“I want to be a better Christian, what do I need to do?”
I was recently asked this question by a man. While I affirm the man’s thirst for knowing God more intimately, I think his desire to “be better” reveals an instinct to focus on behavioral improvements. It also fundamentally misunderstands the concept of grace…there is nothing you can do to make yourself a better Christian.
However, most pastors would quickly assign this man these tasks:
- Read the Bible daily
- Pray at 5:30am during your daily quiet time
- Attend public worship weekly
- Participate in a small group…or lead one.
- Tithe to the church
- Serve the homeless
This however, is not what delights the Lord, as the Psalmist says
“You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
God does not want our religious duties, he wants our broken spirits and contrite hearts. He does not want our quick fixes, but our spiritual longings. He is not interested in how much information we know about Him, he wants a relationship with us. He is not interested in our money, he is interested in what we value.
The problem is that many of us want to get better without truly realizing how bad we are. Because–quite frankly–there is no such thing as a better Christian. In our desire to be a better Christian, what we really want are techniques that will minimize, evade, blame and deny the depth of our sinfulness. We don’t want to confront the reality that we are dead in our sins, and that God’s grace is sufficient. There is nothing we need to do to be a better Christian. There is nothing we can do, we are dead.
We are either a surrendered follower of Jesus Christ or not. We have either offered our broken egos as dwelling places for Christ or not: “When someone you love moves in two things happen—they start changing everything to reflect their character, and they fill the place with their love for you!”
* Because our Heavenly Father is holy, we become holy
* Because He is kind, we become kind.
* Because He is forgiving, we become forgiving.
* Because God in Christ humbled himself, we are able to humble ourselves.
* Because God is love, we are able to walk in love.
This ability is not natural, but supernatural; It requires a new nature and the continuous power of the Holy Spirit. When this transformation occurs, it will result in more time spent studying the story of God or talking with Him in prayer. It will tune our heart towards public praise. It will cause us to pursue others in a genuine community and to give generously to those in need. This, however, are not techniques for a being a better Christian but the result of our following Christ.
Therefore, these actions do not make you a “better” Christian…you have just become a Christian.