The Christian life can feel schizophrenic. It isn’t hard to recognize that there are numerous tensions filling the Christian life. Some find this exhilarating. However, many of us find that these tensions are a cause of discouragement, despair, hopelessness, and depression. We look at our lives and they are not what we want them to be. We see that:
- We are set free from sin yet continue to yield to it (Rom. 6:2; Rom. 7:19)
- We are saints yet sinners (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 John 1:8)
- We have peace yet are to strive for peace (Eph. 2:14; Col. 3:15)
- We have been saved yet are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:12)
- We are beautiful yet wretched (Song of Sol. 4:1; Rom. 7:24)
- We have been given rest yet are to labor to enter that rest (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 4:11)
- We are forgiven yet continue to need to confess sin (Col. 3:13; 1 John 1:9)
- We know the love of Christ yet this love surpasses our knowledge (Ps. 89:1; Eph. 3:19)
- We have died to sin yet must continue to flee from it (Rom. 6:2; 1 Cor. 6:18)
- We are new yet we are not what we shall be (John 3:3; 1 John 3:2)
- We have seen Him yet have not seen him (Eph. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:8)
- We have all knowledge yet are to increase in knowing Him (1 John 2:20; 2 Pet. 3:18)
- We are a new creation yet battle the old self (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:6)
- We have joy yet we are commanded to rejoice (Gal. 5:22; Phil. 4:4)
- We have been set free yet are slaves (Rom. 6:18; Rom. 6:22)
- We are fallen creatures and yet sons of God (Rom. 3:12; Gal. 4:6)
These tensions are real. However, this isn’t because Christianity is schizophrenic. These are good and necessary tensions; and they shouldn’t lead to discouragement, despair, hopelessness, or depression. If you are experiencing these tensions of the Christian life, there is a reason: you are a pilgrim on the way. In fact, you are only a sojourner in this land with eyes that have been set upon the “celestial city.” As Christians, we are caught in the in-between. As has become a common refrain (and Jesus alludes to in His high priestly prayer), “We are in this world, but not of this world.” We have one foot on earth and one firmly anchored in heaven.
When we begin to fully understand that we are but pilgrims in this world, these tensions become avenues of sweetness rather than despair. Ultimately, they point us to what we shall be some day.
As 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see Him as He is.” On that day all the tensions in our lives will finally cease. The sinner will fully be transformed into a saint, our peace will be complete, our love will be perfected, sin will no longer be at hand, and our faith shall be sight. And how do we know that this day will be a reality? Surely, some of the greatest signs are the tensions we experience in the present. We are enjoying an appetizer of the benefits of eternity now. The eschaton has broken in.
The positive side of these tensions are a bright neon flashing promise that this future day shall come. Rather than lead us to despair, these tensions should lead us to hope. Come quickly Lord Jesus.