We've all seen the bumper sticker. Once it was on the sign outside my own church.
"Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."
That saying has always kind of bothered me. Though attractive, in some sense, I knew there was something that didn't quite settle right about it, but until quite recently I never could have said why. But now I realize it's because it seems to say that Christians are no different from anyone else. The only difference between us and everyone else is that our sins are forgiven.
But aren't we supposed to be "the salt of the earth"? Aren't we supposed to stick out as different? Aren't "they" supposed to know us "by our love"? Shouldn't we be living lives that are compelling - lives that draw others to Jesus, attracting them to the same kind of relationship with Jesus that we should have? I'm thinking this morning that the saying should go something like this:
"Christians aren't perfect, just victorious."
Sadly, in our North American culture, that is very often not the case. Sadly, in my own life and walk with God, that is very often not the case. (I would have to say "most often" not the case.) I know it's supposed to be "all about Jesus", we all know that, but the message which has been hitting me quite clearly of late is that I've been living counter that truth. Someone said to me recently "It's not about you!", and those words came as quite a shock. They cut deep at the time, but God has used them, by his mercy to help me realize, that the truth is this: I've been far too concerned with my life, my walk, my ministry, my perspective, my opinions, my ability, my image, and what people think of me. I've been trying to make sure that everyone around me realizes how "good" I am, (born, ironically, out of a deep seated belief that I am not good), doing my best to make sure I am doing all the right things, trying to reflect God in my life, so that I will be accepted and beloved. Yuck. Even stooping to using God to make myself look good. Yes, friends, it's been that bad...
What's the remedy?
Well, God, as we know, is the most amazing father. When he finally gets us to admit our need (he can't make us do that, he has to wait until we are sick of ourselves and the results brought about by following our own ways, that we finally turn to him) he floods us with answers.
I went into Chapters last week to buy some books for my grandchildren. I wasn't looking for any answers there. I don't go to Chapters to buy Christian books. I would generally go to a Christian bookstore for that. But as I made my way from the children's section back toward the counter to pay, I passed a section labeled "Religion".
"Hah," I thought to myself. "I don't need religion, I need Jesus," (one of my opinions) and I almost missed it. But my eye was drawn to the photograph of a leaf on the exquisitely beautiful dust jacket of a book sitting on that shelf. My curiosity got the best of me (I have a special affinity for things like leaves and feathers). I picked it up to examine the photo on the cover, and was hooked by the title of the book. "The Beautiful Fight - Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life", by Gary Thomas. I read the flyleaf standing there in the store, and walked out with it still in my hands.
And wow. God is speaking powerfully to me though this book. And I'm only on page 40, with some 200 pages to go.
Getting back to the bumper sticker - the fact is, God's glory is revealed in us, yes, by the fact that we are forgiven, but it has to be far more than that. It is when we have been transformed by Him, and living compelling lives that others are able to see him in us. It is when, and only when, we are weak, but victorious, that others can see Jesus in us.
Transformed. Compelling. Victorious. What does it take to get there?
It's a powerful, powerful commodity in our lives.
"Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and in due time, He will lift you up." James 4:10.
To be continued...