Thursday, September 29, 2011
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Real spiritual strength has to come from a source beyond my self. It has to come from the Lord. The obedient believer finds himself relying more and more on God's work in him, realizing his work for God can only be accomplished by God's power anyway. It is a strange, paradoxical sort of moment... one that Paul conceded with his statement: "when I am weak, then I am strong". We often cannot know God's power until we come to the end of ourselves in some fashion.
I have to be honest: for much of my Christian life it has been easy to give in to the temptation to fake Christian spirituality by my own efforts. Churches are notorious for creating systems that look impressive and make people look spiritually sound. All I have to do is show up at the right place, smile, and thoughtfully nod at the right words that someone else says, then say a few of the right things myself. It can appear to be all that is necessary to appease the system. But that is not Christian living. It is instead a devilish kind of formalistic righteousness.
Instead of this, we need to realize that Christian strength and maturity are rooted in relationship with Jesus. It is bound up in life experience with Him. A program of study or activity might evidence that, but until individuals learn to dig deep in life connection with Jesus, such strength does not come to them. I think that church has to "grow small" and resist programming to be obedient to this teaching and see it happen in the lives of its people. We have to encourage real relationships among believers. That is why for me, some kind of small group or one-to-one mentoring relationship must be encouraged as the mechanism of discipleship. And those kinds of relationships can empower people to passionately pursue Jesus. Such people who are strong in that kind of commitment will live it out to the world. The gospel will advance.
Real spiritual strength can't be found by visible medals of achievement that we display on our chests. Instead, it is known by the change that Jesus makes in our hearts. It is found in abandonment of personal pride in our religious efforts. It is known by people who identify with saving and sustaining grace and who give up on their own self-righteousness. That is the spiritual muscle that I want to have!
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13