Better today, growing into tomorrow

Are you sometimes surprised at what comes out of your mouth, or by a thought that enters your conscious mind, or the realization of some part of you kept hidden from view?  There are shadows in us all, some that make us shudder, some that fill us regret, some that create real stress. Paul reminds us  not to be “naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.”  (1 Corinthians 10:12, The Message)

Christians are not exempt from temptation or too good to sin. Yes, the Spirit of God lives in us.  He makes change possible but we must be wary of the pursuit of perfectionism. If we imagine that we can somehow reach a place of spiritual maturity when we become too strong to fail, too mature to act foolishly, too ‘spiritual’ to sin, we are living in deception.  The pressure of perfection is a sure way to destroy the joy of the Lord, to turn into a miserable religionist.

Paul teaches us that though we are filled with Christ, secured by His grace gift, we continue to deal with the sinful nature. “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  Romans 7:22-24 NIV  There we find a glimpse of the reason why Christians still can be cruel, selfish, materialistic – a saint and a sinner in the same body!

It is not my intent in this reflection to suggest that we wave the white flag of surrender to our darker side or that we make peace with those ways in us that are less than Jesus desires for us. We can grow in grace, the life and love of Jesus more evident in us with time’s passing.  Basic to this growth is faith in the truth that our salvation and holiness cannot come from ourselves.

The life God desires us to live is a work of the Spirit. Paul, seeing the struggle of the Galatians to perfect themselves challenges them (and us) to understand God’s work on our behalf “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:2-3, NLT) ” So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:16-17, NIV)

Having received Christ by faith, we can let His Light shine into every corner of our lives! A quote from Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis, who served from 1916 to 1939, is not about spiritual matters but it certainly applies! “Sunlight is the best disinfectant!” He referred to the corruption  that goes on when government operates in secrecy, without accountability. His observation has an application to each of our lives.

IF we hide the truth from others or even ourselves, too ashamed to live honesty, we give the sinful nature the opportunity to pull us away from God’s purposes.  Compromises that seem to be insignificant, that are excused as just ‘going along to get along,’ open us to temptations for greater sins over time. Refusal hear the truth about what we have done or even who we are deepens our deceptions.

John was inspired by the Spirit to write “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”  (1 John 1:6-10, NIV)

Is your heart open to the Spirit?  Do you listen to His call to God’s way?  Sometimes it is enough to confess our ‘darkness’ to God alone. There are parts of us that are transformed by owning our sinfulness before the Lord (confession) and sincerely asking for His forgiveness, His strength to overcome.

Some dark places are too engrained for us to deal with alone. In those struggles we need an ally, sometimes several allies. That is why the Christian life is not to be lived in isolation.  Oh that God would help His Church to become a healing community, not a judging one, a place where people find grace that leads them to experience Grace Incarnate. Together, we can pull open those doors that shut out the Light.  Holiness is found in community, not because we can create our own perfection, but because as we open up to one another with acceptance, the Light of Christ shines as we give and receive grace.

Let’s aspire to be like Jesus Christ who always accepted people as they were without necessarily affirming what they did!  Accept people, challenge behavior!  You may help someone find their way out of the darkness by becoming “Jesus with skin on” to them!  We may never know what demons torment another person in the dark corners of his mind if we are quick to judge, heavy on condemnation.  Love! Listen! Lift the heavy burden of guilt and shame by taking them to the Cross where all our sins are forgiven.

Our word from the Word is full of hope for imperfect people, turning our attention to our Perfect Savior and complete salvation.  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4, NLT)

Ah, by His grace I am better today, growing into tomorrow!


God Only Knows

(a hopeful song from King and Country)

Wide awake while the world is sound asleep and
Too afraid of what might show up
While you’re dreamin’
Nobody nobody nobody sees you
Nobody nobody will believe you

Every day you try to pick up all the pieces
All the memories they somehow never leave ya
Nobody nobody nobody sees you
Nobody nobody will believe you

God only knows what you been through
God only knows what they say about you
God only knows how it’s killing you
But there’s a kind of a love that God only knows

God only knows what you been through
God only knows what they say about you
God only knows the real you
There’s a kind of a love that God only knows

There’s a kind of love that
There’s a kind of love

You keep a cover over every single secret
So afraid if someone saw them they would leave
But somebody somebody somebody sees you
Somebody somebody will never leave you

For the lonely for the ashamed
The misunderstood and the ones to blame
What if we can start over
We could start over we could start over

‘Cause there’s a kinda love that God only knows
God only knows where to find you
God only knows how to break through
God only knows the real you
There’s a kind of love that God only knows

Joel Smallbone | Jordan Reynolds | Josh Kerr | Luke Smallbone | Tedd Tjornhom
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Method to the Madness (Admin. by CURB | Word Music Publishing)
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