I remember well the morning I was born again. Although that was more than 36 years ago, I remember the joy and the tears as if it had happened this morning. And in my joy and my naivety, I thought life as a Christian would pretty much be a cakewalk after that. Uh … no. Just a little more reading of the Bible showed me how mistaken that thought was.
Salvation happened in the instant I truly accepted Christ’s sacrifice for my sins, but sanctification will take the rest of my life. It is a process, a maturing process, one that is meant to make me more like Jesus, and a whole lot of that process takes place in the refining fires where the heat is so intense it can melt gold. Much hotter than what is needed to burn away stubble (of which I have had plenty and certainly still have some). Sometimes, I get so frustrated with myself, that I am not further along the path of faith, that I haven’t reached the point where I always react to life’s ups and downs in a purely Christlike manner.
I’ve been pondering my frustration lately. I’ve been pondering my spiritual discipline failures. And then in the daily devotions prepared by one of my pastors for the two weeks leading up to Easter, I read this passage from the Apostle Paul:
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? (Romans 7:17–24, The Message)
Oh, my! Oh, me! I know the passage, of course, but reading this paraphrase brought it to life in a new way. And then this one:
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19–20, The Message)
“I am no longer driven to impress God.” Hmm. Is that why I’m frustrated? Because I am trying to impress Him rather than simply allowing Christ to live in me? I’m not sure. Maybe. Or maybe it is a good thing to sometimes be frustrated with where I am in my faith walk because it causes me to ponder and consider and meditate, because it causes me to look to Him for answers, because I can take a moment to look back (to where I was) and then forward. I can learn, because of my contemplation, to rest in Him again.
It’s true. I may not be where I want to be. I haven’t “arrived” and won’t until I graduate from this life into my forever home. But I am not where I used to be either. Thank God.