I had the opportunity to be the main speaker at the Amazing Grace Conference this month. This event is a weekend-long retreat that brings together women from all around the State of Oregon, primarily from Free Methodist churches, but also from various other churches. I got to write and deliver four sermons over 3 days! Honestly, it was exhilarating, as one thing that brings me an adrenaline rush is to share God’s word openly, honestly, passionately, and from my heart.
I am a self-proclaimed adrenaline junky (and my family and close friends will attest to this). I’ve had three concussions in my life and that is either because I play too hard or I’m just clumsy! I like to compete and I like to win – I’m probably a much better winner than loser, but I do try to be gracious.
As I prepared the sermons for the Amazing Grace Conference I wrote these words: The work that Jesus does in our lives is not for a moment in time, but from each moment forward. This statement has resonated with me. As a pastor, I get to meet regularly with a lot of people. I encourage those with whom I meet and those I teach that the call on our lives is simply to love God and love others. The more we do these two things then the more we become like Christ. The stumbling block to this forward trajectory of becoming Christ-like are often the habits and patterns in our lives that we turn to in order to cope when the hard times start pressing in on us. Ultimately, we hope to trust Christ through every challenge and trial. However, realistically, it is a process that sometimes feels like one step forward and two steps backward. At times, we find ourselves pressed on all sides and suddenly trying to solve our own problems, digging our own way out of a hole, and managing our stress by making plans instead of saying a prayer.
When I find myself trying to master my problems instead of giving them over to the Master, I sometimes feel that I have undone (for lack of a better word) some of the work Jesus has accomplished in my life. As I wrote the words that I shared above that the work Jesus does in our lives is not for a moment in time, but from each moment forward, and as I spoke these words to an audience of 150 women on Sunday morning, my own understanding of how Jesus works in my life came into clearer view.
When Jesus died on the cross in my place, shedding his blood to purify me, and then rose from the dead, defeating death forever, this was not just for a moment in time, but from that moment forward. He then ascended to heaven and sent his Holy Spirit to live within me. Too often, I judge my faith walk by whether I feel I am becoming something more; more faithful, more loving, more giving, more humble, more trusting. But, the fact remains that I will never be enough. I am going to constantly fail and fall far too short of being like Christ. However, my ability to get it right and love God as completely as I should and love others as openly as I should is not the measure of my righteousness. My righteousness is measured by Christ’s righteousness, and when he bore my sins on the cross he did so not just for that moment but from that moment forward.
I will not be dissuaded from my trek to become as much like Christ as I can in this life. But, my striving and my driving become less about what I do and more about what Christ does in me when I realize it is His work that matters and not my own.
God begins a good work in the lives of believers and then He completes his good work! And, the good work He does in our lives is not just for a moment in time, but from each moment forward.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NLT)