You’re Going to be Perfect

Some days just don’t go well.paragraph spacer for WordPress
Do you have days when it seems like you’re not getting anywhere in becoming a better Christian? Days when you feel like a failure? When you’ve blown it and you know it? I know I do.
paragraph spacer for WordPress
Being a Christian is not for wimps.paragraph spacer for WordPress
If you’re serious about living for God and want to experience real spiritual growth, if you want to see evidence in your life that you are becoming more like Jesus Christ, you’re on a hard road. Some preachers and/or soul winners, in their enthusiasm to win souls, have said or implied something like: “come to Jesus and your troubles will be over.”
paragraph spacer for WordPress
That’s not really true. Jesus predicted persecution for believers. Paul warned in his epistle to Timothy: “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” ( 2 Timothy 3:12). We’re still in enemy territory here on this earth. You can expect oppostion from without. And you can expect opposition from within.
paragraph spacer for WordPress
God knows about all this.paragraph spacer for WordPress
Let’s focus on opposition from within because that’s trickier than oppostion from without. God has a brilliant plan of salvation that answers all our needs.
paragraph spacer for WordPress
For example, He knew we would have a battle with sin. He knew we would not be born again and never sin again, of course. So in 1 John 1:9 we read: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB)
paragraph spacer for WordPress
Also, God knew that we were not going to be able to perfect ourselves by our own efforts, not even with psychology’s clever self-help strategies, because they wouldn’t make us holy, truly good. So He put Jesus Christ within via His Holy Spirit us like an all-powerful divine seed that will grow, so that eventually we will all be like Jesus. That’s why the Scripture can say with certainly that someday He will set us before Himself, His prefect bride…paragraph spacer for WordPress
That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephe. 5:27, NASB).
paragraph spacer for WordPress
Because, guess what? paragraph spacer for WordPress
Jesus within you will not fail to bring you to spiritual maturity. Because God wants us the way He wants us, and that is like Jesus Christ (Ephe. 4:13). And when God wants something, sooner or later, He’s going to have it. After all, He is God.
paragraph spacer for WordPress
So be encouraged. paragraph spacer for WordPress
Don ‘t give up the struggle. Keep trusting God that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6, NASB). “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13, NASB). 
How do you do that?paragraph spacer for WordPress
How do you work out your salvation? paragraph spacer for WordPress
  1. By living by faith daily, actively trusting God to bring about the growth we all desire (Gal. 2:20; Hebrews 12:2; 2 Cor. 5:7). paragraph spacer for WordPress
  2. By walking with God (Ge. 5:24; Heb. 11:5) , praying constantly (Ephe. 6:18; 1 Thess 5:17), abiding in the Lord Jesus, reminding yourself all the time that He is your source of strength (John 15:5). paragraph spacer for WordPress
  3. And by doing all the other things you know God wants you to do–only being careful to do them all in faith, not trying to “produce” your growth, but  knowing all the while that it is God’s power that gets the job done.paragraph spacer for WordPress

So remember, deal with today’s challenges, firm in your hope that God is at work in you and that He will not fail to make you totally pleasing in His sight…

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 1:24, NASB).

What do you do to cooperate with God in becoming more like Jesus Christ?

Suffering and Rejoicing

Are you in the midst of a trial? Stress? Anxiety? The temptation to give into fear, maybe even despair?

Trouble is always tough. Suffering is never easy. It tempts us to ask, “Why? Why me? Why is this necessary?”

But there is a key way to respond to such trying times: When we learn to regard difficulties and suffering as precious—as crazy as that sounds—the way is cleared for us to move on with God and become more like Jesus. That is spiritual progress, that is growth toward maturity.

Let’s look at a passage in the Bible spells this out very clearly: 1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

“Hope” comes with being born again and the belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That hope clings to the understanding of what we will be and what we are becoming right now. In the future we will have bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body. Right now we are undergoing a process—God the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us like Jesus Christ in our souls (also called sanctification).

4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The inheritance is the goal

As a result of the completion of our salvation—the whole process, being born again, made like Christ and given a body like His—we will receive an inheritance. And that inheritance will make anything in this life currently here on earth, any worldly thing we hold precious here and now, in comparison look pitifully weak and unimportant. We will wonder why we thought it all was so important and vital to us and our happiness. Our inheritance will be eternal; it will not perish, dwindle away or become in any way less wonderful. It will be pure and holy. That inheritance is reserved in heaven for us—where our real life is (Col. 3:3).

Meanwhile, God’s power protects us

And for now, we are protected by God’s unlimited power through our ongoing faith in Him with the full unveiling of our salvation in the future, “in the last time.”

It’s never easy to go through troubles and suffering. Yet, in the midst of it all and in spite of it all, God protects us through our connection with Him, which is our faith, our belief in Jesus, our trust in God.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

A most beautiful expression of faith is to be able to rejoice in the midst of suffering and trials. It goes against reason and worldly “wisdom” to do that.

