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The Journey of This Pilgrim, Part 4

I am a Christian and have been a committed one since the Fall of 1970.  Growing up in my small town, everyone seemed to be connected to one church or another.  My best friend, Larry, was a Catholic altar boy.  The girl I had an early crush on was Presbyterian.  The Catholic church was "kitty-corner" from the Lutheran church my family belonged to.  The Congregational church was nearby on the same street, and the Presbyterian church was just a block to the west. Being a Christian was to be identified with a church. There was no such thing as "I'm a Christian, but I don't belong to any church." - at least none that I ever knew.
I have little memory of any one growing up whose faith was an influence to me.  I'm not saying there were no faithful people, because I'm sure there were.  I remember delivering papers to one household - the Ipsens.  Lloyd was a guy who told jokes, smiled and laughed, and did the unexpected things...but was really nice guy.  Jean, his wife, was a person who exuded kindness...a really wonderful person who always made me feel good being around. 

It was G.K Chesterton who once said, "The Christian Ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." 
Of course that's the issue about faith isn't it.  Is it real in your life?  Is it a Sunday thing, or does it govern life as a whole? 
James in his epistle writes:  James 2:14-18 
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  

It seems reasonable and understandable, doesn't it?  Faith has an outward manifestation where it is demonstrated and visible, and although God alone is able to read the heart and see what is real, we should be able to see what kind of faith a person has.  "Can Such faith..." means "that kind of faith".  So there's different kinds of responses to God and his word, and it's clear that faith without the accompany works or deeds of a right relationship with God will yield no benefit.

I say all of that to say that my childhood had very few good examples - at least that I could see.  I was largely unimpressed by the church.  I had that experience when I was 8 years old when I felt God spoke to me; but we didn't talk about faith, and the only conversations about the church that I remember were negative.

I balance the need for an active faith, one that is alive at all times, from a legalistic kind of religion that is ordered by rules and regulations.  Legalism is an easy trap to fall into if one is "trying" as Chesterton mused about.  But trying is necessary...and realizing that sometimes we fail, we fall, and we need to get back up by confessing our sin, receiving forgiveness, and learning from the failure - whatever its cause.  It was John who so concisely makes that clear.

1 John 1:9 - 2:2 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

I wished I had had someone reinforce this to me at an early age.  I'm not going to blame anyone else other than myself.  I lived my teen years - regretfully - as a self focused narcissist.  I failed to see God as the reason for life, and it was only at the end of my teen years that I discovered the truth of what John wrote.  Of course John's words came from the Holy Spirit, and they followed his own reminder of what Jesus said to Nicodemus that one evening when he told him,  in John 3:3-8 
Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."  "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

I was 20 years old when the Spirit came to me and I was born of the Spirit...it all began to change at that point in life... I was no longer the old man I had become, I was now as Paul said to the Corinthians, changed to new life - 2 Corinthians 5:17 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Indeed, the "New" began to come.

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