Thursday, February 25, 2016

Good Enough

When I discovered that the opportunity for free ice climbing was happening the same weekend as our youth retreat, the realization began to sink in.  God was providing a hands on illustration for the lessons we would be teaching.  Because He's amazing like that.

All my life I've struggled with the idea that I must try and try to be a good Christian, for I thought that only then would God turn His face toward me in favor.  Oh, I don't mean working for my salvation, (which comes only by faith in the work of Christ on the cross), but once saved, working to be an acceptable person according to the expectations of Scripture.  The bar was raised high and through discipline and self-denial I aimed to reach it. However, striving for goodness is harder than it looks, much like climbing ice walls.

Some students clamored quickly to the top, determined to conquer. And so it is with life.  The compliant or competitve personalities thrive under self-discipline.  Goodness seems effortless.  We dish out praise for a job well-done, when in reality, it is only a performance of natural strength.

Other students struggled.  They couldn't quite figure out how to dig their toe into the ice or didn't have the strength to thrust the axe such that it would catch the frozen surface.  And I thought about those students who resist being good.  Their adventursome personality must always push the buttons and test the limits.  Rules cause them to bristle and compliance is detestable.  Is Christianity all about outward conformity to a set of rules which we have determined are good?  I think not, and yet when we, as adults, hammer and pound for outward behavioral change, this is the message they often receive.

In reality, Christianity is about life in Christ, abundant and joyful. The heart is what matters, for authentic living flows only from the inside out. We can conform the outward person all we want, but until the heart is in the right place, outward conformity is temporary and results in either thinking less of ourselves in dejection, (failure), or more of ourselves in pride, (achievements).  Our own image then becomes the primary focus, an emphasis on self, which cripples our ability to overcome and thrive in love toward one another.

However, at the change of the seasons, every bit of ice, all our own goodness, melts away and comes crashing down. And where does that leave us?  At the foot of the cross, clinging only to our Savior, the bare rock on which we stand. His righteousness, not our own.  Most assuredly, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and when God looks at us, He sees, not our filth, but the holiness of Christ.

There comes a point in life when the weight of all those expectations pushes us under and we are left helpless. The realization that we can never work hard enough and never be good enough sinks into our being and we cry out to Jesus.  He alone saves and sustains us.  He alone gives the power to live free.

I am so very thankful that in Christ, there is freedom, not bondage.  But this freedom comes only as I surrender to God's terms.  I know, it sounds, once again, like rules.  Yet, the difference lies in the attitude of my mind. No longer do I strive to attain a goodness which God will accept, but rather, I align my will to God's, and through obedience, work out in my practice what He has already worked into my heart.  I live by His strength, not my own, for He Himself says,"my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  (Matt. 11:30)

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