9.22.2006

The Pursuit and the Prize

Jerry Bridges' "The Pursuit of Godliness" ends with a helpful
clarification about the Christian walk. He quotes many of the apostle
Paul's words to describe our lives as having a godly purposes and a
heavenly prize. That is, we ought to live in pursuit of God-like
righteousness, in pursuit of God-centered reward.

I find this a helpful clarification because the strenuousness such a
life demands is in contrast to the half-Christianity that is no
Christianity, which we so easily fall into. This half-Christianity
says that God's forgiveness gives us room to sin, failing to realize
that God forgives us to free us from sin, not to sin. That God has
secured forgiveness for us in and through Jesus Christ, and then we
feel less of a need to live righteously, misses the point altogether
of how destructive sin is and how we must actively kill it lest it
kill us.

This half-Christianity also says that being a Christian is all about
getting a free ticket to heaven, and if that's the case, what's the
point of pursuing a prize that God has already secured for us? Again,
when we think like that, we lose sight of the overwhelming number of
commands in Scripture that link salvation to obedience. John
MacArthur's "The Gospel According to Jesus" makes this very point over
and over again. To the extent that we let this notion of heaven as a
prize to vigorously pursue slip into a passive sense of entitlement or
indifference, we are -- I say this with trembling -- putting our souls
at stake.

Lest we swing to the other extreme and become slaves to perfection, in
the name of saving ourselves or making ourselves feel better or
looking good before others, Bridges reminds us that our pursuit must
be both devotion and desire. And both are to be God-centered:
devotion for the sake of being Godlike, and desire for the sake of
being Godward.

We admire single-minded dedication in the very best of athletes,
performers, and leaders. And we settle for much less than that
dedication in those very fields, because we ourselves are not
professional athletes, performers, or leaders. But while we might be
recreational athletes, performance hobbyists, and amateur leaders, we
most certainly ought not be anything but fully allocated about our own
souls. There is no other more important purpose in life to practice,
no more important prize in life to pursue.

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