***originally published on Whole Magazine April 5, 2015***
I am a photographer. I love to take pictures, and so much so that I started a business doing just that back in 2010 and my motto has always been “capturing life’s precious moments” because that is my goal and intention. I want to grab hold of special moments – weddings, birthdays, pregnancies, and any other event or season of life you can dream up – for each of my clients to remember for years and years to come.
It is freezing a brief moment of time and preserving it for as long as each photograph exists, which thanks to digital photography is a lot longer than photographs used to survive.
But as lovely as these photographs are, and as sweet and precious as the moments may be that they capture, each moment passes and will never truly exist again. Moments are not progressive and they do not really grow, if you think about it. They happen and then the world and time simply moves on.
Our salvation happens this way. Romans 10:9 speaks to this:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
This is a moment and then our life with the Lord begins. I heard it compared once to a wedding; since we are the Bride of Christ and He is our eternal Bridegroom to whom God promised us to (2 Corinthians 11:2), our moment of salvation is our “I do” moment. I was just married last year, and I have many pictures of this moment – but it is not this moment that makes my marriage. It is simply the moment that it began.
On the contrary, my marriage, as my husband and I walk this out day to day, learning each other, growing in trust and love and appreciation of each other, as well as weathering the storms of life together could not so easily be summed up in one snapshot. Likewise, our maturation process as Christians and followers of Jesus is just that: a process. It is a process of redemption, not just a moment or snapshot in time.
This is evident in our everyday life because when we accepted Christ, we did not step away from that moment and live spotless, sinless, perfect lives of our own – we still require the grace of God given to us through Jesus’ sacrifice every single day! But the Bible also speaks often to the concept of endurance and perseverance, as well as growth and development (which if you have ever watched a child grow up, you know this takes time and does not happen in the blink of an eye, no matter how it may feel that way when they are your own children):
…but everyone who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13 NLT)
Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11 NLT)
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with
patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9) *NOTE: emphasis is my own.
After reading scriptures like that (and there are many others) I had to ask myself, why would we need endurance and perseverance if sanctification and maturation was not a process? Perseverance makes it sound like a long process, too, which only further confirms this for me.
I’d like to stop for a second, however, because I realize that this sounds almost exhausting. I do not know about you, but I am not a cross-country runner or skier and long distance anything frightens me a little bit. But there is relief, first, because Jesus offers to trade our heavy yokes (used figuratively in the Bible indicating bondage or affliction, or subjection to denote servitude) for His that is easy and light, and offers us rest in Matthew 11:30 – and Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that yoke sounds pretty nice, does it not? (Though I cannot imagine feeling afflicted by peace…)
But second, because the hardest part of this process is already done. In order to get to the point that we are able to accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and to pursue this process of maturation, a cleansing sacrifice had to be made so that we might be forgiven.
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22 NIV)
This was the work of the Father set before Jesus. Jesus came, in a roundabout way for our forgiveness, but ultimately, the root of that was because it was the will of the Father. He was and still is after our hearts in order that we may be reconciled to our God and Creator, His and our Father, but it all boiled down to the purpose He lined out in John 6:38:
For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.(NLT)
And when Jesus was nailed to the cross, before He carried our sins to the grave, it’s widely known that He cried, “It is finished.”
(John 19:28-30 NLT). It was Jesus’ work that was finished, and because of this, we can be forgiven.
The forgiveness of your sins has already happened; you aren’t working to that anymore. Jesus FINISHED that. This does not remove the responsibility we carry to pursue wisdom and knowledge and a relationship that grows more deeply with the Lord each day, however. And, thanks be to Jesus, because when He left this earth, He sent us a Helper – the Holy Spirit to walk this out with us as we “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV).
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.
(John 16:7 ESV)
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
(Philippians 2:12-13 NLT)
So, sisters, let us run this race before us with perseverance and endurance, like the apostle Paul called for in Hebrews 12:1, and I implore you to meditate on this scripture in the coming days, weeks, or months; and allow Christ to be our example, our Jesus who persevered such pain and ridicule on our behalf to finish the will of the Father laid before Himself:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding the shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up… So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
(Hebrews 12:1-12 NLT)
Sisters, let us pursue growth, and seek the Lord for the firmness, perseverance, and resolve needed for attaining spiritual maturity this life. RUN THE RACE; do not just linger at the starting line. There is fullness and sanctification waiting for us along the route.
No matter how daunting the distance may seem, the ways we will come to know the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus in that time as He will always meet us and renew our strength!
Those who hope on the Lord will be renewed in their strength. They will rise up on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faith.
(Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
Original publication: http://www.wholemagazine.org/posts/it-is-finished