Neutral Things Aren't Neutral
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
For years, I’ve known everything there is to know going on in the world. Political debates, celebrity breakups, business acquisitions, and when new local restaurants open up. I would proudly walk into any circle with confidence, knowing my wide interest and knowledge could make me look well read any where I went. There is so much fun to explore in the world, and I was always on the hunt.
That New York Times best seller? Yes, I loved it!
The idea that Elon Musk is introducing the new truck? Doesn’t the front look funny?
That meme with the cat at the table? I already saw it and texted it to my brother
My Christian worldview always affected how I saw issues, interacted with information, and what type of shows I would watch. I used the classic “Jesus-on-the-couch” test. If Jesus was sitting next to you on the couch as you read this or learned about a topic, how would he feel?
When something would pass that test, I would call it “neutral”. It wasn’t spiritual, but it wasn’t sin. It was just a hobby, interest, or thing I enjoyed.
For 10 years, I have lived this way, living in the neutral, filling my days with neutral things.
For the last 12 months, I haven’t.
The difference has been huge.
Does it cost you everything?
This past year, I’ve wanted more of God.
I have continually been asking God these question:
God, how can I desire you more?
God, how can I enjoy spending time with you? God, how can I know you better?
When we read the Bible, the beautiful gift of Salvation is not only described as life changing, but free. Without any work or good deeds to deserve it, God has given us a relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His son. I want that to be 100% crystal clear, because this free gift is literally life changing. (If you really want your mind blown, read Romans 9 and you’ll realize even your belief in God is His work and not yours).
But as I read scripture, I keep seeing this theme that deeply knowing God and pursuing Him costs us everything. Being a disciple costs us everything. Experiencing the kingdom costs us everything. Honestly, the verses are shocking. We quote Galatians 2:20 often- but do you hear what these words are saying? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” It’s full surrender of all of me. Somehow it feels like such a contrast- a free gift that will also ask you for everything.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
I just recently came across these two verses in Matthew and literally out loud yelled “Yes! This is what has been happening to me!” In exchange for bringing God’s kingdom to earth and getting to know Him more, it has costs me everything.
But the wild thing is it isn't an obligation, did you see how the man responded? He JOYFULLY sold all he had. It’s a willingness, an excitement.
As I lean in and whisper to God “How can I have more of you?” he whispers back “Surrender more for you”. The answer has cost me many neutral things. This isn’t legalism, this isn’t a list of dos and don’ts. It is like giving up time binging my favorite show on Netflix because I am going on a date with my husband or best friend! It’s a willing surrender of my own time and my pursuit for more of Jesus.
Not just removing, but replacing.
Removing neutral things will have no impact on your life. Self discipline doesn’t improve your life. You can decide to stop watching so much TV, get rid of social media, or cut back on how many sports your kids are involved in. Those things may bring a temporary improvement, but soon find yourself back where you started.
Only knowing God brings real life. Because of that, when we remove those neutral things, habits, or hobbies, true life only comes when you add in more personal interaction with God.
Instead of podcasts, you can listen to the Bible.
Instead of reading the news, you can sit with God and read His words.
Instead of scrolling Facebook, you can talk to God.
And when you start craving the things you gave up, you can pray Psalm 73:25 to God - “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
If you would have told me those things last year, I would have said you are taking this a little too seriously. When the point of your salvation is to get into heaven, this sounds crazy. If salvation is free and getting into heaven is free, why would I give up so many things? Why do I willingly give so much of my enjoyment for something that has already been given?
Because Eternal Life isn’t just heaven, it’s knowing God here on earth. The gift of salvation, the prize for believing in Jesus is Knowing God. Something we can experience now, but can only experience in full surrender. John 17:3 says “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (Read more about Eternal Life here)
If God wanted to give me eternal life (knowing God) so bad that he gave his son to die, why am I setting for just a few hours a week or a month of God? The truth was because there were many things I wanted in life. Sure, Jesus made the top ten, but was growing my relationship with God my number one and only desire?
Interacting with God as often as I Walk
As God has been asking me for more neutral things in my life, I keep re-reading Galatians 5 for an incredible reminder of why all of this is happening in my soul. The beginning of the chapter opens with another reminder- grace is free and it brings freedom.
“For freedom Christ has set us free! Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look, I , Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”
Paul goes on to say circumcision no longer matters! The law doesn’t bring us to God! Freedom! There are no lists, no obligations, no things we must do to receive the gift of Jesus!
But then the second half of the chapter tells us this. “Walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
This word “walk” caught my attention because it reminded me of so many of my neutral things. Walking- a simple, necessary, every day tasks. When I looked in my Bible to find the Greek work and see where else in the Bible it is used- most of the time it literally is talking about walking.
This simple word reminds me of the “everyday nature” of my neutral things- my podcasts, my music, my food choices, my hobbies. Just small pieces of my day to day, my in between moments, my “in the car for 10 minutes”. This everyday word of walking is what God chose to use when he talks about how we should interact with the spirit.
Don’t take any action just because you read these words. Instead, take this to God and ask him to help you evaluate your neutral things. Do you want more of Him? Are you willing to surrender more of your everyday, your walking, your neutral things? If you pray and God does not move in your spirit on this, there is no guilt. Remember, none of this is out of obligation or a rule! This is a step you take when you say to God “I want more of you” and are ready to do whatever He asks.
God, I ask you to take my neutral things and instead fill them with you. Show me what areas in my life I am “walking” in my own entertainment, distraction, and pleasure instead of walking in your spirit!
The goal is not to do the right thing. It’s not a rule.
The goal is to be fully consumed with God. You love for him your deep longing to know him is your desire.
For more, listen to Hannah's podcast episode: Giving up lots of stuff.