Tedious and Tepid or Transformed and Tremendous? A Consideration of the Normal Christian Life

Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose for us.  In so doing, He has not only cleansed us from our sins by His Precious Blood, but has also made available for us an entirely new life by the power of His cross. St. Paul says, If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old things are passed away, behold, all things are made new (2 Cor. 5:17).  Now this is not a slogan. St. Paul is describing a reality that he and the early Christians actually experienced.  He is describing the normal Christian life.

So then, what is the normal Christian life? It is to see our lives dramatically changed and transformed by the power of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  By this power the Lord puts sin to death and brings forth the grace of His life within us.  How could it be that the Lord died and rose for us and we should still be struggling with a tepid spirituality, a mediocre moral life, boredom, worldliness, and so forth?  Is this the best that the death of the Son of God can do?  Impossible!  Jesus died and rose to give us a completely new life, a life that is increasingly victorious over sin, and marked by zeal and the joy of being in living conscious contact with God at every moment of our day.  Yes, this is the normal Christian life; this is what Christ died to give us.

Yet, too many reduce the Christian faith to an abstraction, or to merely an intellectual set of ideas.  They presume it is enough to know about God and about the faith.  But God offers something far greater, not merely to know about Him but to actually know Him.  In the Scriptures, the verb to know almost always implies something far greater than intellectual knowing.  Rather, it usually describes something closer to what we call experience.  To know means to have personally experienced in a deep and intimate way the truth about which we speak.

Consider some of the following scriptures and prayers from the liturgy and, as you read them, consider carefully that they are not to be understood as slogans or merely wishful thoughts. They are describing the normal Christian life:

  1. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old things are passed away, behold, all things are made new (2 Cor. 5:17).
  2. As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4).
  3. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)
  4. Our testimony about Christ has been confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:6-7)
  5. He rescued us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (Gal 1:4)
  6. In him a new age has dawned, the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed and man is once again made whole (Easter Preface 4)
  7. Grant, we pray O Lord, that we may always find delight in these paschal mysteries, so that, the renewal constantly at work within us, may be the cause of our unending joy. Through Christ our Lord (offertory prayer 4th Sunday of Easter)

So, if we consider these texts, we begin to see some of the elements of the normal Christian life:

  1. Deliverance from sin and the world of sin
  2. Walking in newness of life
  3. Experiencing ever deeper transformation
  4. A closer walk with God
  5. Deeper love for God and for neighbors, even my enemies
  6. An ever greater possession of the gifts of God
  7. Having our faith confirmed by the evidence of our very lives
  8. Joyful and eagerly looking for Christ to come

Is this what you expect from your relationship with Jesus Christ? It is rather sad actually how little most people expect from their life in Christ. To a large extent I have to lay the blame at the feet of us who preach. For, truth be told, there are not many sermons that teach God’s people to joyfully expect dramatic and powerful transformation. Too many sermons are just mini exhortations that we to try and do a little better. There is little of the vigorous hope and announcement of new life expressed scriptures above. Hence, most Christians don’t expect much more than to muddle through and make a little progress, and basically be mediocre. True sanctity is just for the saints.

But, as has already been said, mediocrity is not the normal Christian life. We cannot be content with anything less than living conscious contact with God who is more real than anything around us. Our faith should be the most real thing we experience. Christians have got to lay hold of the normal Christian life, begin to powerfully experience it and become personal witnesses to the truth of what we proclaim.  The Gospel is not just information; it is transformation. And we are called to actually experience its power in our life.

If you don’t mind a little self promotion, I would like to say that I have recently published, through Now You Know Media, a series of 12 audio talks that explore the normal Christian life, a kind of “Theology of Transformation.”  In the series which I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I explore some aspects of what it really means to know, that is, to experience, the new life that Christ died to give us.  We consider how we can grasp this life more deeply and experience how the Lord ministers to us in our lives, through His Word, the Sacraments and the sacred liturgy.  In the series we consider how the Gospel, the “good news,” is more than information, it is transformation.  The Word of God does not merely inform, it performs.

The titles of the 12 talks are these:

  1. Experiencing The Good News – Series Overview
  2. Experiencing the Lord Personally – Living by experience rather than inference
  3. Experiencing the life of Baptism – Dying with Christ and rising to new life
  4. Experiencing the Freedom of the Children of God – What Chapter are you on?
  5. Experiencing the Liturgy – Tedious rituals or transformative realities?
  6. Experiencing Scripture – More than spectator sport
  7. Experiencing the new mind – Not conformed but transformed
  8. Experiencing the Father – Abba
  9. Experiencing prayer – Learning from the Lord to pray
  10. Experiencing the Moral life as transformation – Description more than prescription
  11. Experiencing confession – Examine your examen
  12. Experiencing growth – I’m not what I want to be but not what I used to be.

