Being Faithful. That is the heart of the Christian life. It is the name of this blog because it resonates with me as being the simple center I want my life to be built around. Whatever issue or situation we’re facing or thinking about, from personal finances to social morality, the focus point we always return to is the call to be faithful.
In these next three posts I want to reflect on three terms that have brought this home for me recently. Faithfulness. Perseverance. Dwelling.
First things first: what does it mean to say that ‘being faithful’ is the heart of the Christian life?
It means recognizing that God has not called us to achieve but to follow. His focus is not on what we do for Him but on who we are. Think of it in terms of success.
It’s fair to say that most people today want to be successful. We want to do well. Bookshelves are full of titles designed to help us live better, be happier, to succeed. For many, though we may not verbalize it quite like this, there is an underlying belief that if only we can succeed in the next thing we’ll be happier, more loved, more significant.
It is easy in this context to view Christianity as just another set of principles and ideas to help you succeed. I know many Christians, and indeed was one myself, who essentially ‘Christianise’ the way of life, priorities and understanding that we had before coming to faith and meeting Jesus. ‘Success’ may now mean not doing naughty things, bringing more people to church, telling more people about Jesus – but however we define it, succeeding remains the priority and the basis of our value. God will like me if I do well.
The entire Old Testament demonstrates how, even when we are given God’s perfect rules, we are unable to live as the kind of people He has made us to be. That is precisely why Jesus came and paid the price we could not pay on the cross, so that we could come close to God. The incredible truth of the gospel is not that we are given even better rules, but that we have been made children of God. That we have been made alive in Christ, rather than dead in sin. That we have been made saints rather than sinners.
This is what it means to ‘become a Christian’ – that who we are is changed – but it also shapes what it means to ‘grow as a Christian’.
Having explained this incredible truth of the gospel – that we can now, through Christ, ‘participate in the divine nature’ (i.e. become like God) – Peter goes on to summarise what it is God wants us to actually do:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
‘Faith’ is trusting that what God says He has done for us, He has done – namely, that we are made new in Him. He wants us to add to this ‘goodness’, then ‘knowledge’, ‘self-control’, ‘perseverance’, ‘godliness’, ‘mutual affection’ and ‘love’. None of these are goals to achieve or things to do for God. All of these are about the kind of people we are called to be, no matter what we are doing. All of these are about faithfulness – living like God based on believing the truth about God.
There are things that God calls us to do, but these are promises of what He will do through us, not tasks we are expected to achieve. The focus for all of our efforts is in being like God, which comes from knowing that we are with Him. It doesn’t matter if you are an international preacher or a dinner lady, a president or a dustbin man – whatever we do we can live fully for God, being a completely successful Christian, as we focus on being the kind of person we are called to be.
Christianity is about faithfulness.