I was with a bunch of Christians recently, who were in agreement that the point of Christianity is to get people saved — so they don’t go to hell.
I agree that our choosing to accept Christ as Lord and Savior is the most important decision we’ll ever make, because of its eternal implications. But to my mind, getting people into this redemptive relationship with Jesus is just the start of what the Church is called to do.
Absolutely, Jesus saves us from our sins. Unfortunately, stepping into relationship with Him doesn’t instantly rewire our sinful nature. Nor does it instantly clean up the “junk in our trunk.” The junk that continues to have influence on how we think and act and respond to life. We have new habits to learn, and new thought patterns to develop. We have work to do.
Work that starts with our allowing Jesus to “take the wheel,” in the words of Christian songwriter/singer TobyMac. We have to be willing to slide over to the passenger seat, so that Jesus can drive us where He knows we need to go. Let’s discuss!
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Work, Not Legalism
There is only ONE way to God, and that’s through Jesus. There’s nothing we can do to earn or merit our salvation — it’s His FREE gift to us.
But then comes the work: the daily, life-long process of removing our junk so we can live in freedom. In Christian lingo, we call this process “sanctification.” This junk might be our lack of self-control. Our negative thinking. Our partying. Our sleeping around. Our cheating on our taxes. Our withholding forgiveness.
Addicted to porn? Jesus wants to help you work on that.
Anger issues? Jesus wants to help you work on that.
Always trying to control people and your relationships? Jesus wants to help you work on that.
Every Christian wrestles daily with sin. Even the apostle Paul admitted, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We have work to do, as we ask Jesus to help us to become like Him.
Tossing Our Junk
I truly do wish that accepting Christ instantly changed us into our best selves. Made us perfect. Made us immune from the pull of sin. But it doesn’t. We have to do the work of being transformed, knowing that Christ’s strength now fuels us.
Jesus doesn’t force us to take action, but He also doesn’t wait to issue invitations. He wants us to steadily move us into wholeness.
“Ready to pop the trunk?” Jesus asks gently, as He parks us beside the large landfill pit already holding many boxes — some labeled addiction, pride, and narcissism.
We cringe at the boxes of our own sins. But as each box hurtles through the air, relief washes over us. Jesus isn’t here to rub our noses in our crud. He’s here, with infinite grace and patience, to lovingly help clean us up.
In the video series that accompanies pastor Rich Wilkerson, Jr.’s book Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection, Wilkerson notes that “Jesus doesn’t look at your past performance. He doesn’t look at your present condition. No, Jesus, the friend of sinners, always looks forward to your potential; what you can become. Who you will become when you’re in relationship with Him.”
Jesus, the friend of sinners! Never forget — not even when you or someone else shames you for your sin — that Jesus hung out with sinners because He was FOR them. Their freedom is why He came!
Working Toward Freedom
Jesus modeled supportive community for us, that we might remind each other to lean into His power and grace as we journey through our growth. Our remaining static is not an option.
Notes Paula Jauch in her YouVersion devotional Letting Go: Family Trauma And Addiction, we can’t avoid going through the healing process to get better. We can’t change, if we don’t grow. Baby steps, just like toddlers. Do we not help our babies to walk? Do we shame them when they fall down? Not if we want them to keep trying!
“Most of us have suffered years of abuse and trauma,” says Jauch, “and if we don’t deal with the root of the issue it will always come back.” Jauch admits she had to do the “hard work” of showing up, even when she didn’t think she was seeing progress. But she took God at His word, trusting that He is for her, and always working for her good. Jauch healed with the help of those who lovingly accepted her.
As our trust in God grows, so does our desire to live in ways that honor Him. Even as we recognize that perfection is always beyond our grasp because of our inherent bent toward sin. We have to be willing to be authentic and “comfortably uncomfortable,” as Wilkerson puts it, as we do life with Jesus.
Tell Satan to take a hike; his condemnation doesn’t matter. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ, to remember who we are in Him, even in our most sinful moments. “Our faith is not some little thing in our life,” notes Wilkerson. “Jesus is everything in our life.” When we live this way, Jesus becomes not only the way to God, but to our wholeness, freedom, and purpose.
We desperately need Jesus! And we need to do the work of partnering with Him to become the people He wants us to be.
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