Why Don’t All Christians Act Like Jesus?
Some Christians are stunted in their spiritual growth. The life-changing power of Christ is absent. Why is that?
Other people accept Jesus as Savior and over time, their lives are completely transformed.
For instance, I used to think God didn’t even exist. I thought believing in God was just a psychological crutch some people used to get through life.
Obviously I don’t think that way anymore.
In 2 Timothy, Paul addresses this issue;
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)
When Paul writes “having a form of godliness but denying its power” I think he means the power of being changed inwardly into Christ’s likeness.
Not All Believers Grow in Godliness
Why do some Christians grow more Christ-like, while other believers don’t change at all?
The main reason may come down to their salvation experience.
Before I came to Christ, I had been a teenage atheist for several years. But in college, I met some real Christians who loved Jesus and followed Him like He was Lord of their lives, as well as their Savior.
These Christians stunned me. They responded to other students in a unique way. None of them were perfect. But they loved Jesus and sought to walk with Him by obeying His Word and the Holy Spirit’s prompting. These people weren’t “playing church.” Instead, Jesus was the major focus of their lives.
The Key to Growing Up Spiritually
I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was twenty. I’ve discovered that what a new, born-again Christian believes about the Holy Scripture is critical.
Either the Bible is God’s inspired word, the earthly source of all divine knowledge or it’s just a ancient book, written by a bunch of grumpy, middle-eastern guys.
Dismiss the Bible as a book of fairy tales and immediately Christianity is drained of all its life-transforming power. Only God knows how to set us free from bitterness, insecurity, greed, pride and shame. The Holy Spirit will act as our life coach, but Biblical truth is His major way to set us free.
Agreeing mentally with the truth, however, isn’t good enough. Our lives change only when we obey the truth we’ve been given.
Below are three diagrams, illustrating three different types of Christians.
The First Type of Christian
This graphic shows the cycle a new Christian goes through if Jesus’ Lordship is modeled and taught by older Christians and the Bible is believed to be God’s inspired word.
In the Bible, almost every miracle of God first requires an act of human obedience. Naaman the Leper is a good example.
The Prophet Elisha’s servant told Naaman that his leprosy would be cured if he dipped himself seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman was furious. Dunking his body underwater in a muddy river wouldn’t cure his disease. How idiotic!
Perhaps he thought the prophet meant for him to look foolish. As commander of Aram’s armies, Naaman served an enemy king, who was hostile toward Israel. Maybe Elisha just wanted to make fun of him!
He almost ignored the prophet’s simple instructions and stormed back home. If he had, Naaman would have died a leper. But his servants talked him into obeying Elisha’s words. Six times he plunged his body under the water. Nothing happened. The seventh time, his body rose up from the water completely cleansed of all traces of leprosy.
Being miraculously healed changed this hostile general’s heart toward Israel’s God Yahweh forever.
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. (2 Kings 5:15-17 NIV)
Naaman couldn’t buy his healing. Instead it was given freely as a gift by Israel’s generous God, who saw Naaman’s suffering and cared enough to heal him.
The Second Type of Christian
The Christians in this group are halfhearted. Yes, they believe in the Holy Scriptures. They may even have prayed and asked Jesus to be their Lord. Yet deep inside, these believers retain full control.
They aren’t serving their divine Master. Instead these believers retain the right to veto any command that’s too uncomfortable.
This Christian’s heart says, “I will follow You if…”
- What You are asking me to do is not too scary.
- It’s not too painful.
- It doesn’t cost me too much personally.
- Your command makes logical sense to my mind.
These Christians may know the Lord’s will, but they often refuse to walk in the direction He asks them to.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:22-24 NIV)
The Third Type of Christian
These are the people who say, “I tried Christianity once and it didn’t work.” They often say this to believers who have a vibrate relationship with the Holy Spirit and are actively being transformed into Christ’s likeness.
I believe these are the people Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 3:5, “having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”
Jesus may be their Savior, but He’s not their Lord. Often they try to remake Christ into their own image, instead of conforming to His. They don’t bother reading the Scriptures, because the Bible has no value for them. Any godly command they disagree with they dismiss. Handicapped by their high level of unbelief, they never step out in faith, so they seldom experience God’s goodness in a significant way. Their inner self is never transformed.
A Final Word
My obedience to God’s commands under the Holy Spirit’s guidance has altered who I am and how I respond to people. Sometimes I still resist, too lazy or too fearful to obey Him.
Other times I step out in faith and grow more like my Master.
Trust me when I say this; there is nothing emptier than spending your entire life resisting the God who loves you and has called you to grow into something greater.