The assets refer to mortgage loans. As the housing market collapsed the value of the properties fell below the value of the loans. Suddenly, these loans became liabilities because the houses that secured the loans had decreased in value below the amount of the loans
Next thing you knew, we were in a terrible recession!
When assets become harmful, they’re no longer assets. They’re liabilities. They’re toxic.
The Toxicity of Elymas
In Acts 3, Saul and Barnabas meet two new characters: Sergius Paulus and Elymas. Sergius Paulus was the proconsul on the island of Cyprus. Elymas was a “sorcerer and false prophet” (Acts 13:6) who served more or less as an advisor to Sergius Paulus.
The problem is that Elymas was a toxic asset.
While Sergius Paulus wanted to learn about the gospel from Saul and Barnabas, Elymas “opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith” (Acts 13:8).
Why was he toxic? Because he was keeping Sergius Paulus from being who God had called him to be. He (like all of us) was called to be a follower of Jesus, participating with God in the healing of the world. But tried to keep him from being who he was meant be.
Elymas tried to keep Sergius Paulus from being his true self.
Toxic Influences are Everywhere
We, too, have toxic influences in our own lives. And we need to rid ourselves of these toxic influences. Why? Because they keep us from being fully connected to Jesus. They keep us from being our true selves. They keep us from being who we were created to be.
When I think of toxic influences in our lives, I think of two things in particular: practices and ideas.
When we speak toxic practices, we’re really talking about sinful acts. Acts like lying, stealing, manipulating, using hurtful words with others.
Addictions also fall into the category of toxic practices. Sometimes, as in the case of addictions, we want to stop doing these toxic practices, but it can be very difficult.
But to be fully who we were meant to be, we have to put an end to these toxic practices.
Toxic ideas can also be a toxic influence in our lives. I want to mention three kinds of toxic ideas or beliefs: ideas about God, ideas about others, and ideas about ourselves.
Toxic Ideas About God
It is quite possible to have toxic beliefs about God. When we believe, for instance, that, that he condemns us, that he is unreasonable or legalistic, these are toxic ideas about God. We end up living in fear because we believe God is out to get us.
On the other hand, when we believe that God is, that he is weak, that he is distant and doesn’t care about us or the world, those are also toxic beliefs. Without a God of strength and holiness, we end up feeling insecure in a world full of dangers, toils, and snares.
In both these cases, we are unable to fully be ourselves, because we believe things about God that keep us from living with freedom and confidence.
Toxic Ideas About Others
Sometimes we have toxic beliefs about others. A lot of times, these are rooted in stereotypes and assumptions. We make assumptions about people, for instance, based on their gender, or their race, or their religion, or their denomination, or their political party, or even what they do for a living or what part of town then live in.
As long as we have toxic beliefs about others, neither they, nor we, can fully be who God created us to be. We can only be fully ourselves when we love others as they are without reservation.
Toxic Ideas About Ourselves
Finally, we sometimes have toxic beliefs about ourselves.
When, when we believe , when we believe others should listen to us because, well, look at all we’ve accomplished or how much we’ve acquired—these are toxic beliefs about ourselves. An overinflated ego will always keep us from being fully who we were created to be because we are failing to be our true selves.
At the same time, when we believe that, that we are unloved, that we don’t deserve to be loved by God or by others, these are also toxic beliefs about ourselves. Each one of us is absolutely worthy of God’s love and of the love of other human beings because we bear the divine image. When we believe we are less than that, that’s a toxic belief.
(I would also add that people—like Elymas—can also be toxic influences in our lives. And sometimes, we need to eliminate those influences by saying no or limiting our exposure to those people who keep us from fully being who we were created to be.)
Strength and Surrender
So how do we eliminate toxic influences in our lives? I think it requires two things: strength and surrender.
You might say, “But aren’t they complete opposites? How can both be required?”
Y’know, I think strength and surrender, in some ways, are simply two sides of the same coin. In Acts 3, Paul calls out Elymas, even saying that he is a “child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right” (Acts 13:10).
Wow! I imagine it took great strength to say that. At the same time, I think it required surrender to the Holy Spirit.
We, too, need to exhibit both strength and surrender in order to eliminate toxic influences in our lives.
Maybe you need to stop engaging in a toxic practice. It takes strength to acknowledge what we’re doing wrong. And it takes surrender to confess our sin to God and perhaps even to another person.
Maybe you need to stop believing a toxic idea—about God, about others, or about yourself. It takes both strength and surrender to let go of our old beliefs and to embrace new ones. It may take strength to confide our toxic beliefs to another person. It may take surrender to say, “I need to talk to a counselor” or “I need to read that book.”
Which Toxic Influences Do You Need to Eliminate?
The question for you today is: What toxic influence in your life is God calling you to eliminate? Are you engaged in a toxic practice that is keeping you from fully being yourself? Are you believing a toxic idea that is keeping you from being who you were created to be? (Or, perhaps, there’s a toxic person or relationship that you need to surrender to God.)
I want to invite you bring that toxic influence to God. Trust in the One who in strength surrendered everything for your healing and salvation. Ask God to give you the strength to surrender, and that as you surrender to have the strength to let go of that toxic influence.
May we continue to grow into the leaders and followers of Jesus that we were created to be!