jQuery Slider

You are here

DEVOTIONAL - Being on the Way: The Normal Christian Life

DEVOTIONAL - Being on the Way: The Normal Christian Life

By Alan Medinger
Regeneration News, December 2003

This article was inspired by the book On Hope by Josef Pieper, published
by Ignatius Press, 1986; translated from the German.

A number of times in these articles I have addressed the question as to
how we can live with relative peace within the context of two truths
that seem to crash headlong into each other—the truth that God calls us
to live a holy life and the truth that we keep on sinning. Most recently
I touched on this in the article “Who Is I? And Who Is Me?” (October
2003). This is a critical issue for most of us because if we find
ourselves accepting too easily that we are sinners, we risk falling into
complacency or worse yet, we abuse God’s grace. On the other side, if we
go too far berating ourselves for our sinfulness, we risk not
experiencing the joy and freedom that is rightfully ours in Jesus
Christ. You probably know people who live at either of the extremes;
those who with an attitude of, “Well, we all sin,” seem to live in a
permanent state of cheap grace, and those who seem to live in a state of
perpetual self-condemnation show little of the joy of knowing Jesus. I
suspect most of us don’t dwell constantly at one extreme or the other,
but rather, we bounce back and forth between the two. In this article I
am going to approach the problem from a different direction—from the
perspective that we are all becoming, we are all a work in process, we
are all on the way. Accepting this truth can bring both stability and
hope into our lives, and both stability and hope inspire victory in our
Christian walk.

Being a Person Still on the Way In seeking to overcome sexual sins, we
can only be in one of four states: · moving forward · moving backward ·
standing still · arrived My belief is—and I am going to build a case for
it—that if we are leading “the normal Christian life,” then we are
moving forward. I am going to describe what I mean by the normal
Christian life, but first let me eliminate one of the four states—having
arrived. I am not ready to state this unequivocally, but I believe quite
strongly that as long as we possess the capacity to imagine, we will not
be totally free from lust, at least not in this life. Using concepts
from the writing of Thomas Aquinas, Josef Pieper refers to living in
either status viatoris or status comprehensoris. Status viatoris means
“being on the way” while status comprehensoris means “having arrived”,
no longer being a viator, having achieved perfect union with Christ.
While status comprehensoris is our ultimate hope and destination,
certainly none of us will be there until the moment of death. Even the
Apostle Paul was quite clear that he was a viator, a person still on the
way:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press
on to make [knowing Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection] my
own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not
consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what
lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward
the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let
those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think
otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to
what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)

Part of the good news of Jesus Christ is that being a viator is the
natural state for all believers. In the born-again believer the
indwelling Holy Spirit is constantly drawing us towards status
comprehensoris, the state of perfect union with Jesus, the state of
perfect happiness. We do not reach it is this life, but being drawn
towards it is at the center of Christian life. Being drawn is certain to
occur because it is what the Holy Spirit does. Now it is true that we
can resist being drawn, and with our abiding free will, resist it so
successfully that we find ourselves stuck or falling backward. But this
is analogous to my using an umbrella to shade myself from the sun. Even
if I do this, the sun is still shining.

The Normal Christian Life It is not any extraordinary effort on our
part, any sort of heroic Christianity that causes us to be drawn forward
towards completeness in Jesus Christ. We simply need to be ordinary
Christians leading the normal Christian life. What is this normal
Christian life? I believe it is marked by the following conditions:

1. We agree with basic Biblical truths as historically interpreted by
the church and as expressed in the ancient creeds of the church. We hold
to those beliefs that are universal in time and place. These are the
fundamental Christian beliefs about God and man, about sin and redemption.
There is a matter of choice here. Christians who take hold of “new
truths” (such as those recently put forth at the Episcopal Church’s
national convention in Minneapolis) are quite likely in rebellion, a
rebellion that is, at least in its early stages, freely chosen. They
have chosen to adopt beliefs that will justify their behavior, rather
than trying to change their behavior to be in accord with the beliefs
expressed in Scripture and taught by the church. To a far greater extent
than most people imagine, people believe what they want to believe. What
have you chosen to believe, especially about sexual sin and sexual purity?

2. We spend significant personal time with the Lord in prayer,
meditation and the study of Scripture. This is how we grow in knowing
Jesus and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 12:10). If we are
growing in Him, we cannot help but be on the way.

3. We are an active part of a community of believers. We are called to
be a part of His Body. This is not an option. It is in interacting with
other believers that we are challenged, convicted, encouraged,
comforted, inspired; we experience all of the elements that provide
growth. If you are in a large church where you are not known, join a
small home group. If you are in a church where there is no body life,
you may need to change churches. If you are in a church where body life
is present, and you choose not to be involved, don’t look for growth and
healing.

4. We are trying to be obedient to God. We try to do those things we
should do, and we try not to do those things we should not do. Don’t
berate yourself with, “If I only tried harder…” I have never found that
such self-talk helped anyone. Ultimately, it will be God’s power that
enables us to become obedient. Our role is to cooperate by never giving
up trying.

5. We confess when we sin. As people on the way, those who haven’t
arrived, we will sin. We have the answer to sin—repentance and
confession. This seems so simple, and it is.
But over and over again in our ministry we see confusion enter right
here. We encounter many Christians who in broad terms want to live a
life of obedience to the Lord, but who have consciously decided to go on
with their lust, their fantasy, their masturbation. They see overcoming
homosexuality or lust as a step by step process, and they imagine—or
tell themselves—that they know just what the steps are. Usually they
hide behind something like, “Later, I am not at a place to stop yet.”
The truth is, they are choosing to go on with their sin. When this is
the case, I believe that confession of that particular sin is
inappropriate. However, there are other things that such people can do.
They can confess the sin of rebellion, asking God to change their wills.
If this is where you are, right now, go back and re-read the previous
four elements of the normal Christian life. What do you really believe
about lust and about your sexuality? What are you choosing to believe?
Take time to pray about this, to talk to Jesus about it, to study God’s
word with respect to sexual sins. Share with mature Christians in your
fellowship where you are. And try, even if you feel like trying is futile.

6. As a “sacramental believer”, I would add a sixth element to the
normal Christian life, the regular participation in the Eucharist. I
believe that receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood has a life changing
effect on us, but I realize that this is not where many of our readers
are, and I do believe that the five elements described do comprise a
life in which change will occur.

Part of Your Life Now, here’s a key point in all of this. There is not
one of these five (or six) elements of the normal Christian life that
cannot be a part of your life. And if they are present, you are on the
way, and a part of this being on the way will be your growth in sexual
purity. There will surely be times when you feel you are stuck, times
even when you sense that you are falling back. That too is “normal.” The
road toward completion is never a straight line. God may have you on
hold until he gets your attention in some other area of your life. Most
of us have found times when we had to sink deeply into the muck and mire
of our own sins before we would find ourselves at a place where we were
ready to truly die to something. If you are leading the normal Christian
life, you are on the way to true and lasting change because it is not
your power that is going to change you. It is His power. Paul wrote to
the Thessalonians:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of
his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of
faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified
in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord
Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

It is His power. And for this reason, you have every reason for hope.

END

Subscribe
Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Prayer Book Alliance
Trinity School for Ministry

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice

DrinkCoffeeDoGood.com

Go To Top