There is an unspoken suspicion slithering through American churches, whispering that godly living is not all it was cracked up to be. It is a great inversion of our worldview, a new serpent with modern speech causing us to question what God really promised.
Though few people would say it out loud, many have heard the whispers and secretly agree that the Christian life is willful tedium, a slog through rote rituals and droll doctrine. It seems that Christ set many Christians free to live a life as exciting as a tepid bath. “There is nothing remarkable about my life,” they think. Their testimony, a miraculous story of the highest order, was just, you know, kind of normal. “It’s the pretty standard story,” they mutter with all the gusto of an elderly tortoise.
Like Adam and Eve, we regularly look at the circumstances God has given us and think they are bland and ordinary, that God is keeping us from the really good stuff. As a result, we are increasingly likely to think that the only way we will have a wild, beautiful, and full life is if we build it for ourselves. To us, the fruit on the tree of self-determinism looks as sweet as a peach on a hot summer’s day, but we forget any fruit apart from God is full of ash and worms. In a fallen world, even redeemed eyes have a hard time recognizing beauty.
We should remind ourselves of the tree from which life flows, upon which our Savior hung and the new life he brought to us.
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them. —Ephesians 2:8–10
Have you ever dwelt upon the newly minted identity you have in Christ? You are his poiema, the Greek word for his workmanship, literally “something that has been made.” This word is the root of poem and was commonly used in reference to both literal or figurative fabric. Sit with that for a moment.
We who are so apt to think that doctrine is cold, communion is robotic, and spiritual living is colorless are called the fabric of God! God sovereignly and carefully knit every fiber in your body and sewed your personality together (Psalm 139:13–15). Your body, personality, gifts, and skills are not accidents, something you have wrought, for your own possession. You are a unique tapestry made, chosen, and meant to live for God.
You are unique, but you are not alone.
So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. —Ephesians 2:19–22
Together we, the church, are a new poiema. You are a verse in a larger song, a fabric in a greater tapestry, a stone in a greater building. There is no us without you, and no you apart from us. A solitary Christian is a walking oxymoron.
And in this new work of diversity and unity, the “manifold wisdom of God” will be displayed (Ephesians 3:10). Now, I don’t use the word “manifold” in normal conversation and would be surprised if that adjective aides your understanding of God’s wisdom. The word Paul uses is polypoikilos, meaning an object of many sides, regularly used to describe a painting of many bright colors.
Paul, that stuffy old theologian, describes the wisdom of God as a ferociously vibrant painting. Each brush stroke is purposeful, every thread of canvas in its place.
The church, then, is a group of creatively crafted individuals knit to one another in Christ. Each is given their own beautiful life meant to intermesh and influence those around them so that the world might see a vibrant, vivid, and radiant picture of God’s glory. And you, a miraculous work of God, have been created in order to do good works God has laid out for you before the earth had shape.
And to think, you were sure your spiritual life was boring not five minutes ago. Your daily schedule may repeat, but you should never find it repetitive. God lays good works across your path every day so that you might live courageously and fully. Your spiritual community and act of worship is not confined within the walls of a church. You are the church in every moment—what is God doing around you right now?
You were meant to live for more than the next item on your schedule. The Christian life is not rote repetition of rules or pantomime of ritual but the process of being remade into something unimaginably beautiful by the One True Artist. If Christianity seems shallow to you, it may be that you have been doing little more than splashing in its puddles. Before you is the infinite ocean of God, and he is calling you into the deep for your joy and his glory. That, my friends, is a wild, free, and vivacious adventure. To live is Christ—everything else pales in comparison.
Cover image by Matt Hawthorne.