One thing that has been weighing on my spirit lately is the prevalence of “itching ears” in our community. In 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) the Bible says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” This means that people will no longer be concerned with the righteous thing to do or what is true, but will instead seek out people who will tell them what they want to hear. For example, do you have a friend that you call who will agree with everything you say and won’t tell you what you need to hear? If so, you were looking for someone who would accommodate your “itching ears”. For further study listen to the episode, “Do you have itching ears?” in the Believing Bigger Podcast.
One of the things that I’ve felt for a while is that we were living in times of Babylon. As a background, Babylon was a tremendously wealthy and powerful city. However, it was plagued by sin. In fact, Bible-History.com says this about the significance of the name Babylon: “The etymology of the name Babel in the Bible means “confused” (Gen 11:9) and throughout the Bible, Babylon was a symbol of the confusion caused by godlessness.” Although for years I felt like the United States and the greater world was becoming more like Babylon, it just feels like now there is an increased urgency to spread the Gospel of Christ and to walk in the way of the Lord. There seems to be an increased urgency because if you look at the world around us, it is full of sin. Children are being exposed to things way earlier than in the past, there is so much access to information, and it appears that we are living in an “anything goes” society.
The Bible tells us that when we are followers of Christ that we are in the world but not of the world (John 15:19, and John 17:14-16). Sometimes it is tempting to think that this is just the world that we have to live in. While it’s true that we are physically here that doesn’t mean we have to adopt the morality and the nature of the world. The Bible tells us that the evil one is the ruler of the world (Ephesians 2:2). No wonder we can look around and see that the things that are “normal” are totally against how the Bible says that we should live, think, and behave. I see Christian bloggers and they argue that we should modernize and transform what lessons we draw from the Bible and when I see that I’m reminded me of the scripture about “itching ears”. The difference between people who want to reinvent the Bible is this: they are comfortable in their sin and would rather reinterpret the Bible to absolve them of it. However, those who believe that the Bible is truth realize that we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but in understanding that we love God so much that we repent for our sins, and get up each day trying again to live according to His word.
This obedience to God is what feels like it is missing nowadays. It seems like Christians are compromising their faith and trying to adapt their faith to fit the rules of the world. In Romans 12:2 (ESV), the Bible tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It also tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV), “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” If we seriously consider our thoughts, actions, what we listen to, and what we are teaching our children, is it:
- Sound doctrine?
- Conformed to the world?
- Aligned with the will of God?
- Good and acceptable?
- Is it a reflection of darkness or a reflection of light?
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. However, when we gave our lives to Christ, God wiped our sins away. There is a passage in Zechariah 3:3-4 (NLT) that I love where is says, “Jeshua’s clothing was filthy as he stood there before the angel. So the angel said to the others standing there, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ And turning to Jeshua he said, ‘See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes.’” This is what God does for us. He takes away our sins and replaces them with forgiveness and cleanliness. However, are we living according to His will? The thing is, if we don’t live our lives according to the Bible, then we are not living according to the ways of Christ.
It’s possible to live according to the ways of God in Babylon. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did it. They stuck to the ways of God and they ended up being promoted to high levels within the government (Daniel 3:30). Daniel ended up being the king’s advisor (Daniel 2:48)! Therefore it’s possible.
If we want to be able to live and not lose our way, then it is important to:
Watch The Messages That We Hear And See
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) tells us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of our life.” One of the things that I frequently hear when church leaders are discussing fasting is that they tell us to not only to fast from food but to watch our “ear gates and eye gates.” What we allow ourselves to watch on TV, listen to on the radio, or hear from other people eventually permeates our heart. Some people say that they can control what impacts them, but can they? For example, in Genesis 13:12 Lot wanted to live in an area that had lush pastures for his flock and decided to live in a tent near Sodom, a wicked city where the people sinned against the Lord. However, by Genesis 19:1 he was sitting at the entrance of Sodom and actually living in the city! You can only hear and see negativity for so long before becoming negative yourself. Think about it. Do you find yourself around a friend who complains and then next thing you know you’re complaining? It’s because your environment has an impact on how you think and feel.
Watch Who We Surround Ourselves With
Similarly to watching the messages you see and hear, you also must evaluate who you surround yourself with. The Bible has great advice on this:
- “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character.’” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
- “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20 (ESV)
I’ve heard way too many stories of good people (children and adults) who had bad friends and their lives were ruined. The people who you associate yourself with can either build you up or tear you down. They can make you better or cause you ruin. They can help you build your dreams or bury them. Therefore, it is so critical that you pick good friends. Check out your local church to see if they have classes or different activities so you can learn how to get involved with groups who are focused on Christian living.
The people who you associate yourself with can either build you up or tear you down. They can make you better or cause you ruin. They can help you build your dreams or bury them. Therefore, it is so critical that you pick good friends.
Stay Filled With The Word of God
The way that we know what is true and how we are supposed to live is by reading the word of God. My understanding of the love of God changed tremendously when I began to read the Bible for myself (If you are wondering where to get started then check out this free devotional). Initially, I thought that all I needed was to listen to the Pastor on Sunday to understand what the Bible says. However, that’s only a piece of your relationship with Christ. The Bible tells us in Joshua 1:8 (ESV), “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” This means that you should read the Word, study the Word, and then apply the Word in your daily life (James 1:22-25).
