Nobody wants to stink at being Christian

fast“Dad, remember, nobody wants to stink at their job,” my son-in-law reminded me as we discussed how to urge those on our team to better performance. He is a principal at a school where he is responsible for a staff. We talked about creating clear expectations, about establishing ways to measure effectiveness, and about general morale.  Pete is right. Generally, people want to end the day with a sense that they have done well, that their work makes a difference for someone.  Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture, we become overwhelmed with pain and/or problems, we get derailed by diversions – but with guidance we want to be people of worth.

We don’t want to ‘stink at being Christian’ to borrow Pete’s phrase, do we? I do not think that any one begins to follow Jesus saying – “I want to be miserably ineffective, hypocritical, and mean. I want people who know that I profess to follow Christ to dismiss my faith as irrelevant or silly!”  Yet, there are certainly some who claim to know Christ and yet they remain sinful and disobedient, feeling nothing but guilty shame if they pray. They understand Paul’s wail – “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” too well.  Is there an answer to this?  There is, but some will not want to hear it.

We begin the season of Lent in the Church today.  It is a time, 40 days before Easter, in which Christians are called to discipline and examination that leads to greater faith.  In some churches, it is a time for the newly converted to prepare for baptism.  For all of us, it is a time to sharpen our faith focus.  And that demands that we are willing to do hard things.  Lent is best known for fasting. Some trivialize this choice.  They give up some little thing – chocolate, for example- that really has no impact on life.  True Lenten fasting asks us to deal with our appetites and attitudes, prayerfully asking the Spirit to take control of our lives as we discipline ourselves to follow Jesus.

Real disciples must be willing to hard things, training themselves to obey, to follow without reserve.  A real Lenten fast will deal with things like selfishness, self-absorption, and our insistence on being coddled.  How about giving up pouting when we don’t get our way? Or giving up our love of comfort that keeps us from real service?  To those who would be true disciples (there’s that root shared with discipline) Jesus says: “Forgive those who do you wrong! Love your enemies! Practice your generosity without telling anybody. Live for Heaven, not just for your next meal. Deal with your own sin before you try to deal with that of others. Follow me!”    Christians are told to “Keep a tight rein on your words. Don’t use filthy speech. Trust God when it’s dark. Endure hardship. Give thanks always.”

It is even possible to live like that?
For the Christian who is filled with Spirit, can answer, “Yes!”  It is not a ‘cannot,’ it is a ‘will not.’  Christ’s power, given us in the Spirit, liberates us from compulsion to sin.  The Spirit leads us to life but not without choice, cooperation, and discipline.

Will you do hard things that will help that holy, beautiful character consistent with authentic Christianity to emerge?

I am not saying that we can save ourselves from sin, but we do have a big responsibility to exert our will in the direction of godliness.  Most of us have some ‘will nots’ in our lives. There are things we do not do because we believe that they are difficult or unpleasant.  James does not spare our feelings with regard to refusal to do God’s hard things. He says that “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17, NIV)

Let’s encourage one another with this word from the Word.  As we begin Lent, let’s pray to go deeper in Christ.

Let these words urge you on when you find yourself wanting to refuse God’s invitation to do the hard things. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25, NIV) “We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” (Hebrews 12:9-11, The Message)

May the Lord bless your day with good things, with joy, and with the peace of God!

______________

 Take My Life And Let It Be

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Let them flow in ceaseless praise

 Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee
Swift and beautiful for Thee

 Take my voice and let me sing
Always only for my King
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee
Filled with messages from Thee

Frances Ridley Havergal © Words: Public Domain

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