“It seems to me people tend to forget we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness, but because God their Father loves them. I have preached on that a hundred times.”Reverend John Ames, Gilead
There’s a song I recall from childhood. Its rhythmic lyrics are simple:
God’s still working on me
to make me what I ought to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars
the Sun and the Earth
Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
He’s still working on me
How often have we made similar statements? “Please be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.” It’s the already of being a child of God. The not yet of being completely who He designed us to be. But do we play a part in this process of becoming what God is “working on me” to become?
Paul told the Ephesians that being a Christian involved a new life. He encouraged them “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24). The old self no longer is in charge. No more impure actions, stealing, dishonesty, bitterness, wrath, slander. Instead, we are called to be honest, have a good work ethic, use kind words (Ephesians 4:25-32). If sanctification were a checklist, we might be able to do most of these in our own power. But the latter part of verse 32 requires something that we are not capable of doing on our own: forgive.
That last one is a bit difficult. Why forgive? Why is that a part of putting on the new self? Could it be that forgiveness is at the crux of who we are as believers? “We love because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19) In kind, we forgive because we have experienced forgiveness.
Checklists are great but righteousness is not accomplished through a checklist. 2 Corinthians 5 reminds us that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation—ambassadors for Christ—to preach forgiveness and live forgiveness.
Philippians 2:14 encourages us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Prior to this very personal exhortation for each believer is the example of Christ who emptied Himself (Philippians 2:5-8) in order to bear the cross for our sakes—to provide forgiveness. If the son of God lived His life to die, might we die to ourselves to live a God-honoring, forgiveness-infused life as we long for the day to come when already but not yet becomes already and now?