Learning to ride a bike involves skinning a few knees. Most kids, after successfully riding a few feet without falling, look up and shout, “I can do it! I can do it!” – that , just before they dump the thing, trying to avoid the neighbor’s dog. Dad runs along beside the bike, shouting encouragement, but he cannot actually teach a child how to ride. He can describe what to do, but balance, the skill that makes bike riding work, has to naturally and gradually emerge from inside the life of the one who is learning. Balance is built in to their system; they just need to learn how to use it.
Learning to follow Jesus is a lot like that. Most of us skin our knees repeatedly in the process. We default to our old habits, which don’t work, and we crash. It can be discouraging. So we say things like, “I should be better; I shouldn’t make the same mistake over and over again.” And the biggie: “Maybe I’m not really a real Christian.” But remember this: Christlikeness, like balance, can be described but it cannot be taught. It does not show up instantly. It emerges gradually as a natural consequence of the Holy Spirit coming to live in the believer. That’s why Paul said this:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.(Philippians 1:4–6 excerpts)
If you have followed Jesus by faith, God is going to make the changes in you. He is not going to be rushed in His work. He also isn’t going to quit until you are finished. God doesn’t give up.
So then, if God is going to do the work, what is our part? Should we just passively wait until He makes us to be like Christ? Nope. That would be like waiting for balance to show up before we try to ride a bike. Our part is to pay careful attention to what God is telling us, climb on this new life and try once again to take it for a spin. See if we can get further down the road before the next crash. And don’t sweat the skinned knees. Paul said it like this:
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.“ – (Philippians 2:12b–13).