Like a Two-Sided Coin

My last post, “He’s Coming!” called us to be ready for Jesus’ return. We don’t know when, so we’re to live as if he could come at any minute. What does that look like? That got me to thinking about how much this Christian life is like a two-sided coin.

For example, we’re called to be holy. Let’s be more specific. Peter says, “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15) The problem is that I don’t live up to this command. Nor do I live up to Paul’s, when he says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to make you obey its passions.” (Romans 6:12)

Then we have Romans 7 which pretty much describes me saying I may want to live holy (as in free from sin) but the sin in me prevents me from doing that. So, you see, we have a two-sided coin. To flip the coin over again, we find Romans 8 in which we find freedom through the Holy Spirit, but even that is impossible to obtain because the Holy Spirit is a gift from God.

If I am to gain any ground in this battle of sin, it will only be through God. Jesus himself tells me that without him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). It’s no wonder Paul goes back and forth in Romans asking and answering questions we are sure to be wondering about. My favorite being, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? for who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” (Romans 9:19-20) Yikes!

Balancing Act

Therefore, it seems to me that I need to balance two seemingly contradictory statements as truth. They call this paradox. Even the spelling of the word is difficult. Psychologists say the unease we feel is called cognitive dissonance. That sounds complicated, too. F. Scott Fitzgerald has a famous quote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” He had a lot of quotes. Smart people aren’t smarter than sin. He died a raging alcoholic.

Here’s the thing. Whatever I know about God is in comparison to an honest assessment of me. He is holy, and I am not; however, I am required to be like him. The more I understand him, the more I understand me – and the more I understand just how I am NOT like him. You see, I have no clue how holy God really is unless I start to understand just how UNHOLY I am. Paul understood this, crying out, “Wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24) Isaiah said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Turn the coin over again, and we find a God whom is our friend who gave his life for us. We find a loving father to whom we might run into his arms like a small child saying, “Daddy!” The writer of Hebrews instructs us, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Keeping My Chin Up

Indeed, Fitzgerald was right. It is difficult to function with two seemingly opposing ideas, a two-sided coin. But he was wrong in that it is not great intelligence that allows one to do it. It is the grace of God and his peace, which surpasses all understanding. I don’t have to have all this figured out. Trust is what he is looking for. That’s another word for faith. I trust God that he will do in me what I cannot do for myself. I trust him that, by his design, trying harder frustrates me. This means I have to take my hands off the wheel, so to say, and let him drive my bus.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Father, I do believe. Help me in my unbelief. Amen.

Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers

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