Who are we going to strive to be like?
This is a question we should all ask. Whether we consciously ask it or not, the life we experience is shaped by our answer to this question.
Oh, we could be arrogant and say that we are just going to be ourselves. But it is foolish to think that we are even capable of such of an act. (See Tony Campolo's You Are An Onion for an example).
I recently went to a church conference and sat through some workshops on preaching. One of the things that the experts noted, particularly Andy Stanley, was that when they listen to a younger preacher, they can tell who the preacher listens to regularly because he will often follow the same rhythms and preaching style of that preacher. A young preacher subconsioucly mimics the preacher he listens to.
You can see the same thing with a young athlete. Same poses and mannerisms are adopted.
We do the same in life. We mimic that which we surround ourselves with.
We become what we see around us unless we consciously understand that what we see around us isn't what we should be like and deliberately fight to be something better.
This is why prayer, church involvement, and Bible study is so important. They are ancient practices that still work today. Through them, we surround ourselves with the things that we should be.
It is inevitable that we will change. Culture is pulling at us. Friends are pulling at us. Family. Neighbors. Traditions. Everything is trying to shape us. Not every change will make us better, yet change is necessary for life to become better. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says, "Life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change." He is right in pointing out that life will only get better through change, yet we also know that life can get worse through change.
Back to opening question. Who are we going to strive to be like? What are we going to change into?
We have to make a deliberate decision and a concerted effort to change into Jesus if we claim to be His followers.
Or we can just let society morph us into what it wants. Because it gladly will.
Jesus or society?
This is one reason why good parenting among Christians is so important. There are many forces in our society attempting to change our children. We, parents, are given the responsibility to help keep our children steered in the right direction. Just like us, our children will stumble and make mistakes; we just have to be there to help guide them back toward Jesus. So many things are tugging at their souls to control them, and they haven't quite learned the defense mechanisms against the sinful pleasures and apathy of this world. To be honest, we, adults, still struggle with defending our souls against the alluring things of this world. Again, this is why church involvement, prayer, and Bible study are so important. We are called to maturity in Christ.
A kid will see a weak faith in their parents and discard the faith altogether. Faking the faith doesn't work for kids. If we want our children to be strong in the Lord, then we need to be strong in the Lord. This includes loving the unlovable. This includes being part of a church. This includes spending time talking about the things of God in our houses. Kids, as they age into and through their teen years, aren't going to fake anything. So if we're faking Christianity, it's not going to stick with them.
This doesn't just apply to parents raising their kids. What we focus on, allowing it to change us, is contagious. Our focus will influence our children, our neighbors, and our co-workers. Who we are inevitably influences those around us. Humans are naturally contagious. The focus that we give lip service to isn't inevitably contagious; it's the focus that we actually center our lives around that those around us will catch.
Someone in a group of people will start liking smut novels, and they will pass them around. Trying to influence others to enjoy the things they enjoy.
Someone in a group will start serving others, and they will then try to get those around them to join in. Sadly, it's easier to get people to like smut novels than it is to get people to join in on serving others.
Someone in a group will start doing a drug, and they will try to convince their friends to join in. This is the way addictions are spread.
Someone will find a new favorite author, television show, or movie and try to get others to enjoy it with them. Yet they find a Savior and want to keep it a secret.
When someone really falls in love with Jesus -- not just faking it -- they will try to get those around them to join in. Unfortunately, following Jesus is often a charade rather than the lifechanging, soul inspiring journey that it should be, and people are more often willing to convince others of a drug they enjoy rather than the love of Jesus they claim yet fail to know.
So let's recognize that we're going to change. The question is whether we are going to deliberately change into who God wants us to be or whether we are going to just let circumstances and our surrounding culture to morph us into what they wants us to be.
Are we committed to Jesus and church? Modern society likes to separate those commitments, but the Apostle Paul didn't separate them. We also would be well served not to. Jesus gave gifts to the church because we were made to live in community with each other. Our brothers and sisters in Jesus will help us change into Him if we are humble enough to allow that. Being part of the body of believers -- more than just attending a worship gathering -- is how those who are committed to Jesus help others change into Jesus.
Paul says that Jesus should be who we strive to be like and that he has equipped people in the church to help us do just that.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT)Being part of the body of Jesus is essential to being in Jesus. It's essential if we want to strive to be like him. Let us stop trying to follow Jesus without regularly gathering with other believers. Let us continue or begin to be intentional about studying, praying, worshiping, and serving together. We were made to be a body, with one head, growing together.