The first two parts of this post will give a context that probably is important for understanding.
Remember the GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY are not only a reality for the past year and the year to come but are a reality about each of us that needs to be understood if we're to live a life of true faith. So let me begin by giving some definitions/descriptions about the good, the bad, and the ugly that apply to all of us as believers.
THE GOOD...All I am in Christ by His Grace. That is my true identity. I "AM" a new creation in Christ Jesus. I have a new nature. It's as if God has created me anew and said "It's good" all over again. It's a wonderful work of Sovereign Grace. That's who I am. I heard the gospel, believed it, [a gift of Grace in and of itself] and was delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Light and made new. The Cross really did it's work not only for me but in me. I "have been crucified with Christ." It is true that "nevertheless I live" but I now know that He is alive in me and the life I now live is totally identified with who He is and what He's done. It's an exchanged life. My sin and self He took to the Cross and His Righteousness is now accredited to my account. Now I have a new relationship with God the Father having been birthed anew. I am now a loved, accepted, forgiven and empowered person and am free to reflect all of that to others as I relate to them in the living of life all because of my Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus. Each believer must know this as a biblical fact for a life of faith to be lived out. That's the GOOD.
The preceeding is a simple statement, spoken relationally, that reflects the reality of many great doctrines of the scriptures about God's work on our behalf such as Regeneration, Imputation, Salvation and the like. Great studies all.
THE BAD...Those patterns of behavior I learned early on. [Mostly for self preservation/protection I think.] Those feelings, beliefs, behaviors, developed to an art inside me, that keep hanging around long after my salvation experience is begun, that I've created from childhood as ways to live life. [The flesh] They are familiar to me and even feel like they're really me sometimes. I believe them frequently when they whisper that to me in my dark moments. That IS a lie of course because I am new in nature, but sometimes I forget that. What's worse is I act on those whispers sometimes thinking that's who I am. That's sin. It's called living the "self" life. ["Flesh" in scripture is nothing more than what Stuart Briscoe said one time while in a bible conference in a church I pastored, "The flesh is nothing but flesh spelled backward dropping the h.... Self ."]
Remember that this behavior that is of the flesh is ANY and ALL the activity I do [even the good done] so that others will notice who I am and appreciate me as a person. This is even my religious behavior that is motivated to get God to like/notice me or people to like me or think well of me. It's still.. ME. That's the BAD.
THE UGLY...I am now responsible to choose how I'm going to live life but I mess this up sometimes. I can choose to believe and act upon either the GOOD [by faith] or BAD [according to the flesh] and, all too often, the bad is chosen. Thus the GOOD [see above] isn't lived out in reality. The BAD [see above] becomes my lifestyle again though it can never be my nature since I am new in Christ.
But the seemingly UGLY fact remains that I do choose and often I do choose to act in a way other than grace. This is not a pious platitude of humility. It is a personal confession of one who all too often has behavior found in me that doesn't smack of Grace. Another biblical and personal reality.
This is where the rubber of human performance [flesh] or Grace living [faith] really meets the road. This is the war raging between the flesh and the Spirit. It's the battleground of any healthy life or relationship. That's the UGLY. This why 2008 or 2009 will be something of the good the bad and the ugly. I'll be present. [If the Lord wills and tarries.] It is also why our relationships, be they with the Lord, a marriage partner, children, parents, or friends, will reflect a struggle. I'm in that relationship. How could it be otherwise?
There are also, it seems to me, at least four possible patterns that can be developed by individual believers as a way of life that reflect the flesh instead of Grace that I will look at next time. These are sinful patterns but are often not seen as such or understood by believers adequately and are sometimes even perceived as godly. There may be more than the four of which I will write but those will be the ones I've seen, heard and experienced. Some of the patterns of behavior I'll mention, as I said, look good, even christian, but are far from true Grace. Some are more obvious as sin but ALL are works of the flesh.
It is not enough that we glibly say "We're just sinners saved by grace" to explain our struggles in the christian life. The truth is we are Saints who often sin and struggle. I'm trying to identify the struggles and the sin and will continue to do so in the upcoming days.
The closing part will describe our life of faith as redeemed saints and the victory which is already ours in Christ which can be experienced even with each other in our relationships. All WILL be experienced in 2009 as in 2008. I'm attempting to help us see why.
Until the next segment I say again...Happy New Year...since this is a new year's post after all. :)