Well, today is my birthday, and as is typical on birthdays, I am another year older. I’m 31. And, really, I’m ok with 31. I have the most amazing husband. I have the most amazing children. And as I think on my life, I really love the station that I am in. Wouldn’t change a thing about it…except for maybe my 2 year old jumping on the big boy potty training wagon a little easier!!! (But, he’ll get it! No pressure!)
But this morning in my quiet time, I was asking God that I would live my life with greater passion for Him in my 31st year, that my choices and desires would be a pure reflection of my love for Him. I want to see things the way He sees things. And I want to love the way He loves. And I want to say what He says. I just want to be all that He has created me to be, living life in Him to the fullest!
And then I was sort of struck with a strange idea: what if all Christians lived like that? What if all of us (believers, that is) loved Jesus passionately…completely abandoning the love of self, money, status, [insert a jillion other options]…what if?
And then it hits me…the question should not be “what if,” it ought to be “why isn’t it?” Why isn’t this true of believers? Why is it that I get so distracted by things all around me…mundane things…that I fail to live like He has called me to live. I don’t mean that I’m out doing huge, wild, crazy sinful things (I’m just trying to do the laundry), but the horrid news flash to my heart is that “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). How many things each day do I do that are of Jane, not of faith in Him? My reality is way too many.
The truth is, I’ve been saved long enough that I can produce lots of shiny, lovely, godly looking choices. I can choose things that would never allow you to see that, at times, the only change happening is external change, not internal. I can change my behavior, and I can fool you…easily. I can volunteer for things at church, I can make food for someone in need, I can buy groceries for the food pantry, I can write a note to a friend, I can tell you that I’ll pray for you, I can toss out well-known and often misused Scripture, I can even share Christian blogs on Facebook. But none of that means anything. A lost person could do all of that stuff. But somehow in America, all of those holy duties are the very things we’re expecting our fellow believers to do! Those are the things “good Christians” will do.
But the real key here is not behavior modification. It’s heart modification. That is always the answer. The Christian life isn’t about doing one thing and not doing another. The Christian life is meant to be all about being. It’s about what you are. Yes, there is a turn from sin (i.e. behavior), but that turn originates in the heart. When we get saved, it’s not that our behavior changes…I mean, it will and does, but only as a result of our having been changed into something new. We, at salvation, become an entirely new creature…the old passes away and the new comes (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus replaces the dead heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh that His law is written on (Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 31:33)! Hence, the change in our state of being dead to a state of being alive in Him produces godly behavior, but it’s not the other way around.
So often, I see blog posts shared on Facebook that talk purely about behavior change as if that’s going to make people truly whole and better and right and pure and holy and like Jesus. However, things like not watching Downton Abbey, or not ever having a drop of alcohol, or refraining from ever entering a Starbucks again are not the solution for Christians seeking to live more like Jesus. Walking by faith isn’t about avoiding sinners; it’s about being light in the darkness. And any faithful behavior we “do,” is to immediately draw attention to Christ, not us.
When our hearts’ eyes are truly fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2), He allows us to see our own sinful selves and our own inability to pull off the Christian life. And, the best part, is that He shows us all of His ability and sufficiency. He is enough. I’m not. The rest of that verse about fixing our eyes on Jesus, mentions that He is the Author and Perfector of our faith. He begins it all in us, and then He’s the One Who sees it through. God is big enough and capable enough to handle all the behavior modification necessary in me and you and everybody else in the world. God doesn’t need me to blog or share blogs. He doesn’t need me to help Him point out sin in every Facebook member. Folks, people are vulnerable enough to read every single “Christian” post shared and then to try to pull off some major changes in their life. And that’s not how either conviction or sanctification work. God doesn’t need me or my help or my good intentions at all. But He chose me to love Him. And He loves me. I don’t deserve it even a little. The only good I produce ever on my own is filthy rags…it’s all got to be about faith in Him. The world doesn’t need more rules. The world needs to know it can’t keep any rules ever. And the biggest shocker of all: the world doesn’t need to know more about Jesus. The world needs to know Jesus. We have to stop screaming rules at everybody, and just lift up Jesus. He’s it, y’all. He has to be the love of our lives, so people can see HIM in us.
Before you get mad and rake me over the coals about people’s blogs or Christian service, let me say a couple of things. One, I know I’m writing a blog, and I am not always opposed to them. Here’s why: I’m all for believers equipping other believers to live in a way that most glorifies God. I’m all for accountability. I’m all for encouragement of the saints. But, I am completely against Christians trying to take on the role of the Holy Spirit in each other’s lives. That’s not our job. The Holy Spirit does His job well and successfully. Also, to make massive statements like “don’t watch a certain tv show” and trying to make it applicable to all Christians is out of line, I believe. Again, the Holy Spirit is great at convicting each believer specifically. What may be sin to one is not necessarily sin to another, and it’s His place to lay all that out, not ours. (The exception here is if it is something specifically mentioned in Scripture…say drunkenness or adultery or something like that. There is a time, a place, a way for sin to be confronted in a brother, and it isn’t Facebook. God’s Word lays out how to approach a brother in sin. See Matt. 18:15-17.) And two, I am in no way trying to say that Christians don’t have things to do…we do!!! Scripture is very clear about lots of things for believers to act out. God has specific works that He has planned for each of His children to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” So, let’s get busy with that stuff for sure!!!!
So, what’s my point? Love Jesus. Live to love Him more. And when you love Him more, you’re gonna keep His commandments, not out of compulsion or guilt, but out of love, out of a complete life-changing heart transplant. Faith without works really is dead (see James 2:17). But works without faith is just busy-ness.