Our modern version of life as a Christian needs radical revision. These days I don’t even call myself a Christian. I prefer the term Christ follower. In my humble opinion most of our terms that define what a Christian is has nothing to do with what Jesus actually intended. Take for example our tendency to say that we’ve ‘accepted’ Jesus. What does that mean? For most people it was a prayer they prayed to ensure their salvation i.e. not going to hell. After the prayer was said, the person goes back to his ‘real life’ having been assured of eternal life. Now that the person has accepted Jesus they basically ignore all that Jesus did and said. When the ‘here after’ kicks in he’ll give God his full attention ; but now they’re just too busy. [Sadly a lot of churches teach exclusively on this topic]
Jesus never said that we should accept Him, he commanded us to follow Him. In other words we’re supposed to be doing what he did. In our modern times accepting Jesus basically boils down to a mental affirmation of something that hardly intersects the life of the acceptee. Christ-centered spiritual formation (because there are other spiritual formations) is the process in which we progressively become more like Jesus.
I think one of the main obstacles to becoming like Christ, is our one-sided definition of grace. For most people grace has to do with salvation; for most it is the opposite of works. I’ll often hear someone say something like, "I am saved by grace, not by works." Now this statement is absolutely true. There is nothing we can do to earn our way to God. The problem comes when these same people use their salvation by grace as an excuse to not do anything – they basically wait for heaven to happen. They become anti-works. When they’re challenged to memorize the Bible or witness or give they always revert back to "I am saved by grace".
Grace is the one side of the coin – working is the other side. If you don’t believe me just read the book of James. It’s amazing how many times in the New Testament the concept of grace is followed by a command to "do good works". Dallas Willard has a wonderful line, he says: grace is not opposed to effort/work it is opposed to earning. The Apostle Paul sums it up in this way,
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through
faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For
we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)
If you read only verse 8 and 9 then you’ll be pacified. I think this is the place where most Christians find themselves. They’re sitting back, expecting God to do all things for them. In order to propel these people into a kingdom life, we’ll have to challenge this wrong theology of grace. Grace is not opposed to works; it’s the other side of works. We work because we’ve received grace. The gift of salvation produces an eternal grateful heart and my works are nothing else than a big thank you to the Father.