The other day, I heard from a young man who writes me occasionally for prayer and encouragement. He was going through some severe trials, and as he began to express his growing discouragement and frustration, he said things like--"I'm a good person. I'm better than most people. I don't do half the things that other people do." When I told him that his focus was wrong, and that instead of comparing himself to others, he should compare himself to Christ, he was stunned. Suddenly, his subtle "God owes me" attitude evaporated, and his sense of pride gave way to humility.
The Bible makes it clear that the Christian's standard should be Christ Himself, and that God's priority is for His children to be conformed to the image of His Son. Romans 8:29 (NIV) says, "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son." Scripture also tells us that believers "are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) Our degree of cooperation with the Holy Spirit will help determine the speed and extent of this transformation. The more sensitive and obedient we are to the Spirit's leading on a day-to-day basis, the more spiritual progress we will make, and the more we will accomplish for the kingdom of God. We will never attain perfection in this life, but perfection should be our goal. The apostle Paul wrote, "Aim for perfection." (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV) Although a spiritual giant, Paul freely admitted that he had a long way to go to become like Christ, but that didn't stop him from pressing on. In Philippians 3:12 (MSG) he says: "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be." While God does not expect us to model perfection, He does expect us to model growth.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul condemns those who were setting their own standards of measurement, instead of using God's. He says: "Not that we [have the audacity to] venture to class or [even to] compare ourselves with some who exalt and furnish testimonials for themselves! However, when they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely." (2 Corinthians 10:12 AMP) When we measure ourselves against ourselves, or against others, we may become puffed up with pride because we think we're superior somehow. But measuring ourselves by God's standards can be wonderfully pride-deflating, which can lead to our treating people better, and our having a teachable spirit before the Lord. Paul goes on to say: "For [it is] not [the man] who praises and commends himself who is approved and accepted, but [it is the person] whom the Lord accredits and commends." (2 Corinthians 10:18 AMP) We should always be focused on seeking God's approval, rather than the approval of others, or even ourselves. This will protect us from becoming self-satisfied and self-righteous, as well as from becoming people-pleasers.
Some statements that we should watch out for in our speech are: "I'm not as bad as..." or "I'm better than..." or "At least I don't... or "I would never..." Statements like these could indicate that we're measuring ourselves against others, instead of Christ. We would be wise to monitor our thoughts in this area, too. Do we ever think to ourselves--"I'm a better parent, grandparent, son, daughter, sister, brother, worker, employee, manager, boss, neighbor, Christian, minister, preacher, writer, musician, artist..."? These are thoughts saturated with pride, and they are offensive to God. Do you want to fulfill your God-given purpose and potential in this life? Then you must make it your goal to "become more and more like [Christ]" all the time. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT) Make Jesus your standard, and lay hold of the life of victory, abundance, and purpose that He has in store for you!
Prayer: Lord, please forgive me for the times I elevated myself at the expense of others in thought, word, or deed. When I'm tempted to be arrogant or self-righteous, remind me that Christ is to be my true standard, and that next to Him, I have no basis for pride. Thank You that as I set my sights on becoming more like Jesus, I will reap the heavenly and earthly rewards of a Christ-centered life!
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