Thursday, September 30, 2010

Following the Pathway

The Christian life is likened to a battle (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Timothy 2:3,4) and to an athletic competition (Hebrew 12:1,2; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Advancement in that life is pictured as exercise (1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:14) and as a growth process (Colossians 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). But this is not always a congenial message to Christians today. It seems sometimes we have become more interested in being comfortable in this world than in living for the next in an environment frequently hostile to this.

The Scripture makes it clear we are not to be comfortable in this present world (Romans 12:1,2; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4), but to see ourselves as pilgrims and sojourners here (1 Peter 2:11; Matthew 6:19-20; John 17:15). Now there are those who take this to an extreme, inventing unnecessary rules and strictures not sanctioned by Scripture (Colossians 2:20-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Matthew 23:4), but this does not justify total capitulation to the standards of the world. Part of the problem, at least in the United States, is we live in a country where it used to be comfortable and respectable to be a Christian. The key words here are "used to be". We are now Christians in a pagan nation, and we need to accept it and rebuild from there; but we are unwilling to do so. Therefore, we look for some quick and easy way to go back to where we were as a nation. And there is none. I believe the main reason we do not see revival in this country is not that we do not pray (James 4:1,2); I believe many of us do pray. But I believe it is because we ask with the wrong motives (James 4:3), so that we may go back to being comfortable. (I do believe in every prayer there is the question of the will of God; see 1 John 5:14,15, but to the extent the problem is with us, it is here I believe it lies.)

One of the things that stands in our way here is the idea of a magic formula that will provide instant spirituality or power for ministry. Now I do not want to minimize the need for the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. But that working is not pictured as a quick fix, but a process in which God works in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18, Philippians 2:13; Galatians 5:16). God also works in us to accomplish His purposes in the world (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:29; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6), and He will produce the results He desires (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6-8; Psalms 127:1,2).

So our journey through this world is not an easy sail over a calm, placid lake. Rather, it is like a river run, full of rapids and rocks, possible dangers. But we must trust our Guide, who knows every stone and bend of the river and has promised to bring us through to the desired haven (John 16:33).

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