Conformed to Christ


When believers receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are His, not the world's. As fallen creatures, all men and women are spiritual orphans, cast out of God's presence (the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:23). When a person believes in the Son and receives His free gift of salvation, that person is returned to the presence of the Father. An orphan no more.

Jesus said in John Chapter 12:

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.
The believer is delivered from Fallen Man's condition of spiritual abandonment and is adopted as a son or daughter into the Kingdom of God. One of the most oft-quoted passages in the Bible is Jesus' parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31). A young man leaves his father for a far away land, whereupon he squanders his inheritance. He regrets his decision and resolves to return home. To his great surprise, the son is welcomed home by his father with open arms. The parable of the lost son neither suggests so-called "free grace" (or antinomianism) nor denies the plenary guarantee of eternal salvation. Rather, it illustrates the believer's justification by grace through faith. The key point is that the prodigal son repented: he "came to his senses" (Luke 13:17), turned around, and came back home. Repentance (from the Greek metanoeo, meaning "to turn back") is the action that brings the lost son back into the loving arms of his father. His inheritance remains. The gift of salvation is God's to give, but the believer's stewardship of that gift has very high stakes indeed. Had not the son repented, he would've been lost forever.

Christian stewardship involves making choices that fly against the natural tendencies of sinful man. The Apostle Paul wrote most pointedly, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin." (Romans 7:14) Lot from Genesis Chapter 19 was an example of the carnal believer, very much attached to his city but nonetheless righteous before the Lord (2 Peter 7-8). Though God delivers Lot from destruction, He does not spare the man the horrifying consequences of his worldly life (Genesis 19:26, 33). A repentant King David suffers great personal loss as a result of his sinful episode with Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12), but the Lord keeps His promise of securing the throne in the line of David. Because of passages like these and the story of the prodigal son, the following question frequently arises: can the believer stray willy-nilly from God, then come back whenever he pleases and still freely receive salvation? It's a leading question. Although pretending otherwise, it expects an answer which presupposes that man is party to his salvation and that there exists an insecurity, however small, to the Lord's eternally secured plan for believers. Man has tried for centuries to reformulate or change Bible-based Christian soteriology.

Paul wrote in Philippians Chapter 3:
9 And be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.
To be found in Christ -- that is is the goal of the believer. Or: to glorify God, to walk with the Lord, to be conformed to His image. In the preceding verse, Paul specifically states that this goal is achieved not from self-righteousness but from faith in Christ. Paul is not talking about any old kind of faith. Fallen man waxes poetic about "faith" all the time, yet he has no capacity for true faith. Sure, he has faith in himself, in fellow man, in the works of man -- but not faith in God. Upon receiving Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer receives the imprimatur of Christ, the Holy Counselor (Holy Spirit). Jesus refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in John 15:26: "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." The capacity for true faith, that is, submission to Christ, cannot exist without the Holy Spirit.

God substantiates faith. Man must believe, but he is led to faith by the Holy Spirit. Man must submit his will to Christ, but he is called by the Holy Spirit. The believer may leave the house of the Father, but the Father does not ever leave the believer. The believer must return to claim his inheritance, but he would not return were God's Truth not written in his heart (Jeremiah 31:33). That is the "grace" component of justification by grace through faith. Grace is not for man to gain or lose; it is for the Lord to give. God calls his children home, as the "hen gathers her chicks" (Matthew 23:37) If an individual is willing to submit to Christ, he will hear the call, and that is the "faith" component. That kind of faith (in and from God) will lead to righteousness, but righteousness in and of itself cannot lead to faith. Consequently, authentic good works are always an expression of faith rather than a working toward faith.

On the subject of believers, Paul wrote in Romans Chapter 8:
28 And we know that in all good things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Faith conforms the believer to Christ's image. Every individual is faced with dozens of choices each day, many small but of no less importance than the big ones. That is because making a choice can be boiled down to whether one puts their faith in Christ...or puts their faith in something else. And because faith can often be expressed in small, less visible ways or in ways not appreciated by man ("The Lord does not look at the things man looks at," 1 Samuel 16:7), we are instructed to not judge other men's hearts, no matter how desperately we may want to. (Judging action is a far different thing, though even there, Christians must remember that motive is far more indicative of faith than the action itself.) Christ daily conforms the believer via these many life moments and decisions; hence, Christians often refer to themselves as "works in progress." Family, friends, even strangers each play a part (willed by God) in setting a believer on his or her way, at different moments in life. The rate and manner of every believer's progress will vary; so long as we put our complete trust in Christ, the goal will be achieved.

