The water looks so inviting. The colors are amazing, and on a hot day, the thought of how refreshing it will feel is almost more than I can resist.
And yet, I know to stay out of it.
I know danger lurks beneath its dazzling emerald invitation even though I can’t see it.
I know… because the flags tell me.
Yellow is a warning to be careful, and purple warns of dangerous marine life in the water.
I could still go in, but that wouldn’t be good for me. I might even be fine for a while, but sooner or later I will get stung by a jellyfish, punctured by a stingray, or bitten by a sea snake.
The danger is real whether I can see it from where I stand or not.
Knowing of the danger, I have a choice. I can continue to stare at the water, imagining the pleasure of soaking in its coolness, splashing in the waves, and floating up and down on the swells, thus making myself sad or angry – or worse, talking myself into going in anyway,
or I can choose to focus on the refreshing cool breeze as I hunt shells or build sand structures.
It reminds me of life, and how God has warned us to stay out of places that could turn around and bite us. He doesn’t tell us not to swim in order to make our day miserable. He tells us to keep us safe.
In His Word, He has warned us to stay away from sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, stealing, greed, drunkenness, reviling, swindling, devotion to mythology and genealogies, enslaving, lying, perjury, impurity, sensuality, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, slander, orgies, and things like these (1 Cor 6:8-10; 1 Tim 1:3-10; Gal 5:19-21; 1 Peter 2:1).
I could focus on that list, imagining how good they would make me feel, how I have the right to respond in those ways when others mistreat me, and how some aren’t really that bad, thus making myself sad or angry – or worse, reasoning my way or letting others talk me into participating in them anyway,
or I can choose to focus on my relationship with God as I look for ways to spread His love to others.
Everything on that list involves putting self ahead of God and ahead of other people, which is opposite of what Jesus said.
Jesus gave us only two commands: Love God above all, and love others as He loves us. (Luke 10:27). If we put God and His ways above everything else – seeking His kingdom first (Matt 6:33) – and if we seek the good of others before our own good (Philippians 2:3-4) – we won’t be doing anything on that list. We won’t have time for anything on that list. We won’t even have to memorize that list, or any other list that can be found in the Bible.
Those who follow Jesus’ two commandments don’t even need that list.
Let’s be what Jesus has called us to be – His disciples. Let’s adopt the same mindset of Jesus (Phillipians 2:5-8).
Let’s not get bit.
Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among you, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
1 Tim 1:3-11 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wondered away into vain discussions, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with whom I have been entrusted.
Galatians 5:16-24 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
1 Cor 6:12-20 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful to me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by this power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you know know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.