This past week I ran across a post on Facebook about a woman who had recently been honorably discharged from the Marines. She said that while she was in the Corps her life had structure, meaning and purpose, but when she left, her life fell apart. The problem she had was that she never really became a Marine. She did her job and followed the expected code of conduct the Marines required of her, but she didn’t make the service her own, she just did her job until she got out. Once she was free of the rules and regulations that required her to act in a certain manner she reverted back to being her own self, following her own nature. But she was smart enough to realize her own nature didn’t work for her. She wanted something better. She wanted to be a better person than she naturally was, to change her nature.
Many persons professing to be Christians have the same problem. They follow the code of conduct proscribed by the Bible and do the expected works, but they aren’t really Christians. Jesus told the scribes and pharisees that they appeared righteous on the outside in manner and speech, but inwardly the were full of iniquity. They were like “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23: 13-36). These men were like the Marine in that they had not changed themselves into being what they professed to be. They were just putting on an act.
Being a Christian isn’t putting on an act. It isn’t just following the rules and doing what is expected of them to do without changing into what God intended them to be. Some people go to church, give money, help with the church’s programs and do other works because that’s what the world expects to see in a Christian. But inwardly they are the same people they always were. I followed several young men out of a church service several years back, and after getting away from the church, where they thought was out of the hearing of others, they reverted to using foul language and speaking of women in a derogatory manner. These men were the loudest clappers during singing, and they had the loudest shouts of “Amen!” during the sermon, but like the scribes and pharisees, it was all an act.
Being Christian requires becoming a different person from who you naturally were. It’s not just internalizing the biblical concepts, rules and regulations, although that is part of it. But that comes as a result of actually changing who you are. Apples don’t grow trees, it’s the nature of apple tress to grow apples, not peaches or plums. They are apple growers by nature. Likewise, Christians do works God gave them to do because it’s there new nature to do so (Ephesians 2:8-10). It’s part of what God intended for them to be when He created Adam and Eve. They have been born again as a different person than what they were before becoming Christian.
Jesus “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for all good works” (Titus 2:14). Jesus prayed in the garden before His crucifixion that His disciples would be in Him and He in them, just as He was in the Father and the Father in Him. Jesus becoming part of who you are as a person completes the trinity of man as God intended us to be when He created Adam. God is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, who took on a human body for a short time for our benefit. And God created Adam by breathing “into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Notice the wording here. God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and mankind became a living being. God created us with a spirit and soul in a living body. But that’s only two parts of what He wants us to be. I did a blog on the trinity of man, so I won’t go into it in depth here except to say that truly becoming Christian means that Christ, the third part of the human trinity, lives within us. We become new creatures free from the penalty the our misdeeds, because Jesus has paid that penalty for us.
I met a man once who had just gotten out of prison for the fifth time when he was in his mid fifties. He’d spent almost all of his adult life in prison, but he said he wasn’t going back. He was sick and tired of being who he was and he was going be become a better person that followed the law and stayed free. He had realized that who he naturally was didn’t work, and if he didn’t change his nature his old habits and lifestyle would land him back in prison again.
It’s because of having a new nature in Christ, He at the center, that Christians love righteousness and hate evil, and are “anointed with oil of gladness” that sets us apart from persons still living in the fallen state (Hebrews 1:9). We do works because like it is the apple tree’s nature to grow apples it is the Christian’s nature to do works. Christians don’t do works just because it’s expected of them to do so like the woman did in the Marines. That’s a real drag. It’s depressing. Many of my readers have had jobs they hated. It was a major effort sometimes to leave home and go to work because it was against their nature to do that particular job.
And so it is with people who do the work expected of Christians, not because it’s their nature to to do them, but just because it’s expected of them. They would rather be free of the constraints on their true fallen nature. These people aren’t Christians. Jesus told people like them, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me you who practice lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus won’t accept these people because they haven’t become one with Him. They, like the scribes and pharisees, are just play acting.
Becoming Christian requires one to become a different person. It requires taking Christ into yourself, not just into your life. You become one with Him and He with you. That completes the trinity of being that God intended for humans to be when He created Adam. Jesus comes into our being when we sincerely invite Him in. And being Christian isn’t drudgery like having a job you hate, it’s being joyful in doing what you really want to do because it’s in your new nature to do so. And, nothing in this world can compare with that. And nobody or no thing can take that joy away from you: “For in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:30-32).
I tried doing what I was expected to do as a Christian on my own. And, it was the most difficult, miserable time in my life. I became short tempered with myself mostly, but with others also. I did manage to change my habits to habitual actions that weren’t really me, they were just doing what I trained myself to do. And I was miserable because I wanted to do other things, to act differently. But I was, like the man getting out of prison, determined to be a Christian. It wasn’t until I surrendered myself to Christ and let Him take control, until I invited Him into my being, into who I am, that I became forever free of the prison of my fallen nature. It doesn’t mean that I became a perfect person. My friends can vouch for that! It means that I try to be as much like Christ wants me to be as I can because that’s what I want to do, it’s my new nature to do so. And so it is with everyone who invites Christ to become the third part of their personal human trinity and make them a whole person
Have you felt that no matter what you did, something was missing in your life? That no matter how many possessions you obtained, or money you made, or fame you gained, there was still something missing? That something is Christ. You can’t do it yourself. Very plainly, you can’t be Christian without Christ. Only He can make you whole, only He can fill the spot where something is missing in your life. Those who l have invited Him into their being as part of who they are know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t invited Him in, I suggest you do so now. It will make all the difference in your life here on earth. And it’s the only way you’ll get out of this world alive. Jesus is knocking, so go answer the door.