Inherent in questions regarding carnal believers, the security of salvation, and "whether they can or cannot get away with it" is a perceptible, if slight, crisis of faith. To believe upon the Lord is to believe in His total power alone to change men. And it happens in His time as He sees fit. Overnight change is uncommon because there is a spiritual war going on in every believer's heart. A believer has two natures: the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature. The Lord draws us near Him as we reject the sinful nature. But when we lock things away from Him -- anything, including our own sense of righteousness or good works -- we are refusing to submit that part of ourselves to Christ. Even the most lily-white thing we possess in nature or action, we must let go of for Christ. Only He can give us a true eternal righteousness. We stray, but He fights for us more than we fight for Him. And that unconditional love is what should turn us around (as with the prodigal son) before it is too late and death closes in on us (we don't know when) and we are truly lost. We must make choices like that, to varying degrees, each day as we live our lives (2 Corinthians 7:10). The gift of salvation is freely given, but not without heavy accountability on the part of the believer.

Referring to Christ in John Chapter 3 (KJV), John the Baptist said:
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

Remember the Bereans


In support of the Biblically-based concept sola scriptura, we often hear the story of the Bereans. Paul and Silas, after leaving Thessalonica under duress, went on to preach the Gospels in Berea around 50 A.D.

Luke wrote in Acts Chapter 17:

11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
Sola scriptura, or literally, "the Bible alone" unequivocally argues for the total inerrancy and sufficiency of Holy Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, said quite directly that "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) and in his prayer to the Father, "sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). Human tradition and philosophy, if not at odds with God's Word, are assuredly only shadows of the Truth (cf. Colossians 2:8). Sola scriptura does not necessarily infer literalism, though they are often confused. (However, literalism is regarded pejoratively, sometimes even by Christians, in order to undermine the concept of sola scriptura. Literalism as a method of Biblical exegesis is quite misunderstood. The late Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee once said that symbolism is, in fact, part of literal interpretation, so long as they're concrete symbols, e.g. the Cross, as opposed to "fuzzy" symbols, e.g. a fish, which can be interpreted a number of ways.)

Fallen Man's resistance to sola scriptura and the efficacy of God's word is quite memorably stated in Psalm 14 (and quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:11-12):
2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
As sinful creatures, we seek truth in the world where there is none. Because believers still retain the sinful nature, this tendency persists. If we are not closely studying and living the Word of God, we can be seduced by the philosophies of men -- we give in to the pride of life, one of the three Edenic temptations (cf. 1 John 2:16) later repeated by the devil in the desert (cf. Matthew 4). Believers must be wary of spiritual poison. We wouldn't dare eat or drink something that has even a drop of poison, but when it comes to spiritual matters, we are typically not as discerning.

Which is why we must remember the Bereans: there is something wrong when believers defend the works and words of men more avidly than the Bible itself. These days, many Christians are looking for Christ in the world rather than looking for Christ in the Word. As a result, an attachment to the world gradually develops, followed by a spiritual recidivism. When we cling to the philosophies of men, we begin to exhibit the behavior of men, rather than conform to the image of Christ. Superficial and utilitarian spirituality results when the Word of God is neglected, which is why name brand Christianity is so prevalent today. Modern evangelicalism has drifted from a primary emphasis on God's Word to an emphasis on the works of men that refer to, reflect, or in some cases rephrase God's Word.

From the giants of Christian literature, such as Tolkien, Lewis, or even Gibran (if you're so inclined), to contemporary Christian works, such as the Left Behind series, "The Passion of the Christ," or even the music of Johnny Cash, the words and works of man are ardently and articulately defended by today's Christians to a degree rarely seen when it comes to defending Scripture. Of course there is room for literature, philosophy, the arts, the intellect, and so on in a Biblical world view; that is not the issue. The issue is what believers should be passionately defending first and foremost. Living the faith as a witness for Christ and using man's works to witness for Christ are two very different things.

