Frustrating, tiresome, endless: a true description of the pursuit of Christ-like character. Religion has forced us to think we must become “better people,” people with morals and character. Religion says that if we are to become like Christ, we must take on an endless number of external qualities that will make us reflect the light of Christ. It is our responsibility as Christians to act like Christ, right? … Wrong.
Nobody will ever reflect the light of Christ by changing his or her external appearance. We can search the scriptures and follow the laws, but we will be no closer to God than a person who has never heard of the Word of God. Sure, people may think we are nice, but the true character of Christ will not be revealed.
Paul says in Philippians that God has started His work in us, and will continue His work in us. It is not up to us to become better people, even though that is what religion may say. God says that He will work in us and continue to work in us until we are complete.
Did you catch what Paul was saying? It is not up to us to take on the character of Christ. God must work in us. The Bible says that when we accept Christ, He gives us a new heart. God works from the inside out; all we have to do is have a needy and open heart.
Paul continues in Philippians, “…don’t live to make a good impression on others.” We say, “But we are Christians! People watch us. We must have standards and morals.” In the New Testament, the religious leaders (the Pharisees) had morals and standards. Jesus called these people blind. Jesus spoke of them saying, “They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” God does not want us to put on a show. If we do not draw near to God with our hearts, our positive actions and generous deeds mean nothing.
Jesus said in Matthew, “Don’t be crushed by impossible religious demands.” Jesus does not want us to live under such pressure. Jesus is the one who came to set us free. Jesus said, “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.”
The most important commandment that Jesus gave was, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul and mind.” It was not, “Don’t drink.” It was not, “Don’t cheat.” It was not, “Don’t steal.” We are not called to be a light in the darkness by what we do or don’t do. We are called to be a light because of who we are, inside and out.
Luke 6:45 says, “A good person produces good deeds from a good heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say”—and what you do. Good deeds should not come from an attempt to find acceptance. Good deed should not be performed to make others happy. Good deeds should come out of a good heart.
You cannot change your heart. Religion cannot change your heart. Dr. Phil cannot change your heart. Only Jesus can change your heart.
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