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Monday, October 20, 2014

Your Christianity shouldn't work - A meditation in the middle of 1 John

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason the world does not know us is because it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we will see him as he is. Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 2:28-3:3
Fellow Christian, knowing that you are "righteous" (2:29) because of Jesus' righteousness, trusting you are a son or daughter of God the Father because Jesus became your brother (3:1-2), acknowledging your status as pure because "he is pure" (3:3), can only help you to live both freely and productively. The victory has preceded the final total, the verdict has preceded the performance, and your adoption has preceded your family resemblance (to Jesus). So you and I are released by Jesus from the fear of not being enough to genuine change because He is enough. 

By most measures, those attracted to
& sustained by the gospel should
be more like Wonka's Veruca Salt.
Consider: Every other religion/life-philosophy attracts and maintains allegiance through (a) works which may or may not be enough on the divine scale or (b) the fleeting results (ie. temporary forms of peace, stillness, vigor, confidence) of rigorous discipline which no one can forever maintain. The gospel message contains an offer to rescue us from death to life, separation to reconciliation, godlessness to God-in-you immediately, permanently, and for free! This should never work as a religion or life-philosophy because all of its adherents would be like spoiled children who always get their dessert at the beginning of every meal and their allowance prior to doing their chores! Yet adherents to the good news have historically done more work of significance and societal transformation than any other (though no such work is required). Furthermore, people who derive life from the gospel message also endure over the long haul in varying disciplines (although rigorous discipline is no condition for entrance). 

Significant works, societal transformation, rigorous self-discipline might not be the phrases you'd use to characterize your life at this point - though you'd wish to. Do not dismay! The process of maturity is typically subtle and non-obvious to the one who is actually changing. This is why the apostle gives us the hope of certain victory 3:1-2: "We shall be like him because we shall see him as he is" (3:2). And so then says: "Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (3:3). During either the heat of battle or tepid doldrums when, in either case, little progress seems to be made, we are reminded that we will one day fast-forward to the likeness and glory of Jesus - at which point we will realize that He had all along been inching our resemblance far closer to the final result than we had imagined.

And at which point, every tongue will confess: It really did work!

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