It is commonly thought that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to make us more spiritual. That through indwelling and empowering us, He connects us to our “spiritual” side so that we become more Godly and spiritually-minded.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Holy Spirit is given to us, not so that we can be more Godly, but so that we can be more human. So that you can be you, and I can be me.
One of the great lies of the Christian religion is that God wants you to be like Him.
This is not true. God does not want you to become like Him. God wants you to become like you.
God wants you to become fully you.
God wants you to become like the person He created you to be.
God does not want you to become fully divine, but to become fully human.
We Must Come out of Hiding
C. S. Lewis once said that the goal of life is to learn to come outside of ourselves. He did not mean that you become less “yourself” but that you become fully “yourself.” Most of us hide our “true self” in the dark recesses of our hearts and minds, afraid that if we come out, people will not like us, love us, or accept us.
We feel that the true person crouching in a dark corner of our heart is not worthwhile, not valuable, not able to contribute, not worth revealing, not worth loving.
This is the great lie, and it seems to me that Christianity often contributes to it.
The Great Lie about Humanity
Many Christians, churches, pastors, and books tell people that who they are is “wrong” and “of this world” and they need to die to themselves and become like Jesus Christ. And while there are attributes and character traits to each of us that need to be sloughed off so that other aspects can be raised up to their potential, I think that we sometimes get the two reversed so that we disown and discredit that which should be strengthened and honored, and we raise up and glorify those things we should let die.
Christianity is great at making clones.
We all wear church-sanctioned clothes, use church-sanctioned language, and engage in church-sanctioned activities.
We do this for the sake of “community” but such community is dead because all the people in it are dead. Sure, they may be breathing and talking, but they are not really living. They are not living within the astonishing uniqueness which God gave them.
You are not fully alive until you become fully you.
The will of God for your life is not a “to do” list so that you can change who you are and become more like God. No, the will of God for your life is that you discover who you are, and then become most fully “you.”
God does not desire a performance, but a person, and He loves you for who you ARE, not for who you might one day become.
As Robert Farrar Capon wrote, “The will of God is … his longing that we will take the risk of being nothing but ourselves” (Hunting the Divine Fox, 275).
God doesn’t want you to be Him; He wants you to be you.
The Holy Spirit Makes You “You”
And this is one reason God gave us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to us to lead us out of the prison of our mind and lead us into being the person that God wants us to be.
The Holy Spirit does not make us like God; the Holy Spirit makes us like ourselves.
The Holy Spirit does not make us more spiritual, but more physical, that is, more human.
The Holy Spirit does not prepare us to live in another world, but prepares us to fully live in this world.
This work of the Holy Spirit happens in two stages.
The Two Stages of Spirit-Inspired Human Development
First, the Spirit helps us to see that the person we are inside is the person God wants us to be.
The “me” inside is not someone to be ignored, locked away, or hidden from sight, but is someone to be embraced, loved, and strengthened.
The Spirit helps us “see” ourselves for who we really are, and learn to love ourselves for who we are.
Second, the Spirit gives us the courage to reveal ourselves, our true self, to others.
Each of us is made with amazing gifts, talents, abilities, insights, ideas, and personalities. The Spirit helps us learn what these are, and learn how to share these with others.
When we do this, it is then that we begin to become truly human, and in this way, begin to truly reveal Jesus Christ to others.
How to Become Godly
The surprising thing is that when we learn to become more like the person God made us to be, when we live up to our divinely-sanctioned human potential, it is only then that we begin to develop into godliness and Christlikeness.
Jesus was the perfect man, not because He didn’t sin, but because He lived up to His full potential.
Similarly, when we also start to live up to our full potential, when we start to become who God made us to be, when we live the way God created us each to live, it is then that we become more Godly.
It is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. In chasing after godliness, we end up denying ourselves and who God made us to be, and the result is a life that is less human and less divine. But when we, with the indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide, chase after the person God created us to be, it is then that we become more human. And since becoming the person God made us to be fulfills His plan for us, we become more like God in the process.
So stop trying to become like God. Instead, ask God to use the Holy Spirit to mold and make you more like you.
