Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The perfect Christian

It is said that those who aim at nothing are sure to hit it. Likewise, those who aim at mediocrity do not exceed mediocrity. You only rise to the height of the bar you try to reach.

So, I think we should set ourselves high goals – especially in the area of Godliness. We should be Godly in character for two reasons: 1) God tells us to be 2) Godly people actually find life more enjoyable, fulfilling and meaningful than ungodly people. The ultimate goal of Godliness is love of God and people, but as I bought bread at the supermarket, I wondered what that really looks like. Clearly, Christ is the role-model of Godliness, but we seem to give less thought to how Godliness works out in practise:

God is perfect. We should try to be. (Matthew 5:48, 1Pe 1:15-16)

We should not have to catch our tongue from saying something we shouldn’t, for we shouldn’t have thought it in the first place. We shouldn’t have to control our anger, for it shouldn’t get out of control in the first place. We shouldn’t have to try to do loving things for others, for they should come naturally. We shouldn’t have to be sorry for unkind thoughts or actions, because we they shouldn’t have crossed our minds in the first place.

We shouldn’t have to try and not lust, hate, envy, quarrel, gossip, slander, be proud, be disrespectful, hold grudges, be easily angered or upset, and offend people – because being loving, kind, merciful, gracious, and Godly should be so much part of our character that we don’t even contemplate the bad things.

I used to get upset/angry about certain things, but now they do not upset me. I used to be jealous of some things, but now I am not. I used to be proud in ways that now I am humble. By extension of this logic – all the bad things I do, I should eventually not want to do – in fact they should not even cross my mind! Then, when my character is such that I am habitually Godly in some area of my life, it will not be a struggle to do good against my habitual will to go bad.

For instance, I do not need to struggle not to swear, I simply do not – most often it does not even cross my mind to swear when something goes wrong. Now the reason that I do not swear is the same as the reason I do not use offensive language of any kind: I have seen that offensive language can be used to do great verbal harm to others, and I do not want to use words that have such destructive power. Sure, many times swearing is humourous and not harmful at all – but I’d rather be a bit less funny to make sure I don’t really hurt people with my words. For if the words are in my active vocabulary – you can be sure they just might come out in ways I don’t want them to.

I give this example not to boast (it’s hardly something to boast about anyway), but to show that what I’m saying is possible – we can reach a level of maturity where we do not have to control our desires to sin, because we do not have those desires to sin. There is something more powerful than having bad thoughts like everyone else and trying to control them – and it is not having bad thoughts like everyone else.

Surely, this is what Christians should try to be like. No Christians are perfect, and I am certainly not perfect – but all Christians should be growing toward the perfection of Christ’s character. Not all Christians can move toward having Christ’s character at the same speed, but all Christians should be moving. But how? Of course, character is only developed one way: our thoughts lead to actions, our actions lead to habits, and our habits make our character.

If we start with good habits in a certain area of life, it is easier to continue in them. But, if we start with bad habits, they can be hard to change. We all know how hard they can be to change I am sure. But nevertheless, they can be changed.

Do not confuse character with ‘personality’. Being easily angered, for instance, is not part of your ‘personality’ – it is part of your character. Pride is not part of your personality, but of your character. So it is with many other bad habits that people attribute to their ‘personality’ so that they disown responsibility to do anything to improve them.

People have forgotten the importance of role-models in life, so instead they endlessly wrestle in the mediocrity of fighting their own character but not wanting to change it. There are still good role-models out there, but they are getting harder to find. We need to remember there is one role model who we should attempt to be like – the perfect role-model of Jesus. Not only must we remember Jesus should be our role-model – but we must be determined to become like Him and generous to encourage others to do the same.


stacy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan said...

Good post. Being Godly is good.

I recommend deleting the above comment (even by copying the contents of the post into a new post, and deleting the old one), but it doesn't really matter.

Your atom feed appears to be non-functional. Would it be too much of a problem for you to turn it off, republish, turn it on, and then republish again? Otherwise I keep missing out on what you've been posting, which is kinda annoying.

Katherine said...

Well, I was going to wait in case you republished as Nathan suggested, but following your comment at the end of the music/TV post, I'm just gonna go ahead.

I really like this post. I didn't like it the first time I read it - I thought you were just listing all the things we 'should' be doing, without considering the fact that it's God who works changes in us, and the fact that we will never be perfect, etc. I thought you were placing too much emphasis on our own efforts, and being much too idealistic, when the fact is we can never reach that ideal.

