How many of us want a vibrant or even radical Christian life?
I know I do! It’s totally biblical to desire the abundant Christian life. In an upcoming post, I’ll share some simple, yet beautiful truths from the book of John on this very subject, but first I want to cover a few mistakes we can make in our zeal for Christ.
Let’s begin with some important questions:
- 1. ”What are my goals?” and ”Who will I follow to get there?” Really. There are Pied Pipers out there, many with good intentions.
- 2. Avoid deception, be it another’s or your own. What areas might I have blinders on, and where are my blind spots?
- 3. Could I be externally obedient and inwardly lukewarm? Ouch!
- 4. In your quest for the Christian life, are you developing pride? Does “pharisee” come to mind?
You may be a first-generation Christian, or were raised by nominal or casual believers, yet you yearn for a more serious faith. My prayer is that this post might keep you from distracted from your goal. If you missed the first post in this series, you can click here.
1. Forbidden Fruit
It is so easy to get infatuated with wanting a “better”, more “real” Christian life. But in our effort to escape the world or the mediocre existence we grew up in, we grasp for “new life.” We want it riper and better tasting, or so we think. The only problem is that we often reach for forbidden fruit! And in our quest for something profound, we end up getting wax fruit. (For any of you who know the Muppet Christmas Carol classic where Rizzo takes a bite of wax fruit, you get the picture! Ahem…I digress!)
Wax fruit comes in many forms:
- High standards that can lead to pride.
- Head knowledge which easily covers hypocrisy.
- Obeying rules can often lead to confusion.
- Depending on our own strength only ends in discouragement.
But God has a better plan!
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26
2. Deception 101
The enemy uses deception to undermine our desire to know God better and to understand life as a Christian. He might offer us a confusing multitude of counselors, unclear teachers, friends who are pharisees in disguise, and even false prophets to sidetrack us into thinking we’ve arrived, but sadly, it’s a dead end road.
You might say, “But the teaching is good,” “The church is one of a major denomination,” “The families who are in this program are top notch.” But where is God? Is He center stage? Does all the instruction or counsel revolve around God, His Truth, and knowing Jesus? Or does it only appear to be founded on God, yet beneath the surface it’s cornerstones are methods, steps, principles, and works?
I have no idea where others are in their walk with God, but I do know what I’ve seen and how I’ve been influenced. After being a Christian for 25 years, I see many areas I need to re-evaluate to be sure they are grounded on the Word of God, His direction, and Christ’s teaching.
“I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? John 5:43-44
3. External Obedience or Surrender?
People fall in private, long before they fall in public. J. C. Ryle
With the recent news and discussions about the figure-heads of Christian ministries falling into sin, I’ve had much to ponder these days. A few of these ministries influenced our family early in our Christian walk. We agreed with much of what we heard and it affected how we lived our life as a family. And truly, most has been for our good and the good of our children, but….can I be bold enough to admit that we can be led astray? Either by our own gullibility or by unclear teaching?
Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them, nor do they seek the LORD of hosts. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; and those who are guided by them are brought in confusion. Isaiah 9:13, 16
In the last few years, God has graciously opened my eyes to just how much these underlying ideas have stunted my complete trust in Jesus as Savior. Our family is contemplating how our habits and goals for living and raising our family have been formed by other’s ideas and views on “success” and eternity – rather than God’s.
We were very involved in ATI (Advanced Training Institute) for years. We even served in one of their affiliate ministries for two years. We learned many wonderful skills for raising godly children and for coping with the world around us. But, being new Christians when we joined this group, it was easy to confuse external obedience with complete trust and surrender to God. It was way too easy for me, a rule-follower-to-the-max, to get confused between the rules of God and the rules of a program.
God used my love for studying His word and my stubborn personality to protect us. (Proof that He can use even a negative for good!) When we heard a new idea for how to do this or that, we studied and discussed before we adopted it. I love the Berean verse! This often kept us in balance and for that I am grateful. But, it was so easy to start thinking with my head rather than my heart or spirit. Now, this is my issue and I’m not saying that others in this ministry have done the same. But I know there are families, like ours, who could use new perspective.
4. Pride Can Be Painful!
Satan loves to ‘get’ us, and one way I know for sure he ‘got’ me, was in the form of pride. Oh, I could tell of some embarrassing examples of my arrogance! But I’ll share one I can picture as if it was yesterday….
I remember a time, years ago, when we had “achieved” the look of a conservative, well-bred family with lots of children. My sister, who was not a believer, was getting married. And all my unbelieving family was there. They were trying to have a good time, but we just couldn’t partake. We couldn’t have fun. What if the music was ungodly? What if their children said something unacceptable? What if they asked us to have a glass of wine? To avoid the risks, we just stayed on the sidelines and looked and felt totally prideful and out-of-place. And everyone knew it! What a fine example of Christ’s redeeming power, we were. But really, what a sad display of His love. I am sickened by that memory.
I have many more, but I won’t tempt you to compare war stories or successes. You wouldn’t want to end up in the same boat, now would you?!
- How do we work out our salvation?
- And what is fear and trembling, anyway?
- How do we avoid thinking that works somehow save us, or keep us saved?
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 1 Cor. 4:5-7