Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But we are not. He has nothing that needs improving, we do. Because of that, I feel like so many of the things we do are somewhat drastic: losing weight, trying to go to Poland, homeschooling, and on and on. However, these changes are not born out of a desire necessarily to improve, rather they come from a recognition of the holiness of God, Christ living in me, and the distance my life shows between the two.
Yes, I want to improve my life, but the irony is that I cannot. As much as I pull, prod, and cajole, I just end up rearranging the mud. I must realize that I am muddy first so that I finally look to a pure, outside source of cleanliness who is willing and able to do the necessary cleaning. And another irony is that the alien source of purifying me (Jesus Christ and the atoning work of His blood and the righteous life He imputes to me through justification) lives within me because of His choice, not mine.
That means that Jesus loves me based on His sovereign pleasure alone. And what He loves, He doesn't leave unchanged.
What ends up happening is war. War within me. I long to live and serve this amazing God who has done everything to present me spotless before Himself, yet I drift back towards that pile of mud.
The yo-yo of my life and the constant changes that I have and will continue to undergo is that movement on the continuum between holiness and unholiness. It's a process called sanctification. Up and down I go, but comfort comes in looking back and seeing more up than down. Not from my exertion, effort, and good work, but by the Holy Spirit in me.
Paul even wrote about this in Romans 7:19, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." He was fighting a bigger enemy than the Romans, the Pharisees, or even Emperor Nero who ended up killing him. He was fighting his own flesh. And I am fighting mine. Yet not I, but Christ within me. He fights and He wins!
Because you know what else Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
Paul wasn't the hero of his own story, Jesus is. (Yes, I know I switched tenses in the previous sentence, but the point is that Jesus still is Paul's hero because He lives.) He allowed Paul to swing up and down on the pendulum to demonstrate His power within Paul, to show that He is a mighty God who is able to preserve His children and keep them to the end.
Jude 24-25 says, "Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."
Jesus Christ gets all the credit, all the accolades, all the glory!
Yes, I'm on a yo-yo that sometimes produces drastic changes in my life, but the ride is not pointless. It strengthens my faith in the String Holder. And let's not forget that the crown of righteousness, which He earned, awaits. For the past 2,000 years of sinless glory in heaven which he now lives, Paul most assuredly would tell us that all His earthly struggles and the sometimes painful process of sanctification (growing in Christlikeness) was worth it.
Let the Holy Spirit continue to tear down your strongholds and you can trust that He will fill you up with something far greater than you could ever imagine....Himself.
The war rages on, yet the outcome is secure in Christ!
What does this look like for me, for now? I war with my appetite every day to honor and bring glory to Christ. I war with my desire for gossip and my tendency towards pride by trying to judge my motives for using Facebook and am staying off of it until I am better prepared to let Christ reign in me there. I war with my total inability to provide for my family while watching God drop manna on me every day. I war with my desire to remove myself from the front lines, by watching a pretend world on television where life happens to them and not me. I war with my pride as I march somewhere with my kids to pass out gospel tracts because I don't want to seem like a crazy man and I don't want my children to see their dad get tracts slapped out of my hands, but Jesus compels me to proclaim the good news which I myself have received. I war and I war and I war. But no war lasts forever, my wounded and numb friends. There is a consummation one way or another.
At the end of it all, we will all see Jesus. Every knee will bow before Him and every knee will confess that He is God. Either you will bow as a defeated enemy, or you will bow as a grateful co-heir of His inheritance.
I love Jesus Christ.