Why is the Christian life so hard? Why couldn't He just make easy for us simple folks? For example: Why couldn't He just implant the word of God in my brain like a computer and I then I could know it off by heart? Why couldn't He give us the right words to say in every conversation whether it be confrontation or just simple fellowship or day to day conversations with people around us. Why couldn't He just make my life easier and simple, instead He complicates things by allowing struggles, temptation, decisions and learning about Him and His attributes. You know why He does all this? So that you savour and long for Him as the highly exalted Lord that He is. So that you be challenged and pushed in your faith to see Him as He should be “my sustainer, provider and protector. As David said “I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:1-2. This is why! So the all-sufficient supreme Lord, who desires, demands my adoration and worship directed to Him, with every part, cell and fabric of my being.
Who remembers the childhood game “Simon says”? Maybe playing in the playground during lunch hour at school when you were a little girl or boy. Maybe a birthday party or a group of friends over for a sleep over. Maybe an activity at a summer camp. Let me ask you! What was the premise of that game? Whatever Simon said? You did it, right? If Simon said pat your head in a circle you did it otherwise you’re out of the game. If Simon said jump up and down you did it otherwise you’re out of the game. The game would go until there was? The last person standing because you obeyed Simon’s commands.
Now flip this same principle to the Christian life! Does God say the same thing? He tells us to…….
- Pick up our (my) cross.
- Deny ourselves
- Be disciples of the Word.
- Be a people who pray continually.
- Proclaim the good news of the gospel.
- Flee from all forms of evil in this present world system.
- Walk in holiness daily out of adoration and thanksgiving.
- Walk in serving others and especially the church family.
But do we really obey Him as you did when you played Simon says as a child? We may study it, memorize it, work it out in our heads, and maybe even learn it in the Greek. The sad reality is that we have a tendency to never really apply His truth to our lives or live it out the way God intended us to. Why? Maybe because He’s too demanding and it’s a lot of work. It requires me to change too much in my lifestyle to fit His demands. Its hard work and the bible doesn’t come easy for me to understand or do at times. John MacArthur says "obedience to the Word is the most basic spiritual requirement and is the common denominator for all true believers. The bottom line of true spiritual life is not a momentary feeling of compliance or commitment… but long-term obedience to Scripture.” Listen to what Jesus says about the privilege and importance of His word! John 8:31-32 says “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." God’s word is liberating and amazing…it’s not meant to be a burden or a hindrance for you to never pick up. Many say I’m not a reader! Where I would say ok, but you’re a Christian and this isn’t some book or novel that sits on a shelf. It’s God breathed! Paul in this portion of his letter demonstrates to us his frustration with these believers…but we also see he deep passion and concern for them to be formed into the image of Christ. Why do I say that? READ(v12-20) He begins by saying…..
“Become as I am” (v12-v16)
What is Paul saying here? He pleads when them to be free of trying to earn salvation by keeping the Law and the outward symbols of ceremonies, rituals and restrictions. Remember what Paul already said “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:19-20. The problem for these believers was this! You started out so well according to Paul’s letter that they would have laid their lives down for him. According Paul, they would have gouged out their eyes and given them to Paul if he couldn’t see. (v16) So what does it mean to become as I am? Well……
DOES MY CHRISTIAN LIFE EXEMPLIFY SELF DENIAL?
Have I really denied myself? What do you mean by that Mike? I’ve given up lots of things in my life for the Lord? You might say! I don’t……. gamble, drink, smoke, swear, watch lustful movies, steal, I’m much kinder to others, I give to charities and I serve and tithe in my church. That all sounds great, and please keep doing those things, but that’s not the denial I’m speaking of. The denial I’m speaking about is the kind of denial that happened to Peter in the courtyard where he denied the Lord 3 times. It’s a total disregard of oneself; it’s a turning away from something. Referring to my old sinful nature of selfish wants and desires. Listen to the Apostle Paul about how he explains self-denial. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,” Phil 3:7-10. Paul finally saw the wrong attitude in his life; we need to recognize the same. It’s not about me, being happy and getting what I want when I want it. Paul finally saw that everything he thought was righteous in his life was worthless, meaningless; we need to do the same. It’s not about my good works earning favor to attain salvation or Heaven. Paul finally saw his life as it once was a Legalist still in bondage to sin and death, we need to do the same. It’s only by His unmerited grace that we escape the pit of Hell. Paul finally counted everything loss (all things loss) for the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we need to do the same. It’s what we know about Him and His goodness towards us. I want to know more about Him and excellence as walk each and every day. That’s what self-denial looks like and that’s what it means to be “like I am” as Paul said.
DOES MY CHRISTIAN LIFE EXEMPLIFY A LIFE THAT LOVES THE THINGS THAT GOD LOVES?
