“I wasn’t allowed to go to the fair,” he told me, “because I had become a Christian. My mother said, ‘Christians don’t go to the fair.’ But since my brother Bill was not a Christian, he was allowed to go.”
This was Jim’s explanation — after I’d shared my faith with him — of his apathy toward anything faith-related. This was the taste in his mouth about Jesus. Somewhere along the way (youth group, pastor, friend) he heard this astounding offer of a Jesus who would not only save him from his sin but also restore the broken pieces, soar his heart to new heights. But once he said “Yes!” he was handed a yardstick — which completely undermined the work God was doing in his life.
So let me get this straight. When you’re not a Christian, you can do whatever the heck you want. But once you’re Christian, you’re caged. Stuck. Because you might embarrass God.
A tragic story.
In truth, it should be the other way around. Christians should be the freest of all. Rules are for those who don’t have Christ. If the son of God makes you free, you are free indeed. It is for freedom that Christ is set you free. You shall know the truth, Jesus, and the truth, Jesus, will set you free free free.
How about something more like this: “Sure, Jim, you can go to the fair. Why not? Have fun!! You have the Spirit of the living God in you. But Bill? I don’t know. You don’t have Jesus in your life — who knows what will happen?? You’d better stay home.” Of course we wouldn’t say that either — accepting Christ in not a bargaining chip. But if it were, it should bargain in favor of the one whose life is in Christ!
Jesus comes in and makes your life new. Then He begins to work, from the inside out, so that the outside aligns more and more closely to the inside He has already transformed. It always works that way. The old outside — those sin habits you developed to help you cope with the broken inside — will begin to no longer suit you.
If you begin a health cleanse, the detox will begin on the inside and flush the toxins out to the surface. If your skin breaks out, don’t take it as evidence that the cleanse doesn’t work but that it does! You just have to give it time. If we put on some kind of ointment to clear up the breakout, we actually hinder the process.
Why do we have it backwards? Why don’t we rest in what God is doing? I suspect we are a little afraid either of turning people away from God by our mistakes — or even turning God away from us. If we let that in, it’s pretty hard to bear.
But that is completely the wrong focus. It completely underestimates God. As CS Lewis said, you don’t have to defend a lion. Just let the lion go and he will defend himself. We forget that God can defend His own image.
He is doing so much more than we realize, even apart from us. What He’s really asked from us is to love Him and love others. He’ll pretty much do the rest.
Click here to link to a phenomenal teaching about how to focus on the relationship instead of the rules (starting at about 8 minutes on, especially). Phe. Nomenal.
We can rest. Enjoy our freedom in Christ. And know that He has our process right in His hands.