Set Clear Goals
Goal-setting is really common during the New Year, so be sure that when you set your goals that they are aligned with the Word of God. When you set goals:
- Pray and listen to God for guidance to learn what He wants you to do
- If you have questions, then review the Word of God to make sure that the goals that you set are aligned with the Bible and not based on what you want
- Get advice from godly people on your goals. Proverbs 15:22 tells us, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Find an Accountability Buddy Who Also Is a Prayer Warrior
An accountability buddy is great when working out or building a business, but they are also great if you are trying to live your life for Christ. Your accountability buddy is someone who you can call when you need prayer or biblical guidance. It’s someone who can remind you in a tough time that God is in control and to stay focused on Him and not try to work things out in your own strength. Think about Ruth and Naomi and David and Jonathan. Each of these pairings helped the other to stay grounded and steadfast in their faith. I cannot underemphasize how important this person can be. I learned the importance of accountability for Christian living when I was going through my pregnancy and early parts of motherhood, I had prayer warriors that I could call and cry with and they would let me cry and then we would pray together. They helped me focus on God, His Word, and His promises. It was instrumental for me to make it through challenging times, but also to learn just how much Christ loves me, and what promises He makes for those who believe in Him and are called according to His purpose. Sometimes you need a prayer warrior who can stand in the gap with you when you are going through tough times.
Know That It Is Okay To Be Different
For example, in the book of Daniel, we learn about Daniel, and his 3 friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to conform to the ways of Babylon. In Daniel 1:8 we learn that despite being in Babylon, “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank.” The 4 men resolved that even in Babylon, they would remain true to God. They refused to eat the food of the king, worship the gods of the king, or pray as the king commanded. It was dangerous for them to do this, but instead, they obeyed God and thrived in a foreign, hostile environment. I share this story with you to let you know that it isn’t easy to be different, but it is okay. It’s okay to stand up, in a world of sin, to say, “I’m going to follow the ways of the Lord.” Although this may mean that you may not be able to do what you used to if it isn’t aligned with the word of God, but you will be better for it. There are so many things that come with following God. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.” Doesn’t different and godly produce something amazing??
It isn’t easy to be different, but it is okay. It’s okay to stand up, in a world of sin, to say, “I’m going to follow the ways of the Lord.”
In Mark 12:31-32 (ESV) the Bible says, “’And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This means that we are commanded by God to love others.
In Babylon (the world that we live in), love seems to be lacking. However, I’m extremely encouraged by the outpouring of love for the Hurricane Harvey and Irma flood victims. That’s encouraging because people are setting aside their differences and coming together to help those in need – that’s love. That’s the type of spirit and unity that we need to hold on to and not what we see in the news, media, in social media, etc. There is so much divisiveness in this country and the world, and there is a drive to encourage people to focus on what divides us instead of what unites us. Regardless of your race, ethnicity, religion, political views, job, uniform, height, weight, sexual orientation, gender, etc., we are all created by God and God has called us to love one another. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to condone sin, but we also don’t have the right to condemn, hate, demonize, or stand in judgment of someone else. That’s not love. Love is, as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV):
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Ultimately, how we stand out and how we live in Babylon will be directly influenced by how well we love.
We are all created by God and God has called us to love one another. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to condone sin, but we also don’t have the right to condemn, hate, demonize, or stand in judgment of someone else.
Model The Right Behavior For Your Children
The last thing, that we are going to discuss is when you commit to living for Christ, even in Babylon, you must pay special attention to your children. In part 2 of this post, we will discuss how you can commit to raising your children in the ways of God and why this is important. However, before we end Part 1 of this series, I want to let you know that your children watch everything. They learn more from your behavior and how you treat others than what you say to do. Therefore, we must be careful to internalize the Word of God for ourselves and practice living right so our children can see a good example of right living even in the Babylon.
Just because the world is full of sin, it doesn’t mean that we need to be a part of it. Although we are descendants of Adam and Eve and we are sinners, in Christ we are sons and daughters of Abraham. The Bible tells us in Galatians 3:9, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Therefore, we can make a conscious effort to have faith and live for Christ. We will not be perfect because perfection is impossible, but every day we can strive to do more and be better than we were the day before. With each passing day, you will be able to truly see just how much of a new creation that you are (refer to 2 Corinthians 5:17) and find gratitude in how far you have come.
If you want more tips and resources, then check out this FREE grocery reduction challenge to help you to cut your grocery and takeout bill so you can have more money for the things you love! Click here to join the challenge!
Aisha Taylor is a single mom of twins, personal financial coach, work from home entrepreneur, and #1 Amazon Best Selling Author of the book “5+5 FNPhenomenal Ways to Save $100 This Week Without Killing Your Lifestyle.” Aisha has been featured in ESSENCE, Jet Magazine, and Black Enterprise. She is also the Founder of FNPhenomenal (Frugal –n- Phenomenal), a movement designed to help single moms create a vision for their lives, craft a financial strategy to support that vision, and show them that phenomenal living is possible. It’s time for you to be Financially Phenomenal!
Reduce Your Grocery Spending
Enter your email address to get my proven, action steps to reduce your grocery bill and still eat healthy.