When it comes to broken relationships, the issue is never really the issue. We don’t have relationship problems; we have character flaws that show up in relationships. When we are God-centered, we choose to live our lives for God, resulting in doing things according to God’s standards. When we are self-centered, we choose to live our lives for ourselves, resulting in doing things according to our own agenda. In doing so, we become a product of our idols of the heart. (See Psalm 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:1-4)
The three reasons a Christian will not obey God are a lack of knowledge, a lack of skill, or wrongful will. Essentially, the Christian can fall in three categories: They could lack maturity in the Word and not know any better, they could not have been properly discipled and don’t know how to obey, or they could choose to live in sin, with a hardened heart and refusal to obey. Having knowledge and choosing to live in sin is a result of stubbornness and rebellion.
Oftentimes, there is a choice to make in the midst of difficult relationships, and it could be that God is teaching you something about yourself through people around you; God is using them to expose who you are. Choosing to live God-centered lives requires we live by covenants and convictions: We live by God’s own agenda. Man-centered lives are based on feelings and man’s own agenda. When we choose to live for ourselves instead of living for God, we will live in slavery to sin. When we choose to live for God instead of living for ourselves, we live in slavery to God. (See Galatians 5:16-25, Proverbs 5:22, Romans 6:22)
Whoever controls your mind controls your decisions. When our thoughts are not in tune with the will of God, they are driven to self – Our choices are driven by our thoughts. When we are self-centered, our thoughts are dominated by lies and self-ambition. As a result of those lies and self-ambitions, our thoughts tend to be driven by and reduced to what we have been denied, what we believe we deserve, what we want, what we think we should have, or what we think we need. We become friends with the world and unfriend God. (See Romans 8:5, James 3:13-18; 4:1-10)
God-centered thinking is dominated by truth and wisdom. In obedience, we can focus on what God has done with a willingness to serve him rightly. We are driven by what God promises to do for us and when to expect it; we tend to focus not only on what God is doing, but also what we can be doing for others and how to do it accordingly.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Jas 3:17–18). (2016). Crossway Bibles.
Focus once more on James 3:17-18. Our thoughts are motivated by either the flesh or the Holy Spirit. When our thoughts are motivated by the sin in our hearts, we become preoccupied with issues such as whatever brings me pleasure apart from God, independence from authority (not having to answer to anyone), materialism, and entitlement. This thinking only leads to further disobedience to God. Ultimately, this leads to a guilty conscience, a fear of God’s judgment, and a desire to flee consequences. (See 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Proverbs 28:1)
When our thoughts are motivated by the Holy Spirit, we tend to be preoccupied with a desire to know Jesus Christ, to become like Christ, and to being useful to Christ. Our focus is on not only the blessings in this life but also the life to come. This thinking leads to further obedience to God, with a desire to draw ever nearer. (See Galatians 5:22-25)
When our thoughts are driven by the flesh we will begin to worship our desires, turning them into the lusts in our lives. Our minds will be set on things below instead of heavenly things, leading us to make self interest a priority over God’s own will. We focus less and less on loving God and loving others. We focus more on using God and using others in accordance to self interest. We become servants of our flesh to satisfy these desires we have started to worship. Our desires that we treasure and worship above loving God and loving others are idols of the heart. (See James 3-4:3, Philippians 3:17-19, Galatians 5:16-21)
As we make choices according to the desires we have begun to worship, we will find ourselves on a path of difficulty and hard times; we will become a slave to that which we pursue. Sinful habits are hard to repent from and replace. Once developed, they become a result of wrongful worship and misplaced love. Reaping negative consequences of our sinful habits and pursuit of those desires is inevitable. In turn, we have a negative effect on the lives of those around us. (See Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15, 2 Peter 2:18-19, Galatians 6:7-8, 1 Corinthians 5:1-6)
Through the Person, power, and precepts of Jesus Christ, we can turn from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. To do so, we must identify the areas of our lives where we are dominated by lies and self-ambition. This process necessitates the specifics of where this is happening in our attitudes, intentions, desires, actions, relationship patterns, and service to God. Bringing healing and restoration requires we confess and repent of these things accordingly. We must consciously decide to to make God a priority in all that we think, say, and do. (See Romans 13:8-14, Proverbs 28:13-14, 1 Corinthians 10:31)
Areas of our lives where we become dominated by lies, selfish ambition, materialism, entitlement, and lustful pursuits must be replaced with specific obedience to God in those areas. In other words, we must guard our hearts from self-centeredness by walking in genuine love for God and others in our attitudes, intentions, desires, words, actions, relationship patterns, and service. (See Colossians 3:1-25, Luke 9:23-25, 1 John 1:9, Ephesians 4:17-32, Philippians 2:5)
Further thought: When reflecting on past choices you have made, were you self centered or God centered in your decision making? Identify thought patterns which might be rooted in lies and selfish ambition. What desires have you allowed to become a form of worship? What thoughts, motives, words, actions and relationship patterns, do you need to walk in to replace sin? How can you serve others? You can honor God when you recognize, repent and replace, and walk in the Spirit.
For a related post see: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/09/25/whats-your-idol/