What About My “Improvable” Behavior?
by Fred Pruitt
Someone recently wrote asking this:
I have a question to ask, about Christ in us as us. When I screw up, like shout at the wife, head-butt the Cat, eat the last Snickers bar. Is that my self separating from Christ and acting out of my own nature or have I made Christ do unChristly things?
Most people are not troubled like this over things we can clearly call “sins.” Paul did give a general “list” in Eph 5:3-11 of things in that category, saying, “let those things not be once named among you.” Sometimes believers are caught in these things, but they are not the norm, so we are not speaking of those things.
The things most people are self-condemned about are the normal everyday things people do that annoy us, or that we do that annoy other people. Or some area of life where we feel we “could” or “should,” “do better.” “Gray area” behavior.
A lot of “condemnation” comes from second-guessing ourselves. It’s after-the-fact. We’re cruising along in our day, being ourselves, occupied with our activities, having conversations with others, etc. Somewhere in all that spontaneity, a voice begins to question. It sounds like our own voice. “You didn’t sound concerned enough with that last person.” “You could have thought of something better to say than THAT!” If not that, then we might wonder whether we slighted one person in a conversation when talking to a different person. Did we “show enough love” to someone? Or the typical yell-at-the-spouse/yell-at-the-kids condemnation, or doing something seemingly “selfish” by eating the last candy bar, in “lack of consideration” for others. The list is endless. Literally.
I have wondered a long time why people in our time are so down on themselves for things like that. Part of it is the picture of Jesus we have been sold. We are taught Jesus was kind; Jesus was nice; Jesus never had anything unkind to say and loved kids; He was polite; Jesus respected others, etc. After they taught us Jesus was all those things and more – “the only Perfect Man that ever lived” – they then begin to train us in trying to act like Jesus, or at least how it is generally perceived Jesus acted. I almost think this Jesus is sort of the ultimate good-guy Boy Scout, who could also heal, cast out demons and walk on water.
Nobody really knows what “perfect” is, but this elusive “perfection” that only Jesus had is presented as our standard. And not only that, but even as we are being taught that sort of perfection is essentially unattainable in this life, at the same time we were continually exhorted we should all strive to “be like Jesus,” or, “love others,” as much as our failing selves can muster.
Frankly, most of us have been taught an imaginary Jesus living an imaginary life. It is an image not necessarily given through church, since images of Jesus are everywhere, in everyone’s perceptions. We form our imaginary Jesus from many sources – churches, books, culture, Hollywood, literature, even our friends and family. I do not mean to say people really believe Jesus is imaginary. It is just that our perception of Him has been imaginary, though we might have mistaken it for the real. We cannot help but to form mental pictures and understandings for ourselves – we all do that! But I have learned over the years, I believe by the Spirit, that my mental pictures and mental understandings are always fluid, not to be totally counted upon. One cannot live in the imagination of those pictures and understanding. (Prov 3:5,6). Instead, we live in the faith of Christ by the Spirit, where the “wind blows where it will.”
What do I mean? This is a faith life, from beginning to end. It is from the beginning, always and forever (at least in the temporal) lived, known and experienced in faith! The faith life is living life in the visible, where things appear to “be not,” in a manner that says that which appears to “be not,” actually very much IS. And this faith, as we come to each successive “level,” we see is a total faith, i.e., a faith that grasps the total and receives only the total. It is serious business, living only in the faith God gives. God is a jealous God, He says of Himself. He has espoused us to only Him – there can be no other! His jealousy is not a possessive (for Myself) jealousy, but a jealousy that wants all of us to Himself not only for His pleasure but also for our ultimate benefit. What is He jealous about? That we believe Him only! That we take Him at His Word!
This faith rises up from the Lord in the emptiness of “my” spirit, the place in which I learned in Romans 7 that “no goodness dwells,” so that it is His faith only in His House (which is myself), with no image of my own to sustain it. What “sustains” it is the inner Life, Light and inner Glory of the Eternal Person, the same glory shared among the Father, Son and Spirit, which Jesus said was also ours since we all live together in their Oneness. (John 17).