Viki Wieland Manera says
This so perfectly says what I have felt since that day I knew I had to leave my church.
Thank you, Jeremy.
Alabama Independent says
I’m still waiting on Pastor Myers, or anyone, to tell me if our trusting in what Jesus did on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins, is the kind of trusting that Christ demands. We only have to remind ourselves of Matthew 7:21 which reads, “Not every one who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the Will of My Father which is in heaven. Again, what is the Will of My Father? Answer that question correctly and we’ll know that we are being like God.
Jeremy Myers says
Just do a search and read some of the 2000 other blog posts on this blog about this topic. I have 200,000 readers a month and cannot reply in length to every person who wants to know what I believe about a particular topic. This is what the search widget is for at the bottom.
Brian L. Knack says
We merely need to be who He created us to be! Unfortunately the modern Institutional Church want’s us to fit into a mold that benefits the organization not the individual.
Jeremy Myers says
So true, and so sad. As one of my favorite Christian musicians used to sing, “I want to be a Clone.”
Jeremy, I do appreciate much of what you write, but at times I fear your rhetorical flair tramples some things that are precious.
You realize, I’m sure, that God *does* want us to be like Him (“conformed to the image of His Son”, etc.), that this is our ultimate goal. But in order to highlight the methods you advocate, you put things in sharply either/or terms: “We become our true selves, we don’t become like God–in fact that’s a LIE!” No matter what you call it, theosis, sanctification, divinization–the full recovery of the image of God in which we were created is our destination. And yes, in a sense it’s very much like we are discovering our true selves. But I’m convinced that this kind of overstatement for dramatic effect (“one of the great lies of the Christian religion”?) is more troubling and potentially misleading than helpful, because people will hear what they want to.
Or maybe I’m just annoyed by the sensationalistic rhetoric. 😛
I can see the value in what you were trying to get across, but I think there were probably more careful ways of going about it.
Best to you.
I agree Steve. You have expressed exactly what I was thinking as I read this article.
I have to say I disagree. Jeremy blows the typical teaching of the church out of the water. This is necessary in order to appreciate the truth. I, for one, have laboured long and hard over the whole matter of seeking to change and become more godly not realising that the means was to accept me fully and completely. And then Jeremy explains how by being ourselves truly we do in the end emulate Christ, and so also our Father, and godliness increases in us without losing our individuality. It’s a really beautiful truth. And we need not pull it down but support it wholly that others would grasp it and become what God intends. I love it!
Jeremy Myers says
Steve, what I was saying was that we become more Godly (or Christlike) *BY* living up to the full potential that God wants for us, which is to fully be the person He wants us to be.
We do not become more Godly by denying who God made us to be, but by fully embracing who God made us to be.
Does that help clarify a bit?
Matthew Richardson says
We are to be more like Jesus. Part of the reason He came was to set an example for us. Unfortunately people confuse this with being more like God the Father rather than the Son. We cannot possibly become like the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator. But we can follow the example of loving each other that He set for us when He came down to our level.
Stephen Mayer says
Following Christ is far different than trying to be like him … In fact they are eons apart. Of course following means you personally know someone … Whereas you can try to be like someone you don’t know.
Matthew Richardson says
Check the definition of ‘disciple’. A disciple tries to learn from and become more like his/her master. The scriptural account of Acts shows the apostles and early disciples doing exactly that.
As for the definition of disciple, it just means a student. It doesn’t mean someone who trusts and believes in Christ for salvation. Disciples walked away from Christ (Judas and John 6:66). And, it’s interesting that the Greek term used for “disciple” doesn’t appear anywhere after Acts. Paul never referred to believers as disciples, just as saints, holy ones and righteous ones.
Mark Burnett says
I don’t know that I have it in myself to “be more like Christ”. What I can do is die to self and allow the Christ that dwells within me to flesh Himself out through me. Then, what one might observe as me being “Christ-like” is actually Christ just being Himself.
Matthew Richardson says
He is to be our partner in our quest for self improvement. I agree, we can not do it alone.
Edie Landis says
Transformed into the image of His dear Son.
