The other evening I enjoyed a beer with one of the guys in our church. During the conversation he said:
"I seem to care less about my sin than I used to."
This was a broken rather than brash reflection.
What to think?
A) He's getting less mature. He's not surrounded by people who can point him back to Jesus.The first is obviously possible, and cured by repentance to Christ. And if we're failing to pro-actively tell him of Jesus he can ask us to do so, to help him back out of his sin and back to his Saviour. Our own sufferings and sins might be why we're not offering help - if only someone would move first.
B) He's getting more mature. This is one of the painful steps in the Christian journey.
The second might be more likely.
Serge (formerly World Harvest Mission) are helpful here. Take this image posted by Glen Scrivener:
Early on in my walk with Jesus I know a bit of my sin and a bit of the goodness of God and see the cross as enough to cover the distance.
As I go onward the Spirit cleans up the obvious sins and I learn how to behave in the church culture I'm in. I feel like I'm making progress, I feel like I'm growing. It's uncomfortable but Jesus seems good.
After a while the honeymoon exhiliration wears off and it can be a little less dynamic.
I might even start to feel like I'm not growing. I feel less away of obvious sin.
At this point I can settle for less.... but how does that help me?
At this point I can blame others for failing to expose my sin... though where will that get me?
At this point I can realise I'm worse than I realised.
At this point the Spirit might be showing me that I'm such a betraying wretch that I can go day to day without feeling the depths of my sin.
My sin goes deeper than I realised.
To see this isn't a place for despair.
To see this isn't a place to settle.
To see this is to be on the brink of a deeper repentance.
To see this is to be ready to be honest about my dullness.
To see this is to be in a place to be vulnerable and really begin to help others too.
"Tell me again about Jesus..."
"Walk me back out of my mess and to the cross again..."
I know the stuff. My doctrine lines up. But my 'real' beliefs are regularly out of whack.
"I believe this about God... but in the gospel God says..."
Here is normal Christian life.
The honest reality of seeing I've nothing in myself and I need one who is outside of me.
This is heart-breaking as the floor falls out from beneath me to reveal the abyss of my sin, and where God might seem further away than ever, but where I can see the cross is bigger than I realised.
What Jesus death does is bigger than I realised.
What Jesus death does is bigger than I realised I needed.
What Jesus death does it bigger than I've yet seen.
Leader Harding, via Jake Belder:
I have become more and more suspicious of the concept of the nominal Christian. Our parish churches are supposed to be full of nominal Christians who are just going through the motions, of half-believers who are relying on their good works and who have not really surrendered to Christ and accepted the Gospel. In any parish church there are a few real apostates, and a few real scoffers and perhaps a few who genuinely hate God. Their numbers are routinely exaggerated. Most of the people who come to the church Sunday by Sunday know they are dying and are placing their hope in Christ. It may be an inarticulate hope, it may be a confused hope. Often there are huge brambles of misunderstanding that must be cleared away before the whole power of the good news can come in upon them. Often there is real darkness into which the light of Christ has not yet come and which cries out for a light-bearer. Yet, they come. When Jesus saw such as these gathered in their multitudes on the hill side, the sight provoked in him not contempt for the nominal but compassion, 'for they were like sheep without a shepherd.'My grandeur falls away.
My sense of being a victorious believer falls away.
My track-record falls away.
I'm a good boy who feeds on others.
I'm a bad boy who feeds on others.
I'm at the end of the road again.
I'm no better than anyone else.
I'm as bad as the rest.
I'm befuddled by my sin.
My Saviour stands.
My Saviours arms are wide open.
Running, pleading, compassionate for me.