Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Winning Fight

"Christians are not perfect, just forgiven." I've seen this bumper sticker hundreds of times. If you see it, please rip it off. This is not the message we want to be sending. Christians are not just forgiven. We're forgiven and born to a radically new kind of life! We are much much more than "just forgiven."

What kind of fight is the Christian life? It is a winning fight. A victorious fight. A conquering fight.

God has given us His Spirit, and because His Spirit resides in us, we will see fruit in our lives. We will advance. We will make headway. We will progress. Fruit naturally grows on trees. It is the nature of an apple tree to produce apples. It is the nature of a believer in whom God's Spirit dwells to produce fruit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. Fruit.

Why is it important to remember this? Because one of the greatest obstacles to growth is unbelief in the possibility of growth. We ought to see ourselves as people who will make genuine progress in our lives, so that in five years the sin that I used to battle with everyday is no longer a significant temptation. The addiction I felt is no longer enslaving me. The sinful attitudes I struggled with have been replaced with good fruit. The fight is a winning fight.

So Christians are not sinners who happen to be forgiven. Christians are forgiven, redeemed, Spirit-indwelt, new creation saints who happen to struggle with sin. Let me say that again! We are not sinners who happen to be forgiven. We are saints who happen to sin. Our primary identity--the core of who we are--has been radically changed. We are new creations (2 Cor 5:17)! This perspective on our identity and on the Christian life in general is a main staple of Pauline theology. The Christian life is a fight, to be sure (see my previous post), but it is a winning fight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Christian Life: Flawless or Fight?

The Christian life is not primarily a life of flawlessness--but a fight! A fight not of flesh and blood--but of faith. As Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Phil 3:12; see also 2 Cor 10:3-6; Eph 6:12; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 2:3-4, 4:7). The Christian life is a pressing on.

While I don't always agree with John Piper on doctrinal issues, he is a model of what a pastor ought to look like, and I would do well to imitate him. Below are a couple of powerful quotations from him.

"The mark of a true Christian, and the mark of a church member in good standing, is not perfection, but the persistent fight of faith that recognizes sin as sin, confesses it, and turns from it in new resolves of holiness again and again." From this sermon.

"And this faith will fight anything that get's between it and Christ. The distinguishing mark of saving faith is not perfection. The mark of faith is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight anything that dims my sight of Jesus as my glorious Savior. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme Treasure of my life. Anything that stands between me and receiving Jesus faith fights—not with fists or knives or guns or bombs, but with the truth of Christ." From this sermon.