IDENTITY OR ACTION? OR BOTH?

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 chapter 2, verse 20; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Just exactly who are you? What determines the essence of you? What is the bottom line? Fact Time: Everyone has a, call it, bottom-line identity. It is what you are known by to others. Are you identified by your roles? Dad? Mom? Lawyer? Plumber? Preacher? Son? Daughter? Sister? Brother? Accountant? OR is your bottom-line identity in what you do? Kind? Helpful? Patient? Caring? Friendly? Empathetic? Energetic? And when it comes to your spiritual life (and everyone has one of these), what is the singularity that marks your life?

Do you consider yourself a Christian? Maybe I should ask a tougher question: What makes you a Christian? Is it an identity based on things like confessing and repenting of your sins and saying the sinner’s prayer? Being baptized? That you are a member of a particular church? That you read your Bible and say your prayers? That you avoid certain vices? Or is it because you show love to others? That you volunteer at the local homeless shelter? That you support the local food bank? That you demand justice for animals? That you cry out for equality for all people? So tell me, which is it? What you say or what you do?

That it’s both? Being a Christian is more than a title or a label. It’s more than a statement about what you did. And it’s more than actions we think makes us a Christian! It begins with the recognition that it’s something we are totally powerless to become. It requires that admission that we ARE sinners. And more than admitting we ARE sinners, it’s being honest enough with self to say we are tired of being sinners! It demands a total surrender of heart, mind, and will to Jesus. Then, we trust that what Jesus did on the Cross was done purposefully by Him for us sinners. And that a whole new life is now in front of us!

And as difficult as they may seem for some, it’s only the beginning. Being a Christian isn’t a matter of personal holiness or social holiness. It’s both!!!! (Notice the extra exclamation marks!!!!) This is exactly what Paul was trying to tell the Galatian church. Following Jesus begins with faith. It continues with faith in actions. And to the Church in the United States, Jesus didn’t live, die, and rise up from the death to create a Christian nation. He did all this to call us to storm the strongholds of Satan and reclaim the territory he stole for the Kingdom of God. No, actions don’t save us. But our actions do determine if we are or are not saved.

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ROUTINES MAKE GREAT RUTS!

Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it.

1 Timothy chapter 4, verses 7 thru 10; from the New Living Translation (NLT)

I’m stuck in a rut! Ever heard that expression? Or yet, have you ever said that? Ruts do not just happen by themselves; and rarely do they happen instantaneously. They happen by traveling the same path over and over and over. At first there are no problems at all. But every trip down that trail the rut gets just a litter deeper; well, unless it’s really muddy! But you’re (hopefully) smart enough to get my point. But then one day it rains and the storm lasts longer than a brief moment. And you start out in those clearly defined ruts, until finally–You Can’t Get Out, And You’re Stuck In The Muck And The Mud.

This scene certainly describes a lot of people–and it’s not a modern phenomena. Era, age, nor gender is excluded from being stuck in a rut. In our age and culture, people are stuck in a rut–the rut of values and morals. Feelings, alleged experts, along with pop sociology and psychology have redefined what is acceptable and unacceptable. And their miseries multiply faster than flies in a garbage can on a hot summer day. And then they wonder why they are so unhappy.

Well, maybe it is time to look back rather than forward. Back to the guidance and instructions from Paul to Timothy. Read this again: Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. There’s a single word that you do not need to glance over, or overlook. That word is YOURSELF! You can’t make others become godly, but you can train yourself to become godly! To be trained isn’t a solo activity. You gotta have a trainer! Someone who knows the ropes and knows what works and doesn’t work. Think about a fitness gym. You can stand in front of one all day long, and you will still be out of shape. You can go inside, pay the membership dues, and stand inside all day long–and you will still be out of shape. That is, unless you consider round to be a shape.

Nope! You gotta get busy. Even then, you need guidance of a trainer to help you. You could be doing the wrong exercises the wrong way resulting in injury to yourself. And the best trainers are the ones who will both correct you and encourage you. The source for Godliness, or the “Training Manual” if you would, is The Bible. When taken as a whole, The Bible discloses who God is–and what He wants your life to become. And the trainer is The Holy Spirit. It’s the purpose of being a follower and disciple of Jesus–to become godly! And godliness isn’t define by our interpretations or the interpretations of others of the The Bible. And godliness isn’t found in one or two verses. Nor is it found in taking those verses out of context.

Physical fitness takes more than one or two trips to the gym. It takes a commitment to reach the goals one has set for themselves. It requires consistency, as well. So, instead of pointing out to others where they AREN’T godly, focus on yourself. Maybe if YOU were in training for godliness–you would find the peace and joy that is missing in action in so much of our culture today. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Spiritual flabbiness isn’t attractive–to anyone. So get into spiritual training–it helps now and prepares you for eternity. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it.