The Next Level

Like many people in my generation, I spent a fair amount of time in my youth playing video games. The continuous challenge was a genuine source of fun. Most of the games I played had levels that needed to be completed, which increased with difficulty as progress was made in the game. The further I advanced, the more challenging it became. I recall many afternoons – probably too many – trying over and over again to finish a level and make it past the hard part in the game that challenged me at that moment. Being tenacious in my nature, I was able to succeed in several games. But, some were too hard and I was never able to overcome the obstacles standing in my way of finishing the level and proceeding to the next. For those games, I resigned myself to give up and move on.

While the consequences for giving up on the attempt to win a video game are insignificant, the same cannot be said for the Christian Way of Life. If the obstacles that we face cause us to turn away from God and our commitment to Christian living, we will be truly defeated. Giving up the Way of Christian life ends in the end of life that can never begin again.

When Jesus was consulted by a rich, young ruler about what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life, the answer He gave became an obstacle. Even though the ruler had worked throughout his life to live in obedience to the law, he had more that was required of him. “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:21-22). This man allowed an obstacle to block his path towards salvation. His desire to continue indulging in worldly abundance prevented him from proceeding. As a result, he turned away defeated, unwilling at that time to overcome his problem.

It is the mission of a Christian to continuously grow in his or her spiritual development. It is unacceptable and unprofitable to God if we learn the Truth, but fail to make improvements in our lives. The knowledge of the Truth needs to be used! It provides guidance to us so we can become perfect in righteousness. We know that we will not actually become perfect until God glorifies us, but we are instructed to work towards the state of perfection until that time. Right now, our spiritual growth requires us to combine our efforts with the spiritual discernment, strength, and grace provided by the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When we commit our lives to that goal, we will find ourselves progressing further and further.

If we choose to dedicate ourselves to overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of our spiritual development, we should expect to encounter new and different challenges along the way. This is evidence of our progress. Step by step, we learn how to commit ourselves ever more to righteousness, making our challenges of the past trivial by comparison. And since we all sin (compare Romans 5:12), there will always be more to overcome. However, if we become stagnant in our efforts, we put ourselves in danger.  Hebrews 6:1 obliges us to “go on to perfection”, compelling us to never stop our development. After providing this instruction, a dire warning is pronounced, informing the reader about the death that results from falling away from the Truth (compare Hebrews 6:4-8). A failure to make progress implies an unwillingness to earnestly continue in the way of righteousness, with a dreadful result.

Our commitment to follow in the path of righteousness cannot be hindered by obstacles that we encounter. The sins that we discover in our lives must not block us without a fight to overcome. With this enduring attitude, and with the help of the Holy Spirit provided by God the Father and Jesus Christ, God promises that we will succeed and advance to the next level.

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