Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
Standing on the elliptical at the gym, I had just finished my usual circuit and was trying to catch my breath. As I stood there drinking water and preparing to move on, my eyes wandered from one side of the facility to the other. It was not quite as busy as it had been since the New Year began as people flocked in to pursue their resolutions. But there were still many new and old faces filling the place. Most of them had headphones in and were in their own workout world. So many people in one place on the same mission pursing it different ways. My eyes fell on a familiar face as I watched my husband working out with free weights. We enter and exit the gym together but the time in between is spent independently as we pursue our personal fitness goals and healthy objectives. It made me think about life and a world filled with people all on their own special course. Our lives intersect with one another as we cross paths in varying directions. I catch myself sometimes comparing myself to other people who are working out alongside me or across the way, but in this moment as the music plays in my ears and thoughts ramble along it is me who sets the standard for my life. Am I making the most out of the time that I have been given and doing what I should to have all that God has promised? I am on a personal adventure though it is filled with so many bodies. Ultimately, I must choose to maintain life as usual or raise the bar. There are many cars lining the parking lot of the fast food chains that surround the fitness center. I used to be one of those cars consuming large amounts of saturated fat and making unhealthy food choices. To be perfectly honest, I still fall for fried chicken sometimes. The point is this – we are free to live life because Jesus set us free to do so. He will not force us to reclaim the “glorious standard” that sin once kept us from achieving. But we now have the opportunity to live such a life again without the fear of losing because we are not perfect and still fall short sometimes.
For a long time, the “Roman Road” to Jesus has been used to lead people to Jesus Christ. It is not a bad path as long as we are perfectly clear on what lies ahead. God “freely and graciously” declares us righteous so we can live a right standing life with Him stepping out of ordinary into the extraordinary and leaving the natural to obtain the supernatural. This requires change. Improvement always does. We cannot live in the comfortable complacency of life as usual and expect different results. This applies to our walk with Jesus, too. We must raise the bar of our life to achieve the glorious standard the Jesus died for us to have.
Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
The life of faith is not without its sacrifices as we begin to strip away the weight of sin to run freely in God’s Grace and Mercy. Even the sin we discard has a way of tripping us sometimes as we try to overcome the things that once kept us from believing and accepting God’s Love and Grace as it is given – freely. We think that we must “do” something different or even pretend to be someone that we are not because comparison has taken our eyes from the One True Example (Jesus) and fallen to lesser things. Teachers, leaders, mentors and friends can offer insight, truth and encouragement. No doubt that the Lord binds us together with His Love to make it through life and all its challenges. But ultimately, it is the standard set by God for us when we were created that leads to satisfaction, abundance and life. It is a process that requires endurance. From my vantage point on the elliptical I could see so many people, it was distracting. Life is the same way. We see the wicked prosper. We see people live sinful lives and be blessed. We go through hardship even though we love and trust the Lord. If we become focused on others, we cannot focus on Jesus.
Jesus is the “Champion” who initiates and perfects our faith. The Lord did not endure all that He did just so we could make it into Heaven. He did so that the Glorious Standard of Living that is the inheritance of Children of God could be reestablished in our life. Too many times we settle for less because we do not know the Love of God firsthand and choose to view it from the sidelines. You can have all that the Lord has promised by faith. Faith is not passive. It requires endurance and self-discipline to allow faith to grow into hope. These two theses keep us on track to have the supernatural life that God promised but we must be committed to separating our life from the sin that keeps us from it.
I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT)
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Be encouraged today, my friend. Your life can and will be glorious again if you decide to set a new standard and raise the bar to meet God’s Standard of living. It will require some changes but you are never alone. Sometimes I think it would be a whole lot easier to be blind and live a productive Christian life because then we would be less likely to follow others instead of Jesus. Maybe then we would quit comparing our life, process and outcomes to others and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us step by step. We have a prize – it is the Glory of God. When you win just one race of faith, it will become your addiction. Ask a runner. I began exercising not to change my physical being but I quickly learned that the endorphins released were great stress relievers so for the years our son was undergoing treatment it became my solace. I have benefited body, mind and spirit from exercising routinely so I continue to do it even. I used to hate it. Now I look forward to it because I have disciplined my body and it now responds positively to that which it once struggled against. I am definitely advocating it but more so using it as an example. We decide if we want a better life. We have been given the opportunity to have it or live in our current conditions. It is up to you and I if we will run with purpose or be a bystander. It will require discipline on our part to decide we want God’s Glorious Standard again. We must be willing participants. To say, I want it means that we must do something about it. I want a home office. Our daughter’s vacated room is open and available but I must build that office to have one – otherwise it will remain an empty room in our house. How many promises does the Lord have for you and me that we are not going after? I want all that God has for me because what He has done so far has proven amazing. It is up to me to raise the bar for my life according to the freedom that I have found in Christ. Will I do it? I sure hope so. Will you? Well, that’s up to you I guess.
I Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT)
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.