Thursday, November 8, 2012

On the Way

We can see Christians as people who basically have their acts together, who live good moral lives, are involved in church activities, and are respectable members of the community. But there are those who struggle with some sin that is not respectable or who have a tender conscience and cannot convince themselves that they make the grade. So they end up living in discouragement. They accept being marginalized or try to hide their problems, often to have them suddenly revealed. This can lead to a person leaving the Christian community or living around the edges, never feeling wholly a part.

Others can become complacent, feeling that as long as they can convince themselves they make the grade, everything will be fine. But it is easy, once we convince ourselves we have arrived, to begin to fudge a bit here or there. What follows is a gradual erosion that can end up leaving a person far from where they started. And in a culture that is in many ways hostile to Christianity, that abounds in temptations, it is easy to slide down that road. This also can lead to a final crash and the exit or marginalization of the individual involved.

One reaction to this to say being a nice, moral, respectable churchgoer is not enough. To perhaps question if the average churchgoer is even saved. But this merely creates the same problem at a higher level, producing discouragement or complacency. And it just makes it easier to fall off the tightrope on one side or the other.

But Scripture says we are not people who have it all together, but are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) who are saved by the grace of God (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5,6). Further, while God is at work in us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13), it is through a process that takes place gradually over time, and none of us have arrived yet (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:14). Therefore, while we need to choose to go forward in Christ (Romans 12:1,2; Galatians 5:16; Titus 2:11-14), we are all at different places on the journey and need to see ourselves and others from this perspective, recognizing we are still on the way (Romans 7:13-25; Galatians 5:17; 1 John 1:8-10). This helps avoid discouragement because we realize that while we may still be struggling, we will ultimately be victorious in Christ (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 1:6). It also helps avoid complacency because we realize we have not yet made it and therefore must beware of potential dangers (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; Proverbs 16:18; 2 Timothy 2:22). But it is only as we see ourselves as growing in God's grace, but still on the way, that we can avoid these extremes. 

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