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I Should Be Better?
by Fred Pruitt

Someone wrote, "I yell at my kids. How can I call that Christ? Isn't God's kingdom gradually growing in us, so that we become more and more like Christ?"

So, I see you're back at the "I should be better" Tree. Well, that's ok, we all visit there from time to time (some of us every day), and it is always a temptation -- the common temptation to us all -- since that was the temptation in the garden.

This idea that you are offering that Christ is being "worked into areas of soul and body little by little," or like concrete being spread out in a form sounds to me like the standard teaching of the church, whether Catholic or Protestant, and would be correct, if the reason Jesus came and endured the Cross and resurrected, had been to improve our behavior and make us better parents, husbands, citizens, ball players, businessmen, witnesses, teachers, etc.

When I first came to Christ, after I got into a church, everything centered around self-improvement and behavior. Or, in other words, self-attention. Fixing me, making me be a better me, and fixing you -- making you a better you. (They go hand in hand. If my behavior is deficient but I could improve it, then pretty much the same goes for everybody else -- THEIR behavior is deficient and THEY could improve theirs, too!)

I was taught that pretty much as a child -- Jesus is good, so we should be good like Jesus -- and it continued as an adult and into my life in Christ. Everybody in church, including the pastor, thought the same thing so I fit in. Everything in church was geared to finding out the secret of HOW to be better. That's why all the seminars, the retreats, the lectures, the Sunday School classes -- all to improve "me" and make me "act" better -- so that I am a good Christian, a good witness, a good citizen, a good father, a good provider, a good husband, a good whatever.

We were even taught that Christ would help us, or that through Christ, we could do "all things." So, Christ was there to help us with two things. In my generation we were tired of the old "over in the bye and bye Christ," whose help was there mainly for death so that we wouldn't go to hell. We wanted a "now" Christ, who helped us with our daily problems, including yelling at the kids or having a better marriage and finding a good job. So that's what a lot of the teaching became. How this Christ could make us and our world better. He was there to help us in everything. That message fills stadiums even today and those that teach it rake in the millions.

I was also taught that when Christ comes into us, he comes into our heart, but there are rooms in us that he gets to one-by-one, and often we have to willingly and consciously invite him into those rooms, since there are still a lot of dirty rooms in us and he's around to clean them up -- IF we invite him and IF we let him. Kind of like your model of being worked into areas of soul and body little by little.

Each of us when we first come into union awareness with Christ, a revelation by the Spirit that He and I are one, also bring this old consciousness of "I should be better" in with us. Oh, there is often a honeymoon period, which is perhaps what you have experienced, when we are able to forget that for a while, but after some time the problems of life come roaring back in and we are confronted, again, with this "self" which we are, and from our old vantage point (from the old "I should be better" consciousness), then we do what we have always done and been trained to do from birth, to "try" to be better -- so we make the assumption that our oneness with Christ is now, finally, the thing that will do it -- THIS will make me a better person. THIS will solve my problems. Finally, this is the way we hold our mouth, this is the secret, finally finally finally, this is IT -- I AM GOING TO BE CHRISTLIKE (and my world is going to conform to what I want it to be)!!!! Hallelujah! We have finally found the ultimate "Method" to "become." Hallelujah!!!!

Only we find ourselves shocked that after this light from heaven has revealed Who we really are -- He in us as you and me -- humanly we may find ourselves little different. Habits often remain the same. Behavior often remains the same. Things we had trouble with all our lives we often still have trouble with. Lots of things seem to remain the same. It's like coming down off the mount of Transfiguration, and being confronted right off with a demon we cannot cast out.

Shouldn't we be different somehow? After all, wasn't it our frustration with ourselves and our behavior that drove us further into finding out about Him in us?

One of the things being worked into our living consciousness, is that God is God, and there are no other gods before Him. What we have done all our lives is have nothing but other gods before Him. And as long as we have a "I should be better" consciousness, that is another god which is not God, but which we have before us anyway. God will share His glory with no one or no thing -- that is why the stripping away of the flesh. We think the stripping away of the flesh is, once again, behavior, or attitudes or motives, but it is not. It is the consciousness that we are "something" or "should be" something. THAT is the flesh that is being stripped away.