The English Christian intellectuals Lewis and Tolkien have both been quoted here in past entries without criticism and probably will be in the future. They are obviously not to be dismissed out of hand. To become so enamored with their works to the point of ignoring their doctrinal error, however, is to eventually allow oneself to descend into universalism. To do so would be to also ignore 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV): "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." In his rather provocatively titled "Did C.S. Lewis Go to Heaven?" (note: pdf file) John W. Robbins directly questions the Scriptural veracity in Lewis's writings. (That a critical eye has been cast on this, or any, pillar of Christian idolatry seems more important than Robbins's conclusions. However, Robbins far exceeds his prerogative when he renders judgment on the person of Lewis, by failing to acknowledge that all believers are works-in-progress.) Similarly, Berit Kjos argues that The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's magnum opus, owes more to paganism than Christianity. Again, the question is not so much whether Lewis, Tolkien, et al. are harmful but whether believers will continue to indiscriminately accept the words of men as truth without first searching their Bibles.

Chris Armstrong, writing in "Christianity Today," expresses a rather common view among modern Christians: "'To praise, exalt, establish, and defend.' The great Roman Catholic journalist and author G. K. Chesterton, in one of his gem-like short essays, urged all Christians to do these things when they came across worthy literary or artistic expressions....Chesterton argued that it's our job as Christians to seek out cultural products that say something worth saying-and then to recommend them to others." On one level, there is little to debate here; Armstrong even quotes Philippians 4:8 (though without the felicitousness with which he quotes Chesterton). But he gives no warning, no caveat emptor, for buying into so-called Christian entertainments that only superficially talk Christian. Armstrong rightly points out the sweetened secularism of many a contemporary family film, but he offers no discerning view for what he calls "Christian-themed" works. Simply because a work has ostensible Christian themes does not mean it truly carries the banner of Christ or that the Holy Spirit has breathed Truth into it, to any degree. To look past name brand, utilitarian Christianity will require more effort on the part of believers.

The Holy Bible is both descriptive and prescriptive, historical and spiritual. To live by the faith is to live by the Word. If the Bible is in error or insufficient, even to the most infinitesimal degree, then there is no faith. If the works or words of man cannot be substantiated by Scripture, then they cannot be accorded the label of truth. There are not many paths to Truth, save one, narrow and straight (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). After fasting 40 days and nights in the desert, Jesus resisted the devil's temptation to turn the stones into bread with the following words in Matthew Chapter 4 (and in so doing, cited Deuteronomy 8:3):
4 It is written: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Christian Escapism?


Earlier this year, 19-year-old Traci Johnson tragically took her own life while undergoing drug trials at a pharmaceutical company near Indiana Bible College, the Pentecostal school she was attending. She'd wanted to make some extra money to pay for her studies. By accounts, Johnson had come from a strong Christian background and was truly a follower of Christ. The school she was attending doesn't even allow television. Yet Johnson allowed herself to become a subject in a drug trial that risked highly unpredictable results. And she wasn't the only one at her school participating in these trials. Could it have been a sheltered unworldliness that left Johnson unprepared for the callousness, selfishness, and greed of the world at large? And if so, aren't Christians commanded not to be lovers of this world?

Jesus speaks of the saved in John Chapter 17:

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
When Christians are said to be "in the world, but not of this world," as the above verses are commonly rephrased, it is meant to infer a state of spiritual separation, not physical separation. On this latter point, there is much debate among believers since physical separation can often be quite relative. Yet, Jesus is quite clear on this point, for He defines "in the world" in the terms of His own time on Earth., a non-profit organization based in Texas, is calling Christian Americans to form a Christian nation within the state of South Carolina. The projected date of independence (i.e. secession from the Union) is 2016. The group contends, rather credibly, that the United States government no longer serves its Christian citizens and is, in fact, progressively antagonistic towards them. There have been other groups, from time to time, with similar goals. Does this course of action advocate to Christians that the solution for these problems is to run away from them? Or is the situation so dire that this plan resembles the flight to America of pilgrims escaping religious persecution in 17th-century Europe? There is certainly enough evidence of antagonism towards Christianity (some would say persecution) today to support the latter position. However, there is no more New World to run to; those cards have been played out.

