Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Even if I go deaf . . .

“It must get easier to follow Christ as a person gets older.”

My mouth may have dropped open, but if not, my eyebrows went up.

He went on, “The older you get, the more you know how God wants you to live, so it gets easier.”

Of course he is young, at least younger than I am. I said something like, “You think?” when I really wanted to say, “You are not thinking.”

Logically speaking, if a person goes on in their education, the exams never get easier. If a person becomes a mountain climber, they are challenged by higher and higher peaks. Any endeavor builds skills, but there is always that aspect of going higher, working harder. The bar is constantly raised in everything from art to athletics.

Spiritually speaking, measure this idea by the life of Christ. His challenges began in the temple when a lad and questioned by the temple leaders. The challenges accelerated until that last one that unfolded in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, in anticipation of His final ‘exam’ for living in obedience to His heavenly Father, He sweat great drops of blood.

Every day that I determine to live for Jesus, I face temptations that are designed by my spiritual enemy to stop me. As God shows me how to conquer them, I’m hit with something more subtle, more ingenious. The Lord tells me to be careful, to “not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13).

Each hour brings choices that require new instruction from God. if I were making them based on ‘rules’ that I have already learned, I would be violating a huge principle of Christian living. As the next verse says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Law or rules are easy to learn. Mathematicians, scientists, almost every discipline of life requires learning and following the rules. Farmers know the “law of the land,” teachers set norms for the classroom, legislative bodies determine rules for society and law enforcement works to make sure we stick to those rules.

But Christian living is by grace, not rules. Grace is often defined as the mercy of God that forgives sinners who do not deserve forgiveness, but that is not the best definition. As I read the Bible, I can see that grace includes that, but it means far more. My favorite definition comes out of multiple passages: Grace is a personal revelation of Jesus Christ that has a profound affect on me, changing me to be more like Him.

Living by grace means seeing Jesus in a new, fresh way each day. It is a constant, on-going relationship where I seek and God reveals. It is looking at Him, learning more about Him, putting myself in places where God can show Him to me, and seeking Him where life puts me in places that I don’t enjoy and don’t want to be.

I’m not ancient, but I already know why some older people quit growing spiritually. Out of habit, they have learned the ‘rules’ of being a ‘good Christian’ and by the time their bodies start to ache, and they have gotten tired of routines. It becomes tiresome to bath every day and eat properly. It also becomes tiresome to remember and follow all those rules. Their focus turns so easily to the discomfort of aging and that zeal for Jesus begins to weaken.

I know this. It is another one of those temptations that youth know nothing about, one that requires me to “present myself to God as being alive from the dead” every day, even if I feel closer to dead than alive. Sometimes my body shouts at me, and if I listen to it, I will not hear or see Jesus, only my own crabbiness.

No, it does not get easier, but as I get older, fellowship with Jesus becomes closer, sweeter, more precious. The presence of the Lord buffers me from the little things like aching joints, a clock that seems to move faster, and a memory that plays tricks. It’s grace, His grace, that holds me near Him.

Lately, life has hit us with tests far greater than when I first started following Jesus. Then I knew nothing about CLL, heart attacks, demons in the house, an increasing sense of infirmity and aging, not being able to do what I used to do, plus a host of other stuff I cannot write here. These are new exams, and more difficult. Rules don’t work, and I can’t remember them anyway. The only thing that does work is the voice of Jesus whispering into my heart, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

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