Many of us have struggled intensely with living out what we were told was a “Christian Life”. We have tried, mostly in vain, to become ‘Christlike’ in word and deed. And for the most part we have been left with a sense of failure and frustration. In the end we gather with other Christians in weekly services and ‘appear’ to have it together with them because we can’t be seen to ‘not measure up’. We wear the façade of ‘Christianity’ and can never talk about our struggles because the other Christians we relate to seem to have it all together.
So we continue to struggle as long as we can. Some end up walking away from the ‘church’ because it seems like an endless stream of ‘thou shalt not’ comes at us and we can not stand under the weight of the things we already feel we must do. Others even walk away from God and faith all together. Christians have even ostracized those whom they have felt have ‘not measured up’. And yet if you were to scratch the surface of our ‘faith’ everyone is facing the same identical struggle. And trying to put on a good face for those we fellowship with each week.
And this was not at all what God intended. We were never meant to bear the burdens of rules and regulations. The bible actually says that there was no way to live up to the standards of the law. It wasn’t intended for us to live up to. It was intended to show us our inadequacy and our need for a Saviour. Scripture teaches that the purpose of the law was to reveal sin.
So if we cannot live up to the standards and rules and regulations what are we to do. Paul says in Galatians 3:3 “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” And yet week after week in churches all across North America this is exactly what we do. Or as the Message version reads “Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.”
So again I raise the question, if all our struggles cannot bring us to live a Christian life what can we do?
Well first let me say that we need a relationship with God. Rules and regulations and going to church will make us truly Christian when going into a garage will make us a car. It sounds extreme but it is the truth. John 3:16 basically says that God loves us so much that Jesus came to die for us and give eternal life to anyone who believes in Him. John 17:3 says that eternal life is a deep intimate relationship with God. So we need a relationship first. Without that we have nothing but rules and regulations and ritual. Which will only continue to leave us disappointed and depressed.
But once we have that relationship what happens. Does God completely take away the desire for sin? Unfortunately not. Our nature is the problem. Watchman Nee says “We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.” Our nature is still there. I some great wisdom in this mornings sermon. The speaker said “God has redeemed my soul, He hasn’t taken away my humanity.” Our tendency to sin is still there. Paul said it best in Romans 7:15 “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good.”
Sounds like most of our lives. So what do we do. I think we need to do three things.
First recognize our need for a Saviour never diminishes.
We cannot become who we are meant to be without the help of God. Each day needs to be lived with Him. The good news is that God is at work within us. He didn’t start something only to leave us to ourselves. Hebrews says that Jesus is “The author and the finisher of our faith.” Philippians 2:13 says “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” What God started God will finish.
Secondly we need to grow in our relationship with God.
It is in our relationship to God that we grow and develop. Living a “Christlike life” is not living a life free from sin. It is simply living in a relationship with God and daily following His lead. Paul starts and end everyone of his letters with the phrase “may the grace and peace of God be with you” or some variant of it. He always prays that God’s grace be with us. So what is God’s grace if it is so important? Well I could write for days on what God’s grace is, but let me be brief. God’s grace is His blessing poured out without measure upon us. And that blessing is His power doing in us what needs to be done that we cannot do for ourselves. In other words, all the power of heaven is at our disposal to cause us to live the life that God calls us to. And it is in that relationship with Him that we experience and grow in that grace.
Thirdly we need to lay off ourselves and others.
We cannot measure up to God’s standards on our own, and neither can anyone else. We need to lower the standards we have for ourselves and others, and simply be people who love Jesus and are working out the expression of that love. It is going to mean some difficult changes are going to come our way. I won’t try to diminish that fact. But we can rest in the fact that God will walk us through every one and bring us out the other side in victory if we do it with Him. If we continue to try to do it ourselves we will never become anything close. We will just continue to be the people the world sees and wants nothing to do with. We simply need to allow ourselves the room to grow as God leads us, making sure we always are holding His hand, for just like any child we can let go of our parents hand and go our own way and walk away from the path that God has for us. Time for us as a ‘church’ to rise up and become the people that God has called us to be, and none of it can be done in our own strength. So lets rest in God’s goodness, and simply follow His plan and take one step at a time, one day at a time.
And we can lay off ourselves and others because Scripture teaches that every temptation that comes our way is “common to man”. So we are never alone. We can share our struggles with others because they have faced similar ones, and can then be accepted for who we truly are. A lost sinner, saved by grace and living out a love relationship with the One who called us.