Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Slam Dunk

Some would depict the life of obedience to Christ as easy. Or at least seem to imply that. Some would advocate formulas for instant spirituality. Follow their set of steps, and you will be spiritual. Others would  claim that if we really repented in the first place, we would lead lives of nearly unbroken spirituality. And if we do not, it is questionable if we are even saved at all. Some may recognize the need of more long-term disciplines, such as Bible study and prayer. They may even add in other spiritual disciplines as important. But they still give the impression that if we just get with the program, we will have everything under control. Others will emphasize membership in a congregation (or other Christian organization) and imply that if you are a committed member and are part of the program, participate in the sacraments, and give for the upkeep of the organization, you will be spiritual. And we can then get into the discussion of which is the right organization. But while many of the things listed here are good things, do they really fulfill the role that is commonly given them? What does the Scripture say?

Scripture says that we are saved when we put our faith in Christ (Romans 4:4,5; Ephesians 2:8,9; Philippians 3:9). It also says that this should result in a change of life (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). But nowhere is this pictured as something simple and easy. It is likened to a battle (Ephesians 6:10-20; 2 Timothy 2:3,4; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6) and an athletic contest (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). We are told that though we have not attained to perfection, to press on (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:16,17; Romans 7:14-25). Further, we are warned not to be too sure of ourselves, but to be on guard against temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; 1 Peter 5:8-10; 2 Corinthians 2:11). Now Scripture does call us to genuine commitment (Romans 12:1,2; Matthew 16:24-26; Ephesians 5:18). But nowhere is this presented as an easy or quick procedure. In fact, it is presented as something that requires long, deliberate practice (Hebrews 5:11-14; 1 Timothy 4:7.8; 2 Peter 1:5-11). Now we can only accomplish these things by the power of the Spirit of God working in us (John 15:5: Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:3,4). But it is not something that comes about automatically.

This is important because it does not allow us to become complacent, feeling that we have arrived spiritually. It also helps keep us from becoming discouraged because we feel we cannot live up to this standard. It allows us to be honest with ourselves and others. It is hard to realistically deal with our or others' sins if we do not dare admit to them because it would undermine our belief we have reached a certain level of spirituality. But if we realistically face our sins, we can make progress over time in dealing with them. 

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