Let’s face it—we all care about how we look. Most people want to look professional, or successful, or important. Right now some folks are trying to look presidential. One TV commercial for men’s clothing says, “You’re going to like the way you look.” Many of us strive to look like we “fit in” and yet “stand out” all at the same time. Then there is the generational lingo that describes how a person looks, such as hip, groovy, neato, cool, bad, awesome, and wicked, to name a few. Every generation has coined their own word or phrase for those who fit the desired profile, leaving the rest of us in the dust. That certainly is the case for those words that mean the exact opposite, like “bad” actually means “very good.” Go figure. While how we look is an important aspect of our society, it may not be as important as we think. Here’s a comical story about that very thing.
“He is a fine horse,” the owner said to the man on the phone. “He is strong and well-trained, but He doesn’t look too good.” The prospective buyer decided to go check out the horse for himself, fully expecting to find a good, but malnourished, animal. Upon examination of the horse, the buyer exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me this horse was blind?” The owner quickly defended himself, “I did. I told you that he doesn’t look too good.”
Some Christians, like the owner of the blind horse, have the verbs look and see a bit confused. Many of us focus on how we look as Christians, when in fact God is far more concerned about how we see. Jesus chided those who have their eyes closed, and blessed those with eyes that see. (Matthew 13:15~16) The more relevant question we need to ask ourselves then is not “How good do I look?” but rather, “How good do I see?”
The Bible teaches a creation of new life occurs in a believer when he/she accepts Christ as Savior. Oswald Chambers, author of the best-selling devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, wrote “your body is the Bethlehem of God’s Son,” inferring that the Christchild is born in us at conversion. New believers are often called baby Christians, and that is exactly what they are. It is generally understood that it will take weeks, months, and years for the life of Christ to develop in the life of a new believer.
However, when a new Christian begins to look like other Christians outwardly, we assume he has grown up. We would probably even agree on what the characteristics of a grown-up Christian are: regular Bible study, church attendance, giving a certain percent of income to the church, and getting along with the neighbors. We might also think that if the fruits of the Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit are visible in a believer’s life then he has arrived at a place of spiritual maturity.
It is interesting to point out that we use our measurements to make these judgments—the same standards we use to measure our own spirituality. Where did we get these standards? Most likely they are the traditions and teachings we grew up with. It is also interesting to point out that Jesus came down hard on the Pharisees for their traditions, which were apparently out of sync with God’s measuring stick. In truth, anyone not using God’s measurements might be those Jesus referred to as “blind leaders of the blind,” who all landed in the ditch. (Matthew 15:14) The apostle Paul gave us some good advice in this area: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)
My point is simply to raise the question as to whether or not we understand how to measure spiritual maturity, even in ourselves. Did the Christchild grow up in the life of that new believer as the Heavenly Father intended? Is the Holy Spirit functioning in the hearts and lives of all believers as Jesus said He would? Do we mostly look spiritual, or are we really spiritual? Are we frustrated with our constant efforts to live the Christian life yet remain void of power to overcome our own besetting sins? Are we tired of making new commitments to do better, yet living as the same struggling individuals we’ve always been, all the while looking spiritual? Do you ever wonder just where is the earth-shaking, life-changing power that was evident in the lives of the first Christians? I do.
I believe the key to finding these answers depends not on how good we look but on how good we see. And that will be the subject of another post—How Good Do I See? ~ Janie Kellogg
All references are NKJV unless otherwise noted.