God wants us to grow up… like Christ in everything. – Ephesians 4:14a
Our heavenly father desires that we mature and develop the characteristics Jesus Christ displayed while on earth. Spiritual growth is not like physical growth, which happens regardless of what we do, but spiritual growth takes an intentional commitment. Our commitment defines who we are, and shows who we will soon become. Many of us are afraid to commit, and end up drifting through life. Others make half-hearted commitments which leads to frustration and mediocrity. And some make a full commitment to worldly goals and end up disappointed and bitter.
God’s part and your part: Christlikeness is the result of making Christ-like choices and depending on the Spirit of God to help us fulfil those choices. In Philippians 2:12b-13, we’re told to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” This verse shows two parts. ‘Work out’ is our function, ‘work in’ is God’s part. It definitely doesn’t say ‘work for’ because we can’t add anything to our salvation, but by ‘working out,’ we are exercising our salvation by putting puzzles together which strengthens us. The part that says with ‘fear and trembling’ emphasizes the importance of taking our spiritual lives very seriously.
Changing our autopilot: Behind everything we do is a though. Every behavior is motivated by a belief, and every action prompted by an attitude. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” We can’t grow in Christ by relying on our willpower. Many of us, me being the first culprit tend to make New Year resolutions such as: exercise more, journal frequently, become more organized, etc., we only last a short time simply because we are relying on our willpower, which has the power to take us for only a certain period. Failure at these resolutions creates internal stress, and makes us beat ourselves up. In Romans 12:12, we’re encouraged to “let God transform us into a new person by changing the way we think.”
Becoming like Christ means developing a mind like Christ, we have to start thinking in the same way that Christ did. In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul admonishes us, “Dear Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. As adorable as babies are, I find it extremely frustrating when they start crying and you try EVERYTHING you think possible, but they don’t calm down, yet I understand I can’t get angry with them because it’s expected for babies to act that way, thinking only of themselves and satisfying their needs. But when a healthy child gets to age 2, its expected that they start communicating properly, and realizing that it’s not all about them. At age 5, if the child should cry unnecessarily for something they want, they earn a time-out or whopping. Some of us remain as babies spiritually, and it’s not supposed to be. Thinking maturely focuses less on ourselves, and more on others.
Christianity is not a philosophy or religion. It’s an intimate relationship with Jesus, and a lifestyle of thinking of others, just like Jesus did. This thinking is different from what we’ve learned from society. It’s one that looks beyond race, socio-economic status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Transforming, or sustaining our minds to think like this is not easy, so God gifted us with the Holy Spirit to help us. We must not be too hard on ourselves in this journey, and we must never forget that it’s never too late to start growing.
Food for thought: What is one area I need to stop thinking my way and start thinking God’s way?