This post is part of the One Word’ blog carnival at Bridget Chumbley’s place
where great post go to live! It’s also a small snippet from my book RETOOLED: Shaping Your Fathering From The Inside Out from the section on self-control. The OS I mention stands for Operating System, which might sense if I posted the whole chapter but that would be way too long. Hopefully this will still make sense and bless your socks off at the same time!
Do you ever have strange talks with God? I do, and I had one such talk with God on my way to work one day. I was pouring out my heart, telling Him how tired I was, how frustrated I was, trying my best to get a little love and comfort. (Yes, I was whining). Know what the Father said?
“Stop flirting with me.”
I said, “What are you talking about? Flirting? Who’s flirting? (Insert huge mental picture of me back peddling here) I'm always trying to stay in contact with you” He replied, “Contact yes, committed on all levels...no.”
Bam! I felt like I’ve been punched in the gut. Father God had just rebuked me of “service innuendos”, those coy attempts of intimacy with Him. You see, the Father doesn't want mere contact, but deep continuous relational commitment from His sons. Flirtation is all about the surface, never intending to go deeper. This quote says it all for me.
“Flirtation is attention without intention.” Max O'Rell
I realized that I sometimes dance around relational commitment with God as if it was a trap set for me. Not trusting Him for fear of falling through some hidden opening leading to my rejection. It’s the selfish need is to stay just close enough to be “safe” but not diving in without reservation. It is like the quote above, “Flirtation is attention without intention.” That is, to talk or act devotedly, but without seriously backing up those words or actions with commitment.
In my heart, I don’t want a mere love affair with God; an affair implies a temporary fling, a tryst needing no commitment on my part. No, this life with Him needs covenant commitment, passionately following Him and leaving nothing in reserve. I don’t want to flirt or “hit” on God, treating Him like some prize to win. That would cheapen the price He paid for us to have a close and deep relationship with Him.
What does this relational commitment look like? It has the stamp of Christ all over it, the passion He put into serving the Father. Loving, putting others first, the tangible actions of self-control fleshed-out through the relationship between Father and Son on earth. This is selfless living on a whole another level!
So, what does this have to do with us? The Lord fully understood that flirting with God would also mean that we’d flirt with other “gods” as well. That’s the real danger, that our affection we fall on something other than Him. This is where self-control comes in handy and that’s why we find this encouragement in His Word.
“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2
In this verse the Spirit is reminding us of a self-controlled mind-set. Set your affections is like saying, come on, think! Control your thoughts! God wants us to love “things above”, the ones that are from His heart. Our thoughts, emotions and affections need to revolve around them. This requires a daily download into our human OS and self-control retooling keeps the communication ports open.
Revolving around “things above” means simply loving with God’s passion embedded in us. It’s having the mind of Christ, one of humility and service to others, who understood His position in light of those things above. These are “Fatherly” qualities like impartation, inspiration, and the intentional placing of value into the life of our families.
This mind-set is a powerful form of self-control for it values others more than themselves. The writer of Colossians goes on to tell us what “things above” are.
(12) “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender feelings of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, (13) forbearing one another and forgiving yourselves, if anyone has a complaint against any. As Christ forgave you, so also you do. (14) And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.” Colossians 3:12-14
When I revolved around these heavenly ideas, I think like Jesus, His thoughts influence my own. My actions follow and I grip tightly to the “things above” so my family receives the full benefit. Self-control helps me hang in tough when difficult problems stick their ugly head in family life. Its retooling effect helps my OS shed its self-ishness and rely on a different command to help, the one to put on love. I need this upgrade of self-control, to guide me in applying mercy and forgiveness while training my kids. This example has a huge impact, showing them who we should have confidence in. That’s the legacy of self-control!