Image Bearers of Christ – Letter from Alan Chambers for January 2013

alan-chambers-web-214x3001Each January the ritual begins again.  The promises to others, God, and to ourselves start like they did the year before.  We promise we won’t drink anymore, eat too much, curse, lie or that we will be faithful, healthy, sober.  How many years have you made resolutions that you just couldn’t keep?  And, at the core of it all, what or who were you actually striving to please?  For most believers, I think we are ever striving to live the perfect life and to please, in our minds, an unpleasable God.

My best advice to you, if you are a Christian, is to get off the performance treadmill.  Hang up your perfection hat.  Quit trying to please God.  Sound crazy?  Keep reading.

For years I tried conjuring up a new resolution and strategy to make it stick.  I won’t do this or I will do that.  My best was never good enough.  I couldn’t do “it”; whatever “it” was that year.  I can’t remember an actual moment that I stopped making useless promises and torturing myself with rituals that promised everything and ultimately gave me nothing but a broken heart and a deeper realization of my great inadequacy.

Sound familiar?  Maybe you are weeks into your current resolution and finding great success or experiencing the agony of defeat….again.  Regardless of where you currently find yourself; no matter how worthy or noble the promise; my advice remains the same: Get off of the treadmill of works.  Resolutions, no matter how worthy are ultimately just idols.

Andy Crouch, author, Executive Editor of Christianity Today, and all around wise man, says, “Idols promise that ‘you shall not surely die’; you can be like God. Idols promise us everything initially and ask nothing in return. But, they end up taking everything and giving nothing.”

What’s your idol?  Do you have just one?  I confess that I have had many in my life.  I struggle everyday with one or another.  At the core of our fallible humanity we are all looking to be like God, to overcome the problem of vulnerability, to live forever.  God hates idolatry because it distorts His image—what we seek and gain from our idols isn’t God or anything like Him.  It’s like the airplane that gets a little off course only to end up thousands of miles from its intended destination.  Where did you wake up this morning?  A little or a lot farther from where you’d like to be?

God created each one of us as image bearers.  Whether we give our hearts to Christ in salvation or not, we are all image bearers.  There is a part of Him in every single creation—most of all in humans.  When we accept Christ as our Savior then the image bearing becomes more apparent through us and more important to us.  So, my encouragement to you is to give up the idols of New Year’s resolutions and take to understanding what it means to be the image bearer that you are.  Stop looking externally for something to become and realize that you are all you need to be in Christ.  You have everything you need.  As my pastor, Clark Whitten, often says, “We gained more in Jesus than we lost in Adam.”

While our flesh will always be begging us to indulge in all sorts of idolatry from sex to food to religious legalism, Christ in us is stronger and the only sure way to be who God created us to be.  It’s true that, at times, we all need to spend time focusing on areas in our lives that are out of balance.  There are wonderful tools that can help us with our struggles.  But, if our greatest focus is on those struggles or those tools then we have lost our way and any real hope for living in freedom.

As my friend, Bob Hamp, author of Think Differenty, Live Differently, says, “We must unplug from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and plug back into The Tree of Life.”  Plug back into that source, my friends.  You will be so glad you did.

Like I said before, I cannot remember when I decided to stop making resolutions, but I do remember how my life changed when I started focusing most on the goodness of the Lord and His image living in and through me.  The freedom I feel in every area of my life is remarkable.  The anxiety to “do” has been replaced with the peace of “being”.  Worrying about how far off I am from the mark is gone. I have realized I am eternally secure and can rest in the assurance that I am who Christ died to make me, and for the rest of my life I will only get better at realizing that unchangeable fact.  And, that realization will produce more and more evidence of His image in me from the inside out.

 

Happy New Year,

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