If you are a Christian, would you say you are living a life of clear purpose, freedom, joy, and love? The Bible promises spiritual power in Christ Jesus to overcome the stranglehold of self-defeating and selfish behavior in our lives and to transform us into new and better versions of ourselves. Have you experienced it?
Many of us might answer, hesitantly, “Sort of…maybe…I think?”
I heard an excellent illustration the other day, by Tony Evans, to help us understand the difference between a static and powerless Christian life and one that is characterized by growth, power and purpose. It’s like the difference between auditing a class and taking it for credit.
My recent graduate studies reminded me that there is more to learning than listening to a lecture for a couple of hours a week. I have a drawer full of informative, interesting, even brilliant, lecture notes. It’s good stuff and I know where to find it if I need it, but most of it never took up residence in my mental files. Permanent comprehension happened as I connected what I heard from my professors with the information I read in the (multiple) assigned books and then processed it all into a paper or a project. If I had just audited the lectures, I would have learned something, yes, but I absorbed far more by doing the homework.
Please don’t misinterpret the phrase “live for credit” to suggest that we must earn God’s approval or our salvation by spiritual effort. We are saved and declared righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. He loves us and offers salvation by faith alone. Period. However, once accepted into the school of Christian life, we have the opportunity to change, to learn, to be transformed from the inside out. We can receive “credit” in the form of a fulfilled life on this earth in anticipation of eternal life in heaven. In my own life, God is replacing anxiety with peace, fear with faith, self-indulgence with self-control, aimlessness with purpose, and insecurity with confidence. It is a lifetime process, but I have experienced real change.
I suggest that in order to fully experience the power and possibilities of the Christian life, we must do more than attend a church service for an hour on Sunday morning, the equivalent of auditing Christianity. A life of spiritual power and transformation requires the investment of time in God’s Word, in prayer, in service, and other spiritual disciplines. In other words, it demands a little homework.
What do you think? Do you agree that spiritual transformation requires a little homework? I am interested in your thoughts and experiences.
Time spent in the Word is essential to knowing what God is like, what we are truly like, and what our lives would look like, if we allow Him full reign in them. But as you say, if that knowleged isn’t used for something, it’s like your audited class. The funny thing is, for me, I didn’t see the knowledge have an impact, until I relied on it to pursue an intimate relationship with God. For most of my Christian life, I tried to make my life look like what the bible said it should look like. I really wanted to love God, love my neighbor, do good, etc., but found that the want was there, but the ability to do it wasn’t. How do you love someone you can’t see? How do you love the jerky people around you? How do you do good, when you’re busy wanting good for yourself most of the time? Frustrating. Then I realized that I was dealing with a knowable “person.” And I started talking to Him with honesty and humility, telling Him how I couldn’t do anything that He wanted me to do. That’s when He seemed to reply, “Now you’re talking!”
So I guess for me, the real “homework,” is almost a kind of “courting/dating” God. The more we know His real, intimate, loving presence, the more we will trust Him with our lives. His word says that if we love Him, we’ll obey His commands. We tend to look at that and feel like failures. We conclude that we must not love God, because we DON’T keep His commands. I look at it another way now. If I REALLY knew His close to my heart, crazy about me, apple of His eye, sacrificial, non-condemning love, I WOULD love Him. And when I am lost in His love, I am even willing to have my will get lost in His love/will. And then He transforms my surrendered self, giving me what you referred to in your post….gifts like peace, faith, self-control, purpose, confidence. I haven’t strained to get these things, I have been loved into these things, through this dynamic relationship, and the power resource of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God Himself. Still can’t believe it. And still a MAJOR work in progress.
First homework, read the word to know Him, you and what one of His looks like. Next homework, search after Him…knowing Him…and accepting all that He says He is to us. And the application….allow Him to live His life through me. Allow Him to be God in every detail of my life. What a gracious progression set up for us from this gracious God.
This is so great Sue. Can I just copy it into its own post:)? Truly, your emphasis on the heart connection informed by knowledge of who God is and how much he loves us is such an important aspect of our relationship with God. Doing all the right things if not motivated by love is just busywork; an uninformed sentimental love without knowing the One you love is skipping class and hoping your kindly teacher will overlook it. How do we love anyone? We talk to them, get to know them, observe their behavior, see into their hearts, and then (hopefully!) we can love them. It’s no different with God I guess. Thanks for outlining the gracious progression of our gracious God.