Sunday, March 05, 2006

On Being Christ-Like

My cousin Mike and I have been e-mailing about the Christian life, among other things. He has some good ideas, and he told me I could include here this message that he sent me. Like me, Mike became a strong Christian not so many years ago. He is a retired football coach, teacher, and counselor. Mike wrote this:

I do believe in the unlimited power of the Lord.

I believe that his way of life is the answer to all questions.

The amount of complication we have in our life is in direct relationship to the distance we are from God. We will always have problems, but they only become complicated when we depend on ourselves for a solution. Knowing this, isn't it interesting how we humans continue to dig in and try to fix everything?

How do we learn to depend on God in all situations? Now that is a question worth consideration.

I don't think that is human nature. Maybe the more human we are, that defines us as thinking we need God less in our life. You have to admit that Jesus would not fit in our society today any more than he did in his life on earth. He would be a strange duck, so to speak.

If we can succeed in becoming strong Christians, we will move more toward Christ-like and less human-like; again, we would also become strange ducks. We seem to hate, lock up, ignore, separate, and ostracize anything or anyone that is different.

How do we make the decision to become less human and more Christian?

I have made that decision and want to become more Christian (Christ-like), but my human traits are very strong and they are not going away, and even when I think I am making headway by getting my human reactions under control, something will happen, and before I can get it under control I am a full fledged human again, and I have to start all over again.

I hear about "born-again Christians"; my transformation into being a Christian is more like a "work in progress" no flashes or lightning. The Lord is not doing a very good job of controlling my temperament, or maybe I still haven't turned that over to him and I am still trying to do it myself. For what ever reason, when that human characteristic comes out of me, people do not see a Christian. At least, now I know what I am trying to do, and I am improving.

What Mike said sounds so much like what Paul said in Romans 7. Paul was so disgusted with himself because he kept wanting to do the right thing, but kept on doing the wrong things. Here is what Paul said, from The Message:

"I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself--after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

Then, in the New International Version, Paul says

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

At times it may seem like we are absolutely so separated from God that he would never spend a minute on us. But because of Jesus, there is hope for us.

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