Daniel Darling says
Hmm . . . 1 Tim 4:8; 2 Peter 1:5 RT : Stop Trying to Become More Godly http://t.co/EAH8izTaKC … http://t.co/q7E5dNQc40
Chuck McKnight says
Hmm, I’m processing this, Jeremy. I hear ya. But I’m not sure if I agree with you on this one. Though I wonder if we’re not approaching the same thing with different terminology.
I’ve been really impacted lately by the teaching of the early church fathers—Irenaeus and Athanasius especially—that “God became man so that man could become god.” Not meaning, of course, that we become actual deities, but that we become fully conformed into God’s image.
We were, after all, created as God’s image bearers, yet we’ve lost some of that image through our rebellion. So if the goal is to become “fully human,” would that not necessarily mean fully reflecting the image of God? And is that not divinization?
I guess I’m saying that if we become “fully human,” we will have become fully like God.
Chuck McKnight says
So when I wrote this, I did not see a link to an article. I only saw the text you posted. Weird.
Anyway, I saw the article now, read it, and it does sound like we’re basically saying the same thing. Though I’m not going to give up the divinization language of the early church. 😉
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, I think we are saying the same thing. I should have clarified a bit more…. what I was trying to say is that God’s will for us is to become fully who He made us to be, which will automatically reflect the image of God.
Neal Cox says
Quite simply we are to strive to be holy, as Christ and the Father are holy. This post, IMHO, is reaching for an understanding that does not exist, and could be confusing to the lost and newborn in Christ. Stick with Biblical facts and not striving for a soundbite.
Jeremy Myers says
I don’t know…. which is easier for a new Christian to understand: “Become holy… become like God,” OR “God made you to be unique and special. He wants you to become fully you. So what are your hobbies, gifts, talents, interests? How can you use those to reflect the glory of God?”
I think the latter line of questions will make a lot more sense to a lot more people.
I couldn’t disagree more — the opposite of the gospel’s message.
Taking up our crosses, and following Jesus is not for the purpose of becoming more human. He made Adam and Eve in His image — having arms and legs is not what renders us in God’s image, becoming Christlike is why we are here. Sure we will never achieve perfect Christlikeness; but the daily submission to His will keeps us on the path.
Being human is the easiest thing a person can do, just as being a rabbit is the easiest thing a rabbit can do.
It is important to realize that we are in a fallen state — the last thing I want to be is too human. In this condition “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice
the very evil that I do not want” (Romans 7:19). “But I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (Romans 7:20).
Paul goes on to say that there is a conflict waging war between the law of my mind and the law of sin in my body. The solution — “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
Any one who is truly saved has to be conscious of the two natures. When we become saved the old nature is still there; however, we are aware of our new nature through the Spirit. There is by default a tug of war. If a person is only aware of the old nature, well, he’s not saved. If a person is only aware of the new nature — he’s with Jesus in the kingdom.
“When…the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
So, being human in a cursed state is our biggest problem — under these circumstances
it is impossible to be perfect. However, step by step we walk the Path, doing a perfect thing
imperfectly — which is fine with God. He doesn’t expect perfection from us; but neither does He expect humans to “practice sin.”
The question is, What does it mean to be made in the image of God? It has everything to do with the quality of our hearts. since man’s heart is deceitful — “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? 10″I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways…” (Jer. 17:9,10); God looks very carefully at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). Being more human will not get it done. I want to be like Jesus, period.
Hadi Lee says
When the Lord returns, He would love to see us busy doing part of the job He wants us to do. Redeemed by His blood, sanctified by His Words, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can, as ourselves, as well as the body of Christ do the job. I found your article refreshing and philosophically and theologically correct, though it might offend some deeply planted in doctrinal teachings. It is when, through our life life-long journey with Him, through our falls and rises, we become a refined “we”, i.e. more Godly, or in Paul’s letter, more and more conformed in the image of the Firstborn, our Lord Jesus (not becoming like him).
Edie Landis says
What about the verse, ‘Be holy for I am holy’? Where does that fit into this scenario you print out and teach? Discipleship IS becoming more and more like the person you are following, not more and more like YOU yourself.
