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IS YOUR CART BEFORE THE HORSE?
After we come to Jesus, most churches teach how to live better lives, most likely based upon the principles of the Ten Commandments.
It is true that our lives should change when we find Jesus, if indeed, we have had a genuine conversion. However, the methods we are encouraged to adopt in order to become like Him primarily involve our own efforts. We are expected to change to conform to the new 'Christian culture' into which we have entered. Swearing, smoking, lying, stealing, and maybe drinking, are 'out', while doing good and helping in the church are 'in'. We are likely to get involved in programmes teaching us the foundations of Christian living, those promoting excellence, ones of good work ethics, etc. etc..
From a human perspective this is great, particularly if we have not been previously exposed to Christian values, and may well be a revelation and inspiration to us. As a new, enthusiastic Christian we are likely to plunge ourselves headlong into doing all we can do to become like Jesus.
Initially we may have some success, and it is this success that keeps such programmes doing the rounds, in their various forms. Do this, do that, and you will become like, or more like, Jesus. Effectively, 'Christian PMA' (Positive Mental Attitude) or 'Christian self-development' courses.
However, as we go along in the Lord, our initial enthusiasm wanes, particularly as we discover, if we are honest with ourselves, that even with all our efforts, we are really little closer to becoming like Jesus than we were on the day of our conversion. I have known of numerous people who have entered into Christianity with great gusto, but who, after finding that the programmes don't really work, either for themselves, or from what they observe in others, leave the church and drift back into the world. Others may remain within the 'Christian club', but essentially give up on their battle to become like their Saviour.
What then are we doing wrong? Why are we failing? Why are we unable to become like Jesus as is promised in His Word?
since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9b-10)
If we do believe God's Word, then surely it must be possible!
I personally struggled with this for many years. I have very strong willpower, yes, even 'wontpower'! I sought to change myself with a certain amount of success. But after years of trying hard, of following the programmes, I finally realised, with frustration, I was never going to become like Jesus, no matter how hard I tried. There had to be another way. And there is!
The problem is that the church in general does either not know, or is unable to impart, the true method by which we are to grow into the image of Jesus. Really, I had to discover it for myself, reading the Word again and again to see and absorb what it said. Finally I began to comprehend a different way. Remarkably, a way that didn't involve my work, but rather, giving up on myself! A way, not of strength, but submission. A way, not of effort, but of rest! A way, not of self-improvement, but of allowing the Holy Spirit, actually God Himself, to change me! As we get more deeply into the Word of God, this 'way of the Lord' becomes obvious in so many places. For example...
9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:9-16)
Yes, after many years of desperately seeking to become more like Jesus in my own strength, I finally realised that I had, all the time, been putting the cart before the horse! Yes, trying to pull the 'cart of righteousness' in my own strength without being led, guided, and changed by the 'horse of the Holy Spirit'. (metaphorically speaking)
My friend, the ways of the Lord are completely different to those of the world. To become like Jesus, we must go down, not up. We must 'give up' before we can 'grow up'. We must submit, not strive. We must allow Him to change us, not try to change ourselves.
How do we do this? Not by following a pastor or programme. Rather, by developing a deeper and deeper personal relationship with Jesus. By listening to and giving the Holy Spirit permission to change us. Then finally, putting aside our own dreams and ambitions, allowing the will of our glorious Heavenly Father to become pre-eminent in our life.
Are we prepared to give Him our all today?
By David Tait via PGIM Issue No: 293 Published: 04 Jun 2007
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