However, as I've been considering over the past couple of days how to comment, I've decided to agree with you. As you say, we have to aim high or we will never get anywhere. I'm thinking I've been too defeatist in the past in my attitudes toward pursuing godliness. In recent times I've been so accutely aware of my failings and flaws, and got so frustrated with my inability to change certain things about myself, that I've almost given up on myself. Which is good in terms of getting me to rely on God and beg Him to change me, but bad in terms of causing me to stagnate somewhat. You're right to point out that our own efforts are required, and are not futile. There is a way forward; trying really is everything - the Atticus Finch type of courage, choosing to attempt to do the right thing regardless of how likely we are to succeed - and it pleases God.

I also like your point: 'all the bad things I do, I should eventually not want to do' - the idea being that there are some things we don't yet even want to want to do, because the cost seems too high in some way; but once we acknowledge that we ought to want to do them, we can ask God to change our desires. Which He does, as I can testify.

I also like the distinction between character and personality. A while ago I was discussing issues about personality and whether it's changeable, and didn't quite reach a conclusion. Your perspective again reminds me there is a way forward.

So, uh, yeah, thanks for that. I was losing sight of the goal there for a while. God bless you.

Jim said...

Probably the reason you have gotten fewer posts on this than the music one is that your readership is mostly (perhaps even only) christians who accept that God is perfect, we're not, but we should still try to be, and thus the content of this post makes for very little to actually discuss.

eatorbeaten said...

So, we should be godly because god says so.. What the fuck is that? That's the most pathetic thing in the world. How about just being a good person for the sake of being a good person? Has that thought ever crossed your mind? Or do you like using your god as a crutch that you can fall back on and blame for leading you astray? Why can't a person be holy just for not doing bad shit? Why can a Christian get away with more shit than I just because you believe that Jesus will forgive you? What's it going to be like when we are at the Pearly Gates and I am laughing because I have a clear consience and make it right into Heaven while you go to hell for using a mortal man to push all of your sins off onto? I hate Christianity.

incognito said...

You’ve probably got good reasons you think of Christianity the way you do. A lot of the reasons you think them are probably because of the many ‘Christians’ out there who don’t live anything like it and think that just because they call themselves Christian they’re better than everyone else. Just like everyone else, I’m still far from perfect myself, but I’m trying my best not to be hypocritical and judgemental.

Let me give you some reasons why I’m a Christian – because I don’t think it’s why you think I am. It’s not because it makes my life easier. For standing up for what I believe I’ve been verbally abused, shunned, mocked and beaten. If anything, being a Christian makes like a whole lot more challenging. I’d hardly call that a crutch.

Yet even if I never got another hint that God even exists, I’d still live like a Christian – because I’ve found what the bible says about life to be all to true to ignore. Trying to live the way the bible says has made my life so much better despite the insults people sling at me. Because of Christianity, I know what it is to have friends who really care for you and who you really care for, a family that loves me no matter what I do, and I genuinely love life. I know what it is to wake up in the morning and feel like my life actually means something to people and what I do really matters, instead of being bored and depressed and feeling like nothing I do counts. I’ve found my life has a purpose now and I feel like my life is becoming more and more fulfilling. It doesn’t matter anymore what people say, because I’ve found for myself that it’s a better way to live.

There are more reasons though. It’s one thing to be told I might still be alive when I die, but it’s quite another to have you friend tell you how he was physically picked up, flipped horizontal, and pinned to the ground by something he couldn’t see. It’s another thing to have one of your friend’s tumours disappear after praying for it, and the doctors unable to explain it. It’s another thing to sense something you know at the very core of your being IS God just like you’d sense someone standing beside you – even though you don’t see him.

There are so many of these sorts of things that have happened to me, my friends, and my friend’s friends that it just compels me to think there is a spiritual world. And, if there’s a spiritual world, there is most likely a God. If there’s a heaven, surely there’d be a God? I find it interesting that you seem to believe in Heaven but call yourself an atheist.

And if there is a God, then I couldn’t possibly think of a good reason why I’d want to make him angry at me. God is gracious to accept anyone if we truly devote our hearts to Him, even though we’re far from perfect – but don’t think He doesn’t get angry at us. It’s like He’s a father, and so long as we’re his kids who live in his home, He tolerates what we do wrong and accepts us anyway. But if we tell Him to get lost and leave His home, we’re out on our own and we sure don’t belong to Him. Fortunately, He takes even the worst of us back into his home – because if we truly want to belong to Him, He’ll accept us.

So, if I’m wrong and there’s no God, then at least I will have loved the life I lived. If there is a God, then I know I’ll belong to Him - and if I belong to Him, I know He’ll accept me when I die and I’ll spend eternity being glad of how I lived.

michelle said...

