Hello again (so soon).
I've been too excited to write this blog entry. So I couldn't wait and am writing it now.
Pray, Live, Tell, Serve, Give.
So yesterday, I wrote about prayer. Prayer is what keeps us in that close personal relationship with God. And as we follow through with what His word tells us, whether through the Bible, prayer, or other legitimate means, faith is produced in us. And as I said in my "Grab the Rope!" entry, faith requires (and should naturally produce) action.
But what is that action? Most people think of "works" as serving opportunities or outreaches, missions trips, generous offering outlays, or standing on the street corner with a big sign. While most of these are beneficial as a form of "works," I don't think that's what that verse (James 2:17) is talking about. Those things would be better placed in the "Serve" category in the Campus Missions credo.
From my studies through the books of Hebrews and I Timothy, those "works" have struck me more as the things we do and decisions we make on a daily basis, not necessarily even in view of other people. They are the things we do that define who we are.
But don't the great works of our faith (service projects and mission trips) define who we are? They define some things about us, and sometimes they make a name for us. But they don't define who we are in the depths of our hearts.
Here's an example. In 2004, Mel Gibson gained much fame for his part in producing and directing "The Passion of the Christ." Many Christians have accepted the movie as a great depiction of the story of Jesus. Mel gained a lot of credit for the significant role he played in making the movie a reality. But not very long afterward, he was arrested for DUII, bringing to light other details about who he was that showed his true lifestyle as different than how a believer ought to live. His gained fame from his part in "The Passion," but it was his subsequent actions that defined who he was.
Now, I'm not here to judge Mel Gibson; that's not my point. My point is that a person is (or should be) known as being a Christian by the decisions they make every day, not the few big successes (or failures).
I was born a Christian. Well, not exactly, but as I was taught how to walk and talk I was taught that I was a Christian. And I believed it. I always believed that God was real, and never doubted anything about God that Mom taught me. When I was in Junior High, I realized I could experience a relationship with God personally, not vicariously through Mom. And after these initial encounters, I dedicated my life to teaching others that they can know God personally, and that this type of relationship is what makes life worth living.
But there were some things about how I acted on a daily basis that were contrary to the person I was supposed to be as a Christian. Now, I'm not saying I was Jekyll and Hyde, perfect church kid at church and evil twisted hypocrite at home. Not at all. I was just like everybody else, dealing with things that always tried to hold me down and keep me from spreading my wings of faith and really flying. And sometimes, I would let those attacks keep me down, and I really would feel like Jekyll and Hyde.
We've all been there. I knew God was allowing me to deal with those things for the purpose of deepening my faith. And these times of varying connection and devotion to Him made me understand what His love, grace, and mercy really mean, better than anybody who doesn't ever get that low.
But when Priority (the High School/College choir at PCC) went up to sing a certain song, I knew God was speaking to me: "If you really want to be called a Christian, you need to live like that."
Listen to the song here.
So all the struggle to be free of these things became so easy, as all I had to tell myself was that I am a Christian, and that is not how a Christian lives. This meant my life glorified God. This meant my life's witness was complete. This meant my Jekyll lost his Hyde. And this meant my life was open for God to use in even greater ways, and I saw the rewards, both in my life and in the lives of those God touched through me.
Now, this is what is meant by the "Live" in the paragraph above. We, as Christians, will never be perfect on this earth. But, it should be our goal to try as hard as we can to get there. That's what Christ wants of us. He didn't just save us and say, "Wait until heaven to live for me." We can live for Him now! That is our witness, what defines who we are. These are the good deeds that speak louder than what our words can say, but that also validate what we claim about our faith. The faith produces these deeds.
But you may say that there is no way in the state you are currently in that you can live like that. This is a lie. The important detail is that God will give you the strength to get out and will provide the healing you need to stay out. He also provides the forgiveness so we can let go of past mistakes, and grace and mercy so that when we do make mistakes we can continue to move forward. God wants you to succeed. That's why He died for you!
So, when you are feeling like the challenge to be the "perfect Christian" seem too daunting, know that God is on your side and reach out for His strength, and remember the words to that song.
"I want to live like that and give it all I have, so that everything I say and do points to You..."