A few years ago a great controversy arose across this nation involving the placing of the Ten Commandments in government owned buildings.
A college professor decided to conduct a small research project with one of his classes. He first inquired about the number of students that believed it was appropriate to post the Ten Commandments in public places. Next, he inquired about why posting the commandments was important to them. Several students made impassioned pleas for the recognition of the Commandments as foundational for the laws and morals of this country. Finally, he gave a test with one issue-list, in sequence, the Ten Commandments in your test booklet. Only a few students named the Commandments and none of them could name them in sequence. This simple experiment demonstrated that we often care more about appearance than substance, at least when it comes to knowing and following the Ten Commandments.
One of the great challenges of Christian discipleship is distinguishing between appearance and reality. One can be a good citizen, an ethical worker, and a first-rate church member without being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Much more is required than believing what Jesus said and did. It is more than believing that Jesus is the Son of God and affirming most of the church's doctrines. Appearance is insufficient for being a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple follows Jesus, acts like Jesus, and slowly develops even the very mind of Jesus. We face a major problem of being a disciple of Jesus. Our intended destination eludes us. We are weak sinful creatures that struggle in consistency between our words and deeds.
This is the place where the amazing sanctifying grace of God brings us forgiveness and moves us closer to living what we profess. We are not perfect, at least a vast majority of us. Jesus deploys us on a long journey to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our sinfulness crashes through in some most surprising places, at least this happens for me on a much too frequent basis. We serve a gracious, understanding, and forgiving savior, who lifts us up, dust us off, and commands us to go a different direction. What an amazing savior we follow!
My personal challenge is learning from my behavior and experience. Jesus certainly does and will forgive. Jesus also expects me to learn from my experiences and not to repeat them again next week because it is easier than living like Jesus. I love that wonderful adage-I am not the person I used to be, I am not the person I wish to be, and by the grace of God, I am not the person I am going to be.
Growing in grace comes as we allow Jesus to transform one more part of our lives every day. That growth comes through my daily reading and study of scripture, through prayer and meditation, and reading how others are growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ. By the grace of God working in and through me, one day I pray appearance and reality will be one. My words and deeds will be consistent.