Another verse about which to think: ‘Whoever would be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.’ Not your usual way of becoming more like yourself.
I would agree only in light of becoming ALL you can be in service for the LORD God, but our very own selves are marred and broken by sin and are selfish to the core. Our SELF is selfish to the max and only by becoming more and more like Jesus will that ‘old man or self’ be crucified in us. It is not something we do, but what Jesus does in us through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb, triumphant over death. We become more LIKE Him when we die to ourselves daily through HIS power alive in us.
It seems there may be some semantics here which are causing confusion. We do NOT become Jesus or God, but we are called by scripture in God’s Word to become LIKE Him, which means choosing what He would choose, acting the way He would act, loving what He would love, etc., et al. It means subjugating our will and humanity to His will as He showed us IN His humanity, all the while while He was here on earth. If, by this treatise, you mean that in following Him, we become all that we are called to be and become whole, then I could agree, but not just by being more like ourselves all the time. ‘The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked, who can know it?’ Proverbs. Maybe some clarification is needed on your part as this seems counterintuitive to what scripture says.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, some clarification was needed. I have tried to clarify in previous comments…
Wow! Jeremy, you blow me away with your insights! Thank you for the incredible truth of this. It is so wonderfully freeing and life-giving. I am reminded of Matt.5:48 (haven’t checked this and may have it wrong) where it says “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father is perfect”. For the first time I understand that to mean we must be who God made us to be just as He is who He is. Wow! Wow! Wow! What a blessing!
I do so love your insights and your blog. Thanks, man! Such a privilege to have access to this.
Jeremy Myers says
Most of what I write about was inspired from little statements or offhanded remarks I read in other books or blogs. I often try to cite these other sources when possible. This idea here is something I have been mulling over for a couple years now. It was stated a little less clearly than I wanted, but I thought I would put it out there for discussion.
Thanks for the encouragement!
Okay, this is where we can say everybody is right, and everybody is wrong (everybody is a word chosen here for dramatic effect; it is not 100%).
Firstly, the issue of churches creating clones. Even though the language might be ‘dying to oneself’, ‘becoming more like Jesus’ etc, in reality, it usually means being like everyone else there. In that sense, Jeremy is right: it isn’t what we need (or God wants) in any respect. We are to become more ‘human’, if human means the person God created us to be.
Secondly, we are still required to die to ourselves. This means we need to be prepared to give up everything to follow Jesus (well, it means more than that, but other commenters have said it better anyway). If we’re in a cloning Church, it also means letting go of the desire to fit in and be like everyone else. It could mean leaving the church because what they’re following might not be Jesus.
But finally, we are also to be who God created us to be, unmarred by this evil age, the world, Adam’s sin or our own sin. Here’s where it gets tricky for those of us who did not become Christians until late in life: we have a lot of dying to our old selves to do before the ‘ideal’ self, the one that God created for His glory, can be seen. There are a lot of character issues from my unredeemed self that needed (and need) to be put to death. It doesn’t make me less human to do this.
Anyway, thanks for a thought-provoking article.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, I like how you wrote those 3 points. I agree. There is balance here that requires careful discernment between what parts of “us” need to go, and what parts of “us” need to be developed and grown.
You do manage to get the attention of your readers by your sound bites, but then who doesn’t try to do that?
As for what you have to say, I love it. One just has to think of what happens to ourselves inwardly as we strive so hard to be something and then we meet someone who is that something so easily and we instantly become so upset inside. That to me is so much what happens when all our day is spent on trying to be “Godly”. Why not just live in trust that He does actually love that which He made and leave the rest up to Him?
Seems to me that if we are not so stressed all of the time we might begin to have some fruits of the Spirit we speak of….
Jeremy Myers says
I am not trying to be overly provocative… I just have never wanted to bore people with Scripture and theology…
Anyway, I agree with what you are saying. If we tell people, “Become more Godly,” they usually don’t know how. But if we say, “Become the *you* God wants you to be,” that tends to make more sense to people.
