Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just Forgiven?

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?

Humility.

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...

5 comments:

Belinda said...

To be continued....? :)

Thanks for your honesty in expressing the struggle between our faith and our lives lived. I can't wait to hear more.

Susan said...

I'm glad you want to hear more, but what I really hope is that you'll see it. :)

Meg said...

Thanks for your compelling honesty, and your compelling style. We are all on the same journey. As we grow older, I think, and older as Christians, we see the details more. God, however, I believe, always looks at the big picture, of us, and us in Him, even though He deals with the details all the time. What a relief on both counts.

aoc gold said...

Trees

(1)

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.
(2)

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

(3)

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

(4)

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

(5)

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with the rain.

(6)

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

~~~by age of conan

Joyful Fox said...

Susan,

It is Sunday night and I just prepared my blog. I remembered your comment that you found "you were always on a different page than the rest of us."

When I just read your blog from Saturday about His transforming work in us as we yield to Him and I ponder the road to get there - you said it takes humility...

then I read Belinda's post from Sunday and she talks about how we were formed, and the work of our lives,each day in fact, is ordained before conception and we look at God as creator...

and I think about what I just wrote on filling ourselves to the full in Christ so He overflows, forgetting yesterday because Behold, He makes all things new ....

I see the tread of the Holy Spirit in our writings, don't you?

It happens, sometimes we're the last to see it in our writings. I have never seen you as not a cog in the same wheel. We are each spokes even if we need to stand alone on a topic or if there are threads woven through the art.

I often have seen threads but I couldn't point to an example when you shared your comment at writer's group. I made a mental note that I would point it out next time as I identified this. Not as an I'm right, you're wrong thing but as "we're all part of the picture" even if we may be a different colour at times rather than a varying hue.

Love you, sister.

When I read a piece like this, I cheer you on because you have been vulnerable, transparent, and have planted a seed into the garden of people's lives.

We are all hand maiden's for His glory.