others throw themselves into work, thinking the world will reward their sacrifices. Some habitually get lost in pills or a bottle because its better than feeling disappointed again.

It doesn’t really matter how we do it, what matters is that as children of God, we shouldn’t even be willing to allow the enemy to court us or persuade us in any form.

Paul says that we are known by God and he can’t even fathom how we could turn ourselves over to such weak and beggarly elements whose only goal is to push us back down into bondage (4:9).

Ok Paul, since you put it that way… weak and beggarly. These things that seem so powerful over us are really nothing in the light of His love for us. Jesus doesn’t offer us some second-hand, watered-down alternative to the exciting world outside our doorstep, He offers us the real thing. It’s the world that is watered-down and phony. If we flip the script, we’ll see that the things we are courted by and persuaded into following are all just smoke and mirrors. Beauty, popularity, fame, position… it’s all more temporary then we’d like to admit.

Paul finishes the chapter by reminding us that we have been called to liberty (5:13). Freedom is our calling, and it comes when we refuse to be courted by the world and all its charms. Liberty is our calling, and we walk into it when we refuse to be persuaded by things that are not of Him.

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.” AW Tozer

Thieves of Liberty

“Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” TS Eliot

The Information Age. It’s our blessing and our curse. I often joke I was born into the wrong era because I don’t always love everything that comes with technology, but feeding at the buffet of the inter webs is a part of life as we know it now. Whether we realize it or not, our minds are soaking in ideas that change the way we think. Given enough time, these little ideas can change the way we act as well. I’m always struck by those memes that pop up everywhere that sound nice but send off alarms in my head. Sometimes I think I overreact to this stuff, but I fear bad ideas start small and grow into destructive beliefs. Exhibit A:

Ummm… ok. Like, on a silver platter? I think I deserve a Friday off of work once in awhile, but my coworkers might disagree. I know I deserve some help with the towering laundry piles in the living room, but my kids may not agree. You deserve to be (insert happy adjective), you are entitled to (insert benefits). Actually, Biblically speaking, we don’t deserve much. The “universe” can’t serve us up anything. Now, if you want to talk about what we deserved vs. what we got, look to Jesus first. He stepped in to take what we deserved, and we enjoy life and freedom because of it. This idea that things will just shake out because of karma or good intentions is not only dumb, but dangerous. What happens when they don’t? We blame God. All along, He was calling us to Himself, to know His will, His truth, and we looked past Him. We can’t have one hand reached out to Jesus and the other to the vacant “universe” and expect to have clarity. We can’t just absorb things that sound nice without thinking how they shape the way we see God.

Exhibit B:

There’s a lot happening here. Some may read it and have no feeling, some may think it’s a bit quirky. Others have a BS detector that is having a meltdown. I’m not sure what it means to “steward your destiny” exactly, but I do know we are called to be good stewards of “the grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). That means all of Him, truth included. I’m not sure about incubating strategies, but I know better than to have someone tell me when to speak or when to be quiet. This isn’t Biblical. People are preying on our inability (or unwillingness) to seek out answers from the Word for ourselves. When we share Jesus, we point to Him. We don’t point people back to ourselves. When someone starts focusing more on a method than the person of Christ, we need to take heed.

Again…

Please standby… I’ve got to go to lunch and run some errands, but come back to instagram later for this crucial message! I joke, but this is the kind of stuff we scroll past, hit ‘like’ on, say amen to and soak in. Pretty little lies about God creeping into our heads that affect how we think about Him. Read enough of this stuff and you end up with complication where there should be simplicity, and tangled lies where there should be freeing truth.

Paul dealt with this in his letter to the Galatians when he spoke of “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (Galatians 2:4-5)

I’m struck by that phrase, people coming to ‘spy out our liberty’. They are coming to take it away, to put us back in bondage. Whether it’s on purpose or not doesn’t really matter, a false gospel leads us back to chains. Paul tells them of people who are parading around preaching a different gospel, a distorted gospel (Galatians 1:7). He warns that even if it were an “angel from heaven” promoting these things (v. 8) we should dismiss it. That’s the problem. These things present themselves as attractive, relevant, and sensible. They are heavy on human initiative and performance and light on Jesus.

We’re being spoon-fed information on a minute to minute basis, but we’re losing our ability to sort through it. The “universe” is throwing out garbage and we are piling it up like a trash receptacle. Paul prayed that we would have both knowledge and discernment (Philippians1:9) and that we would be able to approve what is worthy of our time and hearts.

It’s almost Christmas, a good time to take a step back perhaps from the noise and recalibrate ourselves. Take a little fast perhaps from the information onslaught and enjoy some simple silence with Jesus. Clear out the cobwebs a bit of the accumulated stuff and make room for the Christ child. Find the life you may have lost in all the “living” these past few weeks. Ask for wisdom instead of information. Don’t allow anyone to come in and spy out your freedom, it’s a precious gift that came at a great price. We owe it to ourselves and each other to not fall for the pretty little lies that surround us at every turn.

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy this season, make some time for silence, and enjoy the gift that has been so freely given to us all.