Anne, good works or having a clean moral conscience dont get you into heaven anyway. Its not about good works. The only thing that will get anyone into heaven is believing that God is perfect and we are not, yet Jesus died and took all our imperfections upon himself so that we could be seen as holy in God's eyes. I know that sounds like jargon, but i dont know how to put it any simpler.
The reason we try to do good things, and behave in a godly way is because when you like someone, dont you try and behave like them? If there is a person i really admire, for instance a friend who is really fun and loving and caring, i will try and develop similar character traits to her. Eg being loving, caring, fun.
Christians really love Jesus, and thus will try and be like him.
I dont consider Christianity to be a crutch, and God certainly didnt provide grace so that we could just deliberately do stupid things and ask him to forgive us. Grace is always there, but just like any father, God would prefer if his kids didnt do dumb things in the first place. Which is also where the "being godly" comes in.
Any parent wants their kid to stand on their own two feet, be self-reliant, but also to regard their parent as a friend and helper.

Reuben, good post. Its nice to not have to shy away from the "oh we're only human, of course we'll make mistakes". We do have a legacy to live up to- we are sons and daughters of the King of kings, we need to stand up and take that destiny, and ACT like children of the King.
"stop paying attention to your sinful nature and satisfying its desires" "be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy"
Its good to have a challenge, and something to aspire to.
Its a hard road, but a good one :)

Mike said...

Hey Anne, I tried posting this comment on your site, but it didn't seem to work. Maybe you are checking this one, maybe not, but here's my two cents, feel free to shoot me down :)

I can emphathise with your suspicion of who Jesus was, the ancient Jews didn't believe him either.

If you ever have the chance, read some of the gospels, for example Matthew or John. I think even if you are not a Christian, having some knowledge of the bible is important, just like I think it is important to know why muslim fundamentalists believe the things they do, and have a passable knowledge of Shakespeare.

If you read them, (and if you believe that the bible is an accurate account of what happened, and there are varying schools of thought on that within the Christian community), then you will see that Jesus says flat out, a number of times that he is the son of God.

What does this mean? Well CS Lewis probably said it best when he said there are four possibilities.

1 - He was telling the truth, and really WAS the son of God.

2 - He was lying, and was some sort of evil creature sent out to decieve people.

3 - He was a charlatan and used charisma to fool people into believing him.

4 - He was stark raving mad.

Again, if you believe the Gospels, you will read about various miracles that Jesus did. We have no way of verifying whether they actually happened, or are mostly poetic license. However, if you look at the growth of the early Church, it pretty much exploded in the years 30 - 200AD.

What would make it explode like that? Surely people would be sceptical about who Jesus was, just like today, unless they had a pretty definate reason for doing so. I reckon the actual occurance of full-on miracles is one of the only reasons that the Church grew like it did early on. (Especially with the Romans killing Christians left-right-and-center). I wouldn't want to be a part of a group that was routinely thrown to the lions :)

I think this throws out arguments 3 and 4. You may have different ideas, but that leaves 1 and 2. Jesus himself answered that question. The officials in charge reckoned he cast out demons and healed people and stuff with the power of the devil. His response was "a nation that stands divided against itself will fall", which effectively means that the devil would be doing himself a disservice by healing people. Also, when you look at the principles that Jesus stood for, it is hard to see how he is a manifestation sent out by the devil to decieve people.

Then you get into the whole prophecy thing from the old testament, in which various people said that a "messiah" would come. Those are still being debated, as to whether Jesus was the Messiah but from what I have read, from what the gospels tell us, Jesus fulfills no less than 104 out of about 108 prophecies made about him. (And that's just what was written down)

Ahah - you say, the prophecies were written AFTER the life of Jesus, so they could make them say whatever they want!

WRONG! The dead sea scrolls - containing a number of these prophecies were discovered last century, and have been since carbon-dated and are dated to before the life of Jesus.

Ahah you say, Well Jesus really did exist, but over the years scholars have modified his life to fit with the prophecies written about him. I find this one more plausible than rewriting the old testament, but again, there are non-biblical references to Jesus and what he did, so the people who "doctored the gospels" would have had to have had a serious amount of clout to get ALL the records changed.

Then you get onto the freaky healings and stuff that happen at churches. Really cool defy-medical-science stuff. The other week some people from my church prayed for someone who had broken his ribs. When he woke up the next morning they had knitted back together and there was no sign of the fracture. *insert twilight zone music here*. At a church of friends of mine, everyone with gold fillings spontaneously got little piles of Gold dust appear on their hands. *more twilight zone music*

I hope I have answered some of your questions, feel free to call me a lunatic, I know I am one already :P

As a wise man once said - There is more to life than what we can percieve. The challenge is having the courage to find out what it is.

michelle said...

hey Mike, i tried to comment on Anne's site and it didnt work either! :( thats a shame... i put a lot of effort in writing it too!

But yes, good post Mike :)
I'm currently reading Ravi Zacharius and Norman Geisler's Who made God? ... its a great book, and gives authenticity to Jesus, and shows how he was truly the messiah, and all sorts of other great stuff :) Its made for non-christians as well, so theres heaps of evidence there, and not just wishy-washy stuff. :)