Last month, I took an exam that’s required in order to become a licensed engineer. After passing the exam and gaining 4 years of experience, Professional Engineers are able to stamp drawings and approve designs. Obviously, we want the people who are designing the buildings and bridges we use every day to know what it takes to keep a structure standing and also have some practical experience designing structures. That’s why the exam Professional Engineers are required to take is called the Principles and Practice of Engineering. The licensing board wants to know that the people who are approving designs not only know what the building code says but also know how to apply the code to the actual design. I’ve been realizing over the last few months that as followers of Jesus, we can too easily know what the Bible says but never actually live it out.
In the Old Testament, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Judah to confront their false religious acts. Jeremiah asks the people, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered!'—only to go on doing all these abominations?" (Jeremiah 7:9-10) The people were living their lives however they wanted and at the same time claiming to be children of God. Jeremiah calls the people out for showing up at the temple to offer sacrifices while ignoring God’s commands and worshipping other gods the rest of the time. These people knew how to act religiously but because they weren’t willing to change their sinful lifestyle, God says they went backward rather than forward: “But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward" (Jeremiah 7:24). How often do we show up on Sunday and “practice” our religion but live in disobedience to God’s word the rest of the week?
If you have been a Christian for a while, you probably know what the Bible says about most major topics. If you are like me, you don’t struggle to know the principles of the Bible; you struggle to put those principles into practice. Paul describes this as a war between knowing what is right but doing what is wrong. In the book of Romans, he writes,
"I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19).
I’m sure we can all identify with this feeling. What emotion does this idea stir up in you? For me, it’s a feeling of disappointment in myself and dissatisfaction in my abilities. Maybe it causes you anxiety or maybe you feel angry with yourself and/or God. The good news is that Paul gives us the solution a couple verses later.
"Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).
The answer is Jesus Christ. I feel like I need to be reminded weekly/daily/hourly that Jesus died and rose again so that I can be made right with God and live a life that is pleasing to Him! Colossians 2:13-14 says,
“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.”
You were dead, but then God made you alive! There’s a big difference between something that’s dead and something that’s alive, and for someone to go from being dead to being alive is an even bigger deal. There is no reason for me to sit around disappointed in myself when I struggle to put God’s commands into practice. Instead, in the middle of my disappointment, I need to remember that God’s power is greater than my sin. The same God that raised Jesus from death to life has raised my sinful, dead heart to life. The same God that raised my dead heart to life wants to change my whole life so that it looks more like Jesus.
God has called us to be radically different than the world around us, but He hasn’t left us to figure out how to change on our own. He has given us His word to show us the truth and given us His Spirit to empower us to obey.
So, the next time you find yourself practicing something that goes against the principles of God’s word, remember that God has made you alive. He wants you to experience the fullness of the new life He has given you - not just know about it. Remember, there’s no reason to go back to living like you are dead when God has made you alive.