youth ministry

Day 24: Not yet perfect

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
— Galatians 2:17-18 The Message

I feel this sentiment.  Have you noticed that I'm not perfect yet?  (If you're not sure, just ask my kids.)  Is it a surprise to anyone that I'm not perfect yet?  I've been a Christian for 27 years now.  Shouldn't I be getting closer to perfect?

We are sanctified as Christians, but we will never be perfect here on earth.  Oh for that glory in Heaven!  We all long for it, especially on Mondays.

I'm still sinning up a storm in my life.  (Again, just ask my kids.)  Is Christ an accessory to that sin?  Did Christ aid and abed my sin?

The English Standard Version of the Bible phrases the question like this, "Is Christ then a servant of sin?"

In either case, Paul says this, "Certainly not!"  Christ is neither an accessory to my sin or a servant of sin.

The sin has been dealt with, once and for all.  He finished that wrath-appeasing on the cross.  He paid the wages of those sins when He died that death.  He brought us forgiveness from those sins when He rose from the dead.

Christ is not an accessory to your sins.  Christ is not an accessory to your friends' sins.

Our goal cannot be to just have good behavior, and if you are a teacher, your goal cannot be just teaching and expecting good behavior.

Paul says that "trying to be good" would be rebuilding religion that the Jews had before Christ came.

Jesus is greater than religion.

Paul says that if he were to promote "being good" that he would be a charlatan, a fraud.  The ESV phrases it like this, "For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor."

I am trying to hold myself to the same standard as Paul.  I am trying to live in grace and truth without striving to define myself by my good behavior.  I am trying to teach heart changes when I teach God's Word because behavior changes save no one.

 

Click to return to series table of contents.

I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here's one for you.

Don’t settle for worn out

If you haven’t figured this out about me, I’ll tell you.  I watch a lot of tv.  I love it.  I have one of those brains that don’t stop.  Sometimes tv is the only way I can make it rest.

But sometimes tv engages my brain, and makes me think about life.  The  show American Crime did this for me, and it hopefully did this for a lot of other people, too.  The show purposefully took on the issue of race relations in America.  I think it did a good job showing some tough issues.

As you can probably guess, the finale did not end in a group hug or hippies singing on a mountainside (like the other big tv finale this week.)

One of the ending scenes stuck with me, because I think it’s full of truth.  The character Hector, who is an illegal from Mexico, is deported.  Through a miracle, he is found not-guilty to a crime he had been charged with in Mexico.  He is released.  He, his girlfriend, and five-year-old daughter are given a chance to make a life together in Mexico.  Hector gets a job interview at a call center.  The businessman interviewing him asks if he is involved in gangs or cartels.  He tells him that he isn’t involved anymore, and then he says this.

My girlfriend right? See she asked me if I was tired of my life, getting cut up, getting shot. I’ll tell you for real:
I’m not tired of my life, I’m worn out.
See I know people come in here all the time asking you to take a chance on them, tell you how they changed. See I don’t know from other people what makes them do how they do. But I’m 26 years old, and all I got to show for my life is a limp and a scare and a 5-year-old girl who needs her daddy to live straight. I’m not part of nothing anymore, I’m just trying to get a job.
— Hector

How brave and insightful!  I love how he admitted he hasn’t changed, he’s just worn out.  He’s gotten too old to pull off the lifestyle.

I think “worn out” is true for so many people in this world.  That is why the police department doesn’t have a senior citizen crime task force.

The heartbreaking thing is that Jesus wants more for you than this. 

“Worn out” is a story told by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes.  The last chapter tells of a time of life when “the strong men stoop” and “song grows faint” and “the grasshopper loses his spring.”

What is Solomon’s advice in the end?

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’
— Ecclesiastes 12:1 ESV

The world will tell you to live your youth wild and free, break the rules (and the laws), try everything, find yourself, and have your fun.  But the world doesn’t disclose the scars and the limps that you will acquire with a life outside of the rules.

I am so thankful that I gave my youth to Jesus.  Now that I am almost 40, I can say that I’m not a young person anymore.  My youth wasn’t spent in perfect service to the Lord, because James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways.”  But I did try to live my youth for Him.

I do have scars because this world is ugly.  I do have limps because I have stumbled.  Christ alone is Holy.

I just didn’t spend my teens and twenties signing up for trouble and heartache.

The Bible is also full of stories of men and women who came to believe in God later in life.  Paul is one of my favorites.  His life before Christ was bloody and full of hate.  His conversion on the road to Damascus is miraculous.  Afterward, Paul was used by God more than anyone else we can point to.

If your youth isn’t something you have to offer anymore, you still have plenty to offer.

If your youth is still fresh, I will tell you this.  

Live your youth free in Christ under His grace, follow His laws (because we show Him love through obedience), try everything He sets in front of you to do, find your identify in His love and being His disciple, and have fun serving Him.

Do this and you can someday you will be almost 40, looking back at your youth, not full of regrets, scars, and limps, but you will be thankful.