Have you ever pondered the underlying reasons that make it difficult to truly live for Christ?
Now, let’s take a moment and get on the same page. Something can be both immensely difficult and enjoyable; thus, my argument is not that Christianity is miserable, but that Christianity has an inherent struggle as well as an inherent joy. We know that walking with and abiding in Christ leads to a greater experience of joy—in fact, it leads to a greater and fuller experience of all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. However, in this instance, my aim is to understand why Christianity feels extremely difficult and strenuous at various seasons of our life. Understandably, this is a rather large topic, thus we will examine it from a singular perspective found in Romans 1:18-32.
Within this passage, Paul highlights that the wrath of God rightly falls upon those who suppress the truth of God through unrighteousness (v. 18), fail to honor the Lord (v. 21), fail to show gratitude (v. 21), ignore the Lord in order to live for the physical (v. 23), live in defilement (v. 24), indulge in sexual perversion (v. 27), operate from a debased and destructive mind (v.29-31), and approve others who do the same (v. 32). If you think about it, these individuals are despicable—we are these people! Or… should I say, we WERE these people.
When God saved us through the work of Jesus Christ and washed us in His blood, He reclaimed us from this former manner of life. However, our past sinful life left a patina of sin upon our flesh. The removal of this patina is the what the Bible calls sanctification. Though we’ve been born again in Christ, we still must put to death the deeds of the flesh. What deeds? All the things I just referenced from Paul. Think of it along these lines:
We must fight the desire to resist knowledge of God.
We must fight the desire to focus on this life instead of the Lord.
We must fight the desire to indulge in all forms of sexual immorality.
We must fight the desire to demean, defraud, divide, and destroy others.
We must fight the desire to tolerate evil while abstaining from holiness.
When conceptualized in this manner, we see that living the Christian life is a very difficult and costly endeavor. The process of sanctification is what leads us to feel that Christianity is difficult. Sanctification is the process of turning from the sins we previously walked in so that we may learn to enjoy Christ more within our salvation—this is both immensely rewarding and difficult. In fact, while I write this, I am struggling to obey the Lord and to repent from sin. But I know that the agony of repentance is far outweighed by the joy of submission!
You see authentic Christianity is not merely acknowledging Jesus, it is coming under the reign of King Jesus. It is for this reason that so many reject Christ. It is for this reason that so many within the church live defeated and debased lives. But there is hope. We neither save or perfect ourselves. Rather, we draw near to God because He has come close to us. We put on His armor by abiding in His presence. Christianity looks difficult on the outside because we see it involves the death of ingrained sinful patterns, but on the inside we find a life-altering power that radically transforms and reforms our lives. How? Through the faithful and powerful work of the Holy Spirit to regenerate us and, then, reshape us!
Permit me this opportunity to encourage you. No matter your past experiences with the difficulties of killing sin, remember that past victory of Jesus Christ over all sin. Christianity is difficult when we lose our focus upon God and shift it towards other things—in fact, this is what led to the wrath of God that Paul speaks of in the first chapter of Romans. Let us strive to know Jesus more deeply and to enjoy Him more intimately and watch what happens!
I hope this encourages you to enjoy the Lord today!