And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters. – Romans 8:28-29 NLT
What do you want to be when you grow up?
How many times did I hear that question emanate from the lips of some inquisitive adult as a child? And how many times did my answer to that question change over the years? Fireman. Cowboy. Astronaut. Soldier. Race car driver. Pilot. Nuclear physicist. Okay, so that last one never even crossed my mind, but suffice it say, my aspirations for the future were in a constant state of flux. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And even after I’ve officially grown up, I still struggle at times with whether I am what I set out to be. Am I doing what I was meant to do? Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe I am right where I’m supposed to be serving as a pastor here at Christ Chapel. But there’s always that nagging voice in the back of my head that seems to question whether there’s something else out there that God wants me to be doing and I just missed it. Maybe I really was supposed to be a nuclear physicist!
You see, as human beings we tend to put a high value on what it is we do. We draw our value from our activities and actions. And the better we are at what we do, the greater our value. A point guard in the National Basketball Association is considered to be the best at what he does and is paid accordingly. The pilot of a commercial airliner makes more money than the guy who drives a local cab, even though both do essentially the same thing – transport people from one point to another. But in our society, what the pilot does is considered more complex, requires greater education and advanced skill sets, so his job is deemed more valuable. The character of the NBA star or the pilot doesn’t really factor into the world’s estimation of their worth. As long as they are good at what they do, they are deemed worthy of our respect and whatever reward comes with their job.
But in the Christian arena doing and being are inseparable. In fact, God seems to put a higher value on who we are than on what we do. For Him, the estimation of worth begins on the inside and, not surprisingly, Jesus seemed to agree. He put it this way to His disciples. “It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds” (Luke 6:43-45 MSG). In other words, our true worth is determined internally, not externally. Jesus is not diminishing the value of actions or outcome, He is simply stating that their true worth is determined on our state of being . The apostle Paul expressed the same idea as only he could. “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; butbut if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT). The doing loses its value if it isn’t done with the right heart or proper motivation. Good deeds flow from a right heart.
What I’m really talking about is what it means to live like Christ – to BE like Christ – which should be the ultimate goal of every follower of Christ. Too often we mistake Christ-likeness with the list of ministries we are involved in or the number of spiritual activities we engage in. They become the measuring stick of our Christ-likeness. But for instance, worship is more than what we do on Sunday morning. It’s a pervasive passion for God’s glory that flows out of our lives 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Getting in a small group is great, but unless our idea of “community” includes a growing capacity to love and be loved that permeates every relationship in our lives, a small group can be just another thing to do and another event to attend. Growing in Christ isn’t just about cramming our heads with more Bible knowledge, it’s is a hunger for God’s Word that is based on the belief that He reveals Himself to us through the pages of Scripture and changes us accordingly. Serving goes beyond community outreach initiatives and periodic displays of goodwill. It is an ever-increasing desire to be God’s servant, selflessly putting the needs of others ahead of our own and loving them the way Christ loved us. Finally, giving our lives away for the cause of Christ is more than making a one-time commitment to go on a short-term mission trip. No, it’s an unbridled excitement to tell God’s story of His grace available through Jesus Christ.
All of these things begin with an attitude. They flow from the inside out. They are outward manifestations of who we are as followers of Christ. As we become increasingly more like Him, these characteristics will naturally express themselves through our lives and in our actions. Our being will impact our doing, just as it did for Jesus. The Christ-life will become more about attributes, than objectives. We will pursue inner qualities more than external goals. We will understand that the Christ-life is spiritual, not natural. It is Spirit-empowered, not self-produced. In other words, our becoming like Christ is a work of God. As He transforms us into the image of His Son, we will take on His characteristics and attributes. We will bring glory to God through lives that respond appropriately to Him. We will live in community with God, our fellow believers, and the lost. We will increase in our knowledge and application of the Word of God. We will give our lives away sacrificially and selflessly as God leads. And we will proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ both locally and globally.
“To Be, Or Not To Be; That Is The Question”
That really is the question. Are we going to be like Christ or not? Will our lives take on the character of Christ or be marked by some outward conformity to a set of expectations or long list of worthy activities?
Over in the book of Colossians, we read these words from the pen of the apostle Paul: “We proclaim him [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NIV). The church’s objective, as it was Paul’s, should be the ongoing spiritual maturity of those under its care. We should desire to see every person who walks through the doors of our church and claims Jesus as their Savior become increasingly like Him in their attitudes and actions. We should believe that our God-given responsibility is “to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church” (Ephesians 4:12-15 NLT)
There is an old chorus we used to sing when I was a child. And while the words didn’t mean much to me in those days, they are becoming increasingly more relevant to my life as I grow older. They are my prayer for myself and the local body of believers of which I am a part and over whom I have been placed as a shepherd. As you read them, may they express your heart’s desire as we all strive to be like Christ.
To be like Jesus
To be like Jesus
All I ask – to be like Him
All through life’s journey
From earth to glory
All I ask – to be like Him.