We live squarely there in our faith! God has showed it to us, but it is not in our temporal sight. It is simply the “place” where we are continually in awe of God and counting it as fact that our Real Self is He, as us.
And the “total” faith we grasp and cannot go back on, is just this fact, that the Real Self Who operates us is He, as us. This is the necessary faith “stand” that brings us over the Romans 7 hump into Romans 8 and a continuous daily living of the Spirit life. It is the foremost temptation from the enemy, to doubt the truth of Who we really are in our forms. It is the “Lifeline” to everything; that is why it comes under so much fire.
But as we receive our lessons from the Spirit we learn He walks us through every day, causing faith to well up daily, moment by moment, inside us. Faith comes this day to receive everything at the hand of the Lord, faith this day to believe that the activities of my day are His activities, faith to believe that my words of this day are His words, my thoughts this day His thoughts, my desires this day His desires! Faith that says this day, as He is, so I Am!
There is always, in receiving through faith, the visible/invisible aspect. If we already see something in the visible or already hold the manifestation in our hand, there is no “need” for faith there. But, if that which we have believed at this moment appears to “be not,” we continue in the faith in which we began.
My “human” behavior must fall under this category! Either my life is He living it, or it is not. How will I know? By believing the visible or the invisible? Which? How did we start in Life in the Spirit? We received by faith, and believed that we were accepted and forgiven. As we were! The Holy Spirit never comes to anyone and says, “Clean up your life first, and I will take you to meet Jesus.”
But when the Holy Spirit enters a person, He Himself is the “cleansing” of the vessel. He is also our sanctification, our righteousness, our holiness, our wisdom and our power. How could the “vessel” ever hope to “perfect itself” to the level of Divine Approval based on our deeds or accomplishments? What deeds of ours can stand level with creating the entire universe and being the inner Life of it all, knowing when every sparrow falls?
The only honest life anyone can live is to be themselves, as they really are. To “try” to be different from oneself is like trying to put round pegs in square holes. As long as we are “trying” to be someone else, for whatever reason, our skin does not fit us and we are uncomfortable in it, even though we may try for a long time to hide that fact.
We cannot “act like” Jesus. First of all, we are being called to an acting job. If we are told to try to “act like” or “live like” Jesus, the folks may be well-meaning who invite us to it but the Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, has not called us to be actors. We are not playing a part. We, as we are, ARE the part. To “act like” is to be a step removed. It IS separation, and ultimately impossible.
What does the wind “act like?” “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8 NASB)
The wind does not “act like” anything. It IS, itself! And it blows where IT wishes, where the Wind wishes! Implicit in that statement is that the Wind also does not blow anywhere where it wishes not to blow.
This is the boldness of Christ in us! That we in the confidence of faith go where and do what we please! In the unity that has come out of the union, we walk as He in our world. It is completely us, and completely Him. Like the Wind, like Jesus, we go where WE wish. We go to accomplish what WE are to accomplish.
Of course, this is not meant to be something haughty to tell people as if we have taken an assertiveness class. We do not realize Christ in us so that others will bow down to us and bask in our great light, but that we each in lowliness of mind might esteem every other brother and sister better than ourselves – another impossibility found accomplished in faith!
And in all these things, we do not judge ourselves or keep account of ours or anyone else’s behavior or offenses, because we are all walking this out in faith, calling things which be not as though they are. Some things we have believed we have seen right away. Other things have taken years and years, while still others we have yet to see. But we do not waver in believing in the fulfillment of God in all that He has given and declared by us! Sometimes we may have no other evidence than the Word we have heard and spoken, and that may have to be sufficient for the duration, but it does not matter. Though everything else may pass away, His Word is sealed forever!
Another article on this subject is this: The Temporal in the Light of the Eternal.