How to live a miserable Christian life (part i)

9 08 2006

There is truly nothing that brings more joy to the human heart than to know and live in the reality of being forgiven in Christ and enjoy the delicious fruit of grace. Sadly many struggle with living in this joy as a characteristic of their lives. Instead many settle for sub-glorious moments, hours, days and eventually lives as followers of joy incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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What follows is my humble attempt to serve you. In the next three days I want to outline 10 ways that you can live a miserable Christian life. Perhaps you can identify with some of these.

I have written these to myself first and foremost and desire to share with you. My prayer would be that you would inspect your life, heart and motives for unsuspecting parasites that serve to suck out your joy in Christ that you might pluck them out and hopefully be edified together with me.

1. Try to Repay Jesus for the Cross

The sure-fire way to short circuit joy in Christ is to undervalue him and overvalue yourself. It is really a subtle shift into idolatry. Instead of living your life in complete dependence upon and appreciation to Jesus for everything you have, you find yourself depending upon yourself to repay the glorious gift of salvation and life. What could be more frustrating than this?

This takes the form of practicing disciplines of grace (Bible reading, prayer, meditation, etc…) for the purpose of repaying Jesus. In this posture you see these post-salvation works as somehow meritorious to diminish the eternal debt that was born by the Savior. I don’t know about you but for me the reality of the debt that was born by Jesus compels even more hearty praise and appreciation.

Do you see the offensive shavings of idolatry here? You end up saying that Jesus gave you a good spiritual boost to your feet and now you’ll take it from here. It sounds like an evangelical hybrid with Rome. Instead we need to realize that it is grace that saves sinners, it is grace that sanctifies sinners, it is grace that keeps sinners, and it is grace that will ultimately present sinners as blameless before the throne of God. Our constant dependence upon the grace that is ours in Jesus reminds us of his richness and our neediness; this reality brings joy and intensifies our appreciation of the cross of Jesus. For the sacrifice of the Son of God was never intended to be offensively repaid but rather it is to be valued for its supremacy and efficacy.

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The Deck that Preaches

20 04 2006

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I have been working on my deck at home at my loving wife’s request. And it is a relatively nice deck, for our standards….well aesthetically at least.

However, upon closer inspection the deck is riddled with imperfections. Aside from the years of grime and filth that just accumulates without periodic attention, there are pieces of wood that have splintered up. Even further there are nails throughout the deck that have been loosened and are not coming up out of the wood.

So what do we do? It has to be remedied for in the long run the thing will fall down, and in the short term, the kids’ feet are going to be laced with splinters.

My gracious wife went out and secured a power washer from a friend and, while I had crashed after preaching, she proceeded to power wash the thing ( I wish I had a picture of this!). Anyway, it was clean…but the imperfections were now just ‘more clean’…they were still there though; the deck was not conformed to the ideal image we both had in our heads. Therefore, more work to go!

As I went outside with more borrowed tools I was struck with the great spiritual metaphor that was being drawn on my back deck. I am going outside to sand down rough edges, splinters, and imperfections in the clean wood. I was thinking of the reality of being born again, having been washed by & through the blood of Christ (Titus 3.5-6) but still having to deal with the daily maintenance of sanctification. This great process of conforming to the reality of the image of Christ.

nails_background.jpgUpon regeneration we are declared, by God, to be righteousness, through the merit of Christ Jesus (Rom. 4.4-5). Positionally believers in Christ Jesus are perfect…however, we are not practically perfect! We are still rough wood! There is still work to do!

As I inspected the deck with meticulous attention I was convicted of my own lack of meticulous inspection of my own heart!! Am I more meticulous with the wood on this deck than my very own heart? Do I care more for this deck’s conformity to my desired end and image than I do for my life to be conformed to God’s desired end, Christ Jesus my Lord?!

This is convicting.

I got a ‘honey-do’ request and I went to work. But as Christians God has given us a ‘believer-do’ list and we must go to work!

God has commanded us to “consider our members as dead” (Col. 3.5a) more literally we are told to “keep putting your flesh to death”… “don’t stop this crucifixion of your members!”

Man, I have got to carry my spiritual web-belt, complete with hammers, sandpaper, measuring tape, saws, etc…I have work to do!!

And it is not about just trashing our decks, but replacing, refurbishing, renovating them; conforming them to the desired end. So too as Christians, we are to put to death the sin, but replace the sin with life. hammer-it.jpg

This is the picture in Ephesians 4 & Colossians 3. Put off greediness and put on humility…put of slander and put on kindness….put off immorality and put on purity…put off anger and put on compassion.

It is so good for me to know that we are never there until we get there. We are never done this project until we see our Savior. And it is at this point that we’ll be made like him (1 John 3.2)!!

So join me in endeavoring to be a good steward of this immeasurable and unfathomable grace that is ours in Christ Jesus during this period of life where we are being conformed into his image. The grace is there, the Holy Spirit is there, the word of God is there, the fellowship of the saints is there….so what are we doing?!

Let’s press hard into grace; working hard for our own sanctification and then also for others (Col. 1.28-29).