Let me just say this: it’s fairly easy to have an “out-of-balance” Christian life.
- We can easily become filled with knowledge about God, but allow that knowledge to make us prideful. (Check out 1 Corinthians 8:1)
- We can distort the teachings of God’s Word and become life-sucking, heart-crushing legalists. (Try Matthew 23:23 or Colossians 2:20-23)
- We can become practitioners of something I’ve heard described as “sloppy agape,” the idea being our expression of compassion far outweighs a love for truth. (Take a look at Romans 6:1…or read 1 Corinthians 5)
- Or, we can appear to others as having a Christian life that is nice and tidy and impactful, yet on the inside, our hearts could be far from God. (Consider Luke 16:15)
Remember the story Jesus told about two people who went to pray? One was a religious Pharisee who, supposedly, had all of his spiritual ducks in a row. He even bragged about it, causing him to look down on the other.
The other man simply admitted his failings. He didn’t brag, he confessed.
To complete the story, Jesus commended the second man, saying he would walk away from that prayer session justified by God.
So, how does one keep their Christian life from going out of whack? How do we maintain health and movement and vitality in our pursuit of worshiping God, growing spiritually, serving others and reaching the world?
May I suggest three things will keep us both grounded and moving:
First, pursue correct Christian doctrine
We must ground our spiritual life upon the truth God provides for us in His Word.
Otherwise, we’ll be led by our emotions and preferences.
Most churches have what’s called a statement of faith. It’s a document that often begins with the words, “We believe.” In this statement, declarations are made about the nature of God, the problem of sin, the work of Jesus, the conditions of salvation, the usefulness of the Bible, and so on.
And (hopefully), such conclusions are made by studying the Bible.
But, Christian doctrine isn’t just made up of static facts about God. It also includes how Christians are supposed to act. Which brings up the second aspect of a healthy Christian life:
Second, pursue proper Christian practice.
It’s not enough to know a bunch of information about God. No, the Christian realizes that a relationship with God impacts our attitudes and actions.
We are not only called to know about the faith, we are called to practice it.
James 1:22-25 is a shining example of how dangerous it is to be a Christian in mind only:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV)
The Bible offers a balance between things we can know about God and what we can do for God.
To say we know God, yet live in opposition to how he calls us to live is an absolute paradox that is not meant to exist. Rather our knowledge of God is intended to be fully integrated in the daily decisions of our lives.
Finally, one more thing that pulls everything together:
Lastly, pursue pure Christian motives.
If we don’t act out of right motives, we stand as hypocrites before a holy God.
If we do things to draw attention to ourselves, we short-circuit our spirituality.
In Matthew 6, Jesus offered this stern and sobering warning to those of us who would try to appear saintly, all the while operating from ulterior motives:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)
And completely complementing what Jesus said, Paul wrote:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 ESV)
The Pharisees often appeared religiously together on the outside, but the conditions of their heart were their undoing. No other group of people received such harsh condemnation from Jesus as these men did with compromised motives.
Of them, Jeremy Taylor offered:
“The Pharisees minded what God spoke, but not what He intended. They were busy in the outward work of the hand, but incurious of the affections and choice of the heart. So God was served in the letter, they did not much inquire into His purpose; and therefore they were curious to wash their hands, but cared not to purify their hearts.”
So, here’s my simple prescription to make sure our spiritual lives are lined up for God-approved success.
- Right doctrine
- Right practice
- Right motives
Those three working together will produce a believer full of truth, grace, and compassion.
And such a soul can expect to be both blessed and used by God.