If you are fortunate enough to begin your walk with God with the understanding that you are not good enough to merit his attention and affection, you are in a minority. Too many sincere believers stroll through their faith journey like a child at the fair, looking at the fun house mirrors and seeing themselves in a dissatisfied manner. Rather than living with the assurance of God’s perspective of them, they see themselves with distortions. Not just the images the mirrors give of too thin, too fat, too tall or too short, but too sinful, too imperfect, too unspiritual, too damaged, too unworthy. All of these latter perspectives are from the pit of hell and are contrary to the gospel, yet they are far too commonly believed.
People try all sorts of things in an attempt to earn God’s favor. They go to church, give money, read the Bible, pray more, serve others, try to observe a “don’t do” list and even perform penance. What’s your approach? Just why is it that believers think they must perform adequately to gain and maintain God’s acceptance? In a nutshell, it’s human conditioning. The world is wired that way. Tit for tat. Quid pro quo. “What have you done for me lately?” Keep short accounts. Basically, human nature and human interaction tend to operate by the standards of performance. Simply stated, God doesn’t.To paraphrase the Apostle Paul in Gal. 2:21, if I could secure a right standing with God by keeping his rules and observing his standards, then there was no need for Christ to die on the cross.
According to the Bible, even if a person could keep all the laws and commands of Scripture, he could still not be justified (declared not guilty) before God. The Bible is clear – justification has nothing to do with external activity. We do not gain or maintain a relationship with God by our performance. God intends for his followers to experience the reality of their new identity in their day-to-day activities. In many cases, however, Christians do not experience this reality. They have read in the Bible that they are “new creations in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17) but they have resigned themselves to the mindset that, though they may have glimpses of God’s power on occasion, they cannot live regularly as new creations. Romans 6:1-18 is an account full of hope for you and me and it describes the challenges we face in appropriating the truth of our new identity with all of its privileges as well as declaring the death of our old self.
Paul reminds us our “old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin be brought to nothing.” “If we have died with Christ, we now also live with him.” “You must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” “Sin will now have no dominion over you.” “Having been freed from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness.” There’s more there for sure, but I hope you get the point. Paul also definitively states that we are certainly not to go on sinning as new creations just because of the immensity of God’s grace. Many believers take this command lightly, with a large portion of license. Let’s not mess with grace, alright? Many believers have said “I’ve tried to live as a new creation and it doesn’t work. This Jesus stuff just doesn’t work.”
Much of our success and joy in living the new life in Christ comes as our minds are transformed according to the will (and revealed word) of God. Living as a believer requires a new orientation. You could call this a brain “washing”because in a sense, it is. Rooting out the lies and ungodly thoughts and habits we have accumulated and replacing them with the truths God desires us to live by. If you read through Romans 6 you will see Paul leaves us with some practical “how to’s” to live by, reinforcing the truths of your new identity.
- Previous ways do not have to control you. You now have the power to choose rightly, all the time. (Even though you and I won’t. But we will improve)
- You are dead to sin and you don’t have to give in to it. Your “chooser” now has the resource of the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. Call him from within to guide you
- You are united with Christ and are not alone in your growth
- You are no longer limited to your own finite resources
There is no need for comparison, ever! You will either be discouraged, sensing you fall short or prideful and arrogant believing you are something you are not. God is pleased to accept and love you right where you are, even if and when you’ve made a mess of life. Surrendering to him and allowing him to reveal to you that you are more than ok to him is the best move you’ll ever make. This act of surrender works well too for those of us who are already “practicing” our faith. Think About It.