April 11, 2014 – To Be More Like Christ
Philippians 2:3 – 8 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility values others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he mad himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! April 11, 2014, today I turn 30. I don’t feel too different from when I was 29, but the significance of entering a new decade is not lost on me. As I start this new decade, I’ve listed a few simple questions to ask myself during my daily reflections, and I’m sharing them with you with the hope that they will encourage you, infuse you with courage, to live a Christian life – not necessarily just a church-going life, not necessarily a conservative life, not necessarily a community-approved life, not necessarily a rich life, nor a comfortable life, nor what most people consider a “blessed life”, nor a worldly-successful life – but a Christian life, a life that is following not just “What” Jesus taught but also embracing His “Why”, His reason for living the way He did. Interestingly, Jesus’ ministry started when He was 30 years old. Many people don’t realize that Jesus had done in 3 years (30 – 33) all that the Father had planned for Him to do. He, in just 3 years, achieved His purpose. And He did this all in such a gloriously distinct manner that people followed Him, and those who followed His life, not just His words, not just His blessings, not just His healing, not just His aura, would go on to change the world through a non-violent, non-coercive, peaceful, humble, gentle, sacrificial, inclusive, yet penetrating, saving, and life changing message: The Gospel, that God so loved the world that He gave His Son to save us, and that His Son, Jesus, defeated sin and death once and for all, that we are now free – not to live selfishly for that is not love, not to live with greed, or sloth, or gluttony, or pride, or lust, wrath, or envy for these are not of love – but free to live a life of true love. Living a life of true love means you’re living in such a way that your life becomes a gift to God and the world. This is of course impossible without being filled with God’s love every single day. Cars cannot run on empty, neither can we. To be filled, to remain filled, we must stay connected to Christ, as the Bible says that He is the vine and we as branches must stay connected to bear fruit. And what is this fruit? What is the produce of a Christian life? Is it just the trappings of grace, having abundance, no one being sick, kids getting good grades, family being honored, having respectability, marriage not having a rough time? The Bible says that we will know a person by his fruits, and it’s so easy for us to automatically equate the “good life” to having good fruit but this is not always the case, in fact, many times, this is not the case. I see this very obviously when people ask me why God is so unfair that corrupt people have good lives while there are so many good people suffering. One answer to this question of course is “What makes someone good?” If a guy is honest in business but dishonest to his wife, is he good? No. If a person is generous, gregarious, friendly, and kind, but prideful, is he good? If a child gets the highest grades, makes the sports team, and is popular but is driven out of a fear of his parents or insecurity, is he good? Even ask yourself, “Am I good? If so, why do I say that? Do I not sin?” Saying that “good people” deserve a “good life” must first start with defining what a good person is, and as I define what this person is I myself cannot call myself a good person. I may be kinder than others but I’m also prouder than others. I may be more disciplined but I’m also more impatient. I may be more diligent but I’m also more greedy. The other answer to this question is this: God never said that the fruit of a Christian would be a “good life”. He said the fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the things that should be growing in my life. These are the things I need to be looking for. These are the things I need to be recognizing. These are things I need to be excited about. These are the things I should be respecting. And if these things grow in my life, regardless of whether I win the approval of man or pass man-made standards, I’m fine. As I’ve said before, God is so fair. God is so fair that He made the path to greatness service because everyone can serve, He made faith the way to please Him, and He made love the ultimate gift. And everyone can serve, have faith, and love – everyone. Want to know why many Christians fall for the scams of fellow -“Christian”? We’re impressed with the wrong things. We’re impressed with stature and success. We’re impressed with power and form. We’re impressed with charisma. We’re impressed with wisdom. And we’re not very impressed with stillness, with humility, with simplicity, with sacrifice, which are the outward actions of a person who is growing in the Spirit. This is why we’re so quick to blame God when life doesn’t look the way we thought it would. We expect security from pain and need, and He bring security from the vulnerability of love. We expect our kind of justice and He brings justification through grace. We expect an abundance of things, He brings an abundance of peace despite not having things. We expect success to follow our plans, He brings a totally new plan for our lives: love others. A good reminder of how we miss the point many times is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a poignant reminder that we, as they did in the past, welcome the promise of a Savior with fan fare and joy, yet reject that very Savior when He saves us in a way we did not expect. We, like they, expect Him to rescue us from our evil circumstances, failing to understand that He came to save us, yes, from evil, the evil that resides within ourselves. God knows that Where there is greed there will be inequality. Where there is sloth there will be poverty for a lazy man will come to ruin. Where there is lust there will be unfaithfulness for it is not adultery that makes us unfaithful but the lack of devotion. Where there is gluttony there will be excess for gluttons are never satisfied, even when they are full they stuff themselves. Where there is pride there will be vanity, and vanity mean emptiness. Where there is wrath there will be destruction for passionate anger is a great fire. Where there is envy there will be no love and compassion since we are fixated with what others have and we don’t. Like a skilled surgeon, Jesus did not treat us cancer-stricken patients with medicine for headaches, body pains, and nausea. He went for the cancer, the cancer that resides in our hearts, the greed, sloth, lust, gluttony, pride, wrath, and envy in our hearts. As I turn 30, I can feel a very distinct change in my heart, the introduction of a new metric of success, actually not new, ancient in fact, just new to me: Christlikeness. True Christlikeness as seen through the Fruit of the Spirit in the way I live. That’s my long introduction to a very short message: desire to be like Christ. If you think you’re poor remember that Christ was a carpenter yet He never lacked for He lived simply. If you are rich remember Christ had the glory of Heaven yet He resided in the slums of the Earth. If you have no position or platform remember that Christ had no earthly position yet He led multitudes. If you are powerful remember that Christ was a king yet made Himself a servant. If you are successful remember that Christ was perfect yet judged mercifully. If you are fair and disciplined remember that Christ was unjustly treated yet treated others generously. If you are lonely remember Christ was single but was never alone. He was in complete relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. If you are surrounded remember that Christ would always go away to be alone with His primary relationships. Here are 2 major questions and 3 subquestions to help you reflect on this: Am I worshipping God? – Do I love Him first and most? – Do I love my neighbor as myself? – Am I living by faith? Am I growing in Christ-likeness? – Am I growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man? – Is the Fruit of the Spirit more evident in my life? – Am I thinking less of my interests, less of my importance, and more of others? As I end this post, I’m reminded of John the Baptist’s words: He must become greater; I must become less. – John 3:30 The real proof of Christlikeness is not personal achievement, personal respect, and personal power, it is that people recognize Jesus. Can’t say I’ve done a very good job with that so I need to progress. That others may recognize Jesus, what a most worthy way to live.