A Curriculum for Christ-Likeness
A first step toward becoming more Christlike must be belief.
-To believe something is to act as if it were so. If you believe that 2+2=4, then you can use that belief, for example, to accurately determine how much money you have. This is not dry knowledge: it is useful in one dimension in that it can be used to pass a math test, but it is critical in another dimension in that it allows you to deal with reality: try dealing with reality (buying gas and groceries, paying bills) if you believe 2+2=8!
In dealing with reality, one is greatly aided by right belief as opposed to wrong belief.
If we believe in God, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit… the “Kingdom Life”… then we live as if it were so, because “form follows function”, and so our lives integrate with this reality as the Holy Spirit convicts the heart of its truthfulness. The bottom line is that we must share in what Jesus Christ believes.
The following material is derived from ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ by Dallas Willard, to whom grateful acknowledgement is given.
In a curriculum for Christlikeness, the following are “Don’ts“:
-Externally conform to the teachings of Jesus about actions in specific circumstances.
-Profess perfectly correct doctrine.
-Blindly engage in church activities/spiritual exercises.
-Seek out special states of mind/ecstatic experiences.
In a curriculum for Christlikeness, the following are “Do’s“:
-Bring those who would have the “Kingdom Life” to the point where they dearly love and constantly delight in the heavenly Father that Jesus Christ made real to the world.
-Remove automatic responses against the Kingdom of God that enslave body and mind to the world.
-Purposefully disrupt responses programmed into us by the world.
-Purposefully re-train ourselves away from the things that are important to the world.
How do we do the “Do’s“?
-Turn the mind to God…
-Focus the mind on God…
-Enthrall the mind with God…
Understanding that the disciple must be willing, this cannot happen without the conviction of the Holy Spirit:
He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65)
The following are touchpoints for intellectual clarity:
-God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
-Seeking God and teaching about God must be both honest and thorough.
-God is a personal God – One who can be loved, and One who loves ultimately and intimately: One whose essential nature is love.
One harmful myth is that questions about God as Creator are now conclusively settled by the progress of scientific knowledge, such that nothing of significance about God can be learned from examining nature or anything else. This myth is refuted by the following Holy Scripture:
since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
Another harmful myth is that one must be a profoundly technical scholar with deep insights to deal effectively with questions about God as Creator. This myth is refuted by the following Holy Scripture:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
It is eminently reasonable to assert that doing – or failing to do – comes directly from what our beliefs are.
The first duty of a curriculum for Christlikeness is to change what people believe.
If beliefs are left unchallenged and unchanged… character and behavior cannot be changed.
Jesus Christ Himself mentioned the foundational beliefs that we must be concentrated and focused on if we are to become more Christlike:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'” (Mark 12:29-30)
So what enables a curriculum for Christlikeness? This…
God being clearly, constantly, simply, willingly present in the mind as Faithful Creator
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19)
A disciple should ask herself/himself these questions:
-What are my foundational beliefs?
-Where did my foundational beliefs come from?
-Why are my foundational beliefs important to me?
-How do I apply my foundational beliefs to my daily life?
Here is a question for reflection by a disciple, with a supporting passage from Holy Scripture:
Is there something in your life that you usually do, which you don’t want to do? What beliefs are you harboring that lead to this behavior?
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25)
Here is a passage from Holy Scripture that reflects on the joy in believing:
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Jesus Christ, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3: 1-21)