The Test of Discipleship – Growing with Jesus: Part 7-3

The condition required for eternal life is the same today as it has always been, perfect obedience to God’s Laws, or in other words, perfect righteousness. It is the same today as it was in Heaven before the creation of the earth. If eternal life was given on any condition short of this, the whole universe would become tainted with sin and our happiness in Heaven would be lost. Sin, with all its negative consequences, would be immortalized and life in Heaven would be miserable instead of joyful.

Before the fall, it was possible for Adam to form a righteous character by obeying God’s law. However, he failed and because of his sin, all of humanity, including you and me, are fallen and unable to make ourselves perfect. Because we are tainted with sin in our character and unholy, we cannot obey God’s holy law on our own and we cannot begin to meet any of God’s standards because we have already fallen and are no longer perfect.

However, Christ made a way for us to escape sin and be freed. He lived on earth, with all the trials and temptations that we encounter and He succeeded living a perfect, sinless life. He died, not because His life deserved it, but instead to provide a way to be able to take our place, to trade places with us. He offers to take our sins and replace them with His perfection—His righteousness. If we accept His offer, give ourselves to Him, and accept Him as our Savior, then however sin-filled our live has been in the past, God sees us as righteous. Christ’s character replaces our character, and God accepts us as though we have never sinned.

More importantly than this though is that by giving ourselves to Christ, He begins to change and recreate our hearts. Our faith in Him allows Him to live in our hearts. We must strengthen and guard this connection with Christ by keeping our faith strong and by continually surrendering our will to His will. As long as we do this, He will continue to work in us and recreate us into the people He created us to be. With this connection, we can then say, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus said to His disciples, “For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:20). With Christ recreating us from the inside, we will begin to display a new spirit—the Spirit of God—and it will result in each of us living differently—living a life of obedience.

So, because we can do nothing on our own to save ourselves, there is nothing we should brag about or praise ourselves for. The only place we can place our hope is in the perfection of Jesus that He freely gave to us, and in His Spirit that is continually working in us and through us.

When we talk about faith, we must clarify some things, specifically the difference between belief and faith. Believing simply in God’s existence, His power, and/or believing that His Word is true are facts that even Satan and his angels cannot deny. The Bible tells us that “even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19). When we not only believe in God’s Word, but also submit our will to Him, surrender our hearts to His, and focus our attention and love on Him, we now have faith—the type of faith that obeys and cleans out our lives. Through this holistic faith, God is able to renew our hearts into His image, and hearts that have not been renewed cannot obey God’s laws or understand the law’s role in life. With a renewed heart, we can shout for others to hear, “Oh, how I love your instructions [your law]! I think about them all day long.” (Psalm 119:97).

Some people know that God loves them—that Jesus loves them—and that He has forgiven them, and they want to be children of God. However, they also realize sin has tainted their characters, their lives are mess, and they are doubtful that the Holy Spirit has renewed their hearts. If you feel this way while reading this, don’t give up! Don’t give up on God. Even when we are facing the results of our faults and mistakes, and when we are tempted to feel discouraged, we can still bring these problems to Jesus. Even if our enemy has pushed us into a corner, we know that God has not rejected or given up on us. “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.” (1 John 2:1). Right now, Jesus is sitting next to God and He is pleading our case, which may sound odd, because we also know that “the Father himself loves you dearly” (John 16:27). God desires to restore us to Himself—to a place where we reflect His purity and holiness, and when we submit ourselves to Him, He will finish the work that He started and He will continue with the work until Jesus returns. With this knowledge, let us pray more passionately, and believe more deeply. As we begin to see how weak we are on our own, let us trust in God’s power, and lean on Jesus our Savior.

The closer we come to Jesus, the more flawed we will see ourselves when compared with His perfection. Our vision will be clearer, and we will know where we have fallen short. The closer we are to Jesus, the life-giving restoring power that He offers will draw us in, and Satan’s tricks and deceptions will lose their power—we will be able to see through all of Satan’s tricks and temptations.

Love for Jesus cannot be placed at the core of our hearts if we don’t fully understand how sinful our hearts are. Our lives can be transformed by God’s grace and we can admire His character, but if we never realize our own failings and how we don’t measure up, and we never surrender to Jesus at this realization, this itself is evidence that we have not really seen the true beauty and perfection of Christ.

The less we try to build ourselves up, the more we are able to value and admire Jesus, our Savior. A view of our sin-filled lives, and realizing our need, drives us to Him—Jesus, our Savior, who can forgive us and restore us. The more we allow our sense of need to take us to Jesus and to God’s Word, the higher we will view His character, and the closer we will reflect His image—because the closer we are to Jesus, the closer we are to His restoring power.

Next week, we will begin the next topic in our series and focus on actually growing up into Christ.


P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!