An ongoing battle that every Christian faces is the one between the person you were before you met Jesus and the one you are now that you have met Him. Old temptations beckon. Old habits resurface. Old desires rekindle. Old loyalties divide. Old beliefs hinder. Old memories haunt. When you feel this tension, remember that you have a new identity, a new life and a new you because you believe in and belong to Jesus! You have been changed, are being changed and will be changed by His transforming grace. So fight the good fight of faith against sin as you rejoice in this today: that’s not you anymore.
Here’s a simple, but significant, lens through which life looks radically different than we often see it… will this matter 100 years from now? How we think, feel, speak, act, and react would be wonderfully different if we saw things in light of eternity, and remember that this short life is not all that there is. Our lives would create an everlasting ripple if we could look a century into our future to see the impact of our today. As we live by grace, in dependence upon the presence and power of Jesus, let us give less priority to the things that really don’t matter and more priority to the things that do.
Imperfect words. Imperfect actions. Imperfect thoughts. Imperfect attitudes. Imperfect motives. Even though we are not who we used to be, we are also not yet who we will become. We are imperfect people. That doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to our sin-produced flaws or complacent in our grace-driven effort to overcome them. We should work hard to act like Jesus on the outside while God works to make us more like Jesus on the inside. But we do this secure in His love, safe in His mercy and strengthened by His power. Today, let us strive for holy living while relying on and resting in His grace.
The paths will divide. The objectives will conflict. The plans will differ. The desires will compete. The advice will disagree. We will often find ourselves having to choose sides for who we will listen to, go with and live to the satisfaction of … God or people. We simply cannot be and do what will make Him happy and others happy at the same time, all the time. Rather than compromising to satisfy the crowd, let us show others the better path, the better objective, the better plan, the better desire and the better advice found in the good news of Jesus. Today, by grace, let us prioritize pleasing God over pleasing people.
Faith in Jesus is followed by following Jesus in faith. Saving belief leads us to step off the throne, take off the crown, and let Jesus take over ruling our hearts and lives. We haven’t really put our faith in Jesus if we are indifferent to what He wants and resistant to what He says. That’s not trust. That’s a lack of trust. That’s mistrust. Real faith in Jesus makes us want to give up our sin and self-rule to follow His steps, His ways and His commands (although imperfectly executed) more fully over time. Why? Because we are confident that life His way is better than any other option, and that for eternal life He is the only option.
It’s not Sunday church clothes. It’s not a cross necklace. It’s not a t-shirt. Being a Christian is not something we put on and take off depending upon the place we are at, the position we are in, or the people we are around. We should strive by grace to speak, act and live in the same manner at all times, not picking and choosing when we let our Christianity be seen. People will know that we belong to Jesus not because of what we have on, but by how we love on those around us. 24/7 we are imperfect image-bearers of the One living in our hearts. Our identity is not something we wear, it’s something we are.
Since trusting in Jesus is the basis for our hope of eternal life, how can we know that we really trust Him? The short answer is: we look for evidences that the trust we have in Him is changing us. Genuine saving belief never leaves you the same. We gradually become less like the world and more like Jesus as we follow Him in faith. Trusting Him leads to ongoing and loving… Repentance, because we believe what He offers is better than sin. Obedience, because we believe His ways are always good and right. Confidence, because we believe what He has promised us will happen. We believe. We change. That’s how we know.
One of the evidences that you have received God’s pardon for your sin is that you are relying on God’s power to fight against your sin. Forgiveness and freedom are two inseparable aspects of grace. You don’t get one without the other. Spiritual growth will vary by person and season, but one thing every genuine Christian has in common is this: sin no longer holds the same appeal or power as it once did. We go from loving sin to hating it and from choosing sin to fighting it. Though we will not be sinless, we will sin less because of this… Our relationship with sin changes because of our relationship with Jesus.
There is a daily tug-of-war for control of your thoughts, feelings, motives, attitudes, words and actions, pulling you in the opposing directions of what sin entices you into and what God invites you into. Look to Jesus for help and look for His help to arrive in your time of temptation as a way to leave it, the power to say “no” to it, a divine removal of it, the arrival of someone to help you through it, and / or a promise of something worth waiting for that is better than it. He is bigger than your biggest need! Take heart… You are never helpless against temptation as long as there is a throne of grace for you to run to for help.
Grace is not cruise control. Ours is not a set it and forget it relationship in which God does all the work, and we do none of it. He does all of the things that only He can do and enables us to do all of the things that He purposes for us to do. How do we respond to grace? We. Work. Hard. We work hard to be who God called us to be and do what God has called us to do in Christ, relying on His power and provision every step of the way. Grace isn’t opposed to effort; it’s opposed to trying to earn what we’ve been freely given. We don’t work hard to receive God’s grace; we work hard because we have already received it.
When we receive God’s grace, every sin we have committed, are committing and will commit are all forgiven. Fully. Freely. Forever. That doesn’t mean we can knowingly and willfully continue sinning with no remorse or repentance. True grace is not “All is forgiven, now you can freely wallow in sin.” True grace is, “All is forgiven, now you can firmly withstand sin.” Jesus did not pick us up just so we would run back to the same thing that knocked us down. He supplies both pardon for sin and power not to sin. So… We rely on His grace as we strive for holiness, and we rest in His grace when we need forgiveness.