God’s Goal Is Your Character, Not Your Comfort

“Take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:22-24 MSG).

Many religions and New Age philosophies promote the old lie that we are divine or can become gods. Let me be absolutely clear: You will never become God or even a god.

That prideful lie is Satan’s oldest temptation. Satan promised Adam and Eve that if they followed his advice, they would be “as gods” (Genesis 3:5 KJV).

This desire to be a god shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and people around us. But as creatures, we will never be the Creator. God doesn’t want you to become a god; he wants you to become godly, taking on his values, attitudes, and character. We are meant to “take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:22-24 MSG).

God’s ultimate goal for your life on Earth is not comfort but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone.

God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn’t want to destroy it. Christlikeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.

God wants you to develop the kind of character described in the Beatitudes of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, Paul’s great chapter on love, and Peter’s list of the characteristics of an effective and productive life (Matthew 5:1-12; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Peter 1:5-8).

Every time you forget that character is one of God’s purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You’ll wonder, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?” One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, Earth is not Heaven.

Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the “abundant life” (John 10:10) to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer.

In a word, they expect the Christian life to be easy. They expect heaven on Earth.

This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment. But God is not your servant, and if you fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, you will either become severely disillusioned or you will live in denial of reality.

Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God’s purposes, not vice versa. Why would God provide heaven on Earth when he’s planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on Earth to build and strengthen our character for Heaven.

Talk It Over

It’s sometimes difficult to see how God is working on our character in the midst of difficult circumstances. What do you think God wants you to do when you don’t understand how he is working in your life? How does an eternal perspective — focusing on the reward of Heaven —change how you approach tough times? In what ways can your gifts and abilities be more effective when they are aligned with God’s purposes?

Take Off the Old, Put On the New

“Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and … put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22b-24 NIV).

If you want to have lasting change in your life, you have to start with your body, and that includes changing the way you think so that you honor God through the things you think and through the things you let into your mind.

Ephesians 4:22b-24 says, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and … put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (NIV).

Notice that there’s a putting off and a putting on. Your health really comes down to stopping some stuff you need to stop doing and starting some stuff you need to start doing. Stop putting negative, hurtful things in your body, and start putting in things that edify.

Stop putting negative, hurtful things into your mind, and start watching and listening to things that edify Jesus and make you more like him. In the renewal of your mind, you’ve got to put off before you can put on.

Let’s say you go to a department store to look for a new coat. You find one and take it into one of those little changing rooms. If you’re wearing a coat already, you don’t go in there and put the new coat on over your old coat. That would be silly, because you’re not going to know if it fits! It makes sense to take off the old one before you put on the new one.

That’s true spiritually and emotionally and mentally, too. You’ve got to take off the old before you can put on the new.

Talk It Over

What “old things” do you need to take out of your life, mind, or body? What “new things” do you need to fill your mind and body with? What are the new habits you will have to develop in order to do that? In what ways are you desiring to be more like God in “true righteousness and holiness”?

Taking Care of Your Body Is Worship

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV).

For change to happen in any area of your life, whether it’s financial, vocational, educational, mental, or relational, you have to begin with the physical.

Why? Because your body affects your behavior. Your muscles affect your moods and your motivation. Your physiology can actually affect your psychology.

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship” (NIV).

The problem with a living sacrifice is that it can choose to crawl off the altar. We do this all the time. We offer ourselves to God, and then we take ourselves back. This is not a once-for-all offer. You’ve got to do it four, five, or maybe 10 times a day!

So what is “your true and proper worship”? There are three things you can do with your body that the Bible says are acts of worship:

1. Cleanse your body. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (NIV). You cleanse your body by controlling what you allow in your mind through what you watch and listen to, and in your body by what you eat and drink. 2. Care for your body. Ephesians 5:29 says, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church” (NLT, second edition). Keeping your body in shape is an act of worship to God. 3. Control your body. “Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thessalonians 4:4 NIV). Control your body so that it doesn’t control you. There is no reason to say, “I couldn’t help myself!”

No matter what kind of change you want to make in your life, it will require energy. To have the energy to meet your goals, change has to start with your body.

Talk It Over

What are practical ways you can honor God through your body today? What are the small ways you need to work on controlling your body? What are the big ways? How does Christ “feed and care for the church”? Why do you think God wants you to do the same with your body?

Change Requires You to Make a Choice

“Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception” (Ephesians 4:22 NLT, second edition).

Change requires making choices. It’s not enough to dream of changing. It’s not enough to desire change. In order for you to change, you will need to make a decision. You must choose to change.

Change is intentional: Are you going to be any different in six months? Are you going to be better a year from now? Are you going to be healthier, stronger, and more mature? Are you going to be happier? Are you going to be less in debt? Are you going to be more like God wants you to be?

I can tell you the answer right now: It will only happen if you choose to change, because it isn’t going to happen accidentally. I want you to be better in 10 years than you are now, but you won’t be unless you choose to be.

It requires a choice.

A lot of times we think we’re waiting on God to change us. No. You are not waiting on God. God is waiting on you! He’s waiting on you to say, “Yes, Lord, I’m willing to make these changes.”

We have to make intentional choices in order to grow. There is no growth without change, there is no change without loss, and there is no loss without pain. If you are going to grow, you will have to change, and change means letting go of some old things in order to grab hold of some new things.

It’s like swinging on a trapeze: The trapeze artist swings out on one bar, and then he has to reach out and grab the other one. At some point, he has to let go of one to grab the other, or he’s not going to make it to the other side. If he thinks he can hold on to both, what happens? He gets stuck in the middle, and he’s going down.

Some of you are stuck in the middle, and you’re going down because you haven’t let go of the old patterns, the old habits, and the old ways of thinking. You have to let go of your old ways.

The Bible says, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception” (Ephesians 4:22 NLT, second edition). In other words, let it go. Those old habits, those old hurts, those old patterns, those old sins in your life — let them go. The Bible says to throw them off and trust that God is working in you “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13b NIV).

Talk It Over

  • What is a change you’ve been wanting to make in your life but have been waiting on God to do for you?
  • How do you think God wants you to move forward with that change? What practical steps do you need to take?
  • How do you want your life to be different one year from now? What will it take to accomplish that goal?

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