It’s no secret that being a Christian and following Jesus is tough. Among many other things it means that whatever culture or society you live in, pressure will be put on you to change what you believe to suit the status quo. This is not a new thing, it’s always been this way. For most people reading this, the cost of following Jesus is laying down your reputation. For others it might be laying down their freedom. For some, it will be laying down their lives. Since we’ve been born again and given a new identity, God calls us to live a life that is wildly different to people who don’t know Him and this can make us feel pretty awkward… Or is it just me…? This is the life and life abundantly that Jesus said He came to give to us. However there is a silent assassin intent on killing that life in us and choking out our enjoyment of it.
I’m talking about Compromise. It may be Outward Compromise, in our words, with what we say and don’t say or it may be in our actions with the things we do and don’t do. It might be Inward Compromise, in the way we think, what we believe about God, about ourselves or others. It’s most likely to be both. That pressure won’t go away and I think how we respond to it is hugely important, for ourselves and for the world around us.
Compromise neutralises the power of our witness because it teaches people that we don’t really believe what we say we believe and so why should they? It also corrupts the authenticity of our relationship with God, stunts our own growth and hurts His heart.
Now let me just stop and make a note here. You might have already made up your mind about what you think I’m going to say and so you’ll be reading this post in a certain tone so I want to just speak clearly. I’m not advocating bull-headed Christianity that lacks the very love and compassion of the Jesus that it preaches in the name of standing for truth. I’m not promoting “stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-and-ignore-everything-and-everyone-else” Christianity. I’m certainly not encouraging that anything goes because Jesus paid it all nonsense (I refuse to call that Christianity) and I’m definitely not saying hide the truth in case it offends people.
So what am I saying? Only one way to find out…
Compromised Hearts and Blind Eyes
If you’re wondering what I mean by compromise, I’d say that compromise is anything we do that contradicts the conviction of our hearts according to God’s Word. In Matthew 5:8 Jesus says the pure in heart are blessed because they will get see God. A pure heart has an unmixed purpose and intention that’s focused only on God’s will without self-will mixed in. There’s something about a whole-hearted Christianity that enables us to see God better and something about a half-hearted walk with God that leaves us fumbling in the dark. Compromise in our hearts definitely leads to a dulling of our eyes. (To read more, click here)
“Compromise is anything we do that contradicts the conviction of our hearts according to God’s Word.”
James 1:22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James tells us that compromise and deception go hand in hand saying that if we just mentally acknowledge God’s will and don’t do it, we actually begin to deceive ourselves. We lie to ourselves about who God is and who we are. We begin lowering His standards to suit ourselves and customising His nature to look more like ours. This is really just idolatry as we’re making a god in our own image and worshipping it when it’s not God at all. (more on that in another post)
I’ve heard it said that “The nature of deception is that you don’t know you’re deceived.” One of the symptoms of self-deception however is that you really do know! When our relationship with God is compromised, we know that we’re living a lie! We know it! We may be unwilling to admit it, even to ourselves but we know it for sure! Every time we violate our hearts and our convictions, our conscience takes a hit and we know we’ve done something wrong. The scary bit is, our conscience can be seared and deadened by ignoring it and violating it over and over until we really can’t feel it any more. This is a dangerous place to be for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, in this place we often forget that we’re the ones who stepped into compromise and away from our relationship with God. Things become more and more superficial, we feel more restricted and less and less fulfilled in Him. We start developing that nagging feeling that this Christianity thing is just a load of nonsense and the world starts looking a lot more attractive and freeing. We know what we’re living isn’t real and authentic but we’ve forgotten that we’re the ones who took the authenticity out of it in the first place. Secondly, we can begin excusing ourselves for behaving a certain way because we “just don’t feel convicted/guilty” or “just don’t think it’s a big deal” when actually we’ve just lost the sensitivity of our conscience and damaged our ability to hear God.
“Compromise neutralises the power of our witness because it teaches people that we don’t really believe what we say we believe”
The Happy Heart is Set Apart
Although we’re not supposed to live separate from the world, we are supposed to live set apart. Romans 12:2 lets us know that pretty clearly. This is particularly important when we’re tempted to live a compromised Christian life, still keeping up religious appearances but really just chasing our own desires. A little bit of poison everyday is still poison. Our enemy knows that if he can dilute our devotion we’ll usually lead ourselves the rest of the way down the slippery slope. The longer we walk in compromise, the more we need to draw on the world to equip us with weapons to fight off the Holy Spirit’s voice. The world we live in will bombard us with all the justification we could possibly need to walk away from God and can make us feel good or even spiritual about it! “Do what makes you happy!” “Life is for living!” “Chase your dreams!” “You deserve better!” All sugary truths that when misapplied become doorways to deception.
God wants our lives to be FULL of His joy but seeing as He made life, we have to accept that He knows how it works best! He’s given us the road map to a life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit through the Bible and the route is along the Highway of Holiness that Isaiah talks about. If our Christianity looks just like the world except we go to church on Sundays, we’ve missed it. Big time.
If the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can’t bear to live with sin as His roommate because He will have something to say about it and we’ll lose our peace (Read 1John!). Someone once said that a sinning Christian is the most miserable person in the world. Too much of sin to enjoy God and too much of God to enjoy sin. God wants us to enjoy Him and He Himself delights in us but He knows that if our hearts are pulling away from Him, as in any relationship, we can’t fully experience and enjoy life together.
