The Grown-Up Christian Is …


I admit it—I’m a sucker for pictures of babies. But there is method in the madness today. We can’t really talk about grown-up Christians without at least mentioning newborns. Below is an article on the subject that first appeared here in June 2012. I’ve made a few changes here and there.

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“Man is sinful and in need of God alone who can save us.” So I stated in a post about the problem of sin.

Unfortunately, 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 new 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 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 that point, when we confess with our mouth and believe with our heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, we have a new life.

How great if God waved His hand over us at spiritual birth 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. Eventually 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 adult dad working on his real vehicle.

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 an instantaneous deal, so when we mess up—and we will mess up—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.

But expectations aren’t reality. The truth about Christians is that we do sin, even though we don’t want to. Paul said it best in Romans 7: “The good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

So mature Christians aren’t instantaneous, and mature Christians aren’t perfect.

Then what’s true about mature Christians? Besides being forgiven, redeemed, God’s children, the mature part means we actually refuse to pretend that we are what we are not. We do not go into the world with the intent to sin. We do not celebrate some false notion of being free to sin since 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 cool thing is, the more like Christ he becomes, 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. But he will rejoice in the God of his salvation.

Published in: on February 20, 2018 at 5:33 pm  Comments (4)  
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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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Christians Are Sinners, To Our Shame


While some Christians isolate a few New Testament verses to validate a doctrine known as sinless perfection, others use Biblical freedom from sin and guilt and the law as a license to sin with impunity. Like the Corinthians, they revel in what they perceive to be their right to do as they please.

To my last post on the subject of Christians and sin, Jason commented, “If the apostles admonish believers to good behavior, it cannot hold that they are incapable of bad behavior.” An excellent point, but there’s a natural corollary that belongs with that statement: if the apostles admonish believers to good behavior, it holds that believers will want to respond with good behavior.

Paul addressed this wrong thinking in Romans 6:1-2a. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” Later in the chapter, he explains further:

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

In light of this concept, that we are slaves to whomever we present ourselves, Paul pointedly states in chapter 12, the Christian’s responsibility:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (emphasis added)

To the Church in Colossae, Paul wrote that he was praying that their knowledge of God’s would increase “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (1:10a). Later in the chapter he said

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard (vv. 21-23a – emphasis added).

Clearly, Paul taught that the Christian would respond to his salvation, not by sinning to his heart’s content in the belief that he was forgiven, but rather that he would do all he could to obey God and look to Him in faith.

The entire book of James is dedicated to this very theme. In his introduction, James states that his “beloved brethren” are to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” These are the evidences of faith as he explains in chapter 2:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

Useless faith, dead faith, a slave to what we present ourselves — Scripture does not hold back. The Christian is not a forgiven sinner who continues in a lifestyle of sin, willfully and confidently taking the throne to do as he pleases because he knows he’s forgiven.

Rather, he lives to please God who is his Lord as He is his Savior. As the Christian submits to God, he becomes more like Him. As he obeys, he wants only to obey more. And when he falls short, he weeps and mourns even as he runs to God to cleanse his hands and purify his heart.

Two extreme positions — sanctified perfection or freedom to sin — and both misrepresent what the Bible actually says.

May we Christians eagerly ask God to search us and try us. When He does shows us our sin, may we put “aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness.” May we “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.”

In other words, may we deal with the sin in our lives promptly so we can again enjoy the fellowship of our loving Heavenly Father, waiting for us with arms open wide.

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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