Not everyone has a life-altering encounter with God on the road to Damascus. I grew up getting to know Jesus as I went along, so there is no one time I can point to in my life where a major change occurred. When I was five, I decided that I wanted to have Jesus in my heart, but my knowledge of the Gospel was rudimentary at best. My faith and my understanding grew as I did. Now, after all these years, how do I measure my progress toward godliness? Too often I feel like I am trudging along, stumbling over the same mistakes. I know that I have more faith and joy, but I am not sure that it is translating into my actions. Where is the evidence of grace in my life when I interact with other people? If people who are lost can meet Christ for the first time and have their lives changed in an instant, why can’t I see change over the course of time?
Nothing frustrates me more than seeing the same old sins popping up in my life. Just when I think I’ve learned a lesson, I make the same mistake over again. And I always feel so cold-hearted. I will weep for fictional characters in a book or movie, but I have trouble feeling sympathy for a person right in front of me. I recognize my tendency to be harsh and judgmental. I know that God can change me, yet I feel like I should see more transformation already. I have trained myself to spend time in Scripture and in prayer, and I feel that God is working on my heart. Yet, I doubt whether there is any outward evidence that I am growing in faith. I am still myself at the core. I have all of my flaws and am frustratingly human. I know that being human is not an excuse for sin. Jesus paid the price for my sins, and He also called me to turn away from them.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires.
2 Peter 1: 3-4
I am saved by grace, but I want to be rich in good works. I want to bear fruit in keeping with my salvation. Lately, I have this sneaking suspicion that I am trying too hard, which is not to say that it is bad to try to do good. But, I am trying to do this by my own power. Monday morning, Spurgeon’s Morning devotion was from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “For my power is made perfect in weakness.” Spurgeon reflected on the fact that we cannot accomplish anything by our own strength. I am sure this doesn’t mean that I get to sit down and put my feet up. But instead of focusing on what I am doing, I need to focus on God. That is what will help the love and good works flow out from me naturally as God pours into my life.
As I reflect on my journey of faith, I have been thinking about the Apostle Peter. He is a favorite person of mine, and last Sunday, I felt like my pastor was too hard on him. The fact that I took it personally is a sign of how much I relate to Peter. He often said stupid things. He didn’t think it through before he rebuked Jesus, whom he had already recognized as the Christ. He didn’t count the cost before he boasted his willingness to die with Jesus. Then, when the chips were down, he denied his Savior. Yet after the resurrection, when he was out fishing with the other disciples and they saw Jesus on the shore, it was Peter who couldn’t wait for the boat to get in. He jumped into the water and swam to shore to be with Jesus. There was something impulsive about him. I, too, get caught up in the moment. Even though I feel like I am thinking things through, it isn’t until later, when I am alone, that I am able to recognize my own foolishness.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Peter matured and became a spokesperson for the Gospel. He still made mistakes. There is great hope for me in the fact that God was able to use someone as flawed as Peter. But does that mean He can use me? I hope so. The transformation in Peter seems evident when you read John’s Gospel and then go directly into Acts. I suppose these things happen slowly, and are hardest for the person who is being changed to see. The closer you are to someone, the less you notice the subtle changes of time and age, but if you see someone after a long time, the change is clear. I need to stop staring at myself in the mirror and get on with life.
I am trying to use the end of daylight savings time to launch new habits. I decided that as long as my brain is already confused about the time, I should use that to my advantage. I am trying to get up fifteen minutes earlier on workdays, so I will not skimp on my Bible reading and prayer time. This world is so full of distractions, and I often allow myself to pursue other concerns in the morning. How can I be changed if I don’t take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet, or to walk with Him along the shore after breakfast like Peter did?