Actor Hal Holbrook noted the difference between looking like Mark Twain and thinking like Mark Twain. Obviously, we can learn the appearance of something or someone long before we master its/his substance.
That raises provocative challenges for Christians. First, we can appear to be a Christian long before we produce Christ’s nature. Indeed, appearances aplenty exist of the Christian faith—bumper stickers, fishes, the dove. But the fruit of the Spirit, by which a Christian is truly identified, is much rarer.
Second, Christ tolerates all imperfections of his Glory in his people and allows us to claim the name Christian while we learn to demonstrate its fruit. Someone said that no one should be allowed to play the violin until he has mastered it. That’s why author Bruce Catton never played the violin though he took lessons as a boy. His teacher said Catton had a monkey’s hand, enabling him to easily grip the instrument. Unfortunately, as Catton’s refusal to practice proved, the instructor also accused him of having a monkey’s head. Many Christians are monkey-heads when it comes to practicing their faith. They don’t seem to improve their discipleship skills.
Yet…God never says we can’t LIVE the Christian life till we’ve mastered it. While we abuse the faith we practice God urges continued, repeated efforts at living it. He seeks the effort that certifies our zeal, whatever inexpertise and shortcomings mar the effort. God knows that experience will make our witness more credible. And more credible it needs to be. For the Christian faith incorrectly used or lived, can make people demand “no more of this” and “if this is what God is like, I don’t want God.” A badly-expressed faith makes for more noises and bedlam than all the ill-played violins.
Third, growth in, not mastery of, discipleship is our only hope. We’ll never master the Christian faith, as Holbrook would Twain or Isaac Stern the violin (though each would deny mastery; each would seek dimensions in his work not yet explored). In Christ, such incredible depths, breadths and heights appear that the disciple staggers when trying to comprehend it all.
In discipleship we often find ourselves like the earliest explorers who first saw the Rockies from the plains; they invariably felt themselves closer than they really were. Pike thought himself close from the Arkansas River on the Colorado plains, though several days away. Long thought himself close from the Platte, though six days removed. The dry, clear air fooled them. Disciples may occasionally, in a fit of spiritual arrogance not uncommon to us, think ourselves closer to Christ’s greatness than we really are. Like some of Moody’s students, after attending prayer meeting, asked him, “Mr. Moody, do not our faces shine?”, we think we’re more brilliant than can ever be proven.
Most always, however, even we know what others see—no way at all, under any circumstances, can we even begin to appreciate the glory and grandeur that is Jesus Christ. But, thanks be to God, while we’re seldom scholars of, we can remain students of his life, God accepts us while we try, declaring us righteous even when we’re not, proclaiming us justified by grace even as our works fail.
Books at: www.createspace.com. (Go to search, dropdown to store, Virg Hurley.)
Apologetics book: Their Own Best Defense, Volume 2, Part 1
Books also at www.amazon.com (Virgil Hurley & Virg Hurley)
The Parables of Jesus at www.createspace.com/7164741
Gift of the GIVER:Gifts for the GIVER, Vol. 2 at www.createspace.com/7551153
Their Own Best Defense, Vol. 2, Part 2 at www.createspace.com/7446349