Having ridden the roller coaster of compromise a good few times round and having watched my friends and family take a few spins (and sometimes never get off), there are some signs I’ve noticed that can tell us and others when we’ve stepped into compromise. This is not a comprehensive list of tell-tale signs but it’s just a few things I’ve seen often that you may recognise in yourself or in your friends. Let’s have a look at four of them.
“A sinning Christian is the most miserable person in the world. Too much of sin to enjoy God and too much of God to enjoy sin.”
#1 Holding God at arm’s length
This one is quite subtle and can take any form, many of them invisible to any one else. This is when we make a decision in our hearts, whether conscious or unconscious, that we’re not really going to pursue God any more. We’re not going to go out of our way to hear His voice or get closer to Him but if it happens, that’s up to Him. We’ll just do life in the meantime. This is a huge temptation when we feel let down by God or the Church. We’re also really vulnerable to it when we feel ashamed. While I was addicted to pornography this is one was a huge temptation for me because I knew I was tangled up in something that hurt His heart and I felt like I couldn’t bear Him seeing me that way.
The temptation to draw back comes with a lie that you’re not welcome in God’s presence any more because He will either reject you or smite you and so you hold Him at arm’s length. Maybe you stop reading the Bible. Maybe you start sitting further back in church and attend Sunday meetings less or stop going altogether. Maybe you only pray when things are really bad. Maybe you keep up all the appearances of being a “super spiritual Christian on fire for Jesus” and no one knows the coldness of your heart. You know where you’re at. When we choose to live at an “acceptable” distance from God we know our hearts have chosen compromise.
#2 Holding people at arm’s length
As I just mentioned our relationship with God is very closely linked to our relationship with His people and sometimes we confuse the two. When we step into compromise, the shame that follows can keep us from fully engaging in our friendships with other Christians. I’ve found that when I’ve been inclined to do something that is not what God wants, I don’t ask for advice on it from people that I know will tell me the truth. I avoid them like the plague! If I do ask for advice, it’s from the people who will tell me what I want to hear.
It’s essential that we find friends who care more about us than they do about our friendship and so aren’t afraid to tell us the truth! It’s just like that awesome Proverb that says wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy! If you’re a truth-teller you may have found that you know when a friend is compromising because they won’t make eye contact with you. Pray for grace and wisdom to love them, encourage them and challenge them (Jam 5:19-20)
#3 Getting defensive about sin
This one follows on from the last one. Remember: “A sinning Christian is the most miserable person in the world. Too much of sin to enjoy God and too much of God to enjoy sin.” It’s not unusual to get caught up in some kind of sin and when challenged by brothers and sisters, to start building a high wall to defend our Castle of Compromise. Our building blocks can be made of seemingly logical arguments, Bible verses (usually taken out of context), post-modern philosophical thoughts all stuck together with either fierce nonchalance or just plain old aggression.
When we fight for the right to live contrary to our calling, we know our hearts have been compromised. As I mentioned earlier, compromise can be so blinding that we start fight against what we used to stand for and worse yet, we fight against the people that want to help us see again! When we begin defending sinful habits that we used to fight against we know our hearts are in compromise. Jesus died so His bride could live in freedom from sin and it breaks His heart when she becomes a voluntary slave again with Stockholm Syndrome. (Read more)
#4 When God looks just like you
This one is really easily to recognise once you see it but really difficult to see in the first place. Compromise often manufacturers a god in our minds that is just like us. We can find it tough to tell the difference between this mind-made idol and the living God because we don’t really want to know the difference. We want an eternal Yes Man who will approve and disapprove of whatever we want. This attitude does expose something deeper in our hearts however. Quick story:
The Holy Spirit told a man that his friend had been sleeping with her boyfriend and they weren’t married. His friend was a Christian and so he went to confront her with what God had said. She didn’t deny it but instead defensively replied “Don’t tell me that God doesn’t love me!” The man replied “I would never ever say that. I’m not saying God doesn’t love you, I’m saying that you don’t love God.”
That might seem like a harsh thing to say but it’s only what the Bible says. In John 14 Jesus says several times that if we love Him, we will obey His commands and so as soon as we start to take the kindness of God for granted we know we need to check our hearts because we’re choosing to love something (or someone) more than we love Him. We turn our backs on the cross and cheat ourselves out of accessing the vibrant life of the Spirit and connection with God that’s free from shame and guilt.
Grace and Truth
When we start justifying doing things that we know are wrong by saying things like “God understands” or “God will forgive me” or “God still loves me” we’re in really dangerous territory! Check out Hebrews 10:26-27 – If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Again these things are all true but the devil loves to take truth and twist it to use it against you. Of course God understands our weakness, of course He wants to forgive us and of course He still love us but He also understands that He has washed us clean with the blood of His Son and given us His Spirit to empower us to live right and display our love for Him.
A life of compromise starts with a small step in the wrong direction and our small, secret concessions with darkness harm our hearts in ways we can’t know until they start to produce bad fruit. James says that we’re led astray by our desires and our desires lead to us into sin which only ever produces death in us. Compromise is a silent assassin sent to attempt by any means necessary to take cut off the life of God in us. . Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts because our lives flow out of them and Jesus tells us our mouths speak whatever fills our hearts. We’re not supposed to live defensively though, the best defense is a good offence so let’s run headlong into all that God is calling us into!
Well done for reading all the way through! I really hope this post has challenged you to think and maybe made you feel uncomfortable in a good way. Let’s work together to keep compromise out of our hearts and help each other to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Let’s encourage each other to live lives set apart right from the heart and enjoy exploring the deep things of God that Christ died to give us!
Thanks for reading!
You may feel incredibly far away Him and you may even have acted like you don’t care but God is calling you out of compromise to come home.