Here we are, settling into a new year and learning how to write “2018” on correspondence, checks and anything else that calls for the current year. The holidays are over and we’re looking ahead to many weeks before spring explodes all around us again.
With the euphoria of Christmas and its spirit of “peace on earth, good will to men” quickly fading, it’s time to address anew the challenge of 2 Corinthians 5:20, being “ambassadors for Christ.”
More than 30 years ago, I had reached a spiritual impasse. The “life of faith” just wasn’t working. Living a life pleasing to God seemed impossible, like trying to vault 18 feet without a pole.
I could empathize with the apostle Paul, who wrote, “So I find this law at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the inner members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind…. What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24).
Sometimes we hear people say, “God wants us to be happy,” or it’s as simple as “let go, and let God.” Nice sentiments, but striving to live a life consistent with biblical teachings isn’t always a happy lot. At least not for me.
It’s often frustrating, as well as challenging. Like Paul, we find ourselves asking, “Why do I do what I don’t want to do, and why don’t I do what I desire to do?”
The apostle wasn’t alone. Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham admitted, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes and say, ‘O God, forgive me, or help me.’” If people like Paul and Dr. Graham say such things, what hope do we have?
The question has no easy answer, but Paul wrote these encouraging words immediately after his confession of despair: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!... Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 7:25-8:2). What this says to me is we need no longer wallow in our failures, overwhelmed by guilt.
It’s been well-said the Christian life isn’t difficult to live – it’s impossible! That doesn’t mean it can’t be lived. Because the Bible provides this promise: “…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We can’t live for God in our own strength. But He doesn’t ask us to do that. If there’s a “secret” to the Christian life, it’s that He wants to live His life through us.
As Jesus told His followers, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
My spiritual impasse forced me to consider the truths of two passages I’d been pondering for a while. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we’re told, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” And Galatians 2:20 builds on that: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
These verses made no sense. I wasn’t feeling, or acting, like a new creation. And it didn’t seem like Jesus was living in me. I felt more like the “wretched man” Paul described.
In time, however, these passages helped me to understand that when Jesus declared, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3), He wasn’t speaking in riddles. Being a true, consistent follower of Jesus requires a new, spiritual birth. The Bible calls it “regeneration,” experiencing Christ’s life in us through His Spirit.
This sounds simple, and in one respect it is. Galatians states we live by faith, and as the old hymn says, “Trust and obey.”
But living it out every day, alas, is not. Jesus said in another setting, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). It requires “dying to self” daily, surrendering our independence and yielding to Him moment by moment.
That’s what I’m continuing to learn, reminding myself day after day after day. When will I – or anyone – “master” this truth? Not in this life. But 1 John 3:2 declares, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” To quote another hymn, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.