Conservative churches in suburbia can sometimes give off the vibe that we have it all together — that nobody has children on the verge of abandoning Christ, that nobody is abusing prescription drugs, that nobody is depressed or wondering if it’s really worth it to follow Jesus, that nobody has a dysfunctional marriage, that nobody gossips or slanders, that nobody has ever committed adultery, and that nobody has doubts about the Bible.
Shh! Now, come closer so I can tell you a secret: that vibe doesn’t correspond to reality. At all. Wait, this isn’t a secret! At all. And that’s part of the problem. It’s right there in our
theology, if we will simply put the pieces together.
The Christian life is war! We fight against indwelling sin, the world system, the Devil, and all his demons. And for whatever unrevealed reason, God has willed to save His people in stages — not instantaneously.
First, God grants gospel-believers a new legal status in His courtroom (justification) that is accompanied by inner spiritual life (regeneration). This happens at the moment of saving faith — that is, when someone believes the gospel message, turning from their sin.
Second, the Holy Spirit, then, takes this believer and incrementally makes him/her more like Jesus Christ, the perfect human. But even this work of transformation is life-long and imperfect, in the sense that it’s never completed in this life.
Third, only at the point of death (or the return of Christ) is the believer fully “like Him” in the sense that our fight with sin is over and our sinful nature is finally eradicated and finally replaced with the perfect character of Jesus Christ.
What does all this mean for the church? When we act like we have it all together, we are only fooling ourselves. Here’s a challenge for 2018: Be real and transparent in your relationships. Ask real questions. Abandon the facade. Be open
about problems, pressures, bad responses, anxieties, temptations, trials, failures, and sins. As you do this, remember that transparency is not an end in itself. Rather, transparency allows us to be humbly honest about how much we need God to continue to transform us through the Spirit and by the Word.