Christianity is in its nature the Gospel of grace. There is forgiveness in Jesus. There is understanding in Jesus. But we must never do away with standards and expectations. We must never do away with consequences and repercussions for our actions and behaviors. There is a bar. This bar is not one of perfection but it is one of Holiness.
The Gospel of grace understands our fallen nature, but we must never take the grace of God lightly. We are extended grace in Jesus Christ not to be forgiven repeatedly for our sins but to be forgiven once and for all of our debt. To be a Christian there must be a commitment to change. To be a Christian there must be an ongoing revelation of Fruit. Our lives should be a living testimony of the power of Christ to change what seemed impossible to change. It should magnify the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ. It is Christ IN us.
The love of Jesus does not condone sin, and to live in sin is to stand in opposition to the Lord, Jesus. We must have a standard. We must know what that standard is. And when we see that a brother or sister is not living a life worthy of the name of Jesus, we must address it. Not with a heart of judgment or self-righteousness, but with the heart of Christ that never left a soul to believe that they were in no need of what he came to bring them. The Gospel is one of grace, love and understanding. We will never be perfect and we will never be completely free of the sinful flesh until we are with Him and made to be like Him. But a standard still remains. The standard is THE Gospel. If we claim the name of Christ and therefore proclaim unity with the Son, we must bear the fruit of the Son. He is the standard. He is the Way. To represent Him means to reveal Him. If we are not revealing Jesus then we must question if we authentically represent Him in spirit or in name alone.
The standard of the cross is not there to loom over us, casting a long shadow of hopelessness and intimidation. The standard of the cross keeps us moving. It keeps us safe. It keeps us alive. Without the standard and without accountability to hold to the standard, we die.
This is neither hyperbole nor exaggeration. The life of a Christian is a fight. It is a continual and never-ending fight to defend not only against outside influence and attack, but also against the enemy within. In many ways, the most potent opposition to the spirit of Christ being revealed in us is the sinful nature, which, firmly rooted, we have nurtured day after day, year after year. While many Christians spend a disproportionate amount of time keeping watch for external attacks and influence, it is often not these external attacks that produce the most devastating results. For a Christian, the external attack is ineffective, unless it replaces a once firmly held truth; that is, unless it switches places with something that preceded it. To allow an external influence to carry us into disobedience or unfaithfulness we must allow it to occupy the position of the truth of the righteousness of God that at one point or another was rooted, deeply or superficially, in our hearts and minds. The messages and temptations of this world are so contradictory to the messages of the Gospel that to follow this world requires that something be lost and forgotten. Protecting oneself from the external influences of this world has as much to do with preventing oneself from forgetting, as it does preventing oneself from believing. Belief in the lies of the enemy demands room in the human heart that cannot be occupied so long as the truth of the Gospel remains present. In the presence of Gospel truth the ploys of Satan are of no significance. In the presence of the Gospel truth the temptations of this world are utterly laughable. They are an infomercial that cannot deliver on what it promises. The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to view the realities of this world with uncompromising clarity. It gives us a clear view of God’s reality: what is hidden, what is false, and what is real. In the presence of the Holy Spirit the promises of this world cannot be believed. In order to believe them one must remove the involvement of the Holy Spirit entirely. In the same way one must lose one’s life to gain it back again, one must also discard those blessed truths in order to rediscover the life that revolves around oneself. The life lived daily trying to please self cannot exist alongside the life lived for Christ. The life of a Christian is consistently under attack and must consistently be protected and fought for. However, while this fight requires relentless attention and steadfast alertness against attacks inside and out, Christ has come to fight on our behalf, and has won. This fight is not easy but with Christ victory is guaranteed, so long as his truth occupies the throne of our hearts and the center of our minds. We must fight forgetfulness before we fight temptation.