“What are the things that make a perfect Christian?”
Have you ever found yourself wondering this? We feel like there should be a format to follow, but the truth is Christ’s perfection came from much more than a formula for wise living.
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The Perfect Christian…?
It’s very easy—and quite tempting!—to look around me and think “Maybe I’m not really making the mark unless I read my Bible two hours a day. Or eat whole foods. Or am punctual and organized. Or use essential oils. Or volunteer at a homeless shelter. Or recycle. Or buy only second-hand clothes.” Even when I’m not being “legalistic” (in the way I’d typically think of that term) I can still fall into the habit of assuming that life with Christ must look a certain way.
The problem is, thinking about my faith journey in this way actually stems from pride and a desire for control; if I could just hit upon the perfect formula, I could make myself just as I should be.
A bit like the perfect recipe…
Similarly, I’ve noticed the tendency in cooks (especially ones who are just starting) to search for the “perfect” way to chop an onion, boil an egg, or grill a steak. There’s something so appealing about the idea that once you’re in on the secret or have mastered the technique, you can create something perfect, exactly as it should be.
As much as I enjoy learning different tips and techniques for cooking, I just don’t buy it. There is no one right way to do anything in the kitchen. Prettier, faster, juicier, sweeter, easier, more tender—yes. Only one perfect way? No.
I know someone who chops an onion by peeling each layer, cutting off individual slices one-by-one, then laboriously dicing each slice into tiny cubes of onion, one at a time. It’s incredibly painful for me to watch—me who grabs the onion, cuts it in half, makes a few slices one way, a few the other and DONE.
All cooks bring a different set of experiences, capabilities, preferences, and intentions to the preparation of their food. We keep looking for the perfect way to prepare our food, but the perfect way will be a little different every time and for every person.
So it is with our Christian life. The way God works in my life will not look the same as the way He is bringing about the perfection of your soul.
Is there a recipe to follow for faith?
Naturally, as I find more and more of myself in Christ, some things should be part of my life and some things just don’t belong anymore. I’m not saying that anything goes or you never have to do anything that doesn’t come naturally or is uncomfortable for you.
The only “formula” Christ left us, though, is his example of spiritual discipline. Through the practice of these disciplines, we prepare and open ourselves to receiving and following God (which is another conversation—or many conversations—that I’m not going to get into right now).
While these are wonderful guidelines to look to, the combination and practice of these disciplines will look a bit different for every person. The means by and ways in which we all grow, learn, worship, and live as devoted followers of Christ will be as unique as we are.
Our Common Call
Just think about the original twelve disciples: some were married; some were single; at least Philip had children; some traveled far abroad sharing the Gospel; others spent their entire ministry in Judea; some ministered mainly among Jews; some among Gentiles. What was the common factor? They were all wholeheartedly given to loving, serving, and proclaiming the Lord, Jesus Christ, wherever and in whatever circumstances He placed them.
Christ doesn’t call me to attach myself to a checklist of everything I need to do to be perfect; he calls me to complete devotion to Him, which looks very different. I am to love Him wholly, with all that I am, and to entrust my life to Him. Then from within that dependent relationship, he calls me beyond myself to go out and live his love in the world.
God does have a plan for my perfection, but that only requires one thing—total reliance upon Him.
Our Lives in the Hands of the Master Craftsman
We are trusting our lives to be shaped and molded by the most magnificent craftsman imaginable. We are not bound by a template or “recipe”; we are not limited to a checklist. When placed in His hands and entrusted to Him, there is nothing in our lives that Christ cannot redeem and use for His glory.
I recently came across this quote by Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses. He points out the “creative genius” we see in God as we look at the lives of the men and women filling the pages of the Bible.
Something very different takes place in the life of faith: each person discovers all the elements of a unique and original adventure. We are prevented from following in another’s footsteps and are called to an incomparable association with Christ. The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God’s creative genius is endless. He never, fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity, resorts to mass-producing copies. Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportions that he has never used before.
We see what is possible: anyone and everyone is able to live a zestful life that spills out of the stereotyped containers that a sin-inhibited society provides. Such lives fuse spontaneity and purpose and green the desiccated landscape with meaning. And we see how it is possible: by plunging into a life of faith, participating in what God initiates in each life, exploring what God is doing in each event. The persons we meet on the pages of Scripture are remarkable for the intensity with which they live Godwards, the thoroughness in which all the details of their lives are included in God’s word to them, in God’s action in them. It is these persons, who are conscious of participating in what God is saying and doing, who are most human, most alive. These persons are evidence that none of us is required to live ‘at this poor dying rate’ for another day, another hour. (p. 13-14 emphases mine)
“Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord!”
Here is the joy and freedom and peace of Christ. We have a great God who’s at work—and He invites us to be part of it! He is molding us; he will challenge us, he will change us. But he will use us whoever we are, whatever condition we are in, and wherever He finds us open to receiving Him.
Just as we all bring our own experiences and tastes to our cooking, we each come to our life in Christ as distinct and unique individuals. Your Christian walk will look a little different than mine and the best way for me to seek and serve God may not be the best for you. How He reveals himself to us, how we hear Him, how we respond—all this filters through our biology and backgrounds. Our experiences, the culture we are part of, our physical place, the state of our health—these (and so many other factors) come to bear on how we relate to God and how we serve and worship Him.
But we don’t need to denigrate everything external that makes us up; God wants to redeem it all. He wants to bring His holy, purifying power to every cranny of our life. Praise God for His creativity!
We need to look for the ways God reveals Himself and is at work where we are. Let God take over and see the amazing ingenuity with which God can use a surrendered life for His glory. And let the adventure begin!
Jesus replied, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) This is the first and most important commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18) Everything that is written in the Law and the Prophets is based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIRV)