Start Living the Good Life!
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 25 Jul
Editor's Note: This article summarizes the practical applications of Philip Carlson's recent book, Love Written in Stone: Finding God’s Grace in the Boundaries He Sets, (Bethany House, 2011).
Our culture in this fallen world tries to convince you that the “good life” – the life you’ll most enjoy – comes from pursuing pleasure. But God’s biblical commands often stand in stark contrast to pursuing pleasure, so God can seem like a cosmic killjoy who wants to hinder your pursuit of the good life.
By asking you to follow His commands, God isn’t trying to prevent you from living the good life; He’s trying to prevent you from falling victim to dangers He knows can harm you. As your loving Father, God wants what’s best for you – the ultimate “good life” – and that’s only possible when you recognize the love behind His commands and start following them.
So don’t settle for anything less in your life than what’s truly best. Here’s how you can change your perspective on God’s commandments to start living the good life that God intends for you:
Diagnose the problem. Acknowledge the reality that, just like every other human being in our fallen world, you struggle with sin. Understand that God loves you too much to leave you without help to overcome sin, because sin can hurt and destroy you. God intends for you to keep growing in holiness, which will lead you to greater freedom in the process. God’s laws are meant to help you see your need for His help to overcome sin and experience freedom, which He offers through a relationship with Jesus Christ. So realize that your problem – what’s truly holding you back in life – is sin, but God stands ready with the solution if you decide to trust Him.
Forgive. Once you understand your sinful condition, you can understand your need for God’s forgiveness. You don’t deserve forgiveness and can’t earn it, yet God graciously gives it to you anyway whenever you confess and repent of your sins. Since God is always willing to forgive you, who are you to withhold forgiveness from other people? Ask God to help you obey His commands to forgive the people who have hurt or offended you, and to ask the people you have hurt or offended to forgive you. Keep in mind that the forgiveness process involves both the initial decision to forgive and the constant decisions afterward not to let your relationships be defined by the past pain you’ve experienced in them. Pursue forgiveness whether or not others are willing to reconcile with you, since forgiveness is vital for your spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health.
Be grateful and joyful. No matter what circumstances you’re currently going through, you can choose to be respond with gratitude and joy. While your feelings constantly change just as your circumstances do, you can always count on God to give you the gratitude and joy you need to transcend your feelings and manage difficult situations in faithful ways. Ask God to give you the right perspective on every challenging situation you encounter so you can choose the right attitude about it. Avoid comparing your circumstances with other people’s lives, taking your blessings for granted, and worrying, because those habits will interfere with your ability to experience gratitude and joy. Refuse to allow any circumstances – no matter how difficult – to rob you of the joy of living or keep you from appreciating the gift of God’s presence with you.
Approach sex faithfully. Recognize the wisdom of God’s plan for sexuality to be expressed only in the right relationship – within marriage between a man and a woman – because sex can bless you within marriage but harm you spiritually, emotionally, and physically outside of marriage. Pray for the strength you need to pursue sexual purity even when those around you aren’t doing so. If you’ve sinned sexually, ask God to guide you through the healing process.
Pursue committed love. Since God loves you with true commitment – He never gives up on you – say “yes” to His call to love other people within committed relationships. Never give up on your friends and family. Be willing to act in their best interests, work through conflicts, and forgive. Ask God to help you love other people the way He loves them, and strengthen your ability to deal with difficult relationships faithfully. When you love others with a committed love, they can experience a taste of God’s justice and mercy in their relationships with you. Realize that people need you to do more than simply tell them that God loves them; they need to experience God’s love acting through you.
Take good care of your health. Recognize that sin can damage your health by leading you to make self-destructive choices, but faithfulness can improve your health by motivating you to make healthy choices. Pray for the strength you need to make healthy choices such as eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, thinking positively, worshipping frequently, practicing good hygiene, getting enough sleep, and resting regularly to reflect and pray. Ask God to remind you respond to life’s stresses by placing your trust in Him.
Take good care of creation. Keep in mind that creation is a good gift from God that is worthy of your respect and care. Ask God to help you notice the many ways that creation reflects the different parts of His character, from lightning that shouts of His dynamic power to rocks that whisper of His reliable presence throughout time. Realize that an attitude of feeling free to do whatever you want with God’s creation is sinful; you have a responsibility to seek and carry out His will for how you interact with what He has made. Be willing to do whatever you sense God calling you to do to take good care of creation, such as recycling, conserving energy, treating animals humanely, cleaning up pollution, and living simply to avoid waste. Keep in mind that the way you treat vulnerable people – those Jesus called “the least of these,” such as children, the elderly, and poor, and the disabled – is also part of caring for God’s creation. Ask God to give you the compassion you need to do what’s right when caring for everyone and everything that He has made.
Adapted from Love Written in Stone: Finding God’s Grace in the Boundaries He Sets, copyright 2011 by Philip Carlson, MD. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Bloomington, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.
Philip Carlson, MD, (ThM, Fuller; MD, University of Southern California) is senior pastor of Bethany Church of Sierra Madre and practices family medicine in Pasadena. He also teaches at the college level and is a conference speaker. His first book, You Were Made for Love, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He lives in Sierra Madre, California, with his wife, Carole, and their four children.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at:firstname.lastname@example.org send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience.
Publication date: July 25, 2011