Works in Progress as Witnesses


I found no rest in my spirit because I did not find Titus my brother, but I said good bye to them and went to Macedonia. -- 2 Corinthians 2:13 Don't worry about anything, but with every prayer and petition let God know about your requests with thanksgiving. -- Philippians 4:6 When Paul was in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12) why didn't he just present his request to God with thanksgiving? Surely if he wasn't worried, he would have “rest for his spirit!” The other day I got a comment on something I wrote that suggested that a concern for one's bad behavior, and the negative witness for Jesus that it would present is a kind of legalism, that it makes Christianity into a list of rules. I would say, instead, that Christianity isn't about rules; it's about being transformed by the power of Christ working in your life. There are rules, and then there are rules. We can have rules that make up a checklist for our daily lives, things that we must do, not because we want to, but because we believe we have to. Then there are God's rules, that let us know what a good life is going to look like. But at the same time God lets us know that the only way our lives are going to look like that is if we allow him to transform us. The tough part of this is that transformation doesn't happen instantly. Paul tells us in the next chapter (2 Corinthians 3:18) that we “are being transformed.” That's something that's going on, not something that's finished, and not something that is going to happen only in the future. When we belong to Christ, when we look at him, meditate on him, and allow his Spirit to work in us, then we “are being transformed.”

There's a bumper sticker that annoys me, even though it does express a truth. “Christians aren't perfect—just forgiven.” What annoys me is that too often we use that fact as an excuse to behave in some very bad ways. When we take on the name of Jesus, and call ourselves Christians or followers of Christ, the things we do reflect on our Lord and Savior more than the things we say about him.

The truth of that bumper sticker, however, is that we aren't perfect, and we are forgiven. Jody likes to use the phrase “work in progress.” We are each works in progress. You are not a finished piece of pottery. When Jesus uses you and me as his witnesses, it's very much like a potter trying to sell his work based on what's happening on the wheel. “Look how it's shaping up,” he says to the world. “It's going to be beautiful when I'm done with it!”

And that's precisely the witness the world needs. It would be nice to show off a few perfect people in the church, though any of us who attained perfection would probably lose a bit of that shine to spiritual pride fairly soon, but perfect witnesses to Jesus would discourage most seekers. “I can't do that,” they would think. But works in progress—that's easier to deal with.

So should we worry about the witness we present? Well, brother Paul tells us not to worry, and then he worries himself. That's the nice thing. We have the great apostle breaking his own rules! But yes, we should make every effort, not to be a good witness, but to be constantly transformed. If you're letting Jesus work in your life to transform you, you will be the right kind of witness.

Always keep looking to him, always keep working toward him, but always remember that it's in his hands.

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