So many of the religious world’s ideas about living for the Lord are based on mandates. And a lot of the rest is a program of personal improvement. The personal improvement agenda takes all the joy out of living for the Lord. How much better to live for Him because you love him! How much better for your life habits to become Christ-like under His leadership than simply because you think you need to ‘improve.’ Or because a (possibly sincere) minister somewhere says that you need to live in such and such a way. We say this salvation is a free gift. And it certainly is, but then we set out to improve our self.
I’m not talking about the Lord convicting us of a particular sin and our laying it aside. No I’m talking about the Christian who does the same things that a sinner might do to simply to make themselves more socially attractive.
I don’t know if I’m saying it right. But there is a difference in the life we live because the Holy Spirit brings conviction and heart change upon us because we are willing to do the will of God and the difference we make in our life simply because we think it is a good improvement to make. It is like the difference between quitting smoking because the Lord convicts you of it and quitting because you feel it is not good for your health or no longer socially acceptable. Both have the same end result, but in the first situation at the end you are blessed by God for your obedience and in the second you are just a person who ‘quit smoking.’
And a professed Christian can do the same thing. A professing Christian can quit smoking just to quit because he feels it would make him more socially acceptable in his congregation. And he can make a success of it—just like any other sinner. But the purpose was merely self improvement, not because a child of God was responding to the Lord’s leading and submitting to His Will. Am I being clear?
Maybe I could compare it to the prostitute who after long contemplation decides to change her life. With tremendous determination and courage, she quits the business and takes the appropriate steps to build a more socially acceptable image: maybe c moving to a new town away from old acquaintances, getting an education, and buying a new wardrobe that makes her appear as a well tailored business woman rather than someone who was ‘advertising her wares” To anyone meeting her then she appears as a woman who has spent her life as a home-school-church-community focused person. No vestige of her former occupation or self remains. The end product might be called a “decent god fearing” woman, but the woman within remains the same sinner as before. Only the outside is changed.
A prostitute newly saved might do the same thing. She will quit her occupation and move herself into more suitable housing. She will abandon the old haunts and buys new clothes which depict modesty and reserve. The reason for that however was not for social esteem, but because of a work within her. She has become a new person in Christ Jesus.
By putting our mind to it, we can, in many outward ways, achieve the same results that Salvation brings to pass. The difference is that one is just that, an outside work. The other springs from a heart change. And therein lays the difference! So many times we hear Christians say, “I know I shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself.’ And they keep falling back into the same sins. That is the indication of a Christian whose profession of Salvation is based on a program of self improvement.
Salvation is a free gift. It was offered to us when we had done nothing whatsoever to deserve it. When we come repenting it is bestowed on us with all love from the hand of the Father. Sins are forgiven and cast as far as the east is from the west. But instilled with in us is a portion of that great love which offered a Son on Calvary to die for us. That Love prompts us to not only ask forgiveness but to offer our entire life and being back to Him in return.
That offering is the implement of the change in our life. It prompts us to lay aside the sins that so easily beset us. It prompts us to become Warriors in His service and put away childish things. It results in the works that demonstrate the accomplishment Faith has carried out in our life. Those works go deeper than a simple change on the outside. They are evidence of a change on the inside. And THAT makes all the difference when it comes to our eternal destiny. God doesn’t ask us to simply ‘better ourselves;’ He asks for our submission to his will. When we come to Jesus we aren’t told to embark on a program of self improvement, we are told to submit our will to His and allow Him to mold us into New People.