“I just want to be a better person.”
How many times have I said that to someone or thought it to myself? Have you ever thought it? This is actually one of my “staple” prayers—one that, until recently, I said an awful lot. The fact of the matter is that I was always wanting and trying to be a better person. It doesn’t seem like a bad thing to want, but quite honestly, it is an incorrect thing to want. I think that most decent people want to be better at loving others, showing grace and compassion, and maturing and growing in all areas of their lives. As I said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
It’s just that: God doesn’t want to improve us, He wants to remove us.
A few months ago, I was reading a weekly Bible study from Francis Frangipane that touched on this very subject. It made me think twice about that prayer request of mine…and reconsider what it was I was truly seeking when I asked for that. You see, Frangipane counters that we are not really put on this earth to become a better version of ourselves; instead, we are actually put on this earth to become more like Christ. It seems like semantics, but honestly, it’s not. Why? Because the very essence of Christ is nothing like me personally or any human, really. Yes, I was made in God’s image, but so was Charles Manson, Osama bin Laden, and Adolf Hitler. The difference will be my choice to seek to be more like Jesus—not to be a “better” version of them or myself. You see, in seeking to be a better “person,” I am tempted to compare myself with who I was last year and say, “Yes—I am getting better. I am growing and maturing.” Or I might compare myself with someone else and say, “Well, at least I’m a better person than they are.” But when Christ is the measuring stick, none of us even comes close to hitting the mark. When God looks down, I don’t believe He compares our sins to each other’s—I think He looks at the heart and the desire to be more like Him. And as Christians, that is our ultimate goal: to be more like Christ. It’s not about being a better person, it’s about being a completely different person altogether—and that person is Christ.
John the Baptist slipped a snippet of this concept in when he spoke to his disciples in John 3. There John was, baptizing in Aenon near Salim, going about his business. Some of his disciples starting talking about Jesus, and saying that Jesus was baptizing more folks than John was, and that people were going to Jesus instead of John. John reminded them that he couldn’t receive anything that wasn’t from heaven, that John himself was not the Christ—the bridegroom, and that his joy was full because he was a friend of the bridegroom. Then in verse 30, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
It’s a small line stuck in a large conversation where John reminds the disciples that while God had sent him, he was not the main event—Jesus was. And while it seems John is speaking of his ministry versus Jesus’ ministry, I believe John is also speaking of a heart condition. John’s disciples are going off about how John is getting fewer “clients” than someone he himself baptized. It seems unfair to them, but John rightfully puts them in their place. John is already a great guy, a prophet called by God who baptizes and brings others into the faith. John is pretty awesome—but there’s still something else that must be done: Jesus must increase, and John must decrease.
Jesus must increase, and Michelle must decrease. Jesus must increase, and (insert your name) must decrease. Why? Because God’s business isn’t about making better people—whether it is you or someone else; God’s business is about making others more like Jesus, whose primary occupation was showing God’s glory. It is not enough for us to want to be better versions of ourselves; we have to want to be more like Christ.
God does not want to improve you, He wants to remove you. He wants to see less of you and more of Jesus. The sooner we begin to live this out, the easier our walk with God—and our walk in purity—will be. It’s not easy, but are you willing to decrease so that He can increase?