May 27, 2010

To Live is Christ — remembering He is the Savior

Today’s devotional reading asks, “Have you ever wanted to take time off from being obedient to God?”

If this question means giving up godly attitudes and disciplines such as diligence and perseverance, then it happens nearly every day when I am tired or my chores are tedious or even boring. I slack off and put my feet up when I know I should keep going.

If the question is about time off from obeying specific commands such as, “submit to those in authority over you” then I’m guilty every time I drive even one km an hour over the speed limit, or get annoyed because I have to pay taxes or yield at a stoplight.

Yet this question seems to go beyond these times of temptation to a general attitude of just stopping, just deciding not to do anything God asks, more of a total vacation. That happened to me once.

I had been battling a particular sin for a long time. It was a sin of attitude, not action so not very discernable to others. Nevertheless, it was keeping me from growing in Christlikeness, and preventing my life from fruitful service. Although I knew these things and was trying to stop thinking the way I’d been thinking, at the same time I didn’t grasp the real problem — I really didn’t want to give up my bad attitude. Today’s verse may have been in my radar, but I didn’t heed it. I wanted to be holy, but I didn’t want to be holy. 

Behave like obedient children. Don’t let your lives be controlled by your desires, as they used to be. Always live as God’s holy people should, because God is the one who chose you, and he is holy. (1 Peter 1:14–15)
Instead, I decided that my only solution was to stop being a Christian. That notion went totally against my theology. I was convinced then, and still am, that a person who has been born again, regenerated and placed in the family of God, cannot be ‘unborn’ and walk away. Christ lives in me. I cannot shove Him out.

However, at that time, I wanted to quit. Being a Christian was too difficult. This battle had worn me out. I was fed up. There seemed no answers and no way out except to cease. I remember feeling very black and very much in darkness, still not realizing the reasons why I could not win this battle, but I made my decision.

That same day, I walked past a bookcase and one of my books was lying on top. I picked it up to put it away, but paused and flipped it open. My eyes fell on a verse of Scripture and with that verse, I felt like God smacked me on the side of the head and turned me around. It said,

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
I suppose that God could have used any verse, but this one offered me two truths that I needed to hear. One was that all the times I had defiled my own conscience with this bad attitude did not mean I was hopelessly ruined. The blood of Christ cleanses sin, large and small, many or few. Compared to the fact that His blood covers the sin of the world, the sin of all time, what is my sin? It is nothing for Him to forgive and cleanse, nothing at all in His sight. I felt ashamed and humbled.

The second truth was that my battle was wheel-spinning, a waste of time and effort for nothing more than a dead work. This attitude that I could not let go of had no eternal value. It was worthless to God and worthless to me, a dead work, the product of my old, sinful nature. It was useless and fit for fire. Why hang on to something so foolishly vain and empty?

In that hour when I had decided I could not be Christian any longer, God grabbed hold of me and gave me victory. He showed me the folly of my sin, the futility of my “I wants” and then showed me once again that I am not my own Savior — He is. I cannot defeat sin and the sooner I admit it, the better.

I learned so much that day. For one thing, God showed me that my admission of helplessness does not have to be so drastic. I don’t need to give up and quit walking with Him; I just need to give up and quit trying to save myself.

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