Most of us have radiant, Christ-centered ladies in our lives we admire for their unfading faith. These might be our personal disciplers, close friends, missionaries, authors or even our own mother or sisters. We are encouraged and edified by their life example of faith as we watch them follow Christ. Paul encouraged this kind of relationship when he said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, as well as in verse 16 of Chapter 4, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” It is helpful and even healthly to look to other’s examples of Christ-centered lives as we seek to follow Christ’s pattern of godliness in this world. This is a beautiful picture of biblical discipleship, but it easily can switch into an unhealthy relationship when we lose sight of the cross. As women, our minds love to compare and by God’s design, it is good. Nevertheless, when sin taints our thinking, comparisons can be painfully harmful to our lives, even dangerous when they cross into our faith. The “polished” lives of these ladies can leave us feeling discouraged instead of encouraged when we compare it with ourselves. When our minds tend to focus on loveliness of the lives of Christ-centered ladies, it distracts us from pursuing Jesus and leaves us lost in discontentment. I want to urge you towards healthy relationships with some things that have been of encouragement to me and others in my life.
Let’s compare ourselves to Jesus. When we shift our ideals off others, we see Jesus is the perfect picture of righteousness and we all fall short. Every believer is on the same journey we are, just at different points, yet none of us have arrived. When we compare ourselves to those further up the path, we see their spot as the finish line. Suddenly, we forget Jesus and strive in our own efforts to reach the life they have obtained. Twisted thinking like “that person got there, why can’t I?” takes over and squashes the gospel freedom of grace. When we seek Jesus’s position as the rightful finish line, we see we can never reach the perfection of His life. His sacrifice is required for each of us to make it. Instead of bashing ourselves in the hopeless cycle of self-righteousness for not reaching the position of others, we accept grace and join others in pursuing Jesus together.
Every one battles with sin. Paul clearly states in Romans 3:10: “None is righteous, no, not one.” We all know this, but when look at the “polished” faith walks of these woman, we tend to minimize or are altogether blind to where they fall short. From the outside, they shine more brightly and clearly Jesus as their lives are being transformed to become more like Christ over time. However, don’t be sorely mistaken; their lives are a mess too because of their sin. You may only see the pleasant outside life of many believers, but their hearts show they are sinners too. Think, why do they so strongly keep after Jesus? Because they know they are still a sinner in need of a savior.
The battle is ever increasing internally. The outside life we aspire to in these women is the outcome, not the full story. To those around them, ladies who have surrendered to the work of the Spirit in their lives, may seem put together externally, but inside their hearts, sin is still present and causing havoc. The Spirit may have conquered some of the strongholds of sinful behavior, they often are struggling with heart sin that may never come out in their conduct. As they are drawing closer to His heart, God is working internally on attitudes before those thoughts become external actions. All of this is hidden to us unless these ladies choose to share glimpses of God’s grace to them as they encourage us.
Sin is magnified as Christ is glorified. It is true as we allow the Spirit to transform our lives, we begin to sin less and less; however, as we understand more of God’s holiness, we grow in our understanding of how deeply God is grieved over even our littlest heart sins. I love to encourage women with a little chart I once was taught. It shows two arrows growing apart: one is our understanding of God and the other is our understanding of our sin. As we grow in our knowledge and love for the Lord, more and more of our own broken condition is revealed to us. Our debt of sin is deepened as we see more of Christ glorified. Additionally, our awareness of our need for Christ is magnified as we see the gap between the arrows increase. This is how Paul can say he is the chief of sinners because he saw the great extent of the majesty of Christ while he also saw the great extent of evil in his heart. These ladies often shock us when they eagerly and strongly disagree when their “polishedness” is admired. As I mentioned earlier, they see the mess of their hearts clearer because they see more of the beauty of cross. No matter where you are in your walk, inwardly we each battle with sin and knowing how far we are from the example of Christ.
Recently, I came across another version of this arrow chart created by Paul E. Miller called the Cross Chart. It shows the growth in the life of the believer, but it also highlights the feelings we become entangled with when we don’t grow in our understanding of the cross. Particularly, it focuses on revealing the brokenness that is created when we use other’s examples to fill the growing gap of the arrows instead of Christ’s examples. Consider this chart. While I have a tendency towards comparing myself to those ahead of me on the path, others struggle with comparing themselves to those lower on the path. As the chart shows, roots of pride grow in that situation. Either way, we all need more Jesus.
Dear sisters, let me encourage you. The “polished” life you seek is only perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. Turn your eyes to the Lord instead of the believers around you for your measuring tape. Know that as you are seeing more sin in your life it is a reflection of the increasing holiness you see in Christ. Behold the cross of Christ that is never too small to bridge that gap. Let us all exhibit lives of example as we walk steadily on towards Jesus’s example no matter where we are on the path.
For further study: 1 Timothy 1:15,16; Romans 7:15-20; Romans 3:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:14-16
Hello ladies! My name is Megan[pictured second from the right] and I recently graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College & have been working part time with Cru here in Tidewater. Cru has been an integral part of my walk with God since my freshman year. It is an honor to be able to serve with this sweet ministry to our mighty King and be able to encourage each of you in your own walks through things like this blog post. Some of favorite things are dates with Jesus, acoustic praise and worship songs, traveling, chilly morning walks, handwritten letters, discipleship, pumpkin dump cake, sunny Sundays, the laughter of children and fellowshipping with my dear sisters in Christ. Thank you for being such faithful readers and making it to the end!