The Our First Calling: Be Like Jesus

Blog by Shelly Beach
Author, Speaker,
& Consultant © 2017

Award-winning author of
The Silent Seduction of
Self-Talk, Love Letters
from the Edge, Precious
Lord, Take My Hand,
Hallie’s
Heart & other fiction & nonfiction titles

We’re imperfect people. All of us. Definitely me, and yes, you too. 

Even the most godly Christian you’ve ever known is an imperfect sinner. And if they’re honest, they can humbly point out their flaws because they know them well and do battle with them on a regular basis.

But we can’t be complacent about our gossiping tongue, bitter spirit, unforgiving heart, angry outbursts, private moments with porn, potty mouths, condescension toward (spouse, children, siblings, boss, MIL, you know who). Not at least if we claim to love God.

As Christians, our first calling is to become more like Jesus.

This is a lifetime calling. As long as we’re still on earth, we’re going to be working on “the sin[s] that so easily besets us.” You know…the moment when you say or do the things you regret the next instant. But as followers as disciples of Jesus, we should all desire to become like Him. This means intentionally assessing our motives, priorities, attitudes, and actions on a regular basis.

Accountability is a necessary, bittersweet part of growing.

Our love for God should compel us to please Him. He has made us complete in Christ, but we to become more like Him as the Spirit of God transforms us. This is a lifelong process. Unfortunately, we don’t go from sinners to perfect people the moment we receive Christ, even though positionally in the spiritual realm, God sees us as sinless and complete because He sees Jesus’ righteousness in place of our sin.

Instead, we grow as we learn more about God’s love for us. The more we know Him, the more we love Him and release the rights we have falsely believed we had to rule life our way. We begin to substitute His will for ours, which is the essence of Jesus’ heart. His every breath, word, motive, and act were to glorify the Father.

Doing “good things” has nothing to do with a moral checklist.

We measure “good things” by arbitrary preferences or personal and cultural biases. Or we do good things to bolster our pride, gain value in others’ eyes fit in, or for other self-serving reasons.

God defines doing good things as doing the things Jesus would do and being conformed to His character. Paul said, “This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him” (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

As believers, we all are works in process. God is on our side and wants to build our character so we become more like Jesus, not so we live from a list of dos and don’ts.

We become like Jesus as our minds are transformed and renewed. 

Transformation is more than following a list of dos and don’ts. It’s learning to live by the fruit of the Spirit–fruit that grows naturally from the spiritual nutrients that flow through our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We lost much of the divine image of God when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. Jesus restored it on the cross, and our calling is to show the world God’s goodness reflected in Jesus as we bear His image.

What a humbling partnership and blessed calling. Amazing grace…

 

Love Doesn’t Bury, It Covers

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Not long ago, a number of adults in my Christian community had the courage to step forward and report abuse they’d suffered as children at the hands of a well-known Christian leader.

Of course they hadn’t reported what happened at the time. They were powerless, vulnerable, terrified children.

Although we tell children to tell if someone if someone hurts them, we often don’t back up our words with our actions. 

Sadly, the faith community most of these kids grew up in placed guilt on those who tried to seek accountability for abuse and justice for the abused.

One of the most tragic and sickening aspects of their story is that after suffering torture as children and abuse aftermath into adulthood, they were abused a second time by Christians who castigated them for reporting the criminal offenses perpetrated against them. Christians criticized them as unloving and unforgiving and did so in the name of Christ.

Unfortunately, Christians sometimes teach that it’s unloving and unbiblical to hold Christian leaders, pastors, friends, relatives, and other Christians accountable for sin.

People justify this line of thinking by saying Christians are called to love one another, and love “covers” a multitude of sins. “Covers” as in buries sin, hides sin, conceals sin, and pretends sin isn’t there or isn’t important. Love means we would never expose someone’s sin.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking just isn’t true. Jesus certainly never shied away from calling people out for their sin (the Pharisees, the woman at the well, Nicodemus, etc.). He confront the sin in people’s lives because He loved them, and this is  how He expects us to respond to Christian brothers and sisters who are struggling with sin. Jesus’ incarnation in a human body on earth is God’s statement that the price for humanity’s sin is so egregious that it could only be paid for by His Son’s life.

We cheapen Jesus’ sacrifice when we minimize sin’s presence, power, and putrifying consequences. 

Imagine eating your favorite meal at a fine dining restaurant with your husband, your best friend, and her husband. The bill comes and you find you owe several hundred dollars for the meal. You’re stunned and horrified because you know you don’t have the resources to pay.

Suddenly, your friend’s hand reaches across the table and slips the check out of your fingers.

“I’ll cover it.”

Her generosity doesn’t nullify what you owe. Her words and actions acknowledge that the debt you incurred needs to be paid. You racked up quite a bill, but she’s will to pay from her own resources.

This is how Jesus covered our sins for us. We’ve all racked up a debt of sin. We have no resources to pay on our own. Jesus paid everything we owed.

He gave up the wonder of heaven to live on a sin-infested planet in a human body with all of its limitations and frustrations.

He took every sin ever imagined or lived out upon Himself so we could be free of sin’s curse.

He gave up His life to torture and excruciating execution so we could experience freedom and life.

So how should we respond when a Christian friend seems to be caught in the grip of sin that’s eroding their life or the lives of those they love?

