Bringing Home the Faith (seventeenth installment)

Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why.  Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces its particular topic.

Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.

Letter No. 6: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us

Introduction

Confessing Jesus as your Savior involves more than uttering a statement of belief.  It’s about letting yourself be transformed into the likeness of Christ.  In essence you’re handing over your life to Jesus and allowing him to begin in you a thorough renovation of your character.  The apostle Paul calls this being “conformed to the image of Christ.” (Romans 8:29)

However, to some people this may sound like a form of brainwashing or cult indoctrination.  But that’s not what goes on when we make the choice to allow ourselves to be transformed into Christ’s image.  Instead, our authentic, unique personality is able finally to emerge, free from the encumbrances of sin.  As I wrote in a previous letter, Why Jesus Was Born on Earth, we are not truly ourselves when we are held captive by desires that are misplaced or out of control.  Under the power of sin, our character and personality are warped.  We do things we don’t really want to do and we can’t break free of self-preoccupation.

So, when we submit to Jesus’ Lordship we end up gaining our freedom instead of losing it.  We are free to be the joyful, loving, generous, kind and faithful people God created us to be.  But, until we let Jesus be Lord of our lives, our lives will be vandalized by sin.

For many Christians, mistakes must be made in life until this realization makes sense and becomes compelling.  Some of us need to experience the futility of trying to be a good person on our own or to find how empty a self-indulgent life can be before we are ready to hear Jesus’ call as a release from such futility and emptiness.

This is a difficult topic to explain to a teen-ager, who hasn’t had all that much life experience.  I concluded the best way to frame the subject of this letter is to describe what my life was like before I let Jesus become my Lord and the ways in which I am so much happier now that I have.

Dear Caleb,

I’ve looked forward to writing this letter, and the next one, even more than the others.  The topic, “becoming like Jesus,” is something I’ve pursued with all my heart and mind for the past nine years.  I’m eager to share with you what I’ve learned and how awesome Jesus is.

I had confessed Jesus as my Savior when I was twenty-four but it wasn’t until twenty-two years later that I seriously began the journey of becoming like him.  I started on it when I realized I had lost my way in life.  Sometimes we have to reach a low point in our lives before we’re able to see what’s wrong and want something better.    Here’s how I had lost my way: I was more interested in having people think well of me than in seeking and doing whatever Jesus wanted me to do.  I had made being a success in ministry my highest goal, far ahead of being faithful.  I had stopped relying on God and was relying on my own strength, which had completely run out.

It took a while for me to realize what had gone wrong in my life.  God eventually revealed to me that even though I had confessed Jesus as my Savior, I had stopped allowing him to be the boss of my life.  Instead, I had resumed being in control, which was not a good thing.  Sin had regained a hold over me and I was only interested in getting my own way and in making a good impression.   This was making me very unhappy, but I couldn’t see it.  I had even fooled myself into thinking whatever I wanted was what God wanted.

What happened to me is not unusual.  Many Christians lose their way, at some point in their lives.  We forget that confessing Jesus as our Savior also means we are allowing Jesus to be the Lord of our life.  The Greek word for “Christ” means the following: lord, master, owner.  So when the apostle Paul says we are to confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), he means we are to declare Jesus to be the owner — the boss of us — for the rest of our lives.

In writing this particular letter, I’m hoping to spare you the years I wasted by not truly allowing Jesus to be the Lord of my life.  I don’t want you to miss out on the same joy, wonder and peace I am now experiencing, every day, as I say to him, “Thy will be done.”  This is the same declaration Jesus made to his Father:

Not as I will, but as you will.  (Matthew 26:39)

But, before I go any further, I want to explain why it is necessary (and a blessing) to seek what the Lord wants in our lives instead of what we want.

As I explained in my letter entitled, “Why Jesus Was Born on Earth,” what God wants for our lives is really what is best for us.  But we all have a natural tendency to resist what God wants and we call this “sin.”  Even if we say we want what God wants we can’t really follow through with it under our own power.   Paul explains why in his letter to the Romans:

I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. (Chapter 7, verses 18b and 19)

Do his words make sense to you?  Have you ever tried to do something you think God wants, such as doing a good deed or giving up something that mattered to you for someone else’s sake, only to discover you were also doing it to receive attention or to feel better about yourself?  This happens to all of us.  On our own, we do not have the ability or strength to do good things without being self-serving in some way.

Next week Letter No. 6: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us continues.

Discussion Questions for Seventeenth Installment: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us

1)      What does the Greek word for “Christ” mean?  As we confess our faith in Jesus Christ what else should we be doing?  Why?

2)      Why do some Christians lose their way in life?  Has this happened to you or to someone you know?

3)      Can you put in your own words this statement from the apostle Paul?: I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. (Chapter 7, verses 18b and 19)  What does he mean?

4)      Can you think of an example from your own life when you did not do the good you wanted to do but did what was wrong instead?   Why couldn’t you do the good you wanted to do?

5)      What does the phrase, Thy will be done, mean to you?

About Claudia Dickson Greggs

I am an Anglican priest, author, wife and mother. Writing and teaching about Christian life and faith are passions of mine.
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