A Christian nation in the U.S., were it to even reach fruition, would be far more vulnerable than other nations to the global hegemony wielded by the U.S. (or U.N., whatever the case may be) Assembling a large number of Christians all in one location could have an unintended effect, that is, enabling their own genocide by inciting military wrath from the outside. In Proverbs 28:12, the Bible tells us that "when the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding."

There are several recent examples in churches where the issue of Christian separation has resulted in division (note the Anglican Communion/U.S. Episcopal Church) or even schism. In June, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance because the main body had strayed too far from a Biblical worldview. The SBC stopped short of passing a resolution to fully endorse home schooling and Christian private education over public education. That debate is far from over for the single reason that public schools in the U.S. have gone from a secular position (the banishment of school prayer in 1963) to outright antagonism towards Christianity. There is no question that children need protection and that there are few, if any, credible arguments left for believers to support the direction that the public schools are taking. But when you take the children out, you're also taking their parents and the Christian teachers out. What about the remaining children of godless parents? The question should also be whether or not home schooling or private Christian education can prepare children for the temptations and traps of an ungodly world. Because believers are to be in the world, Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 10:
16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
When it comes to spiritual separation for many Christians today, it is often of the name brand variety. When you have Christian books, music, and movies that merely are religiously souped-up versions of their secular counterparts, separation is reduced to a matter of labeling. It's not real. Jesus calls for change beginning on the inside, which is why nonbelievers frequently see through the sham of utilitarian separation. The Christian message must not be subverted by its presentation simply so it can be palatable to the world. (Case in point: so-called "Christian" heavy metal.) Believers cannot be sheep in wolf's clothing. They must represent the Lamb of God through and through. It is futile and unbiblical to dress up humanism for God's purpose. At the same time, a believer's works need not be emblazoned with superficial signs of Christianity. If the Holy Spirit is absent, no amount of ixthus bumper stickers or stadium-filling rallies will deliver Jesus' message of salvation.

The only theocracy that will truly work is the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ returns to rule the Earth. Any earthly government, no matter its structure or purpose, has its limits in the fallen nature of man. Believers cannot simply run away with what they know and hope God will come. We must go to Him first and follow His Will. The travails of this time are not a test of personal perseverance but of faith in Jesus Christ. To find answers for the government, the church, the arts, education, the family, and so on, we must go directly to Him. The dissolution of these institutions which we hold dear is inevitable without an unbroken devotion to Christ.

It's nice to be put on a white robe to cover our dirtiness, but we can't do it. God has to put the white robe on us. To demand holiness or the conditions for holiness is demanding personal gratification. A believer must pray that, by the grace of God, he will be able to submit his will to the Lord. And when it's God's Will, he will deliver His people (cf. Genesis 6 and Exodus)...but first we must be in His Will, instead of playing at being godly.

As tempting as it may be, believers mustn't throw up their hands at the problems of the world. Does fleeing the world absolve a Christian's own culpability (as a sinful creature) in the decline of civilization? No. We are our brother's keeper, whether we like it or not (a lesson learned only four chapters into the Bible). Jesus followed the above verses from John Chapter 17 with these words:
20 My prayer is not for [those already saved] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [emphasis added] message.

God's Will


Ever since the Garden of Eden, man has disobeyed God's will. God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they chose to do so anyway. This action introduced sin into the world, a state of spiritual separation from God. Death became one of the chief physical consequences of sin as God says to Adam in Genesis Chapter 3:

19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
Those who claim "God is on their side" need only stop to consider for a moment that they are creations of the Heavenly Creator. Individuals and groups function either on His side or not on His side, though usually not so decisively. Fallen Man desperately wants to avoid making this decision, and to ease his conscience, tries to make God smaller (often by way of rather acrobatic intellectual contortions). But God, the Lord of Hosts (Yahweh Tsebaoth), is not like one of those Greek "gods" who comes down from Mt. Olympus and takes sides in the affairs of man. The Almighty God is above all, and He is merciful and loving and wants us to individually come to know him, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. The Lord describes this relationship in Jeremiah Chapter 31, some 600 years before the birth of Christ:
33 I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
God's laws are immutable, whether before or after Jesus' time on Earth. What changed at the Cross of Calvary is how the breaking of God's law (i.e. sin) is propitiated. Jesus' blood atonement became the ultimate and plenary sacrifice, thus doing away with the previous covenantal law (the Jewish rituals and ordinances relating to sacrifice and propitiation for sin). God's laws remain the same. These laws, as an extension of His will, take shape and are exercised in the form of three God-ordained institutions: marriage/family, the church, and government. At their root is God's relationship with each individual. The health of these institutions can serve as a spiritual barometer for nations as a whole -- and just how close to, or far from, God's will they really are at any given time.

