So Simple we Ignore Them…
Some of the truths of the Christian life are really difficult to understand. Some of the smartest men and women to have ever lived have beaten their brain against the truths of the Tri-Unity of God, that He is one God existing eternally in three persons; the sovereignty of God in the face of horrific human circumstances, some of which we watch play out before our very eyes; and the many seeming paradoxes of Christian life: of love and admonishment in the church, of waiting for God and acting out his will, of dying to self and enjoying God. Other truths of Christian life are really really simple to understand. Pre-schoolers can comprehend what I’m about to say, but in my life I can count on one hand the people I think really understand. They’re so simple we ignore them. Lord! Open our eyes that we may see marvelous things in your word! (Ps. 119:18).
Get in the Game!
Christianity is not a religion of word only. It’s not a lifelong class to get an ‘A’ in. All of the learning that we admire in mature Christians is for something. It’s for action. We deceive ourselves if we think that we are free from an obligation to action. James 1:22 says it this way: “…be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” In other words, that sermon from Sunday morning was supposed to change the way that you act. That book you read was supposed to change the way that you act. That’s why later James says that, “Faith without works is dead” (2:17). To put it more plainly, faith that does not act like faith is not saving faith (James 2:14-26). The same faith that declares us righteous by the sacrifice of Christ natural compels us to action.
I told you this wasn’t hard to understand! A cookbook doesn’t provide you with a recipe so that you can memorize it and think about it and imagine how yummy it would be. It gives you the recipe so that you can make it! In the same way, the Bible is a book to be lived out, not just known about. So if you’re not growing in faith, let me suggest to you that you need to get off the bench and get in the game. Christianity has enough fans, and enough faith analysts. It needs more players. It needs more people to get off the bench and get their jersey dirty with honest mistakes while they just try their best.
This is the enormously simple truth. God demands for you to try your best. He empowers us to “work out [our] own salvation” (Phil 2:12), and so that’s what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to “walk worthy of the calling to which we were called” (Eph. 4:1). We know we won’t do it perfect, but it’s time to do our very best. Not coddle ourselves and give ourselves peace about how we’re trying our best when we are barely trying. We’ve been saved by grace through faith for good works! (Eph 2:10). We need to do those works the best we can!
Jesus is expecting full participation. And full loyalty. So much participation and loyalty that you choose it over the people you love most and are prepared to die for it (Luke 14). So much participation your life could be characterized as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2). He’s not calling us to enough participation to feel good about ourselves. He’s calling us to everything we have. The fact that we don’t have enough doesn’t mean we don’t have to try, we need to try with everything we have. Just like in Bible reading, the fact that the Holy Spirit ultimately reveals the meaning doesn’t mean that you don’t have to think really hard. You need to think as hard as you can still!
Share in His Sufferings
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heir with Christ, provided that we suffer with him in order that we may all be glorified with him. For I consider that the suffering of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Sometimes we have trouble believing that we are really children of God. We don’t really feel that way. Sometimes we have trouble acting like children of God. Our Father knows this, and has provided for us. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” The Holy Spirit dwelling in us tells us that we are children. It gives us assurance and it ennobles and enables us to act like it. Remember James 1, we don’t get to be hearers of the Word only, the Word is telling us it is to be lived out. Jesus isn’t calling us to spectate His mission. He’s calling us to participate.
Look there half way through the verse in Romans above, “…provided that we suffer with him in order that we may all be glorified with him.” Paul is telling us that we prove to ourselves that we are children of God when we suffer with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we get in the game and do our best, God confirms to us that we are truly his children and a glorious spiral emerges. As you do your best and get in the game and participate with Christ the Holy Spirit confirms your calling more and more and as your calling is confirmed more and more, you want to get in the game and participate.
So if you’re reading this and thinking, “I want that confirmation that I am a child of God.” If you’re reading and thinking that your spiritual growth has been stunted, you should get in the game! Start acting out the Word. Don’t let it come in one ear and out the other, actually act it out. Start doing your best, not enough just to feel good about yourself.