Do I care about holiness and righteousness? As Paul said “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Eph 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,” Eph 1:3-4. Our single greatest desire is to be holy for He is holy. So what am I doing to protect my life from the immorality that is before me?
- What I watch
- What I listen too
- The magazines/books I read
- The movies I view as acceptable.
- The people I chose to hang out with our court.
Do I love holiness more than feeding my mind with filth and garbage? As the old saying goes “garbage in garbage out” We must test everything with discernment that is put before us and stop buying into what the world is swindling with its propaganda. Even if it means this world looks at you as weird or strange. I think when it comes to the things of God do I mirror holiness and right living? How can I know? Phil 4:8 says this to help you “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue (good worth) and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. God not up their saying “I do not want my children to have any fun” I remember what James MacDonald said in a message when it comes to our wrong choices “chose to sin, chose to suffer. What God really means is don’t hurt yourself I love you” God wants us to make right choices which honor and obey His authority over our lives. God loves us and wants nothing more than our full attention. God wants nothing more than our obedience to His commands. This is what I am supposed to live like under my new identity, walking in holiness. Because holiness looks like the renewal of God’s image in us..
DOES MY CHRISTIAN LIFE HATE THE THINGS THAT GOD HATES?
As a Christian do I hate sin and the perversion this world system is trying to indoctrinate into our children and our homes? As a Christian do I really care about what people say about Jesus and the Bible and His true church. As a Christian, do I hate the lack of Bible preaching from our pulpits? As a Christian, do I hate the false teaching of our generation and destruction it brings to people we love outside the genuine church? As a Christian do I care about those who are going to Hell? As a Christian do I care that there has been more death through abortion than all wars combined. As a Christian do I care at all any more? Because it seems the voice of the church is silent in these last days.
Paul was greatly concerned for these believers, otherwise he wouldn’t be saying this at all. If he was confident and found peace in these believers, he would have wrote this … “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess 1:2-3. But he doesn’t……he says “Brethren, I urge you (beg, beseech) to become like me, for I became like you.” (v12) When Paul came to Christ he tore away every shred of legalism and found the true grace that God gives to sinners. Paul never represented himself nor thought of himself as anything but a sinner saved by Christ and His redeeming grace. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:28. But something else troubled Paul! Not only does he say this but something else that would cause us to say “ouch”
I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (v19)
The question I keep thinking as I read this portion of Paul’s letter is this! Do we need to go back to the basics in the church today? What do I mean? Do we need to start over and go through the study of God? This is “Theology” it has been the called “the Queen of all sciences.” That’s why Theology by definition is “God’s words" Theology is the study of God--His nature, attributes, character, abilities, revelation, etc. True theology is found in the Bible which is the self-revelation of God. As a child of God you are a theologian, though many of you never attended bible school or seminary………You are a Theologian.
Why study Theology?
- God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.
- Theology is the framework of the Christian life and the church/leadership.
- It protects us from false values, philosophies and sin.
- Our beliefs are shaped by the scriptures.
- We may use it to expose cultic teachings.
- Theology gives the believer strength, focus and direction to His grace and glory.
Paul’s concern here is painful to see. He equates this with “child birth” What he is saying? “you make me feel like a mother who has to deliver the same baby twice.” You have already experienced the new birth, but know you are acting as if you need to be spiritually born all over again. Do we need to go back and start over again? Paul wasn’t trying to mean as if he didn’t care…..he cared too much for God’s children. They forgot this through the trickery of the Judaizers and their works based false teaching. See, Paul was a man who loved the gospel and the church. Remember what he said to the church in Thessalonica? “For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thess 2:1-8
He wanted them to see the great God we love and serve as he did. Christlikeness is the goal of the believer’s life. We have been predestined to become conformed to the image of the Son as it says in Romans 8:29. We also see this truth in 2 Cor 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The gospel saves us from ourselves and gives us a new identity and that identity is the image of His Son. And as John wrote “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 1:4. That’s why you are theologians…..we are His children who….
- Read His word
- Study His word
- Memorize His word
- Speak his words
- Sing His words
Why? It brings Him joy to see you standing firm and growing under His grace through Spirit. If this is not prevalent in your life then I’m afraid for you as Paul is here with these believers. As John Piper says “swim in the bible”. This is my prayer for you. Why? My greatest desire for you is the same desire Paul has and ultimately God has for His children. (v20) that you be formed into the image of Christ. It’s not an outward shaping but an inward transformation to Christ like character.
How do I do that? Simple…..
- Study your bible and live in it continually.
- Remind yourself of the truth of the gospel and be saturated in its promises.
- Commit and used for Him, stop sitting on the fence and get involved and grow as a disciple for Christ.
- Humble yourself under His grace and walk as He walked.
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” Col 2:6