On the macro level of nations, war is the perennial sign of man's willfully sinful nature. War is the consequence of man living outside God's will, which is not to say that he cannot and should not fight righteously. We say it was God's will that the Allies were the victors in World War II, not because God was on their side, but because the Allies fought for inalienable rights God grants all men. This is not moral reduction, i.e. "the good guys always win," because they clearly do not. The success or failure of righteousness should not be counted solely in worldly terms, for this is a fallen world. However, that which points to God's will can be recognized and fought for, even at the level of war with all its chaotic variables. As we say in the Lord's prayer: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven." (Matthew 6:10, KJV) The exercise of human will inevitably brings suffering and death, and the further a government functions outside God's will, the greater its inequities become.

Similarly, the recent scandals in the Catholic church startlingly reveal the degree to which that institution, as a whole, has strayed from God's will. Now we are seeing the rotten fruit, and it certainly hasn't happened overnight. Once outside of God's will, we are all the more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the world. No amount of lawyers can protect the Catholic church until there is a total change starting from the top. Nothing remains hidden before God: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." (Matthew 10:26) The Catholic church is not alone. The acquiescence of the mainstream Protestant churches to the so-called church growth movement demonstrates a laxity in obedience to God's will. When the church embraces the world, "the salt loses its saltiness" and is "no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." (Matthew 5:13)

In the last fifty years, particularly in the developed Western countries, the institution of marriage has come under direct assault from steadily increasing and prevalent sexual licentiousness. The rotten fruits of society's drift from God is felt most acutely in the family: divorce rates are high, abortion is condoned, and sexuality has been completely unhinged from Godly love and responsibility. These are all the classic signposts of civilization in decline. All other societies that celebrated infanticide and aberrant sexuality have long since been relegated to the dustbin of history (e.g. Sodom and Gomorrah, ancient Greece and Rome).

Lastly, we arrive at an individual's relationship with God. Thought and action are the provinces where man chooses whether or not to operate in God's will, although the two may not necessarily occur together. For example, while an unbeliever may not follow God's will in thought, he may unwittingly do so in action -- such is the Almighty power of the Lord. Say a person lives their life without fear (as in fear of man); by doing so, they partially accomplish the will of God. This is why we can see unbelievers accomplish some great feat, produce some innovation, raise wonderful children -- at some level they operated within God's will, whether or not they were conscious of that. Conversely, believers sometimes have a tendency to second-think the will of God. In thought, they follow Him, but in action, they do not. They succumb to the fear of man rather than exalt in the fear of God.

The lesson we can take from this is that no man can effect that which is the province of God's will. God can and will work through all men, and His will is immutable. When the unsaved operate in God's will, it is Divine Providence, but when the saved follow the Lord's will, it is Divine Grace. The difference is quite astonishing, as if a light has been turned on. For when we receive Jesus Christ, we begin to understand the will of the Father. "I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25)

The Walk


The walk with Christ is the most fundamental aspect of a believer's life after receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior. A Christian will face obstacles and hardship in this world as they actively submit their will to Jesus. The gift of salvation is a supreme example of God's Grace and a very real responsibility for the believer. We know that submission to Christ entails faithfulness to the Word of God and repentance of sin, but just what does our day-to-day walk with Christ look like?

