The past week I have been reading The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. I always find him challenging and convicting.
Having grown up in a "works" emphasizing background, I often have to fight the guilt of "not doing enough." I think many people feel that same way. The primary debate between Calvinists and Arminians, I believe, is the discussion around grace and works. (There are other things involved. I don't want to over-simplify the discussion, but feel this is one issue at the heart of the conversation.)
I like Dallas's comment that "Grace is opposed to earning, not effort." It reminds me that I cannot earn my salvation or put myself in a place where God loves me more. Perseverance in the face of trials, practicing the spiritual disciplines, and participation in the community are not ways to earn salvation. They are ways that God makes us more like His Son. They are ways God uses to transform us from our present state into a "new creation" that is is clothed with "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."
God doesn't just want to get us out of hell. He doesn't just want to forgive our sins. God wants to heal us completely. (By healing I mean more than just physical healing.)
Often we sell "following Christ" short by reducing it to simply the forgiveness of sins, escape from Hell, and entrance into heaven. It is more than conversion.
Being a disciple means that we drop our old way of doing life (repent) and begin doing life in the Way of Jesus. Instead of asking "What would Jesus do?" We ask, "What would Jesus do if He were me?" We accept the life of a disciple whatever career field we enter.
God wants to make us holy...Christlike.
God makes us more like His Son through our perseverance, our practice of the disciplines, and our participation in His community. It is funny how the more we "do" these things, the more "grace" is given.
The standard God sets is high. Often people say things like, "That way of life is impossible!" When, I think, they really mean, "That is too hard!" Just because something is hard, does not mean that it cannot be done. Too often people expect a lightning bolt from heaven or "revival" when what they need is consistent pursuit of God. If we are not spending time in His word, praying regularly, participating in His community, then we have no reason to expect God to "renew" or "revive" us. That is like sitting in front of the television, eating Cheetos, and one day expecting to run a marathon.
This is both process and event. There is a point where we say, "I believe Jesus' way is the best way. I am going to live life trying to be like Jesus." But we also recognize that we are in process, and the rest of our lives will be a growing process. It is not easy, but it is do-able.
Are we converts or are we disciples?
I don't have it perfect. I fail often. But I want to be a disciple, and I know that when I do my part, God ALWAYS does his part and gives me grace to "do" my part.