Growing up big and strong

I’ve been thinking lately about the tension that exists between two truths…big and strong

  1. Christ desires to live His life through me (Galatians 2:20)
  2. Scripture indicates that I am to live/pray/speak in certain ways (as in Ephesians 5:1)

I don’t see a contradiction – only a tension in regards to how I should think about it.  How do I retrain my brain to consider both truths?  My tendency, honestly, is to think primarily of me – things from MY perspective.  For instance, I often pray something like this, “God, help me to be more sensitive to the needs of my family…”  Help me?  Does God really want to “help” me?  Or, does He instead want to DO the work Himself, THROUGH me?  Theologically, I believe it is the latter – but my mind is programmed to express my need in the first way…

It comes out in other ways too – ways that are more “in line” with scripture.  For instance, James tells us to “ask of God” when we need wisdom (James 1:5).  That’s Biblical!  He doesn’t say that we should  “allow Christ to express His wisdom through us,” though that is also a Biblical way to think of it and something I think actually does happen in that scenario…  So how do I adapt my thinking to embrace BOTH concepts readily?

The reason this is a tension to me is that I realize my own NEED to see Christ as my life – I recognize that very plainly.  I want to keep that idea in the forefront of my mind as regularly as I can because it is the only way to truly live in a way that pleases God.  But I also realize that God Himself, through the various authors of scripture, instructs me in ways that don’t allude to the truth of the indwelling Christ, ways that seem to make it more MY responsibility – and there’s something to be said for a healthy understanding of personal responsibility in issues like these.

Maybe this is a good way to think of it…. God expresses things in the scriptures in various ways, and for various purposes.  Some passages are for “beginners” in the faith (the Gospel of John, the book of James, perhaps), while others are for people who are down the line a little bit spiritually (Ephesians, Hebrews, perhaps).  So while the concepts expressed in those different “sections” of scripture are complimentary, perhaps they are only expressed differently so that Christians who are at different stages of growth can more readily grasp them.  Paul Himself deals with this concept when he speaks of the tension between the law of God (GIVEN by God) and the life of grace that comes through Christ.  His statement is important enough that I’m going to list it in its entirety…

24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. – Galatians 3:24-25

The law was the beginning step – the part of the process that was to convince us foolish people that we are indeed sinful and in need of a Savior.  If you haven’t discovered that yet, just keep trying to make God happy by your own good works.  You’ll discover that you can’t – it’s impossible.  In fact, earlier in verse 21, Paul says that if righteousness/goodness could have come by obedience to the law, then it would have.   But that wasn’t the purpose of the law… it’s purpose was to bring us to a realization of our helplessness in pleaseing God, SO THAT we would turn to Jesus in faith.  It was a process of going through a series of steps to get to the final result.

I think perhaps that’s what we’re talking about when we see two passages of scripture that encourage the same thing by different means – (i.e. asking God to give you something VS realizing that He’s already given it – both of which are mindsets encouraged in the New Testament).

An everyday illustration might help describe what I’m trying to say here…

My 4 year-old daughter is at a really cool stage right now.  She’s coming alive as a person, expressing herself with all kinds of animation and excitement for the first time.  She’s also being taught some basic elements of consideration and self-control at this stage of her life – simple things like, “Be loving,”  and “Don’t hit people.”  These are basic things that we all have to learn at that stage.  My 13 year old daughter is way beyond that – and though the same concepts apply, I seldom say those things to her.  She’s at the point where the following statements are more in line with what I might say to her, “What do you think God’s opinion is about this issue?” and “How can you let Jesus love that person though you in this situation?”  Do you see the shift?  While I’m still encouraging the same outcomes in terms of behavior, the latter is more “grown up,” bringing in the concepts that I know my older daughter is ready to be grappling with in her own soul.  Interestingly, I do tell my younger daughter that Jesus lives inside her (getting her used to thinking that way even at 4 years old), but I seldom try to go any farther than that.  Her little brain would pop if I tried to explain the fullness of that spritual mystery (My little brain pops when I go too far into it!).  So for now, “Be loving” will have to do – but it’s a stepping stone to a more full-orbed grasp of the truth that will come later in her life.

I think I can live with that idea of it…

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2 thoughts on “Growing up big and strong

  1. Dealing with people mainly – in all their sinful glory! We’re all messed up in one way or another and it seems like you think you get it all figured out (the dealing with peole part) and someone reacts or responds in a way you never dreamed a person was capable of or would even think of (and I’m talking about Christians here)!

    And another part of it is that I, the Pastor, have blown it plenty myself. Whether it’s a sin issue, or a bad call on a decision I had to make, or a time when I itentionally didn’t do something I felt the Lord wanted me to do because I was sacred, etc.

    All of that and more are in the mix of teaching me what it really means to be a Pastor – a person whose heart (though not always his actions) are wholly the Lord’s. I often fall back on the truth that God knows my heart and loves me – He knows my REAL motives… and I can take comfort in that…

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