never going to stop trying

Friday, May 30, 2008

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 NIV

I love old books.

The dusty old book I picked up this week is entitled “What is a Christian” by A. Leonard Griffith, copyright 1962.

“First and foremost, Christianity is a relationship to a Person. In that sense it differs from great world religions like Judaism and Hinduism and it differs from Communism and other rival secular faiths that compete for men’s allegiance today. All these direct our loyalty to a theological system, a code of ethics, a philosophy or an ideology, but Christianity alone directs our loyalty to a Person. Where Christ is, there is Christianity, and the Christian is a person who tries to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

We say “tries” because no one succeeds perfectly. How very wrong to assume that either you must be a first-class Christian or else you have no right to call yourself a Christian at all. We should never adopt that attitude toward other things. We do not deny ourselves the privilege of education simply because we are not first-class scholars, or the pleasure of singing because we are not of concert calibre, or the enjoyment of knocking a golf ball because we lack professional skill.

The real zest in life lies not in achievement but in effort, not in having arrived, but in striving.”
What a humble reminder. Being a Christian comes down to ONE thing. A relationship to a Person (with a capital “P”). It is this Person I fail when I sin, not myself. When I become disappointed or frustrated about not meeting my own expectations, I need to remember who it is I am really disappointing. If my goals are in line with God’s will, if my striving is to glorify God, whose “expectations” have I really failed when I sin?

I can't be a "first-class" Christian. What is that anyway?

I'm going to try to follow Christ. In this “striving” Mr. Griffith talks about, I have been able to see the sin in self-condemnation.

I will sin. Any minute now. I don’t know how, but I will. I’m human. And I don’t want to waste one minute berating myself. It’s as if Jesus is standing there, waiting on me, with scars on his hands and feet, asking me to come and I respond by saying, “I’ll be there in a minute. I’m not finished punishing myself yet.”

If Jesus was actually physically standing there, I wonder if he would roll his eyes and say,
“You just don’t get it, do you? Come here. RIGHT NOW. Sit down. Let me explain Grace one more time.”
Instead of wasting time and devaluing Grace by berating myself, I need to sincerely repent, ask forgiveness and try again. I need - and want - to start striving again as soon as possible. Self-condemnation prevents me from doing that. Self-condemnation delays my striving.

I can’t be perfect. It’s just not possible. But I’m not going to let that stop me from “trying” to follow Christ. If I wander off the road, the Holy Spirit is my GPS. I will find the "right" road again. But I refuse to stand there, in the middle of the "wrong" road, whining about the fact that I got lost.


By no preachment can we really satisfy that earnest inquirer who asked, "What is a Christian?" But I wonder if we could point him to someone we know, someone who has responded to the Master's call and who so tries to follow Jesus that of him it might be said, "There goes a Christian." A. Leonard Griffith

(Debbie's comment caused me to rethink my wording - and prompted me to do a little research. Found an interesting video on youtube. A preacher talks about the idea of "disappointing God" being a lie.)

Posted by Julie Stiles Mills at 5/30/2008 07:35:00 PM  


Funny video! Not sure I agree with you when you say that it is God we disappoint when we sin. I guess I feel that God is bigger than that, not constrained to or definied by such human emotions. I don't know what God expected of this creation, but I don't know that he is or would be disappointed.

Being the omniscient creator, God knew we would "be human" and fall short, yet he gave us the gift of free will anyway - and Jesus to give us a "way back" as it were.

And you are right that we can never live up to the standard Jesus set. But I don't think Jesus was sent as a way for God to say, "Nah Nah! Here's what you COULD BE if you humans weren't so dumb!" but rather to show us the possibilities and glories that lie in all-encompassing love - and to give us a glimpse of the heaven on earth we create when we make the choice to love.

Debbie said...
Saturday, May 31, 2008 6:38:00 AM  

Debbie - You are exactly right. If I consider the definition of "disappointment" to be "a feeling of dissatisfaction that results when my expectations are not realized" and I understand that God has always known what choices I would make. The word "disappointment" doesn't at all describe what I'm trying to say.

I guess what I mean is that "it's bigger than me." Sometimes when I sin, if I'm not careful, my vision becomes "myopic." Now this word I looked up: myopia - Lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning. As I continue to spend time studying God's Word and in prayer, I see that one sin is but a grain of sand. If I spend too much time working that one grain of sand, I am so NOT going to end up with a pearl. Not sure if my "sand" analogy exactly fits, but . . .

Found an interesting youtube video on "the lie of disappointing God." I've added it at the end of the post.

THANKS for your comment!

The video is just for fun. I have no problem being called a Christian.

Anonymous said...
Saturday, May 31, 2008 12:20:00 PM  

Very thought provoking regarding the word choice and S. McVey video. As I mull this some thoughts spring forth.

First, while God may not be disappointed when we sin, I believe Scripture clearly teaches that He is displeased. Believers are specifically warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit. (Eph 4:30)

A morning devotion that we use for our family addressed this the other day. The author wrote, "The expression is not to be taken properly and literally, as if the Holy Spirit of God was capable of vexation or sorrow. The divine nature is not subject to human passions."

I had to mull this as well and realize that more often than not I do "make small" the nature of God in magnification of His human nature. Relating to Him as a friend closer than a brother does not mean stripping Him of His divinity.

Secondly, the emotional aspect related to disappointment certainly makes it a suspect thing, quite a willing party to the practice of self-condemnation. To move from there to true and obedient striving, to making our calling and election sure, is certainly dependent upon the placing of faith in Christ alone to do ALL that God has required of us to do.

Sorry if this was too long. My thanks for a thought provoking post.

Lisa Hellier said...
Saturday, May 31, 2008 2:13:00 PM  

It's me again. Here's the verse that speaks it:

Philippians 3:12-14
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Lisa Hellier said...
Saturday, May 31, 2008 2:17:00 PM  

Great thoughts to ponder. The 1st video is funny. And interestingly, our pastor has been using the term Christ-follower a lot just because people have such misguided ideas about what a Christian is (i.e., a Christian is someone who isn't a Jew, Muslim, etc.).

Saturday, May 31, 2008 8:15:00 PM  

Elle - your feedback - like Debbie's today - always makes me "mull."

It seems I stopped quoting Mr. Griffith two spaces and a period too soon. Here's what immediately follows the quote above (same paragraph even):

"The Apostle Paul confessed miserable failure in the Christian life. Quite frankly he wrote the Philippians, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have succeeded . . ." "But," he added, " I press on . . . " That's what it means to be a Christian - not that we should follow Christ perfectly, but that we should follow him at all. It is by virtue of our relationship to Christ that we can call ourselves Christians, and from the very beginning that relationship has meant at least five things. . ."

Then Mrs. Griffith goes on to discuss these five things.

So Elle, you and Mr. Griffith were led to the same verse.

Linda - I wish the word "Christian" didn't mean so many different things to so many different people. It will be interesting to see if the term "Christ Follower" sticks around.

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Abby said...
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