Let me tell you about a guy I know. He works for UCCF and he's a member of a Newfrontiers church - and he loves those labels (Galatian 3:28), they matter a lot to him, and he cares which labels you wear too. He's interested in what you make of him almost to the point of anxious fear (1:10, 2:12) and will make much of you (4:17) though strangely you'll feel your gospel-joy lessened for being with him (4:15). He tends to be critical of others, even biting, devouring, provoking and envying (5:15,26). He takes it upon himself to sort things out and leads the line against others (1:13, 4:29) and can tell you where all the latest problems are (2:4). He takes himself very seriously, he is after all very zealous and thinks himself better than everyone else (1:13). In public he looks very religious and pious, privately he's pretty unpleasant (5:19-20) though he can play the game and put on the right front like any pharisee would. He looks like a slave (4:30), the kind of person who wont inherit God's kingdom (5:21). His way of life is not in step with the gospel (2:14) and though he wouldn't say so he really doesn't think the death of Jesus was worth anything much (2:21).
I know this person all to well because he's me, living by my sinful nature, and once again in 2009 I saw too much of him. This is particularly unpleasant because he has long since been crucified with Christ (5:24) and so has no place showing up at all - and it's my fault for indulging and attempting to revive him by not walking by the Spirit (5:15).
I'm thankful for the way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are changing me - through his word, through my marriage, through the observations of friends and colleagues, through the family of our church and others in the last few months. But, this remains a work in progress - I'm still prone to relate to others sinfully, but longing for change.
If in 2010 you have the misfortune to run into this person, and I imagine you might, then please watch yourself (6:1) and gently restore me back to gospel living. Be astonished (1:6) but not too surprised, see how foolish I am (3:1) and take the opportunity to laugh at yourself because you too could be so foolish. Be in perplexed and in hopeful anguish for me (4:19). Remind me that I have been crucified with Christ and that the life I now live I live by faith in the risen Christ, Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (2:20) and encourage me to put all my confidence in the Christ who was crucified (3:1), the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (6:14) in whom I'm a new creation. That would be a great service to me and to others.