Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans, written in 1919, contains an illustration relating to the passage in Romans 4 about Abraham’s journey of faith. I used the illustration a couple of Sundays ago to shed some light on Philippians 3. Paul writes about pushing and pressing and straining for the prize. He realizes he hasn’t “arrived.” So he presses to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him.
Salvation. Christ-likeness. It’s a journey. Nobody’s “arrived.”
If we point back to our religious heritage or ancestry or sit comfortably on our religious traditions, if we find security in our status quo and salvation in keeping things the way they are, we’ll actually find ourselves in serious jeopardy.
Here’s Barth’s story:
“A group of people are headed on a long journey and along the way they find a sign pointing them westward. The signpost is there to convey them to their destination, but instead they stop and create a life for themselves under its painted words. They build a civilization there, celebrating the signpost and telling stories of how they arrived at the marker. Rituals evolve and songs are written. Books are published and liturgies follow. A few travel on and return, confirming that the sign does indeed lead to the place promised. But the second and third generations have built a life around the signpost and have forgotten the purpose of the journey. Their life is built on stories of past travel, not on stories of arriving or the prophetic call to get on with the journey themselves.”
Complacency in our faith is indeed bad and very destructive. In the parable of the talents, the person with one talent that didn’t grow it was called “You wicked, lazy servant!”. In 2 Peter 1, we’re called to the qualities listed, and to have them in “increasing measure”. Growing in these things keeps us from becoming “ineffective” and “unproductive” for the Lord. And if we fail at them, we are “near-sighted” and “blind”, and forgetful of our salvation.
Wicked, lazy, near-sighted, blind, forgetful of our salvation, ineffective, and unproductive…words that should seriously scare any Christian that has become satisfied with our faith. If I am unable to honestly look over my Christian walk and see clear growth, then these words apply to me. Very scary indeed, as these are not words I would like for God to use to describe me.
And these words apply BEFORE we even THINK about delving off into some kind of great sin. The minute we think we’re good enough, that we’ve “arrived”, as you put it, the words above describe what we look like to God. All the more reason to be ever thankful to Jesus for our salvation.