If you are interested in finding out more about the talks and purchasing a set either on CD or by download you can go here:

Experiencing the Good News: A Consideration of the Normal Christian Life by Msgr. Charles Pope

Since you read the blog there is a 10% off coupon code to be used at checkout: CP553

At any rate, if you would find these talks helpful, I am glad to make them available to you. There are also a lot of good talks and seminars by other speakers and teachers available at Now You Know Media that I have found helpful.

If you want a sample, the “video” (just an audio track actually) is here below. It is the first talk in my series.

10 Replies to “Tedious and Tepid or Transformed and Tremendous? A Consideration of the Normal Christian Life”

  1. Congratulations Father!! I can say Christ has changed everything for us … so much so that now we are doing things that were unthinkable just a couple of years ago. Some people call us foolish but we trust in Jesus. Oh, yes, we are indeed new creations. We have more joy, more faith, more love. And above all gratitude.

    We will appreciate your prayers during this time of transition (we are moving — another foolish notion according to some, but we are choosing to live in a more religious part of the country, more modestly, so that we may be a greater blessing to others).

    I look forward to listening to your talks. Haven’t figured out what’s the best for our family right now. Probably CDs. Thank you.

  2. “mediocrity is not the normal Christian life” <– I like this very much.

    I have seen too many Christians living a life that do not reflect Christian joy. Many of us complain a lot, lose hope or get discouraged very easily. And these can be the same people who like to sing praises in public with their guitars. What I've been noticing is that, [prayerful] optimism does not seem to be a popular way to look at things. I'm not sure if this is a cultural issue, though… But I'm pretty sure that even local cultures should not interfere our personal growth and relationships in Christ.

    Thank you for this encouraging article. Prayers and warmest regards from Indonesia.

  3. You’ve always been great monsignor.

    Your passion to teach God’s people the word of God as it is has always been evident.

    Thank you.

    (i can’t access the website you mentioned due some restrictions in my local server. However, the moment i gain access i’ll check out the talks)

  4. Epistle 187
    My some ideas of “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, in the homily, Msgr. Charles Pope gave two questions to us.
    First question, what is the normal Christian life?
    Second question, what you expect from your relationship with Jesus Christ?
    Secondly, now permit me to answer two above questions hereafter:
    First answer, my normal Christian life is to begin from 2004 to this day, since I went to the Mai Khoi Monastery to study Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    The pre-2004 period, my secular life was abnormal one because I did see any important senses of my life.
    At present, as Doctor of Socialist Political Economy (or Doctor of Economics on Communist Doctrine), I still come to University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City on every morning but having no work because UEH says that my work is sinecure.
    You can enter the University here: http://ueh.edu.vn/#
    On every morning of Sunday, I attend Mass in my parish church.
    You can enter my parish church here:
    On every afternoon of weeks, I write epistles and translate business articles of BBC into Vietnamese language (my native language) and send them to Rector of the University because he needs them.
    Up to now, I am 59 years old, and I can write epistles and send them to Msgr. Charles Pope until I will be 90.
    Second answer, I have no expectation because “No one knows me except Lord Jesus” as well as “No one knows me except Msgr. Charles Pope”.
    I commend my life to Lord Jesus as well as Msgr. Charles Pope./.

  5. Msgr Pope:

    Fantastic! We talk endlessly about how most Catholics in average parishes seem to have no sense of the “normal” Christian life. When we train people to facilitate the discernment of others, we have to point out to them that most lay Catholics have no sense of what is “normal” Christian experience. One of the consequences of the lack of a parish spiritual culture in which discipleship is normative is that most Catholics don’t expect God to do anything! Much less anything really significant!

    When I told some Dominican priests about my father’s experience of having a 1 1/2 pack a day smoking habit spontaneously and almost instantly removed upon his conversion, I realized that they were very uncomfortable. They would have been MUCH happier if I had said that he had conquered smoking after 5 years of therapy.

    I’ve sent a link about your series to my major collaborators around the country. This could be a great resource for support groups of new disciples, RCIA/mystagogia, and small Christian communities.

    How often we Catholics simply don’t think or talk in Scriptural categories. Your series is a breath of fresh air.

  6. Hardly self promotion, this is a bold step and great example of answering the call to the new evangalization. Thanks!

  7. What a privilege it is to be able to hear you preach EVERY Sunday at Holy Comforter – St Cyprian!!!

  8. The CDs are terrific! I have only listened to the first two – and parts of several others. They are wonderful in terms of connecting with Christ and the Gospel. Thank you, Msgr. Pope. You have shown a totally different way of living our faith and having a relationship with Jesus. I will definitely go back and read Romans – It was never presented the way you explained it and I always wondered what St. Paul meant. These CDs will make a great Adult Faith Formation series for our at-home study group.

Comments are closed.