Let me give you some introspective.
Most people know me as a cynical, sarcastic, over-critical know-it-all. That’s all I let them see of me. It’s kind of an act. I’m really careful about who I let actually get to know me. In fact, I’m willing to bet I can count on my hands the number of people who know and have seen that I’m really just playing those small parts of my personality up around other people. I bet I can count on my hands the number of people who know me for who I really am: a clumsy, insecure, overly sensitive little man who has trouble reading what people’s feelings are/could potentially be because he’s overly practical.
But I’m passionate. And above all else, I’m passionate about seeing ministry and life done according to Scripture. When I see ministry happen in a way that, from what I’ve read, doesn’t go according to the scriptures, it angers me inside. And I sit and fume on it for a few days, and often when I’m fuming on it, I let a couple of close friends know what’s on my mind because I have to let it out. And then when I’ve let it sink in, and I’ve done some research to make sure my thoughts on the matter were valid (usually, though sometimes I’ve admittedly skipped some of these steps with disastrous results), I explain the situation on my blog, in the voice that I use publicly, with a biblical take-home message in the hopes that someone else, anyone else, won’t make the same mistake for having read it.
But for just a moment, I’d like to mellow out and say something as the real me, because it’s so important to me, that I want to make absolutely sure that my usual veil of cynicism and sarcasm won’t obscure what I’m about to say in any way.
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Ephesians 4:7-16 ESV
“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:15-23 ESV
““Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:34-39 ESV
Do you understand the connection between these passages? They’re all about us, Christians, taking up our cross, following Jesus, and turning away from sin to make ourselves more like Him. The Ephesians passage mentions that the job of teachers in the church is to help Christians achieve this.
God loves us for who we are. It’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot lately. And there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s designed to encourage you and uplift you as a son or daughter of God, and nothing’s wrong with that, either. Being encouraged is an important part of our spiritual life.
God loves us, and He wants us to come as we are into His presence. But we have to realize that He wants “who we are” to change. It’s not just about salvation, it’s growing into Christ.
Why, then, do many of us open up our Bibles every morning looking only to be encouraged? Why do we only search for devotionals that will make us feel good? Why do we walk into a sermon on Sunday hoping only for reassurance in our Christian faith?
It’s because of this that I walk into church many Sunday’s and leave feeling like I haven’t learned anything. And I see pictures posted with Bible verses by themselves that I’ve seen a million times and don’t see the point of them being there. I’m so surrounded by things trying to encourage me that I’ve worked my whole blog around changing your life to be more like Christ.
Again, being encouraged is perfectly fine, and it’s a part of the Christian faith. But we have to take the Word as it comes to us, not as we want to see it. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. But unless we let the truth of God’s Word reach in and convict us and change the way we do things, we’re not growing any closer to the likeness of Christ. We’re not dying to ourselves every day. We’re living being satisfied with salvation, when there’s so much more for us in this life. Just something to think about.