Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Our biblical knowledge often surpasses our biblical obedience. We often know better than we live. Our proclamation of the truth is not often reflected in our lives. This is not news, and it ought not to shock anyone. Ongoing growth and maturity is a process. After regeneration, we are progressively being transformed (2 Cor. 3:18) by the Holy Spirit into the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).
In this progressive process there are two temptations we must address. First, this does not mean that one must have perfected all the truth in one’s life before that person can say anything about the truth of God’s Word. If that is the case, then there is only One who can ever say anything about the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ. But, secondly, having said this and acknowledging that one who speaks truth does not have to have perfected it before speaking it, raises another possible problem. It can lead to one who speaks truth without taking the application of it in his/her own life seriously.
The problem is not that there is a gap between what we know to be true and how we live our lives. That will be true until the Lord Jesus Christ returns when our sanctification reaches its culmination in glorification. Instead the problem arises when this reality does not bother us, or we find excuses for it. The solution to this problem, the gap that exists between what we know or speak of truth and how we live is repentance and renewal.
Paul Tripp calls this “spiritual schizophrenia.” He pinpoints this problem with a question: “does the public persona of your faith live in harmony with the private realities of your life?” He provides a few examples that sound all-too-familiar
Living between the times of when we received our new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and our future glory (Rom. 8:18ff), we struggle, as the Holy Spirit lives within and empowers, to put off the sins of the flesh and put on the graces of Christ (Gal. 5:16-26; Col. 3:5-17). Rooted in what Christ has done (the indicative), we live our Christian lives (imperative) (Col. 3:1-4). The gospel is the foundation for both.
This means that it is not that things do not or will not happen. As Christians we do not live with sinless perfection. All of us would at one time or another fit one or another of the examples. The question is, how do and will we respond when these sorts of things happen? If and when there is inconsistency between what Tripp refers to as “spirituality and reality,” how do we respond?
Not content merely to identify the problem of the bifurcation between spirituality and reality, Tripp gives “five signs” of what one’s life would look like if there were consistency between the two, which I summarize.
First, there will be a humble awareness of the extent and the gravity of your sin.
Second, you'll be aware of that constant battle for control of your heart.
Third, there will be a clear holding on to the present benefits of Christ’s grace right here and right now.
Fourth, there will be a daily pursuit of God's call to personal growth and change.
Fifth and finally, there will be an everyday lifestyle of repentance and faith.
What is your spirituality? What is your reality? Is there consistency? Is there growth?