Imperfect believers. There are a lot of us. Folks who are true followers of Christ but who are kind of messy. I don’t mean brand new Christians who haven’t been discipled. I don’t mean those who follow a religion or practice religious rites but have no personal relationship with Jesus, the Living Lord. I don’t mean those with head knowledge alone but who haven’t surrendered to Him and been indwelled by the promised Holy Spirit. I mean true spirit-filled, walking by faith, fruit-bearing, totally committed Christians with servant hearts who still falter and fail as they walk out this life.
Well, that last phrase — “who still falter and fail as they walk out this life” — pretty much describes the majority of Christians. Right? Like 100% of us. Right? Christians are all sinners saved by grace, and we are definitely going to foul up, probably on a daily basis. That’s why we can be thankful for the grace of God. If we were made okay by our actions, by our good works, we’d never make it.
All true. Except in some things I’ve read (both on-line and in a couple pretty high profile magazine interviews), I’m distressed by what seems to be a trend of Christian believers reveling in their messiness, in their imperfections, holding them up as a sort of badge of honor or something. Almost enjoying the fact that they are so much like those who don’t know God. What’s with that? What’s with picking and choosing what we will accept out of the Bible, as if our freedom in Christ gives us the right to say to God, “That doesn’t fit into my politics (or whatever) so I’m going to ignore it”?
My Bible tells me that as Christ’s disciple I am to become more and more conformed to the image of God’s Son. I’m told I’m being changed from glory to glory. I’m told that I’m not yet what I should be but, thank God, I’m not what I used to be. The New Testament is pretty clear about a lot of things a child of God should/must do and another list of things a child of God shouldn’t/mustn’t do. Most of those things aren’t subject to interpretation. They’re quite clear. So when we read them and know we aren’t doing what we should do and/or that we are doing what we shouldn’t do, shouldn’t we be on our knees, asking God to change us? If we think God is wrong in something (But Lord, everybody’s doing it. It must be okay. Times have changed. This is the 21st Century!), then shouldn’t we ask Him to open our minds and hearts and to reveal His will rather than simply ignoring His commands? Shouldn’t our testimonies be about how God has changed us already? And shouldn’t our testimonies show that those changes keep happening, that we are different this year than we were last year? Is it enough to publicly talk about Jesus but continue living like the devil?
I believe in honesty. I don’t think we should pretend we’re changed when we aren’t. And I sure don’t think we should pretend to be perfect when only a fool would believe that. And yet … should we be enjoying our imperfections?
I’m a messy Christian. No doubt about it. I could make a quick list of the areas in my life where I continue to do the wrong thing (starting with the way I speak sharply to people I love when I’m tired or stressed). But I’m ashamed of my failure to control my tongue as the Bible tells me. I don’t want to stay messy. I don’t want to continue doing those wrong things. I want to be like Jesus.
Change my heart, oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, oh God
May I be like You
You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray
copyright 1982 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing
I don’t believe I’ve begun to make my thoughts make sense. I just know my spirit is grieved and I wanted to say something.
In the grip of His grace,
Update 3/21/2005: See related/continuation post at messy part 2