Is it just me or is the common Christian strategy for living life now: “Be as much like the world to show the world that Christianity is not about rules and regulations but a relationship with God”? Which in my observation ends up being, “I can do whatever I want as long as I say I am a Christian, kind of stand up for Christian things and marvel at the wonder of grace.”
And while I wholeheartedly agree that true Christianity is not about rules and regulations, is it not true that all healthy relationships have boundaries? And if that is so I fear that many who call themselves Christians live like there are no boundaries in their relationships as Christians with God and others.
Paul when talking at the end of Romans 5 about how the law made sin “increase” but as sin increased so grace increased then goes on to say in Romans 6: 1 – 4, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
If we are saved by grace our relationship with God and people will be characterized by the boundaries of “new life” grace living found in the Bible and made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Which amongst other things will mean that we will be concerned to live:
- Differently from the world in a way that will make us look a bit out – 1 Peter 2: 11 – 12
- A holy life – 1 Peter 1: 13 – 16
- Loving other Christians deeply from the heart – 1 Peter 1: 22
- As law-abiding citizens – 1 Peter 2: 13 – 17
- As good employees even if your employers are not that great – 1 Peter 2: 18 – 19
- As godly husbands and wives – 1 Peter 3: 1 – 7
- Not holding grudges or “getting back” at people – 1 Peter 3: 9 – 12
- Ready to tell as many people the gospel as possible – 1 Peter 3: 15
- With love but at an appropriate distance from sinful stuff that those who are not yet Christians plunge themselves into – 1 Peter 4: 1 – 6
- Hospitably without grumbling – 1 Peter 4: 9
- Serving in and through the Church – 1 Peter 4: 10 – 11
- Willing to suffer for Christ because you are living the above – 1 Peter 4: 12 – 14
- Humbly not arrogantly especially to people older than you – 1 Peter 5: 5 – 6
- Without anxiety about all this – 1 Peter 5: 7
- Self-controlled and firm in the faith – 1 Peter 5: 8 – 9
I suspect we all need to rethink our “Christian” ways of living, understanding that the way we show the world grace is not to trampling on it by living self-centered, world-like lives but by living within the Biblical boundaries of the freedom we have in Christ!
As we all look forward to 2011 I am amazed at how many people assume it will be “better” than or at least “as good” as 2010. How do we know? The truth of course is that we don’t – we hope it will.
The real issue is defining what makes a “good” year and what makes a “bad” year and whose perspective we are taking into account when we make such definitions.
If we define a good year by everything going the way we want it to go so that we are happy then it is possible to make a biblical (God) case that such a year is a “bad” year. Why? Because it could never be possible for us to know how any year should work out the best – only God can do that. And very often God uses what we call a “bad” year to give us His best and that is make us more like Jesus, our suffering Savior (See Romans 8: 28 – 29), who had three rather “bad” years in the final years of His life to achieve for us His best and that is salvation.
And once we embrace that salvation (a relationship with Jesus) then every year is a good year because every year, no matter what goes on, is God working for our good and His glory even if it doesn’t seem like that to us with our finite minds. That is the point of the story of Joseph in Genesis, it is the story of the life of Paul in Acts, it is the explicit teaching of James in James 1: 2 – 5.
Having said that, we are all frail human beings (even those who are saved) and God knows and accepts that we will struggle to see things that way – have a look at Psalm 103: 10 + 13 + 14. But we should continue to encourage each other to see things this way or we will inflict ourselves with anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and all sorts of things that we could start getting the better of if we work at seeing every year from a biblical (God) perspective.
In my early years of being a Christian I was told by almost everyone that being saved was great but I needed to now move on to deeper and better things in my relationship with Jesus!
In the letter to the Colossians Paul tells me exactly the opposite. He says that the way Jesus saved me is the way He will grow me in 2: 6 – 7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
How did Jesus save me? 1: 21 – 22: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – “
How does Jesus grow me? 1: 23: “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
I think that a lot of “deeper and better things” theology is based more on a misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit peppered with “Christian Philosophy” and other stuff rather than a clear understanding of the power of the Gospel of Christ to save and grow us. And although that is not precisely what Paul was writing against it does ring some bells when you read 2: 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
And even all the teaching that flows from chapter 3 onwards on how to live as a Christian assumes that we understand this Colossian principle in 2: 6 – 7 that the way Jesus saved you is the way He will grow you – see 2: 20 – 23 (I wonder what the implications of this are for the current growing emphasis on spiritual disciplines?)
The bottom line is this: Just as we chose Jesus as Lord to be saved (sure it was the Holy Spirit who enabled us) so we must choose Jesus as Lord every day and in all circumstances and the more we do that the more we will grow (and we need the Holy Spirit for this)! I don’t need anything deeper or better than this!