This week's Bible verse:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" -- 2 Corinthians 5:17
I have come to realize that faith isn't magical...it usually just doesn't happen. Events and life experiences build and help you create the faith that you hold. You might have faith in God as a child, but it's not until you have really lived that you come to understand and embrace your faith, or conversely, lose that childlike faith.
I also see that faith and the benefits of that faith can't sit dormant within you...if you don't use it, it fades away. How many of us in our lifetimes have been "Sunday Christians" who go to church on Sundays and forget about God during the week? I have been there! That was me! And, I didn't even go to church many Sundays either. God was in the background of my life...I knew he was there somewhere, but I didn't think about him much. And if you looked at my life then, you could probably tell that.
It's when we put ourselves aside and pick up that faith, examining it, questioning, searching, seeking, that God starts to help us benefit from that faith inside us. Jesus said in Luke 9:23 that if you want to be a true disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. Pick up your burdens, give them to God and let Jesus be your example. God will take care of you when you give yourself to him.
I read a saying this morning that really sums it up..."I ain't what I want to be. I ain't what I'm gonna be. But praise God, I ain't what I used to be!"
This process isn't magical either. It takes work along with faith. No, you aren't saved by the good work that you do, but your human nature wants to pull you back into old habits from your "old self." We have to continually be in communication with God to fight that "old self." ACTION must accompany our faith. You can't just sit back and think that God will do all the work.
God works on you from the inside out...he's working on and in your heart. But, he also requires us to put in some effort to and work from the outside in. 2 Peter 1:3-8 says that God gives us everything we need for a godly life. But we need to exhibit the following characteristics: ( this is taken from The Message translation)
* good character
* spiritual understanding
* alert discipline
* passionate patience
* reverent wonder
* warm friendliness
* generous love
Each of those characteristics take effort on our parts....they don't just magically happen when we accept Jesus. But, God leads us, guides us and encourages us and we find that each one fits into and develops the others.
Where does the motivation to work that hard come from? Philippians 2:13 says that the ability to resist the "old self" and walk into our "new self" who exhibits the characteristics above comes from God. He gives us an energy deep inside us to do the good works he has set aside for us!
And, he sent Jesus to walk this earth to be our example and to teach us how to live to please him! Why do you think the Bible and the stories of Jesus have survived and been taught for over TWO THOUSAND YEARS???? it's all part of God's plan to help the people he created and loves so much!
As we enter the Holy week celebrations with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter...think about God's plan. Think about what Jesus did for you...think about how you can build your faith by concentrating less on you and more on Him!