Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Living My Faith and Not Just Knowing About It (Thoughts Based, in Part, on Our Discussion at 'The Shack' Group on Monday)

Often, I begin Bible studies at church by praying something like, "God, make what we learn here more than head knowledge, something to satisfy our curiosity. Your Word gives life; so help us to live that life."

The Bible teaches that no one can secure a relationship with God based on what they do. All depends on what Jesus Christ has already done for us on the cross and from an empty tomb. We must simply entrust our lives to Christ--entrusting our lives to Christ is what the Bible means when it talks about believing in Him.

But for us personally, as we look at our own lives, what we do and how we live as a result of our faith in Christ, is a measure of whether we really do in fact trust in Him. In John, chapter 15, Jesus teaches that He is the vine and we are the branches, dependent on Him for life, flowering with His power, life, and love when we remain tightly connected to Him. In Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus warns us against false prophets and says that one way we'll be able to tell that they're false is "by their fruits," whether they appear to be connected to Christ and reflective of His grace and goodness.

Human beings who confess a faith in Jesus Christ are still human beings. That means that we sin.

We say things we shouldn't say.

We do things we shouldn't do.

We act hypocritically.

And yes, I said, we, definitely including me.

I don't expect that I will ever have a moment on this side of the grave when I'm not conscious of my general condition of sin, my inborn orientation to try to live apart from God--my desire to "be like God."

But more than that, I don't anticipate a moment on this side of death when I won't either be repenting for a sin, actually sinning in thought or deed, or wrestling with the temptation to sin.

Being born in the condition of sin, it's as natural as breathing for me to sin. Being forgiven is supernatural. Being empowered to repent or resist sin is supernatural. I'm happy and relieved that God gives that power to ordinary people like myself.

There are times though, when I let my guard down: My sin nature mugs me, kidnaps my conscience, and plugs my ears to God's Word and before I know it, I'm doing or saying something sinful.

I can say with the backwoods Christian I've quoted before: "I ain't what I wanna be and I ain't what I'm gonna be, but thank God, I ain't what I was." I strive to live in daily repentance and renewal and I'm learning that this God Who saves by grace all those who repent and believe in Jesus also helps us grow in faith and holiness by that same grace.

But I also live with these questions:
  • How much do you really believe, Mark?
  • How committed are you to living for Christ alone?
  • Can others see that, imperfect though you freely confess to being, you believe?
  • Are the fruits of connection to Christ visible in your daily life and decisions?
  • Are you serving Christ and others as well as speaking of a faith that calls and frees you to do those things?
These are questions with which I wrestle every day. For some reason, God seems to be challenging me to wrestle with them a lot these days.

And I mostly don't like the answers I give.

I can only pray that this questioning isn't self-absorption, but an example of what I call holy discontent.

I always want to be content with God's grace and provision, offered to us in Christ. But I never want to be content with a lazy discipleship or an ungrateful faith.

I want to confess Jesus with more than words. I want Him to be my life.

Help me, Lord Jesus.

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