Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gradually Learning To Be Like Christ

In the Movie “Karate Kid” an adolescent enlists an older Japanese man, Mr. Miyagi, to teach him martial arts. The old man has the teenager paint, clean, scrub, and rub all over his house, garden, and cars. The old man wanted him to do these things while doing certain movements. The young man thought the old man was taking advantage of him and was wasting his time with eccentric methods. Finally, he confronted Mr. Miyagi saying, “I want you to teach me to fight. So far I have been your servant painting, cleaning, and scrubbing.” The old man pulled the teenager toward him. Mr. Miyagi moved his arms and as he moved them he told him that they were blocking techniques. “Now, I will throw punches at you, and you block me.” The young man blocked all the punches of Mr. Miyagi with the movements he learned painting, cleaning and scrubbing. When the teenager walked in the old man’s house he knew nothing of martial arts. Gradually, and unbeknownst to him, he learned all the movements needed to be a successful fighter.

In principle, the Christian walk is similar. When the disciples met Christ they knew nothing of Christian way. Their understanding of religion was perverted by the tradition of the religious leaders of their time. Even though many left all of their professional lives behind, they still held on to their beliefs of individual and national superiority. Christ met them where they were. For 3½ years Christ taught them lessons that took them years to understand.

Christ did not take them any farther then they could at the moment go. He said to them in John 16: 12 “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” Because, of this He required at that moment no more than what they could handle. But, as their belief increased, so did their understanding of how God works. They began to trust and depend on God. And as this increased so did their willingness to sacrifice for the His sake.

Talking about Christ and the church as a body Paul alludes to the importance of growing spiritually. He says in Ephesians 4: 8, 12-14

Ephesians 4: 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
Ephesians 4: 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Ephesians 4: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Ephesians 4: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

These spiritual gifts are given so that we may grow and help others grow into the likeness of Christ. How does one grow into the likeness of Christ? As John the Baptist did, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Saul of Tarsus, a driven and assertive man, had to humble himself to become Paul (literally the little one). He learned to yield to the Holy Spirit instead of his passion and zeal. So much Paul decreased that he said, “I die, daily.” Indeed Paul says that to him “to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1: 21. Paul had to learn to learn to do this. Years of daily submitting to the Holy Spirit and learning he could trust and depend on Him, led Paul to this conclusion. Paul learned to trust the Christ in him; the Christ that strengthened him to do all things (Phil 4:13).

As it was with Paul, so it is with us. Christ is trying to teach us to trust Him in all things at all times. He does this starting at the level where we are and gradually increasing our trust in Him so that one day we can say as Paul, “I die every day, because to live is Christ and to die is gain.”