A few suggestions for how we can help lovingly restore Christian friends who may be struggling with sin:

  1. Approach them with love and humility. No matter what someone’s struggle, it could be yours or your loved one’s some day. We never know where life may take us. I’m very, very grateful that I’ve not been confronted with many of the life challenges that dear friends have faced. Pray for a heart of gratitude and humility before reaching out to others.
  2. Acknowledge the sin as sin, which is always accompanied by pain and loss. Sin isn’t making a mistake. It’s not messing up. Sin is violating God’s requirements, breaking the rules He’s implemented for our protection. Sin always comes at a cost–broken relationship with God and with others. Show compassion and grieve with your friend over the pain their sin has caused. Graciously help them count the cost of their actions for themselves and others. But confession must be accompanied by repentance, a change in behavior that demonstrates that the person has established a new direction in living.
  3. Establish appropriate and biblical consequences. Do they need to offer an apology to the person/s they wronged? Do they need to establish boundaries? Make reparations or restitution? Make lifestyle changes or relinquish habits or behaviors? Step down from a position or relinquish a title? Allow someone physical space and time to heal? Seek professional counseling or treatment?
  4. Cover the sin with mercy and offers of restorative steps. Offer hope that when we repent and turn from our sin, God promises hope and a future. Pray together and ask for the mercy you would hope for for yourself or a family loved one in this moment. Ask God to provide encouragement and your friend to establish resolve to walk through steps of restoration. Show genuine compassion (sympathy, warmth, kindness).
  5. Forgive. Forgiveness typically isn’t a one-time act by an ongoing decision to lay down one’s rights to be vindicated or proven right and desire good things for the offending party. We often have to do this over and over again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean a release from consequences because consequences (not retaliation) are the most profitable and therefore loving circumstances that can come into a sinner’s life.
  6. Establish accountability.  Accountability will look different, depending upon the circumstances of the sin. Criminal charges may need to be filed. A pastor may need to be asked to resign from his position. A family member may need to be asked to seek counseling or rehab. Accountability also requires consequences if someone fails to follow through.

In some cases, people choose sin over and above anything else.

A pastor of a Bible-preaching Midwest church recently announced he’d lost his passion for God, the Word, the church, and his family. It was later discovered he’d established a relationship with another woman, but other problems had also overtaken his life. Church leadership removed him from the pulpit and offered a lengthy sabbatical so the pastor and his wife could work on their marriage. The church paid for marriage counseling, They offered to pay for residential treatment at a Christian rehab center. Over a period of months, the elders surrounded him with prayer and offers of medical assessment and various forms of support. He declined again and again. After announcing that he planned to divorce his wife, the pastor was asked to resign and now lives in another community. The church continues to assist his wife as she raises their children.

These are the stories that break our hearts. Wives, husbands, friends, employers, parents pay the price of our sin.

The world needs us to see, empathize with, and love people enough to ask, “What’s going on beneath the gambling/drinking/affair/partying etc?”

Then who are willing to sit down, listen, and love.

When It’s Love and Not Throwing Someone Under the Bus

 

volkswagen-158463_960_720People sometimes use the phrase “throw someone under the bus” when referring to holding friends or loved ones accountable for their actions. I’ve recently heard the term used in circumstances where churches have been reluctant to require legal or other consequences for the immoral or illegal activity of their leadership.

I’ve also heard the phrase used by Christians who don’t want to hurt friends or those they love by causing them to experience the consequences of their actions (lying, cheating, stealing, immorality, abuse, etc).

But what is accountability anyway? Most people think of the word in terms of negative confrontation and discipline. But accountability is a necessity for believers. It’s simply a willingnesss to be transparent and open to questioning, challenging, admonishing, and confession, in order to receive encouragement and growth.  The purpose is to help one another grow spiritually.
Scripture is clear that as Christians we are to hold one another accountable.

  • Galatians 6:1-2 states that as Christians we are to go to those who are caught in transgressions (sins) and gently restore them. This verse refers to this as lifting a burden from them–an act of kindness toward them–as well as fulfilling God’s law or expectations for us. The word restoration implies action on their part, fixing what was broken. In order to be restored, we must first admit that something was broken–something inside and about us.

    Holding one another accountable for our sins is an act of love. 

  • Matthew 18:15-17 tells us that personal disputes should be resolved face-to-face. If those attempts fail, we should enlist the mediation of Christian friends, and if that’s not successful, we should consult the church or its leaders. In other words, we can’t simply sit back and say, “Confrontation is too hard.” “I don’t feel comfortable doing this.” Restoration is part of family life for Christians.
  • James 5:16 says to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” We need one another–to hold each other up so we don’t stumble and get tripped up by sin. Accountability means that we question, challenge, admonish, confess, and encourage each other for love’s sake, not for ourselves.

Not long ago an extended family member came to live in our home. Our relationship had always been strained. I
struggled with the idea of telling them there would be a need for boundaries in our home. No one had ever laid down
boundaries with my loved one before, and I didn’t expect our conversation to be positive. But my desire was
that they grow beyond their constant criticism of others, I would implement consequences if they criticized other
family members, our church, people they didn’t approve of, or our family’s personal choices. I expected the same
standard of conduct expected of other family members. Much to my surprise, after several pouting session, this
loved one complied. The entire balance of our relationship shifted as a result.

“Throwing someone under the bus” is an act of abandonment. Confronting someone in love is an act of mercy done on their behalf. Never in a spirit of pride. Never for one’s personal good. Always for the spiritual benefit of the other and in a spirit of humility and grace.

I thank God for the people who’ve come to me in this place in my life. They snatched me out of the path of the real giant busses that have nearly crushed my soul. I was simply too oblivious to see them.

Thank God for accountability and love and relationships and love that cares enough not to leave us where we are. Just like Jesus.