You are what you tolerate

I recently became acquainted with the expression “you have what you tolerate.” O.S. Hawkins has used it in several of his books, referring to the current state of our culture and how Christ-followers have tolerated a society that’s steadily moving away from God. I have decided to borrow that quote and turn the camera away from society and point it at the individual: we are what we tolerate.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

When we have accepted Christ into our lives and have the indwelt Holy Spirit, The Apostle Paul’s words are not a command. They are an insatiable burning desire. We want to surrender completely to Christ, a living sacrifice that doesn’t try to crawl off the altar. Yet, our new transformed selves often look a lot like our old pre-Jesus selves. Some examples:

  • Proud
  • Angry
  • Stressed/Worried
  • Greedy
  • Lustful

There are more, of course, but you get the idea. So, we’ve accepted Christ, it is our deepest desire to be more like Him each day, yet we hang onto these things. Why? We are what we tolerate. We tell ourselves we are a new person but rationalize excuses for hanging onto old behavior patterns. We want it all: the grace, mercy and forgiveness that comes with knowing Christ, and to hang onto behavior we know we need to shed. So, we tolerate the “old us” hanging around. The Apostle John told us in his first letter that believing we’re a new us with the same old tendencies is the height of self-deception:

If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:6-9 (NIV)

We’re talking the “new me talk” while walking the “old me walk.” And how often do we convince ourselves we are “without sin,” because we tolerate what God’s economy doesn’t. The NIV Application Commentary focuses on a series of “if” clauses in 1 John 1 and 2. Each pair has a positive and a negative connotation:

  • 1:6 If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” yet walk in the darkness (negative)
  • 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light… (positive)
  • 1:8 If we say, “We have no sin” (negative)
  • 1:9 But if we confess our sins… (positive)
  • 1:10 If we say, “We have not sinned” (negative)
  • 2:1 But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate…Jesus Christ (positive)

Each negative clause demonstrates the danger of tolerating “old us” tendencies and each positive clause demonstrates the saving grace of Christ. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Christ and the church body. If we confess our sin rather than deny it, He is faithful and just and forgives us. Those who acknowledge their sin and accept Jesus have Him as an advocate.

We are what we tolerate in ourselves. Surrender to Christ today and let grace transform you into who you and God want you to be. You’ll be glad you did!

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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