Romans Chapter 12:

4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts according to the grace given us.
Just as people have unique personalities, the manifestation of the Christian walk is not meant to be indistinguishable among believers. God has bestowed upon all men and women natural gifts, which cover all practical pursuits from physician to teacher, entertainer to athlete, and so on. Regardless of whether they are used to fulfill Godly goals, the Lord freely endows these natural gifts, so boundless is His Love and Wisdom. We often see individuals use their God-given talents to serve humanistic, or even demonic, purposes. This is why Martin Luther once remarked to the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus: "I acknowledge that you are a great man, adorned with many of God's noblest gifts--wit, learning and an almost miraculous eloquence, to say nothing of the rest; whereas I have and am nothing, save that I would glory in being a Christian."

It is unwise for believers to not acknowledge the natural gifts that God has given all, saved and unsaved. The reason for addressing this is that the walk with the Lord requires not, for all believers, a call to ministry and/or outward signs of religiosity, but rather the use of natural gifts, whatever they may be, to glorify God. Of course, there are instances where a man or woman embarks upon a field which utilizes their natural gifts but does not glorify God -- crime is a good example. Those individuals must make a major career change. By and large, however, the Lord calls upon His people to shine His Light upon the world in their current capacities, usually outside church walls.

Fulfilling one's God-given potential is essential for the Christian walk. The Christian who is otherwise faithful in spiritual matters but fritters away their natural talents disobeys the Lord. A believer cannot be complete in Christ by shirking their earthly duties. God has a plan for us all, and He does not call us to something in which we cannot succeed and be a winner. Not necessarily a winner in the worldly sense (exaltation of Self), but in the sense of glorifying God.

Following the above passage from Romans Chapter 12, the Apostle Paul goes on to describe the spiritual gifts that God bestows upon each believer. Unlike natural gifts, spiritual gifts cannot begin to blossom without first being seeded in Christ. The natural and spiritual gifts are meant to dovetail seamlessly for the believer as they mature in their Christian walk. Maturity is the key concept here. While our hearts are to possess the purity of little children (cf. Matthew 18:2-4), our minds must mature. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13:
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
What often steers us away from the path of Christ are recurring sins -- sins that we hold onto like security blankets. We may hate them, but we still cling to them. Or these sins seem innocuous enough that we reason them away as not hurting anyone else. To use a similar analogy, we are like children refusing to let go of a sugary candy when we refuse to relinquish our sins to God. The maturing Christian must look to Christ first; if that individual chooses to seek their own security, they will inexorably be bonded to that sin, no matter how hard they struggle. How often do we hear someone justify a sinful behavior by claiming that it's existed since childhood? Don't children lie, cheat, and steal, as well? For a person to grow in Christ, they must let go of the small comforts of humanity for the greater Love of God.

We also hear people say that so-and-so is "a wonderful person except for such-and-such sin." That's like referring to sin as some kind of alien parasite, and it does not take into account willful disobedience. Furthermore, it diminishes the call for believers to be like Christ, and it diminishes the regenerative powers of Jesus' blood atonement. We are called to be perfect in Christ (quite different from perfectionism for the sake of Self or personal holiness), which is the goal of the Christian walk. This means always looking to Christ; it doesn't mean the complete absence of failure or misstep. The walk is not easy, but all things are possible with Jesus. We must use this God-given life of ours to make the right choices, and when we fail, to reset our sights on God. As the English writer J.R.R. Tolkien (and peer of C.S. Lewis) once wrote: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

Because Christianity is spiritual in nature, we often forget that God desires for our natural gifts and daily life to exalt Him in ways that aren't exclusively mystical (for example, throwing away every worldly possession and becoming a missionary). Each individual is called to glorify God in a way befitting to their personal talents and circumstances. Growth in Christ necessarily involves a maturation by the relinquishing of worldly securities. But this has more to do with affairs of the heart and mind than, say, a superficial display via liquidation of material possessions (though this may legitimately occur). Christ is at the Head of the body of believers, and the body must submit to His Will. Godly change is actualized internally rather externally, which is the realm of humanistic change (by way of governmental decree, military force, mind control, and so forth).

Because Jesus changes a person from the inside, Christians are called not to impose His Truth but to model His Love and Grace. The responsibility is a huge one, but the Lord is right there to guide every believer each step of the way. The Godly execution of a person's Christian walk bears witness and testimony to Jesus and His gift of salvation. In 1 Peter Chapter 3, the apostle Peter wrote:
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
16 Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.