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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Acting vs. Being

Tuesday I posted something I had written on Facebook about a situation I ran into recently in rush-hour traffic. Here's something I posted the next day referring to that earlier discussion

Thinking about my traffic "rant" from yesterday morning. I'm wondering if I might have come off as saying that you have to act right to be a Christian. That is absolutely NOT the case. Our actions are not what makes us Christians. Well, actually, there is ONE action that does make us a Christian: accepting/confessing Jesus as Lord. After that, other actions are irrelevant to our standing with God, although if we live a life of sin we may FEEL far from God. The blood of Jesus washes all of that clean, once and for all. Which, as the apostle Paul would (and did) say, is no license to sin, but our sin or lack of sin does not make or break our relationship as sons and daughters of God.

That said, our actions before others DO reflect on Christ. Our goal should be to let God transform us into something we can't make of ourselves. It's not a matter of white-knuckling it every time we want to sin and "being good" instead; it's a matter of letting go of our sin and letting our actions reflect what we already are. When I am tempted to sin, I have the option of either giving in and doing what I know I shouldn't do, or letting go of that worthless stuff and being the child of God that Jesus has transformed me into. I'm not sure those who have not accepted Jesus always have that option; the Bible seems to say that they are enslaved to sin and can't escape it. Followers of Jesus are free from sin; we can refuse to do it, or we can go ahead and make those mistakes. We have the choice; that's our freedom in Christ.

So, back to the highway thing. Let's say I'm the guy in the car who sees another driver do something that makes me upset. My first impulse might be to honk my horn, flip the middle finger, or even follow that person to wherever they're going and have angry words with them. But I have another option: I can put down that anger like putting down a rock I was going to use to stone someone. I can take off that "old man" reaction to the situation, and put on the "new man" reaction. I can look on that person with love and forgive them.

Don't try to "be good". You can't do it. It's not a matter of adding goodness to the situation; your goodness comes from God. God's reaction to the situation is already there. It's a matter of letting go of the bad to reveal the good that God has given you. The old hymns talk about being "stained with sin" which is "washed away" by the blood of Jesus; the stain has been removed, so it's only a matter of getting rid of the muck and stuff that might be clinging to you and revealing the cleansed person that was always there underneath. That's the example of Christ that others need to see. That's the person that reflects well on the church whose logo is in the back window of your car and the God whose Bible verse is on your T-shirt. Show others the person God has made you, not the shadow of the person you would be without Him.

Is it important to "act right" to be a Christian? Should we just plan on following Jesus and hope our actions will fall into line, or do we need to put some effort into it? Sound off by clicking the "Comments" link below this post!


Xanthorpe said...

What a great explanation of some very tricky "doctrine". I think this particular situation highlights a kaleidoscope of different beliefs within the Christian church. Are we once saved, always saved? Can we lose our salvation? If so, how? If I sin too much will I lose my salvation? How much is too much?

For me, the key is the night I knelt on my lawn and received Jesus Christ. I KNOW God spoke to me on the drive home from work - it was like He was sitting in the car with me. I KNOW He was present in the Holy Spirit when I prayed for forgiveness and to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus. I didn't just randomly decide to give Christianity a try; it was not about religion. It was about a choice and a decision.

It pains me to think back on the number of times I've let Him down since that night. But as it says in Philippians 2:12, I am continuing to work out my salvation. Not trying to earn it - because I already have it - but working every day to shed that old man I once was and, more and more, put on the new man that Christ has made me.

Thanks for your excellent thoughts on the matter.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree much more with what Xanthorpe just wrote, but I have another thing to add.
Christianity isn't designed to be easy for us. God does all the changing for us, yes, but we will still be genuinely tested and tempted. God wont change our minds and hearts to the point where we're never tempted, and we will still sin occasionally, but He provides all the help in the world we need to make the right decision. True, trying to be good without God's help is impossible, but even with God's help we are fully capable of messing up, so we need to remain careful.