This could be illustrated by the following diagram. The vertical line in the middle represents the Cross and a saving encounter with Jesus Christ.
pure evil <----human good | new life -----> godliness
This shows how people apart from Christ have the potential for both pure evil and human good. We are sinners, but still made in the image of the living God. However, no one can head toward godliness unless they go by the Cross.
Yet even after receiving new life from Christ, Christians still struggle with sin. We also we have the potential in Christ for a goodness that is beyond our own ability. We are chosen by God that we might be godly people.
Today I’m thinking about the process God uses to get me moving toward the right side of that diagram. Sin is such that I tend to turn a blind eye to my shortcomings. I may do things that are merely “good” or at least look like it, but very often what the world values as good is an abomination in the sight of a holy God (see Luke16:15).
When this happens, God has to get my attention. He does it when my efforts fail. He does it when I read His Word. He also does it with affliction. He allows trials of all sorts so that I might see that I’m trudging along on the wrong side of the diagram and not relying on Him to live the new life He has given me.
The psalmist wrote “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes. . . . It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:67-68, 71).
He knew the drill. Without affliction, my tendency also is to go astray and drift off the course that God has clearly laid out. It isn’t always blindness or ignorance. Sometimes I know the way and just don’t “feel like it” so foolishly do my own thing.
Another thing God uses to get my attention is mood. My boat may seem to be sailing along without any problems, but the fruit of His Spirit is peace and joy. It that is gone, something is not right. While I know that He will never abandon ship (“I will never leave you nor forsake you”), I also know that I can let go of Him and start drifting.
God is patient. He also knows what to do. If I am drifting, He knows how to snag me. He might let me drift into a log jam, or sail me into rapids or even let me be caught up in a whirlpool. In those places, I become painfully aware that I’ve stopped relying on Him as the Captain of my little boat and need to invite Him back to the helm.