7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Metal workers have their reasons

There are two reasons that metal workers put gold in a furnace of fire: (1) to test it and show its quality and (2) to refine, purify it. (from MacLaren’s Commentary, Expositions of  Holy Scriptures, 1 Peter 1:7).

But it just doesn’t make sense!

Why, then, is this illogical rejoicing possible? It is possible when, by faith, you realize that trials and suffering are indeed precious because that very faith, as feeble as it may seem to be to you and me in the heat of such a battle, is being perfected, refined. And when your faith has be revealed by the trial to be genuine with God’s seal of approval on it, you will indeed see it as more precious that the purest gold.

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (NASB 1977 edition)

And we have, too, this promise:

“10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, NASB).

May we all be forewarned. Troubles will come.

But may we also be prepared to give glory to God…

…by trusting Him in the midst of it all and dare to rejoice–and even thank Him. That can bring “joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Ephesians 5:5-8 Cooperation with the Holy Spirit

What we choose to do  matters.

5:5  For this you know (from both reflection and experience), that no fornicator or unclean or covetous person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

There will be loss from a lack of obedience and cooperation with the Holy Spirit, as he seeks to clean us up, that is bring our character in conformity to the character of Jesus—the process of sanctification. What is lost will be inheritance, reward. This does not mean loss of salvation:

If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15, NASB)

5:6  Let no one be deceiving you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.

This verse clearly indicates that our disobedience in the form of willful sin brings God’s discipline. My personal take on this is that if we are actively struggling to overcome sin, we can avoid such discipline–at least to an extent. But if we deceive ourselves with “empty words,” telling ourselves we can get away with willful sin, that’s an invitation for disciple. And I want to avoid God’s discipline as much as possible! Especially troublesome is a flaunting of a sinful lifestyle. Remember Eli’s sons who had sex with women in front of the temple and that their father failed to rebuke them (1 Samuel 2-4).

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.  (Galatians 6:7-8, NASB)

 5:7  Therefore do not become fellow partners with them;

 5:8  for you were then darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; be walking as children of light

Our lives prior to inviting in Jesus Christ consisted of darkness, and now they consist of light. Because we have Jesus within us via the Holy Spirit of God. We cannot help but shine in the spirit realm. The trick is to live in light of that so that the light so evident in the spiritual realm will become more evident in this world too.  We do that by walking as children of light. In other words, act like it.

May our attitude continually be diligence in cooperating with the Holy Spirits as He seeks daily to work within us.

God’s Part and Our Part

Courtesy ElvertBarnes @flickr

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work in you” (Philippians 2:12).

We have things to do.
Clearly, there are things for us to do. Our efforts are included in God’s plan. However, we are not to place our faith in these things.

Have faith in God (Hebrews 11:6)
We must not depend on (1) our efforts; or (2) the way things look to us; or (3) especially whether we feel like good Christians or not. Have faith in God.

Jesus is all we need.
Salvation is from God, through God and by God—always, whether we are talking conversion, when we come to believe in Jesus Christ, becoming fully sanctified, or eventually glorified. God is our source. Christ is our life (1 John 2:25). He is our reconciliation to God, the basis of our forgiveness. Christ is our righteousness, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30) and our glorification (Colossians 1:27). We have all this because we are in Him and He is in us, in every believer.

When Saul persecuted Christians he was persecuting Jesus Christ.
When Saul was on the Damascus road and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him, briefly blinding him, Jesus said to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 8:4) But wait. Who was Saul persecuting? He was persecuting the church, believers, people like you and me. Yet Jesus plainly declared to Saul that he was persecuting Him, Jesus. That’s how thoroughly we are one with Jesus Christ Himself! Hit a believer, and you hit Jesus!

A gift we can walk
Salvation is a gift, the gift of Jesus Christ. He became ours and we became His, eternally. But we can grow into our experience of all that involves. Think about this: What if I could give you the gift of great artistic talent, but you never had the faith to act on it? Would it really be yours? Sanctification is making the character of Jesus Christ, Who’s within us, our own character in our experience here and now (Galatians 4:19A). It’s becoming Godlike: “You are therefore to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

What then can we do?
When we believe in Jesus Christ we become sons of God, really and actually sons of God. An awesome thought. And that means we have virtually unlimited potential. So what can we do?

(1) Be obedient to what God leads you to do.

(2) Walk  with God by faith, that is practice the presence of the Lord just like Brother Lawrence advocated so many years ago (Micah 6:8; Hebrews 12:1-2). That means sharing your daily life with Him, praying to Him, fellowshipping with Him.

(3) Find fellow Christians with whom you can share what God is doing in your life (John 21:15-17; Hebrews 10:24-25).

(4) And by all means have faith, trust God to help you grow. We all have our roles within God’s grand plan, but it is always God Who causes the growth, always. (2 Cor. 5:7).

Our only basis for success
“Success” means pleasing Him, and that comes in one way: relying on Him with a faith that results in obedience.