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!
Currently I am on a 3 month sabbatical. This is both a blessing and a challenge. It is a challenge because I have realized just how much I am caught up in the work of the Lord and when that is taken away I see what I really am (or am not) as a person apart from my work. It is a blessing in that I can step back from the relentlessness of ministry and begin to focus and reflect on precisely these things. Over the next few weeks here on Bible-ography I would like to share some of those reflections with you. I hope they will bless you. I have pasted the bones of these reflections on facebook and on the front page of our church’s website.
Sabbatical reflection 1: On this earth as a disciple of Jesus I am and always will be a work in progress. I have weaknesses and struggles just like all other disciples do. I must learn to grow while resting in God’s grace and allow all other disciples of Jesus to do the same.
This comes from a place where I reflected on why I am so hard on myself as a Christian and how that affects my relationships with others. I must remember that while on this earth although a saved sinner I will continue to fall into sin and will always be a work in progress by the Holy Spirit. And while I must not use that as an excuse to carry on sinning I must constantly remind myself of that and not expect perfection from myself but progress – even if sometimes that progress is one step forward and two steps back.
Oh how I wish people would see me in that way, but I know they won’t because we all tend to be judgmental towards others especially when they don’t do and say what we want them too… and so I must learn to see the very people who judge me in that “work in progress” way too even if they feel justified in judging me as the Bible says they shouldn’t (I am not talking about gracious challenge).
Oh how I wish I would see all Christians in this way and treat them in the gracious way that Jesus does.
23 years ago on this day Wendy and I were married. 3 years into our marriage we hit a big wobbly and there was a time when I thought it might all be over. But by the grace of God (and Wendy) we stuck to our vows and over time came to love each other even more than at the beginning. I can say now that 23 years later Wendy and I love each other more than we ever have… even though like all marriages we have our ups and downs. And tonight we will celebrate 23 years of marriage at “The Jewel of India” our favorite “hot” restaurant (which by the way was planned and is being paid for by our 13 year old son).
Now all of that is great and a testimony of God’s grace to sinners like ourselves! But when I read Ephesians 5: 22 – 33 I see an even greater story that these 23 years of marriage point to. According to Paul in Ephesians 5: 32 (and context) these 23 years are a testimony, a pointer, to an even more remarkable relationship… the ongoing faithful love of Jesus the Groom (way more than 23 years) to His Bride the Church! And given how we (the Church) behave what incredible faithful love!
Marriage is totally underrated:
Firstly, because no matter what happens if we stick to our vows and work at loving each other we experience levels of love, grace and forgiveness that we can never experience outside of a relationship where the commitment is so formal and public. Don’t believe the popular nonsense that marriage is just a piece of paper and we can experience just as much love outside of it in less “formal” ways. The Person who designed marriage doesn’t think so and by the way He designed us and therefore knows best.
Secondly, because when marriages continue (no matter what attacks them) it is a powerful witnesses to the gospel because it is (according to Paul in Ephesians) a pointer to the faithfulness of Jesus to His Church.
So let’s celebrate and work hard at our marriages – because if we do we will experience the depths of love like not possible in any other human relationship. We will also experience the grace of God in much richer ways too.
Let’s celebrate and work hard at our marriages – because they will turn people to Jesus. And by the way we should be intentional about pointing people to Jesus through marriage… I think Paul would say, “That is why I wrote that section in Ephesians”.
Let’s pray for marriages (ours and others) that God will by His Spirit give us the strength to live the above because we are weak and can’t do it on our own.
Let’s not make those who have experienced divorce feel guilty. We live in a fallen world where divorce is a reality and God is powerfully using divorced people in our churches and communities as much as anyone else. But let’s not let the high rate of divorce cause us in any way to underrate marriage.
Thank God for marriage!