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One way you can get your mind around this discussion is by thinking about your death, as morbid as that may seem. How do you want folks to think about you after you die? What would they put on your grave marker? For example, “Old Biff, he was good at (fill in the blank).” For me, I hope it will be some version of this: “Rick was a good Christian.” Simple, right? Being like Jesus is my highest life goal. You could say it these ways:
Any of these testimonies will do; all of them encompass the “being a good Christian” concept. By simplifying your goal to “being a good Christian,” there is no temptation to divide your life into an extended list of sub-categories. Being a good Christian is the foundation upon which everything else sits.
It’s not unusual for a person to have an out-of-balance life because they have one of these lesser goals as the primary one. The temptation would be to sink all their energies into one area while neglecting other vital aspects of their life.
Moms will do this. They overly focus on being a good mom but are not that great at being a wife. E.g., she loves her children but nags her husband. Husbands are no different. The man is known for being a stellar performer in the office but a dud at home.
These “out-of-balance” stories are more common than you might imagine. But what if you had a singular goal, a comprehensive one? What if that goal set the stage for you to do all things well? Wouldn’t that be nice? If you agree, may I appeal to you to simplify your life by aiming at one thing: to make being a good Christian as your main life goal?
The real problem with trying to be a good husband, parent, or employee is that the Bible is not a book about being those things. Flip through each page of the Bible, and you’ll not find a chapter titled “How To Be a Good Husband (Parent, or Employee).” Why? Because being good at those things is not the point of the Bible.
Many parents scramble for the next good book on parenting because they want to be good at parenting. While I applaud the goal, I struggle with the myopia of the objective. Husbands and wives do similar things.
They are in search of the next best book on being a good spouse. It’s a good goal, but it misses the higher purpose of the Bible. God’s Word is not a “how-to” book on marriage or parenting. It is a book about how to have a relationship with God, which is our most critical need.
Becoming a Christian is its point because the Bible is a book about redemption; God reconciled us to Himself through regeneration. The Bible wants us to be good Christians, or to put it in Bible-speak, God wants us to be like Jesus.
Consider what it would be like to be like Christ. Here are three passages that outline what it means to be like Jesus. As you read these descriptors, think about two things: (1) every descriptor describes Christ and (2) how being like Jesus would impact every sphere of your life. Here you go!
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; is not irritable or resentful; does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body (James 3:2).
Hundreds of other verses teach us how to be good Christians. I’ve given you only a few. Imagine if you become what you have just read. If you did, then how to be good at all of your other roles would happen habitually because the favor of God would be empowering you toward those good aims (James 4:6).
It is better to think less about becoming “this or that” and think more about becoming just one thing. Or, to say it better, to become like one person—Jesus. Being like Christ speaks to every hat that you will ever wear, no matter what that hat is.
Isn’t this concept releasing? Isn’t it refreshing to know you can go to work tomorrow, thinking less about how to be a good employee and more about being a good Christian? And after you arrive home, you don’t have to think about being a good husband, just stay in “Jesus mode.” This perspective is a one-size-fits-all kind of life.
The reason I like this way of thinking is that I’m a simple man. It’s hard for me to wear multiple hats. But being good at one thing is attainable. This concept does beg the question: how do you become a good Christian? The bad news is that you can’t make yourself into a good Christian. Being a good Christian is something the Lord does to you.
The word ex nihilo means out of nothing, which is how God created the world (Hebrews 11:3). He created the earth from nothing, which is also how God makes a person into a Christian. You and I are empty and incapable of righteousness. We need someone outside of us, acting upon us, so we can become good Christians. Paul talked about this “inability concept” this way:
Then God, who is rich in mercy, raised you from your death and made you a Christian by the power of the gospel. To be a good Christian requires being made into a good Christian. Your life with Christ was a gift from God. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. (Paraphrase)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace, you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-6).
Before you can become a good Christian, God must make you one. You can’t become what you are not. Thus, the only way you can become a good Christian is if God regenerates you (John 3:7). You must experience a divine act from God, as noted in the Ephesians text.
Only God can regenerate you. If you do not have this gift, it is a colossal misstep to embark on your life without the Lord. You’ll be like a car without an engine. Many professing Christians try to be Christians, only to find out they have no power from on high to be a believer.
Associating with Christianity or “going to church” or doing Christian things as a family does not get you into the family of God. To be a Christian is to be divinely born from above (John 3:7). God grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:24-25), and it is the only way you can be a believer (John 14:6).
Once you become a Christian, you receive the Holy Spirit. Just as you have earthly parents guiding you along, the Spirit is our Divine Parent who guides us along (John 16:13). He is our perfect parent who uses the perfect handbook, the Bible (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), to assist us in becoming like the perfect person, Jesus Christ.
As a Christian, you are equipped by the Spirit of God, as outlined by the Word of God, to experience transformation into Jesus Christ. The word Christian means a “follower of Christ” or a “disciple of Christ.” The implication from these “benefits of grace” (Spirit and Word) is that you are to become Christlike.
Now, go back to my premise. Which is better: to be a good husband or a good Christian? Let me ask it this way: which is better: to be a good husband or to be like Christ? If you are a good Christian, you are divinely empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out the character of Christ in every sphere of your life.
For example, take the verses that I gave you above, just those three snippets: Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; James 3:2. If you lived out those character and behavioral qualities as a Christian, there would be no need to overly-focus on your other roles. Let being a Christian bleed through every sphere of your life.
Take the “Christian test” now! Examine your life to these Christlike qualities to see how your progress as a Christian is unfolding. And think about how practically possessing these qualities would impact every sphere of your life.
My children would love for me to focus on being Christlike over any attempts to make being a good dad my primary goal. They know that if I am “Christ to them,” they will have an incredible dad. My wife thinks similarly. If I am empowered by the Spirit of God and seeking to follow Jesus with my whole heart, she knows she has the best man she could ever have dreamed of having.
Keep it simple, saint. Forget about being a good husband, wife, parent, child, or worker. Become a good Christian, and you’ll be an excellent (fill in the blank). It is impossible to be otherwise.
One Final Thought – Whatever is inside of you is who you are in every context of your life. Jesus talked about us being consistent beings (Luke 6:43-45); the root produces the fruit. If you’re not a Christian in your heart, you’re not a Christian in your world. But if God has regenerated you, there is hope that you can be like Jesus in your world.