Holy and Pleasing to God
19th April 2019
I often find myself discouraged that I'm not a better Christian, that I'm not more like Jesus, than I am. I ask myself why I haven't grown more spiritual, more holy, or just nicer, than I have. As is often said, I'm not what I was and I'm not what I will be. I'm a work in progress. But when I was born again, forty-six years ago, I thought I would have got further than this by now. And I suspect most Christians feel the same. Dear reader, I hope you share with me a deep desire to be Christlike.
We have this encouragement:
1 John 3v2
One day, we will get there. One day our character will be like Jesus's character. But there's a lot of improving to do first.
Once, I was praying on my own in a nature reserve, and I got a bit down. I sat on a bench in the middle of a beautiful part of God's creation, and said "Lord, after all this time, I'm not a very good man. I'm not a very good father, not a very good husband, not a very good son, not a very good pastor, not a very good Christian". And the Lord answered me. I heard him speak as clear as a bell. He said "I love you anyway". It wasn't the answer I wanted. I wanted Him to say "Oh, Phil, you're fantastic. You're wonderful. Look how well you're doing", but instead it was just "Phil, I love you anyway".
This is the truth. If you're a Christian, even if you've only made a few faltering steps forward, God loves you anyway. But I want to grow faster than I have so far. I want to make more progress than this. Now in my mid-sixties, I know I've got only got so many years left to make a difference on this earth. I want to make more difference than I do. I want to be kinder, gentler and more godly than I am.
I'm not the only one, am I? Do you, too, accept that what God has done in you is good, but wish God had done more? I'm convinced that if we'd co-operated fully with God in the process we call "sanctification" He would have changed us more.
It's we who put the brakes on the work of sanctification, not Him.
Paul calls us to make the life-changing and life-long decision to live entirely for God, to "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" and he describes this decision, which we make every day, as "your spiritual act of worship".
The Greek word translated as "spiritual" here is logicon, from which we get the English word logical. It's translated differently in different translations, because it's one of those Greek words that has more than one meaning. It can legitimately be translated "spiritual", and for us to lay down our very being for Jesus certainly is a spiritual act of worship. But a better reading, probably, is "This is your reasonable act of worship" or "This is your logical act of worship". It's only reasonable that in response to God's mercy, I should to sacrifice everything I have for Him. It's only fair.
Since Christ gave everything for us, it's only reasonable for us to give everything for Him. Since his deepest desire for us is that we become like Jesus, it's only reasonable that we try to be like Jesus, who became like us, and died for us.
We have a choice, don't we? Even if we've been born again, we can be what some might call a nominal Christian. We can be genuinely saved through faith in the redeeming blood of Christ, and we can say "Thank you, God, this is wonderful. My sins are forgiven. I've received the Holy Spirit. I've got the Bible. I can be part of a church. I have all the benefits of the kingdom of God, but I don't really feel like doing much or sacrificing much for you". And there a lot of Christians like that.
But I want to say - and I hope you'd say the same - a lot of me doesn't want to be that kind of Christian. I want to be a sold out for Jesus kind of Christian. I'm not completely like that. It's only reasonable, it's only logical, for me to lay down my body on the altar of God as a living sacrifice, but I don't. Not completely, anyway.
And I think the next verse is the key to why we don't live more godly, effective, fruitful, loving lives than we do. It says:
If we took that idea more seriously, we would live wonderful Christian lives. And we'll think about that idea next time.