What's Your Elevation?

It has sometimes been said, and even admitted from time to time by those inside the business, that the entertainment industry often produces a product that appeals to the base instincts and interests of society, rather than offering something that would educate or improve our thinking. Sometimes, those who are accused of doing such will excuse themselves by saying, "We're just giving the people what they want." And they are not wrong.

      But so much that this world offers does that very thing: an appeal to our basest instincts and interests [like sex and violence]. I probably don't have to tell you that this is the path to sin quite often, too, for James reminds us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:13-15). We sin because someone or something has appealed to our base desires and, instead of denying the appeal, we give in to it and it inevitably leads us to sin. Even Christians do this (cf. 1 John 1:8, 10).

      But if we are to be the disciples we must be, we have to change -— change our thinking, our way of life, our desires, our goals, and our standards. Paul reminded the brethren at Ephesus that they were to no longer live like the rest of the Gentiles, who had “given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Eph. 4:17); now, they were to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” and “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). If I may put it in these terms: What we need is a change in elevation! How so?

      Elevate Your Mind. The apostle Paul also wrote to those in Colossæ, and urged them, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 2). The brethren at Colossæ needed — and we also need — to elevate our mindset, and think on the heavenly things, rather than on the lowly, base things of this earth. When we do that, the base things will no longer appeal to us, and we will not be tempted to pursue those things that, as we have already noted, lead to sin and spiritual death. Elevate your thinking and you will see just how debased this world truly is, and it will no longer be appealing.

      Elevate Your Thoughts. Similarly, Paul urged those in Philippi to meditate on “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). This admonition is one of exclusivity, where it requires that we not think on the false, the ignoble, the unjust, the impure, the ugly, and the things that are reprehensible, immoral, and shameful. Instead of allowing our minds to dwell on the base things, God demands we elevate our mindset and think on the things that will make us better.

      Let us not forget that Jesus once said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matt. 12:34, 35); that is, if we think on evil things, we will be evil! The converse is, if we elevate our thinking and dwell on the righteous and holy things, it is inevitable that we will become righteous and holy. Elevate your thinking!

      Elevate Your Way of Life. This will be a natural result of having implemented the previous two points, but it must be a purposeful decision; it doesn't just come by time or by accident. There is a reason God commanded, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16); the reason is, we must consciously choose to live that life. We don't accidentally become like Jesus, and no one will be more like Him just by getting older. John reminds us, too, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

      Though some are teaching today that no change is needed, Paul reminded the brethren of Ephesus of the life they all once lived, reminding them that when they were outside of Christ, they “were dead in trespasses and sins” and “we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2:1-3). Christians cannot continue pursuing those desires, but must present themselves and their bodies as “instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:13). To make such a change of life, one must elevate his way of life!

      Elevate Your Goals. The world often has as its goals the material things of life, positions of earthly power and prestige, and the praise of their fellow man. To that end, it should come as no surprise that “all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) is not compatible with God and His people, and are the means of temptation every time. [Note: It began in the garden with Eve, Gen. 3:1-6, and was seen in the temptation of Jesus, too, Matt. 4:1-11.] But more than being the source of temptation, we must know that the things of this world are merely temporary.

      It was this knowledge that motivated Paul to say, “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). Jesus had likewise noted in the Sermon on the Mount the fact that treasures on earth are “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” while the treasures of heaven cannot be touched in the same way (Matt. 6:19, 20). Knowing this, why would we want to make the accumulation of earthly possessions our goal in life?

      Solomon made it his goal in life to seek happiness and meaning through the earthly things, and concluded, “all is vanity and grasping for the wind” (Eccl. 1:14). It was a useless pursuit! He wisely noted, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccl. 12:13). The pursuit of earthly possessions is useless because “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7). At best, any material possession we may gain will be burned up in the end (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-12), so — again — why waste time on such a pursuit? Elevate your goals!

      Finally, let us note that these things are all within our control, and we must make the conscious decision to elevate if we truly seek 'higher ground.' To make such a drastic change, we must begin by lowering ourselves. That's right! As strange as that may seem, lowering ourselves is what will help us to elevate! James admonishes us, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jas. 4:10). You see, the greatest elevation is something we must put in God's hands!

            What's your elevation?           — Steven Harper