Have you ever read one of those “Christian living” books that make you put it down feeling completely inadequate, hopeless, and more confused than you were before? Over the last year or so I have been through a few of them. They are almost always challenging and sometimes really insightful, but I often walk away frustrated and maybe even a little mad at the author.
In turn, I start looking for excuses that allow me to disregard content of the book rather than transform the content of my life. I will needle through the book and find something rather trivial with the author and take issue with it hoping that I can excuse away the overall message and conviction that is being presented. For example, many of these books generally have a passage of scripture or two that are really stretched to make a point. So, I surmise that I can write off the entire message of the book because the author stretched a passage of scripture. Or, the author and I disagree on some doctrinal or theological issue that may not even have anything to do with the book I’m reading. So, the entirety of his or her argument can’t really be valid.
The excuses and critiquing can go on and on. But, here’s the real question: Why do I tend to find excuses to give myself a pass rather than implementing the challenges from the messages in my life? At the heart of it….I guess I really don’t want to admit the weakness that I have within my faith when they are presented to me or to do anything about it when those weaknesses are made apparent.
· I don’t want to explore the nagging that hits me on occasion about entering a foreign mission field.
· I don’t want to give up some of the things I really enjoy in order to save money and have more to give to others in need, church, and other organizations.
· I don’t want to teach certain things in class, even if I have conviction about them, because of what others might think about me.
· I don’t want to give up any more of my free time or money to serve the homeless or nurture those who are in desperate need of compassion and love.
· I don’t want to give up certain “pet sins” that creep in and out of my life.
· I don’t want to make more space for the Spirit to work in ways that I don’t understand.
· I don’t want to…
Wait. Wow. All those statements really had a lot in common. My personal desire is right at the heart of each of them. It takes a lot of selflessness to change my desires. It’s takes total submission of every part of my life to really live out what God calls me to. It definitely sounds easier for me to dismiss an author about a theological difference or misused scripture than have to hand these things over to God.
So, problem solved. The authors of those books must be off their rockers and I don’t have to pay attention to any conviction that may have hit me during my reading. Shew! What a relief! I’m off to watch TV. It usually doesn’t make me think too much.
But, here’s the problem. The concept of being transformed and led by the Spirit isn’t some *Radical idea created by contemporary authors about showing *Crazy Love in order to prove that I am *Not a Fan, but part of an *Irresistible Revolution. Being transformed and sacrificial is something Jesus taught when people came to follow Him. Peter showed us the ups and down of learning to live completely dedicated to God. It’s a profession of dedicated faith that Paul was inspired to write about to the early church as they navigated a culture that they boldly faced with an alternative approach to life and hope for eternity. In Romans 8 he writes about the battle between us (flesh) and God (Spirit) and the call to give my life, every part of it, over to Jesus. Later in chapter 12 he continues the push for submission. He uses words about becoming living sacrifices for God by giving over our lives and minds to be transformed into Christ-like disciples, even when that requires yielding my own desires and forces me to change my actions.
You know, I’ll never reach perfection. And, I don’t have to. Jesus provided the grace to cover my failures. Paul wrote about that in Romans as well (Chapter 3). But he didn’t stop there. He went on to talk about what it meant to receive that gift and live it out. So, I guess what I hope for today is that I look just a little bit more like Christ than yesterday by handing everything over to him as I live through His grace….whether I ever pick up another “Christian living” book again or not.
*All are good books that I recommend you read for a challenge to your faith.