Photo by Rebekah L. Holt, eQuest Photography
Marching Towards the Mark
"The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:56-58
Everyday, we are challenged to respond with Christ like behavior to experiences that come through the Hand of God. Perhaps our "trial" is the everyday "oatmeal of life"—a monotony of moving from Point A to Point B. Perhaps, our "trial" is a Christian vs. Christian disagreement that divides relationships that once held great promise and exciting warmth. Regardless of our definition of "trial", we find that it is the unexpected, upsetting, challenging experiences we encounter that singe our Christian works, stretch ourfaith and expose our weaknesses.
As humans, we like to handle the cut and dry "dos and don'ts" of Christianity with large mallets andbreak off the big, foreboding chunks of the black, rank sins. And yet, we literally cringe, whine, and cry when arriving as pilgrims to the slow, intricate, meticulous, chiseling work of our Christian character. Such fine tune shaping of our hearts, minds, and characters by our Heavenly Father can be a painful process for us.
How can we humbly obtain victory over every imaginable human response to every imaginable human failing without being indifferent, insincere, or haughtily justified in our own conceits or our own "viewpoint" when God alone can weigh the content of our hearts? Indeed, how do we overcome a sinful response in what God wills for us to do or experience?
These are tough questions to consider and certainly, they strike home to many of the obstacles we are experiencing here and now. While the devil may strive to keep us wallowing in our weaknesses, the King of Kings offers us hope and victory if we but abide and live in Him and His word.
All Have Sinned and Fall Short—Press Towards the MARK!
We serve a living Savior who is desirous to enable us to strive beyond the term "Nobody is perfect" and to instead, press towards the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.
The term "Nobody is perfect" is a worldly adage that many Christians use to excuse their need to repent and "sin no more." In Romans 3:23, the Bible gives us truth, instead of adage, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Christ does not encourage us to take on the spirit of excusing ourselves. Instead, He tells us to face the facts and to confess our sins—not shroud them in vague terms or sweep them under the rug—to do something about them. This means, regardless of someone else's sin, we have to face our own in that situation. We stand accountable to Christ for our actions. Jesus Christ says, illuminate, confess, call it what it is and then to "Repent—Go and sin no more" (John 8:10-12). Our forgiving Savior, Jesus Christ promises us that He is faithful and just to forgive us and to help us overcome. He tells us that we are a continual work in Him and that He will bring us into completion (Ephesians 2:9-10; Philippians 1:6). The scriptures constantly declare His mercy and longsuffering (Exodus 34:6-7). Yet, these same scriptures display justice and the requiring of the Christian to take on pressing on towards the mark and not grow comfortable where we should be striving to improve (Philippians 3:13-14; 1 Corinthians 10:12).
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 1 John 1:8-10
The Christian Lives For Others
It is true that as Christians we are to immolate our Heavenly Father—with His enablement. The Scriptures tells Christians to cover offenses with love and be merciful (1 Peter 4:8) and to forgive 7 x 70 (or more) if need be (Matthew 18:22). However, Christians should be encouraged not to fall into the "safety trap" of expecting other Christians to constantly excuse areas of sins in their lives that Christ desires to burn out with His refining fire (Zechariah 13:9; Isaiah 48:10). The Bible tells us to aspire to perfection: "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:4).
"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2:15
A Christian should be inspired to overcome—not only for Christ's sake, (see Colossians 3:23)—but for the good of other people in our lives. Our decisions, our choices, our false steps effect other lives, not just our own. None of us are an island unto ourselves. We leave finger and foot prints on the lives of those we come in contact with—for good or for evil. For such actions, the Lord holds us accountable (Matthew 18:5-7; Revelation 20:12).
The Subtle Sin of "Not Doing"
One sin that is very often "winked at" in Christian circles is the sin of NOT DOING (James 2:18-20). "I knew what I needed to do, but for some reason, I could not do it." When we know that God would have us do something and we refuse to take action because we perceive it to be a "Goliath," such failure is not a mere "Oh well." There are consequences. When Moses, who saw the face of God and actually talked to God, did not follow God's instructions, he was forbidden to enter into the Promised Land despite even repenting of his sin (Exodus 20:12).
"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." James 1:22-26
To not do what God is whispering or even shouting to us—is bluntly—a sin. Our lack of answering God's call not only disappoints our Lord but it causes us unnecessary hardship and it can also negatively affect, if not pierce the hearts of the people that are in our lives (1 Corinthians 8).
Take Action—Fortify The Spirit
If you have any view of the Christian Walk being strewn with rose petals and an perfumed mist—start reading the Bible a little closer in context. The Bible tells us that we are at war (Ephesians 6:11). We are on a journey (Hebrews 11:13). We are to take up THE CROSS of Christ—the instrument of sacrifice (Mark 8:34). He tells us to gird up the loins of our minds (1 Peter 1:13) and to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). He tells us to strive (Luke 13:24), to be on guard, to be vigilant (1 Peter 5:8), to trust Him (Psalm 112), to have faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6)—such repeated encouragement does not denote a "lily pad lifestyle."
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Ephesians 6:10-18
This is not to scare you or me out of our wits. God wants us to be prepared to serve Him in this present age and not to be shattered by reality of the fray. At the same time, God is not unjust to give us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The scriptures are full of the goodness and the promises of the Good Shepherd leading us to pleasant paths, and blessing our lives abundantly (Psalm 16:5-11; Psalm 145). Yet, if we have the world's view or even an off-based, untruthful "Christian" view of what God is doing or accomplishing, we are going to be ill prepared for His service and be taken unawares, off-guard by the temptations of sin (Matthew 25).
"Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12
Victory in Jesus
Our Heavenly Father offers us everything we need to overcome the impulses of sin. He gives the promises to encourage us (Hebrews 6:12), the words to lead us (Psalm 119:105), the circumstances to hone and exercise our spiritual growth (James 1:3-5), the armor to withstand the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18), the help in the midst of battle (Psalm 121), the victory (Romans 8:37), and the enduring crown (1 Peter 5:4)—if we will not grow weary and quit (Galatians 6:8-9). He gives a reason to do it all (1 Peter 1:3-5). I do not know about you, but when I dwell on what God has given me and the attributes of His character I am inspired to press forward that I might please Him, be more useful to Him, and to represent Him as truly a conqueror in Christ Jesus.
If you fail—GET BACKUP and keep moving forward. Do not quit. Do not excuse yourself. Making excuses is a deathly trap and a subtle but dangerous means of resisting God's guidance of your life. Keep repenting. Keep confessing regardless of other's sins. Keep forgiving. Keep living out your Christian walk with more action than words. Stay supple in the hands of the Potter. Stand anchored and strong on the foundation of Jesus Christ. If we are victors then there is something to fight. The battle is the Lord's (1 Samuel 17:47)!
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:6-11