Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Only Hindrance to Christian Growth

When we see a lack of Christlikeness in ourselves, we can be tempted to blame others or to find some way to justify ourselves. But the truth is that the only hindrance to becoming more like Christ is our own sinful natures. Nothing and no one, except ourselves, can stop us from making progress in the faith.

Busy schedules can be overcome by prioritizing what God’s Word says to prioritize. Circumstances that keep us from doing what we feel called to do cannot keep us from being faithful in what God has given us at this very moment. Personal enemies cannot stop us from dying to ourselves and loving them even though they may hate us. Satan can only hinder us if we willingly give in to his temptations. A difficult spouse or rebellious child can do nothing to prevent us from living as Christ lived. Sometimes we are tempted to think that since others don’t respond to Christlike love, we are failures. But, the call to take up our crosses is not dependent on what anyone else around us does. We can trust Christ and obey His instructions to put off the flesh and to put on Christ no matter what anyone else does. "Success" in the Christian life is measured by our trust and obedience, not by how others respond to us.

Our greatest enemy is our own sinful nature. Think of Christ and how He hung on the cross with nails in His hands and feet. Though the world stood against Him and put Him to death, they could not stop Him from loving them and from loving everyone who belongs to Him. If His grace and loving affection toward you on the cross has won your affections, then will you too die to yourself and love others as Christ did? The only hindrance to Christian growth is yourself.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Basic Christianity

All the best coaches understand that every game is about mastering the basics and learning to execute them as instinctively, habitually, and perfectly as possible. Some players inevitably complicate things by showing off or developing their own unique techniques, but when they do, they’re training to lose rather than to win. Anything that distorts or replaces the basics is a game-losing distraction.

In principle, life in Christ is no different. According to Scripture, the "basic" (foundational) principle of Christian living is the gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else. As Christians, we must never think of graduating from the school of the gospel because if we do, we will never grow in faith. Satan, the great liar, is devoted to deceiving us into thinking that we need something more, but there is nothing more. The gospel of grace is the power of God unto salvation from start to finish, and there is no power in anything else. Though in one sense, the basic principle of biblical Christianity is "simple," it is by no means "easy." All who travel this road will testify that the way of the cross is paved with pain and suffering as well as with unspeakable joy. So, to say that growth in the Christian faith comes by the gospel is no magical "rabbit’s foot," but it is the truth. Learning how to apply this truth in every area of our lives is the life-long journey of biblical Christian faith. If we’re growing as Christians, then our lives will be an adventure by which we learn more and more how better to believe and live according to the great gospel of Jesus Christ.