Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Just as You Received, Continue

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6, 7 NIV)

Years ago a friend of mine told me he was not into evangelism because the more converts he had, the more backsliders he had. Of course that is not a reason to hold back on evangelism, but it makes us wonder why it sometimes seems to be so.

Here is a major reason. The new Christian often is not taught to live the Christian life the same as he was taught to receive Christ. He is taught a different way of living than he was taught of receiving. That is why he falls. The new Christian received Christ by grace through faith. He did not receive Christ by “try” or by “effort.” He is not to live by “try” or by “effort.” He is to live by grace through faith. In other words, the Christian life should be like being born again every day.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian, p.68)


quilnigh said...

Hello Jim

When God gives me an opportunity to share about this, I also find it helpful to emphasize that God is our Teacher (II Tim 3:14-17; Philippians 1:6 and II Tim 1:12). Whenever we are students, we do not expect to make up the lessons for ourselves, but wait upon the Teacher "by grace ... through faith." The contrast that you make with "try" and "effort" hindering "by grace ... through faith" has helped make this very clear - it is transforming understanding of how I was/am conforming to the pattern of the world.

It also seems that Salvation comes with some necessary recognition of sin in order to appreciate what Jesus has done and then realize Who He is Who has died for our sins! I find a very strong connection between Colossians 2:6 and I John 1;9 and the confession 'graph' lesson - to become part of our Christian life "like being born again every day."

This connection also seems to come to mind when I read Hebrews 6: 4 - 6 and relate falling away in one sense to willful choices to sin. (And I say this with no intention of 'effort' or earning involved.) While we were washed clean at once in the moment of our Salvation, now it is "impossible ... to be brought back to repentance" - God's gift. In applying the school model again, now God trains our responsiveness by using daily lessons based upon our new freedom of choice in the Christian walk. His teaching method is expressed in Colossians 2: 6, and I John 1: 9 promises that the successful learning of one lesson in dependent obedience will immediately qualify us to move on to the next lesson on course toward cleansing "us from all unrighteousness" "by grace ... through faith" (Philippians 1: 6).

In other words, though we cannot be saved again, God can continue to save us from our sins by a different pathway - that described in II Timothy 3: 16-17 - teaching, reproof (when in sin), correction (readily provided) and ('Quickly, quickly, on to the next lesson') instruction in righteousness. This is graceful walking just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, confessing in short account toward God's objective that we "may be perfect."

Patty and I thank God for you and Bessie For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.
Charlie Baker

hopeful said...

I don't understand what this means. How does living the Christian life NOT involve efort if we are to strive to make our calling and election sure, and if we are created for good works (surely work involves effort) in Christ? I really don't get this.

James I Wilson said...

I hope my answer will be helpful to many who have the same question.

Certainly it is Biblical to “struggle” and we are created for good works.”

However, our definitions for these words are different from the Bible’s use of the same words.

“Struggle” today has an implication of having been defeated. If someone says he is “struggling” he does not mean he is in the war on the way to victory. He is saying he has already lost.

The same with “effort.” He assumes this means “try.” That is awful!

Many times someone has come to me and said, “Jim, I have tried to live the Christian life. I do not know why I fall.”

My answer has always been. “That’s why!” My answer does not make sense to him. He fell because he tried.

When I try, whom am I trusting? Myself? That’s a dumb person to trust.

We are to trust God, not try.

Trusting and trying are opposites. I cannot do both at the same time.

I am either trying or trusting. Trying does not work.

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:28, 29 (NIV)

I can do this with my energy or His. If I do it with mine, I run out of energy. Then I fall.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)

And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:19-21 (NIV)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

These last three texts are not commands, they are prayers. God will do this. We do not have to.

There is a difference between “will” and “will power.” We use our will to say “yes, Sir” to God’s commands but we do not use will power to obey them.

I hope this helps a little.

Here are a few sentences from the Apostle Paul.

1. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.” Romans 1:17 (NIV)

2. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 (NIV)

Look up “grace” in the New Testament. Notice the adjectives; lavish, overflowing, abundant, grace upon grace, He gives more grace. The adjectives are quantitative, not qualitative. Grace is the quality. God does not distribute grace in driblets.

We live in grace.

Let me hear from you again.

James I Wilson said...

Here is my answer which I hope will be a help to her and for others who have the same question.

Dear Hopeful,

I checked several translations and none of thme say "strive" to "make your calling election sure" in 2 Peter 1:10.

Here are a few scriptures which may help you do away with pre-Christian effort.

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" Galatians 3:1-5 (NIV)--Notice "by human effort?"

"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1:17 (NIV)--Notice "from first to last"

When Christians "try" they use their own energy. When we "try" we do not "trust" God when we "try", we trust ourselves.

"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." Colossians 1:29 (NIV)--Notice "all His energy"

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)--Notice "His divine power" and "everything we need for life and godliness"

Yes "good works" are the result of our salvation but they are "the fruit of the Spirit" good works.