The way the Spirit does this stripping away is by calling us into a life of faith, which starts and in some sense always remains in, "calling things which BE NOT as though they are." If there is no "be not," then what need of faith? If Isaac had been immediately born the moment God promised Abram a son, then Abram would not have walked in faith (believing in something that did not exist) to later become Abraham. There was a time before the actual receiving of the Promise when it does not appear and the circumstances cry out the impossibility of the appearance of the Promise.

You have believed that Christ has come into you to live in you and walk in you, to be your guide, to be your life, to be everything in you as far as "you" reach. There is no part of "you" that He does not dwell in. But that is not readily apparent to eyes of flesh. We only appear as in Him to the eyes of faith and the Spirit.

Therefore, unless the Spirit convicts you of sin, we trust that Christ is in us in perfection. That is the Tree of Life. Stick to that Tree. The other tree will always be with you, and will always call out. "I should be better" will always be a temptation. It is a very reasonable sounding voice, and the world and most of the church will agree with it 100%, but it is a bite of the fruit.

But we cannot be better. Jesus asks, "Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature?" I say, "Which of you, by taking thought (or going to seminars, or by Bible study, prayer, meditation, scripture recitations, repetition, praising, practicing, or willing, etc.) can improve your behavior? Hasn't life taught you that you wake up today just as you were yesterday? The best you can do are some cosmetic changes here and there, but the essential "you" does not change. What were problems when we were 15 are still problems when we are 55. I don't mean to sound gloomy. I don't mean that we don't overcome this or that habit, or may have over the years changed this or that behavior. I just mean that is not where the answer lies.

God only honors faith. Hebrews 11:6. If you can add to faith, what would it be? Faith says God will do it, and that I cannot. That is the essence of faith.

So we continue to confess Christ in us and nothing else. We have passed from darkness to light, from death to life. This is a fact. It is real and true. The outer will always go up and down and back and forth as long as we are in this body. But we live inwardly from the Spirit truth of who we are, and know that the outer is passing away, and the answer is not there, and will never be there, and never was intended, since the Fall, to be there. The "outer" will only be restored when this outer is put off, and we have put on immortality. So we don't seek a temporal answer to temporal situations. We seek and live eternal life, which we see by faith in every opposite appearance that raises its head and says, "See, this CANNOT be Christ." We say, "It IS Christ," because the devil has no place in us anymore.

The issues about the kingdom growing up in us, are all about the new reality, the new man, which is not the temporal outer man. The kingdom of God is not gradually improving the outer man. It is passing away, and perishing day by day. The Spirit "quickens" the outer man, and uses it to express Christ in this temporal world, but not in a way that is readily apparent. Only the eyes of faith can see it by the Spirit. What is being worked in us is not a better earth, but a new earth, not yet seen, and a new heaven, still to be seen.

But I suppose the question still remains -- what about my daily life? What about my kids and what about my behavior toward them? I would say, don't focus on moment by moment acts, deeds, thoughts, etc., but instead see things from the perspective of God who works all things together perfectly for good. He sees you as the perfection your kids need to bring them to Christ. You are only temporarily their father. Their Father is God, and He knows how to give good things to His children. When He entrusted them to your nurture and care, He already knew everything you would do and think toward them. And from the foundation of eternity He has seen them through His Son and the Lamb slain. And you are perfectly fitted in that vision. You are not your own, but were bought with a price. Not whenever it was that you call the day you got saved or came to know the Lord, but from eternity He knew you and ordained good works for you to walk in. Now trust God that He has come into you to CAUSE YOU to walk in His good works that He has already set up and foreseen -- as perfect and in the Cross -- and perfect for your children, so that they would also learn not to trust in the arm of the flesh or in things seen, but to learn to trust only in the Spirit of God and His work, and in things unseen.

It's the toughest thing we do, I think, but we can walk in confidence that as He miraculously revealed Himself to and then IN me, He will do the same in His own time and way with our children since they are His. We receive everything at the Father's hand, even what looks like to us messes we have made. They couldn't be, had He not purposed them from eternity. So we boldly say they are His messes, and we walk in His victory even in them.