I was listening to a podcast yesterday and it had an advertisement break. The product being advertised had a tagline that was something like, “becoming a better you.” As I thought about this I realized that nearly everything we buy or buy into is presented this way… with a promise that if we use the product, service, or ideology correctly, then we will be an improved version of ourselves. I continued to contemplate this idea and realized this is the way that many people (if not most) approach Christianity. The problem is that Christianity is not about making you a better version of you. It’s not about fixing your broken parts…
One of the worlds largest religions is Islam. I don’t know quite enough to offer any sort of critique or in-depth analysis on it. I do know, however, that the root of the word, “Islam,” is connected to the idea of submission. This is about submitting to the will of Allah and obeying his commands. As they progress in this, they become better and more obedient Muslims… or better versions of themselves.
Another take on this idea is the way the Jewish leaders in the first century had come to observe the Law of Moses. They thought they were pleasing God by following the letter of the Law as closely as possible. Meanwhile, many of them had very bitter hearts and self-righteous attitudes.
Moving forward to modern day, this mindset is still very much alive and well. There are a lot of people (perhaps the majority) whose ideas about faith in Christ are centralized on actions and activities. Some often have relentlessly caustic attitudes and very difficult dispositions. But they’ve been “saved by grace,” so they’re okay… and they don’t do the things that “those other people” do. They feel guilty if they miss church, feel cursed if they forget to tithe, and feel condemned if they fall back into old or dark activities.
The problem with all of these thought processes is that NONE of them applies to what God wants to do with us. What if I told you that God is not trying to improve you or give you “your best life now?” How would you respond if I scandalously hit you with the truth that God could care less about making you better…
What then is the point of Christianity? Does all of this mean that it’s about getting our ticket to Heaven punched and living however we see fit until the train arrives?
It’s not about fixing you, but about making a new you. The Scripture tells us that when Jesus died, we all died with Him (I don’t know how this works)… and then when He raised to new life, He brought us with Him out of the grave… new creations.
God doesn’t want a better you. God’s goal is make a different you. He put to death our old identity… nailing it to the cross of Jesus. He utterly destroyed that old person in the suffering and death of Jesus and then made it to where He would place His Spirit within us… resurrecting our souls to new life. This isn’t about changing what we do. It’s about changing whom we are.
Christians would be much better off if we stopped and meditated on this. Following the rules doesn’t make us believers in Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus means that we have followed Him out of death into life… and what’s more is that we are not clones of Him. He wants for us to fully maintain our individuality… He wants for us to be what He’s created us to be… not simply a better version of a former corruption.
Stop trying to live by the rules. They’re not really bad. It’s just that focusing on them makes us miss the real point of all of this. Obeying comes from identity, not the other way around… but we will never get to the identity we so desperately desire by simply adhering to rules. We just need to understand that we have it.