Christianity 201

December 22, 2012

What Can I Do Next? versus What Must I Do Next?

Ephesians 2: 8-9

(KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

(AMP) 8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]

(MSG) 8-9   Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

Earlier this week I had a conversation with someone who is moving from passive to active faith. I use that terminology because I don’t believe that his faith was non-existent prior to the past year, but rather, it was probably dormant.

So he asked about things like what is required in terms of tithing, and does he need to be baptized. I tried to give him good answers while at the same time being very aware of the fact he was wanting to do things instead of resting on what Christ has already done.

(Sometimes people coming from a Roman Catholic background wrestle with these things more acutely. I don’t know if that’s the case here. It’s interesting that the Catholic Church refers to certain days in the church calendar as “Days of Obligation.” In a sense this defines “religion;” the idea of obligation overshadowing all else. No wonder many Christians say that Christianity isn’t a religion it’s a relationship.)

Andy Stanley talks about surveys done among people who have been attending North Point Community Church for less than five weeks. Let’s just stop there. Imagine having enough new people constantly streaming through the doors that you can engage a survey company to ask them questions. But that’s a topic for another day.

Of those in that category, a large percentage of them were interested in what they call “discerning next steps.” They wanted to grow. They wanted to serve. They wanted to understand what it means to be a disciple.

But there are sometimes dangers inherent in wanting to do. The story of Mary and Martha is a juxtaposition of two attitudes: spending time with Jesus and doing things for Jesus.

Coincidentally, it is Andy Stanley who has this verse posted in his office from Acts 15:

(NIV) 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

(AMP) 19 Therefore it is my opinion that we should not put obstacles in the way of and annoy and disturb those of the Gentiles who turn to God…

We discussed this verse in detail previously here in February, 2011.

I think there are two different ways we approach the challenge of what it means to follow Christ:

  • We can ask, “What can I do;” and thereby focus on offering our lives as a response to the grace we have received and the love that has been poured out to us. “How can I express my gratitude?” “I want to give something back.”
  • We can ask, “What must I do;” and thereby miss the point. “What is this going to cost me?” “What am I going to have to give up?”  Or even, “I have a few hours free; how long is this going to take?”

As we said in the Feb ’11 post, this journey of following Christ should certainly involve counting the cost. In Luke 9 we read:

(NIV) 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

But I do not believe it should be about the cost.

The person I spoke with definitely should start a program of percentage giving and definitely should consider being baptized. But it should be done joyfully and willingly.

 

 

 

 

February 13, 2011

First Faith Lessons

I want to go in a totally different direction today.  I literally stumbled onto this blog and you gotta love the title: Becoming Me: Living a Life of Surrender — The Triumphs and Struggles of a Young Christian.  Sometimes the fresh take of a young believer can give us a perspective we might otherwise miss.  She calls herself Kicking and Singing (!) and titled this post Lesson 114.

I’m really happy to be back and I’m honored that you take time to read my blog. I don’t even know where to begin… I’ve learned so many lessons…here’s what’s on my heart at the moment:

A good friend told me that studying won’t speed up the process, because it’s all in God’s time. I knew that, but it didn’t stop me from trying! I have dreams, big dreams. My dream is to become the woman God created me to be. I want every gift and power released and manifested in my life and I want the generations that follow to be blessed beyond measure.

That’s fine. The issue is when a pure passion becomes perverted. Perversion occurs every time I try to do it myself. Don’t judge, most of the time, I don’t even realize when I’m stepping into Daddy’s (God’s) boots.

Like a child, I only know that I admire Him and I want to be just like Him when I grow up…that’s why I keep asking him, “When am I going to grow up?” I know I’m making progress and that’s great, but when I read the Bible and see glimpses of who He created me to be, I get excited and say, “I want to be her!..now.” Well, that time hasn’t come, so I tried to transform myself, then God justly disciplined me publicly….I got the message that time.

So prayerfully, I’m going to slow down and stop trying to read 6 books at a time. I’m going to love and accept myself for who I am and where I am right now, flaws and all. Why not? Jesus does.

I’m learning that this journey is not about perfection, it’s about the finished product.  So don’t be so hard on yourself, if we could perfect ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus.  And don’t try to fix yourself, it won’t work.

Let your mind be renewed, cast out pride, seek humility…

Humility=Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation of one’s own true worth and value, ability to transfer glory, ability to control knowledge and power even though you know its yours to exercise. (From: Mrs.Green)

He’s the Master Potter: Be Clay
Thank God: He’s Not Finished With Me Yet

Check out Kicking-and-Singing at Becoming Me