The Grown-Up Christian Is …


Last week I posted about a topic we dislike–sin, ending with this line: “Man is sinful and in need of God alone who can save us.”

The problem is, too many people don’t understand what God’s work of saving us means on a practical, everyday level. There might be an idea that we start attending church and that we will go to heaven, but little else.

Even Christians may not be clear on the “what next” part of things. Are we supposed to clean up our language? Start doing “holy” things? Put on a serious expression and stay away from anything that’s fun?

Well, no.

The grown-up Christian life is actually characterized by abundant joy, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who came to Him privately to ask his questions, He said that to come to God we must be “born again.” Jesus created this metaphor to illustrate that coming to God is the beginning of life and just as we grow physically from immaturity to maturity, we do the same spiritually.

So coming to God through Jesus Christ is the “birth.” From the point that we confess with our mouth and believe with our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, we have a new life.

How great if at that point God waved His hand over us and changed our desires, so that what we once hated, we now love; what offensive things we once loved, we now hate. But life doesn’t work that way. Babies don’t settle in the day they come home from the hospital and begin driving–or trading stocks on E-trade.

Instead, they have things to learn. They need time to grow. They need proper food and abundant rest, and yes, they need their messy pants changed. They need to be potty-trained. It’s a process.

The Christian life is no different.

A brand new Christian is not going to turn into a mature Christian over night. We don’t transform ourselves into mature Christians by imitating what mature Christians do, no more than a toddler can become a man by using his toy tools on his toy car in imitation of his dad working on the real thing.

Don’t get me wrong. Imitation has value, but it should not be mistaken for actual maturity.

So what is maturity? If we are in need of Christ’s redemptive work because of our sin, does maturity then mean Christians no longer sin?

I’m pretty sure that’s what a lot of people believe–some Christians and some non-Christians. Why else are Christians vilified for doing what everyone else in the culture does?

According to one poll, 85% of those answering the questions said Christians are hypocrites. Meaning we don’t live according to our beliefs.

And we don’t, not perfectly. We are in a battle to accomplish that very thing. What we believe is that we should follow Jesus–we should love God and love our neighbor. What we do is, live too often for ourselves, forgetting God, ignoring our neighbors.

So how are we any different from the rest of the world? In some respects, we aren’t. We still sin. On the other hand, we are growing up to salvation. We’re taking baby steps away from conformity to the world; we’re allowing God to transform us into His image.

It’s just not a done deal, so when we mess up–and we will–we stand exposed for the world to see our imperfection.

The thing is, if no one expected us to be perfect, our exposure as not perfect wouldn’t be a big deal.

Mature Christianity, then, is actually refusing to pretend that we are what we are not. Not that we go out with the intent to sin or celebrate some false notion of being free to sin if we want because God’s already picked up the bill.

Actually the opposite is true. When a mature Christian sins, it breaks his heart because he knows it breaks the heart of His Father. He knows that he should walk worthy of his calling (see Eph. 4:1) that he should please God in all respects (see Col. 1:9).

His sin, then, will drive him to his knees. He will bring it to his Father to claim the forgiveness He has already given. He will let God teach him and correct him and shape him.

In this way his life begins to take on a distinction that marks him as someone like Christ. The thing is, the more like Christ he is, the more he’ll want to serve and repent and learn and grow. He won’t parade an imagined perfection in front of the world. He won’t take credit for what God has done.

Published in: on June 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm  Comments (1)  
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