There are certain commands given to believers in the New Testament.
The first and possibly the most important command –if you could even rate them– is the Great Commission.
The command has two parts: (1) the go part and (2) the make disciples part. They’re two separate but connected things. Go is outreach to the unsaved, and discipleship is training and teaching of the saved.
Every spiritual gift is intended to help the church to either go or to make disciples.
The gift of mercy, giving, help, teaching, and evangelism –all these and more are meant to enrich the body of Christ.
Our passion, our greatest pursuits should be using these gifts that God gave us to enrich His body. This is why we’re given spiritual gifts.
At the very least, our passions shouldn’t be drawing us away from the greater issue of using our spiritual gifts for eternal purposes.
Satan wants us to get so wrapped up with other things that we don’t take the time to do the eternal stuff or to do the church stuff or to use our spiritual gifts; he wants us to be so distracted that we don’t have the time, energy, or focus in order to use the gifts in the church.
It’s a bonus if he can use our spiritual gifts against us: if he can use our gift to get us wrapped up in something that doesn’t have eternal value but seems to be good.
We probably wouldn’t be distracted by it if it didn’t seem good, but there’s a difference between almost right and right.
Satan mixes just enough almost-good into it to make it appealing, to make us think that what we are going is eternally valuable.
Discernment is not telling the difference between right and wrong, rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” C.H Spurgeon.
He will get us emotionally invested in anything that seems good and noble as long as it is distracting us from using our spiritual gifts as God intended.
Now, by themselves, these pursuits do not automatically mean we have a problem, but he wants to be so passionate about them that it will almost become a religion unto itself.
Distractions of almost-good-things that I’ve seen people take too far are listed below. I know I’m stepping on toes so bear with me and let me explain.
– Trying to save horses from the glue factory
– Trying to get everyone to spay and neuter their animals
– Trying to stop abortion
– Trying to stop domestic abuse
– Adoption and foster care
– Stopping deforestation
– Feeding the homeless
– Trying to saving endangered animals
– Trying to stop animal abuse here or in other countries
– Trying to stop other countries from raising animals for meat if we don’t eat them here in the US
– Trying to stop the euthanization of animals
– Trying to stop the use of vaccines
– Trying to stop the use of pesticides
– Free trade movement
– Buying handmade items from poor people in other countries
None of these are bad things. Some of them are even things that I support.
So when does it pass from a healthy concern to an obsession that’s drawing us away from God?
…when we start making moral absolutes where the Bible doesn’t.
…when we start letting a temporal issue distract us from the eternal.
Here are examples that indicate you’ve stepped over the line and you’re trying to make scripture support your interests instead of using your gifts to support the church as commanded in the bible.
You are overstepping if you say:
-It is morally wrong to not spay your cat.
-Anyone who doesn’t picket against abortion is supporting it.
– If you’re not fostering and adopting as many kids as you can, you’re in sin.
– God told us to take care of the earth, so if you’re letting people you’re in sin.
– If you’re not buying handmade items from people in other countries you are sinning.
Some of those things we as the church are supposed to do, but does every individual church member have to do those things even if they are gifted differently?
If everyone’s gifted differently and one person is the hand and other the feet as scripture says, why do we expect everyone to minister in the same ways?
If the church as a whole is given a command like caring for orphans and widows does every member individually have to do it or does the church as a group just need to see that it’s being done by someone in their midst? Of course, we don’t expect Grandma Mary to foster kids at age 90 or the lady with cancer to take care of the homeless. If it is really a sin then it is a sin in all cases.
Beyond that is the concern that people start making extra-biblical rules to support their hobby or pet topic and trying to force everyone else into supporting their beloved issue.
If Satan can get us to ignore our gifts and the issues of salvation and discipleship which we are commanded to focus on as a church and get us to champion a different good-but-not-biblical issue…
If he can get us to use our talents on something that draws us away from using our gifts in the church…
If he can get us to champion an issue in an unbiblical way and ruin our testimony…
And we let him, unfortunately.
The biggest issue I see is when people pick their pet topic, their passion, and then go looking for verses to back it up so that they can say everyone else should do the same thing they do. They try to make the Bible verses support their position even if they have to twist the bible to make it say that.
Like spaying a cat. Someone once used the verse about knowing the good you should do and not doing it as a command to spay your cat. Now, I think it’s good to spay your cat. It’s probably even wise. But it’s not a sin to have an unspayed cat. Is it of eternal value? Is it really worth twisting scripture to get people to do a surgery on their house pet? There are some pretty specific rebukes for those who choose to twist scripture. I have heard people use Old Testament verses about defending injustice to back up any perceived injustice they can think of.
People will also champion moral ideas in the political realm. For instance, abortion. But, they’ll get so wrapped up in arguing about the immorality of abortion that they forget that the person they’re arguing with is going to hell without a Savior. What’s more important: that you convince them that abortion is wrong or that you convince them they need a savior? By arguing with them about abortion you can easily lose sight of the eternal soul of the person you’re debating. Paul said we shouldn’t judge those outside the church. We shouldn’t be focusing our energy on trying to correct unbelievers. There are enough problems in our own churches actually need to be addressed. Those are the problems we are commanded to address: the problems within the church.
If Satan can get us distracted with other passions and pursuits than witnessing and discipleship, he’s winning.
I don’t care what topic you like as long as you don’t twist scripture, lose sight of our purpose here on earth, or try to make a new version of Christianity by twisting the Bible to suit your own preferences.
You can like politics, cats, horses, stray kids, the forest –whatever. Just don’t ruin your testimony while you’re championing your pet project. Don’t make that topic and pursuit of that topic more important than the commands to go and to disciple. Don’t lose sight of the eternal.
How do we know when it’s crossing over from a reasonable hobby to an obsession that’s drawing us away from God?
1) We expect everyone else to have the same passion we have and equate pursuit of our passion with morality.
2) We expect everyone else to have the same spiritual gifts we have and use them the same way.
3) We start looking for ways to use the bible to back up our passion even if it means twist scripture.
4) We start arguments and accuse other people of being in sin because they’re not helping us with our passion or not as passionate about a topic as we are.
5) We build our beliefs around the pet topic instead of reading the Bible for what it says and seeing if our passion fits in with that.
6) We care more about our passion and proving to everyone that we’re right than we care about the souls around us who are bound for hell.
7) We contend for our pet topic more vehemently than we contend for scripturally solid topics like the fundamentals of our faith.
8) We become self-righteous thinking that we’re the only truly holy people because we’re following the “right way” (our made up version of Christianity that is tailored to include our pet topic) and everyone else isn’t.
Do you have a hobby that’s a passion?
Are you diligent to make sure it’s not drawing you away from God?
Are you diligent to make sure that you have a biblically accurate understanding of that topic?
Are you more passionate about the salvation of the lost and education of believers than you are your pet topic?
Are you careful about your testimony, that you’re not ruining it while pursuing your passion?
This is a slippery slope.
We should be willing to give up any hobby that draws us away from God and tempts us to make gods out of our pursuits.
I pray that we would have discernment and not let Satan have a foothold in our lives.
P.S. for more info on this topic I recommend Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. In that book, the demons try to keep the believers so busy doing “good” things that they’re distracted from eternal things.