Become Like Christ

Austin posted this comment on another post.

I’ve not heard much on becoming Christ-like in other religions. Believing and accepting Christ? Yes. But the actual idea that Christ is not only our Saviour but truly our only pure example of how not only to live in this life but how to return to the Father. I see this in the different perceptions of the doctrine of baptism. It’s unclear where non-LDS Christians stand on this issue. Particularly when Christ himself was baptized and commanded his Apostles to baptize those they taught. Is it just a good idea to do once you’ve accepted Christ? Or is it more of actually following Christ because it’s really important?

I’m glad we have a format to discuss these issues and clear up misunderstandings. I have no idea what Austin’s exposure to other Christian denominations is like. Given that something like 70% of Americans claim to be Born-Again, I don’t doubt that there are a lot of people claiming to be Christians that have no idea that the very word means to be “Christ-like”. In my experience in Evangelical Christianity (which is extensive) the message that we need to take on the character and lifestyle of Jesus has been central. It is the sole focus of my faith and every committed Christian I know. On a daily basis I consider how I can extend more grace, patience and love to everyone around me. I see everything that I do as a spiritual act (not just the things I do on Sunday). How I drive on the freeway, spend my money, treat my wife, and write a blog entry are all efforts to take on the character of Christ in my life. I don’t get any impression that I am isolated or unique in this effort (results may vary).

It’s the last half of the quote that I find interesting. Austin, exhorts us that we should all be taking on the example of Jesus. I agree, so I pay close attention to how Jesus says we can do this. Jesus’ most scathing attacks and verbal lashings were saved for the religious leaders of his day. He rightly assessed that they followed the letter of the law perfectly. There was not a single commandment that they could be accused of letting slip through the cracks. In fact, they added commandments, just to make sure they didn’t misunderstand any commandment that could be perceived as ambiguous. The reason Jesus went after them is because they did not let the commandments transform their character. They found a way to sin WHILE obeying the commandments because their hearts were not right. They focused on externals and Jesus explained that God was concerned with the heart.

So it throws me for a loop to hear someone say “we need to be like Jesus” (a phrase I’m familiar with) and then to suggest that the way we do this is through baptism. I think baptism is important, I would NEVER encourage someone to forgo baptism in their pursuit of Christ (I don’t know of any church that doesn’t practice baptism). But there is NOTHING about baptism that helps someone to become more like Christ. It’s a symbol, it does nothing more to change a man’s heart than a swim in the ocean. A person with a black heart enters and exits the water with a black heart. If you want to be more like Jesus, you have to learn to love the things Jesus loves. You have to reform your character and change your heart. A bath won’t do the trick.

Jesus consistently tells us that focusing on outward religious duties and rituals is NOT the way to determine if a man is becoming more like him. I’ve seen a great deal of legalism in Christianity. The place it always starts is with an emphasis on outward behaviors rather than inward transformation.

Matthew 23:25-26
25″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Disciple someone to change their character and I guarantee that they will seek out baptism on their own.

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5 thoughts on “Become Like Christ

  1. Oh boy!!! Making me the example. I love this topic. Hopefully, I can get to clarify a couple of things and say something later- my view of course.

  2. So why did Christ get baptized, him being perfect and not needing the symbol of overcoming sin? Was it not to set the example?

  3. Let me make it clear. I am NOT saying that no one should get baptized. We absolutely SHOULD follow his example and get baptized.

    BUT if a person’s heart is not transformed, then baptism is no different than a warm bath.

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