Holy Living is hard if we try it on our own
The hope of the Christian life is that we will be transformed into the likeness of Christ. Humans, however, have at least three serious problems in attaining to Christlikeness. The first is probably the first one you would guess I would write about and that is sin. Everything that is in us naturally is at odds with the things of God. Every choice is a rebellion against God. Every step is down a path other than the path that leads to the abundant life. Every aim we have misses God’s mark. Only through faith in Christ is the door opened to obedience and transformation.
Uniformed Faith Leads to an Unformed Faith
For those who have placed their faith in Christ, there are two issues we must overcome in order to achieve the goal of our salvation. The first difficulty we face is ignorance. Many Christians believe in Jesus (by definition, to be called a Christian one must believe). But many Christians are not informed that once one “crosses the line of faith,” the work of God in their lives has just commenced. Belief is only he beginning. As believers in Jesus, we are called to be conformed to the image of God in Christ. In Philippians 1:6, Paul writes that he is “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The beginning of the good work in us is salvation (or justification). The completion of the good work in us is sanctification. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” The work of God in our lives, and the gift that he gives us, is holiness, or as Wesley put it, Entire Sanctificaiton.
The third difficulty we have in attaining to the character and holiness of God is that we tend to make a full-frontal attack. We think that if we have sin in our lives, we just need to exert enough willpower to eradicate that sin. Unfortunately, by choosing to focus on the sin, we end up ensuring that sin remains in our lives. For instance, if I tell you not the think of a rainbow unicorn, what do you naturally think about? A rainbow unicorn. The same is true with sin. Sin is naturally ingrained in us and when we focus directly on it, we unwittingly further entrench that sin in us.
So, what to do?
We must open ourselves to the operation of grace of God in our lives. We can do that by practicing spiritual disciplines or, as I sometimes call them, holy habits. These practices open us to the continuing work of God in our lives so that God can restore the image of Christ in each of us. Over the next several weeks, I will be writing about the spiritual disciplines using as the foundation of my discussion a book by Richard Foster titled Celebration of Discipline (see link above). If you have known me for very long at all you have heard me talk about this book. Outside of the Bible, this is the single most influential book in my life. I have read many other books on spiritual disciplines, but this is the one that started me on my journey of faith. I highly recommend that you add it to your library. It may change the course of your life as it did mine.
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