TED ADAMS says
This article sums up what many of us have had to struggle with. When we try to live up to other’s ideas, we fail, yet one teaching that is not taught very much is that we are to study for ourselves as to what God is and wants us to be. To do so is to test what is taught us such as the church in Berea did when Paul came to teach them about Jesus Christ. It then behooves us to stand in the way that Christ leads each of us, to be ourselves in Christ as Christ would have us to be, lost as to our old selves, but in the newness of the new creation He has made us in Himself. This is to follow Christ only while accepting our brothers and sisters in Christ, walking together and helping each other to be strive for the best in Christ. We then can accept who we are in Christ with all our gifts, talents as well as flaws. This brings us to depend on Jesus Christ to enable us to be the best He desires for each of us, for without Jesus, we cannot do anything. Following Christ means to let go of law and legalism, but live in grace. In all things we will then come to know what it means to lose our life in Christ yet find our life in Christ, the full, spiritually sensitive, joyful, loving, life of grace in Christ. And He will rejoice over each of us with singing (Zeph 3:17)
Jeremy Myers says
Yes! Usually when people tell us to become more Godly, they are actually telling us to become who *they* think we should be. To become *Godly* is a vague idea which can be filled with almost any set of characteristics and qualities.
Jesus, of course, is a better picture or image. That is one of the reasons He came, after all.
It has been very interesting to read this article and the comments. When the bible speaks about being in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us we start to try to figure out how to do this…..
Can to die actually mean that WE cannot figure it out? Can to die actually mean that that we start to trust in the work of God and not our work?
Can “to live in Christ” actually refer to Him working something within me that is His work not mine? Can I except that?
If I was lost and dead before I turned to Christ and recieved what He had given to me and became a new creation a miracle took place. He took out a stone heart and placed a new heart within me. If God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ something happens within us that, it will renew our thinking and by that the way we react to things, the way we interact with people.
God has, through what Christ did, come to live within us so we can have a realationship with Him something we didn’t have. A MASSIVE CHANGE.
But this change I cannot control. The only thing I can do is spend time with Him and enjoy this newfound relationship. This relationship WILL change me, but I can’t figure this out. We will reflect His caracter. Like we reflect our image in a mirror. The picture in the mirror is not us, it’s a reflection.
What I can expect is that He will use every color, every form, every uniqueness to do this. If We would stop trying to conform to something we think is Christlike and actually just be with Him we would see a church that would sparkle, individually each one unique, but together His one bride. We would see all the fruits of Christ and each one running our individual race.
The Christian life is living IN CHRIST. It’s not explainable, not touchable – it’ life itself. It’s for everyone and it’s peace, love and joy. And it’s a lifetime experiance.
Gary Looper says
The scriptural paradox, not acknowledged well in this post, but stated well by Ireneus, is “the glory of God is a man (fully) alive, and the glory of man is a vision of God.” I’ve heard both sides of this preached, without the complement, and will continue to challenge those who do so. We cannot, through arguments, plumb the entire meaning of the paradox, since these basic truths in Scripture are also a mystery, but we can and should continue to help one another toward a better understanding. I thank Jeremy for his correction and advise caution in his rhetoric to make the point.
As a young convert in my 20s, I assumed that I was to become more like Jesus and less like myself. Eventually, I unlearned that mistaken belief through therapy outside the church, as well as a through several priests who lovingly guided me toward the truth. Of course I still want to be like God in loving others as I am loved, and I need the Spirit to help me do this well through my unique, full humanness.
Jeremy Myers says
Yes! I read that Irenaeus quote a while back, which is one of the sources that sparked me thinking about this subject. I may not have stated it as clearly or as succinctly as he did, but then, that is why I will never be a church father! Ha!
Thanks for the comment to help clarify.
Can you possibly back up your teaching with biblical truths (Scriptures)?
I want to know the Biblical foundation of your teaching so that I might not conclude that your teaching just merely your own opinion and not what the word of God really means.
In Galatians 1:6-9 Paul says, I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
I found by embracing my identity in Christ i discovered who i really am each one of us is unique God created us to be different not clones.In him we find the best we can be.brentnz