Uneven

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Spring has sprung. Flowers are blooming and trees are budding. The dead of winter is giving way to the new green life of spring. One thing that is true of plants that is also true of our life with Christ is that growth is progressive but uneven.

Sometimes we expect that if a person is mature in one area of life, they are mature in all areas of life, but this just isn’t how maturity works. As we grow in Christ, we tend to grow in fits and starts. We grow in pockets. One pocket of our life in Jesus can be really well developed while other pockets are left under-developed. Growth is uneven.

In Matthew 12:44, Jesus describes our inner life like a house. Just like an actual house, there can be some rooms that are clean and in order and other rooms that are moldy and messy, full of asbestos dust and toxins.

We see this all the time at our church as we pray for people. People with certain parts of their life fully surrendered to the Lord also have parts of their life that are still in bondage to the enemy. Though the house belongs to the Holy Spirit (He has the title and deed – 1 Cor. 6:19-20) and many rooms are clean, we’ll still hit pockets of strongholds that need cleaning and deliverance.

Too often the church has bought into the modern worldview comparing humans to machines. But according to the Bible, we are less like machines and more like plants. We need cultivated. And as we grow, we grow unevenly. This is why hunger for the Lord is so important. Hungering for more of God in our lives keeps us praying the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24. It invites us to ask the Lord to expose the dark rooms of our lives to the blinding white light of Christ. Plants need light.

Jesus said it this way:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

Is it time for some spring cleaning in your life? Ask the Lord if there are any unsurrendered pockets of your life with Christ. Ask Him to search you and reveal any inner rooms that are dark and moldy. Ask Christ to bring His blinding white light to expose any offensive way in you and to lead you in the way everlasting.

Who We’re Becoming

“All of us experience ‘dysphoria’ between who we are and who God created us to be. The answer to resolving this dysphoria cannot be found by looking within yourself or to others for approval; it can only be found by uniting yourself to Christ.”

Becket Cook (author of A Change of Affection: A Gay Man’s Incredible Story of Redemption)

Becket Cook had a radical conversion to Christ. You can read more of his own story here. I’ll give you just a little bit of it in his own words. Cook writes:

With a highly successful career as a production designer in the fashion world, I lived as a fully engaged gay man in Hollywood. I had many boyfriends over the years; attended Pride Parades in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York; and marched in innumerable rallies for gay-marriage equality. My identity as a gay man was immutable, or so I thought.

But in 2009 I experienced something extraordinary: I had a radical encounter with Jesus Christ while attending an evangelical church in Hollywood for the first time (I was invited by a stranger I met at a coffee shop the week before). I walked into the church a gay atheist and walked out two hours later a born-again Christian, in love with Jesus. I was stunned by this reversal. Since then, I no longer identify as gay but rather choose to be celibate because I believe God’s plan and purpose—revealed in the Bible—is authoritative, true, and good. 

Surrendering my sexuality hasn’t been easy. I still struggle with vestiges of same-sex attraction, but denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus is an honor. Any struggles I experience pale in comparison to the joy of a personal relationship with the one who created me and gives my life meaning. My identity is no longer in my sexuality; it’s in Jesus. 

Becket Cook from “Why Hollywood Praises Elliot Page (and Blacklists Me)”

What struck me about Cook’s life-story was how we can all relate to it. We all experience a gap between who we were created to be and who we are now. As followers of Christ, we all feel that gap at various times in various ways. The answer is not to “look within yourself” to find the answer to this gap but to look to Christ and find our identity in Him. The answer is not to look to others for approval or, worse, to demand that others approve. The answer is to surrender yet again to Jesus.

I have found that growth in the Christian life feels like two of yourselves running around a track. The version of yourself out in front is who you were created to be in Christ. The one behind is who you are today in your daily actions. There are moments where your present self seems to catch up to who you were created to be. That gap gets smaller and smaller. And just as you think you are about to catch yourself on the straightaway, Jesus has you round the turn. When you look up from the turn you realize the gap is now even larger than it was before. What just happened?

This moment feels like failure, but it is actually a step of growth. You’ve entered a new chapter. You’ve turned a page. You are now mature enough to handle Jesus showing you another layer that needs to mature. He couldn’t show it to you all at once. If He showed you the full distance between both versions of yourself, it would be crushing. Instead, He lets us grow in one area and in one season. He lets us approach who we were created to be. Then, as the gap shrinks, He reveals a new layer, a new chapter of growth that must happen for us to become who we were meant to be.

If we aren’t aware of the nature of this process, we might get discouraged. We might throw our hands up and abandon our pursuit of who we were created to be in Christ. We might stop running our race, sit down, and start to “look within” to find ourselves. This, unfortunately, is when the enemy pounces on us with deception and confusion. This is when people get all tangled up in false identities, thinking they are something they are not.

It is a truly humbling experience to grow and grow and grow only to have God reveal an area that is still immature, still unchanged by the character of Christ. But even in the humbling, the Holy Spirit is transforming us from the inside out. We will one day catch ourselves on that track. But it won’t be until we are perfectly glorified in eternity. Until then, our job is to keep running the race marked out for us. Every time the gap that was closing suddenly widens, we need not be discouraged. We need, instead, to see it as a new chapter, a new invitation to become all that God has intended us to be.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14

Grow Up In Your Salvation

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3

Getting a taste of the goodness of the Lord causes us to crave more spiritual food. This process of going between hunger and satisfaction is something we physically experience through out the day. We eat and then we get hungry for more. This same dynamic happens spiritually.

And we must continue to feed our souls the spiritual food that it needs because salvation is only the beginning. We are called to “grow up” in our salvation. Maturity was never meant to be an optional part of the Christian life. Salvation is not the finish line but the starting line in our development into a person who looks and acts more like Jesus.

This discipleship, this development and growth in our spiritual life, is vitally important because we were born into a war. We are living in enemy territory and we’ve been commissioned to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Peter goes on to say:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 

1 Peter 2:11

Growing up in our salvation not only means we grow closer to Jesus, but it also means we become more equipped for the battles we face. We get better and better at recognizing the vulnerabilities in our own heart and our own tendencies toward temptation. We get better at recognizing the schemes of the enemy and how he tries to exploit our weaknesses. We train in warfare, learning not only how to defend ourselves but also how to advance and take back ground for the Kingdom of God.

If we never pursue maturity in Christ, we leave ourselves vulnerable, like a newborn baby who never grows up. Instead, we must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”(Hebrews 12:1).