Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in sinful man,in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 NIV
I love old books.
The dusty old book I picked up this week is entitled “What is a Christian” by A. Leonard Griffith, copyright 1962.
“First and foremost, Christianity is a relationship to a Person. In that sense it differs from great world religions like Judaism and Hinduism and it differs from Communism and other rival secular faiths that compete for men’s allegiance today. All these direct our loyalty to a theological system, a code of ethics, a philosophy or an ideology, but Christianity alone directs our loyalty to a Person. Where Christ is, there is Christianity, and the Christian is a person who tries to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
We say “tries” because no one succeeds perfectly. How very wrong to assume that either you must be a first-class Christian or else you have no right to call yourself a Christian at all. We should never adopt that attitude toward other things. We do not deny ourselves the privilege of education simply because we are not first-class scholars, or the pleasure of singing because we are not of concert calibre, or the enjoyment of knocking a golf ball because we lack professional skill.
The real zest in life lies not in achievement but in effort, not in having arrived, but in striving.”
What a humbling reminder. Being a Christian comes down to ONE thing. A relationship to a Person (with a capital “P”). It is this Person I fail when I sin, not myself. When I become disappointed or frustrated about not meeting my own expectations, I need to remember who it is I am really disappointing. If my goals are in line with God’s will, if my striving is to glorify God, whose “expectations” have I really failed when I sin?
I can’t be a “first-class” Christian. What is that anyway?
I’m going to try to follow Christ. And in this “striving” Mr. Griffith talks about, I have been able to see the sin in self-condemnation.
I will sin. Any minute now. I don’t know how, but I will. I’m human. And I don’t want to waste one minute berating myself. It’s as if Jesus is standing there, waiting on me, with scars on his hands and feet, asking me to come and I respond by saying:
“I’ll be there in a minute. I’m not finished punishing myself yet.”
If Jesus was actually physically standing there, I wonder if he would roll his eyes and say:
“You just don’t get it, do you? Come here. RIGHT NOW. Sit down. Let me explain Grace one more time.”
Instead of wasting time and devaluing Grace by berating myself, I need to sincerely repent, ask forgiveness and try again. I need – and want – to start striving again as soon as possible. Self-condemnation prevents me from doing that. Self-condemnation delays my striving.
I can’t be perfect. It’s just not possible. But I’m not going to let that stop me from trying to follow Christ. If I wander off the road, the Holy Spirit is my GPS. I will find the “right” road again. But I refuse to stand there, in the middle of the “wrong” road, whining about the fact that I got lost.
By no preachment can we really satisfy that earnest inquirer who asked,
“What is a Christian?” But I wonder if we could point him to someone we know,
someone who has responded to the Master’s call and who so tries to follow Jesus
that of him it might be said, “There goes a Christian.”
A. Leonard Griffith
UPDATE: Debbie’s comment caused me to rethink my wording – and prompted me to do a little research. Found an interesting video on youtube. A preacher talks about the idea of “disappointing God” being a lie. See my comment below Debbie’s for my thoughts on this.