Michael Vick’s story fascinates me and I think it’s because his life just reeks of potential. Obviously he’s a tremendous playmaker on the football field, and I just happen to live with two devoted Philadelphia Eagles fans. But what’s more important is the potential Michael Vick has off the field, because as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe in second chances and redemption and I get excited about the idea of someone like him living out, for all the world to see, the change that is possible in Christ. Not that I’m sure Michael Vick is doing this. After all, I don’t know him personally and am in no way faithful about keeping up with his life, but in my heart I just long for him to be changed. Great stories are stories of overcoming, of using the hardest, the ugliest and most painful things in our lives to glorify God. And this is what I want for Michael Vick. This is what I pray for Michael Vick.
A few posts back I told you about how I was re-baptized, and how the driving force behind wanting to do this was really a difference between proclaiming Jesus as my Lord and merely claiming Him as Savior. I think it’s a vitally important distinction, and one we often overlook. There is a tendency to be all about being “saved,” with much less emphasis on being transformed. But if we look at the Bible we find a unified message of salvation and sanctification. They are inseparable, and efforts to untie them reveal a misunderstanding of Jesus and what He came to do.
A person is not saved by making a simple “confession” of faith in Jesus when there is no change affected in the confessor. Real belief will produce real change. If there’s no change, there’s no belief. (See James 2:14-26)
So what evidences change? Does going to church? Being involved in Christian community? Volunteering? Tithing? Singing in the choir? Saying the right things? These things may give us some insight into the heart of another person, or they might not. Regardless, it’s not for us to judge. After all, we have no way of knowing someone’s natural state. An outwardly prickly person may have come a long way, and the seemingly kind may have made zero progress. But what we do need to do is to see evidence of change in our own lives. We have a desperate need to be honest with ourselves. And none of the above criteria are as revealing as simply looking at obedience.
Are you obeying God’s Word? Are you living your life in accordance with His law? You can flip through the Ten Commandments and read through Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. Take a critical look at your life. Are you willing to suffer financial loss for the sake of honesty? Do you take your commitments seriously? Do you covet? Do you put God first? Are there idols in your life? (Read Counterfeit Gods if you are inclined to think there aren’t). Are you careful to observe boundaries to protect your marriage?
George MacDonald said, “Obedience is the key to every door.” I’ve been reflecting on this quote for almost a month and I’m more and more inclined to agree. But I know for certain that obedience is indeed the key to the door of faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship lays this out so well — belief and obedience are like two points on a circle, and they reinforce each other. The more you believe the more you are able to obey, but interestingly, the more you obey the more you are able to believe. Obeying isn’t just the right thing to do, it strengthens your faith.
So may we take the call to obey God’s Word seriously, may we examine our lives for evidence that the Holy Spirit is working to sanctify us, and may we continue to make Jesus Lord over all!
As the apostle John said, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” 1 John 2:3 (NIV). With that in mind, may we all know Him better.