When I was a teenager, 36-22-36 was considered the perfect figure for a woman. Marilyn Monroe became the prototype for women to follow. She was a movie star during the 1950’s and her iconic image continued far beyond her death in 1962. She was glamorous and the “standard” to which many women tried to conform. Hollywood called her the “Blonde Bombshell”. She played in comedy as well as dramatic roles and her name drew a large box office revenue at the local movie theaters. She was part of the “Golden Age” of the movie industry.
Magazine covers were filled with pictures of Marilyn and other movie stars who competed with her for the attention she drew. The movie industry pushed her image as the standard for young women to attain. For most of us, that standard was an impossible dream. Women young and old dyed their hair platinum blonde, wore red lipstick and tortured their bodies trying to “conform” themselves into her image. The culture then, like today, influenced women to focus on attracting the wrong kind of attention and the wrong people. Unfortunately, Marilyn died at the age of 36 from a barbiturate overdose. Tragically, the image that was created for her by the movie industry, and her own poor choices were the very thing that destroyed her life.
Worldly comparisons are useless and deadly, therefore we must seek to conform ourselves to the right image. Many people do not realize the awe and wonder of being created in the image of God. See Genesis 1:26. Because we were born into a fallen world, having the propensity to sin, our expectations fall far below the plans and power of God to transform us. God never meant for us to compare ourselves to each other because even the best fallen man/woman projects an image that is imperfect and can be destructive.
Comparisons can be an easy trap in which Christians are ensnared. For instance, if we were to compare our demeanor to someone we knew had standards lower than ours, we might think we were in good Christian standing. However, if we compared ourselves to someone who seems to be super spiritual, travels all over the world evangelizing, and gives large donations to charities, we might feel depressed. Truth is, there is no guarantee the world traveler is going to heaven because they may be building their own little kingdom and not God’s. They could be making a name for themselves or doing religious works to earn God’s favor. When we compare our Christian walk with others, we are basing our value and salvation on works and not faith in Jesus’ blood. We might also fail to consider the measures God might place on our sins when we look down on others. Comparing ourselves to other Christians could generate major problems for us!
God made us unique; and because of that, He has created in us a special and unique purpose. Although our calling may be similar to others’ no one else can fulfill the true purpose God created for us. Jesus is the one who set the standard for Christianity and we are to conform to His image. See Romans 8:29. Being conformed to the image of Christ still seems an impossible dream if we are only considering our natural attributes to achieve such a lofty goal. God has not made that dream impossible because He will do the work while we simply seek Him and surrender to His perfect will. Our transformation is a life-long journey and we have been given supernatural tools with which to succeed. Our first obstacle is belief. If we believe in Him and His promise to transform us, we have begun the journey.
Secondly, we must know Him. We do that by knowing His Word. The nature and character of Jesus can be discovered by studying the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Understanding their testimony of Jesus is a great place to begin. Jesus is called the Word of God in 1 John 1:1-3 and Revelation 19:13. Jesus is the true manifestation of the written Word of God. His actions confirm the Gospel message and personify the nature and character of God and His Kingdom.
The Apostle Paul wrote an incredible description of Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11. He challenged the Philippian church to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross…” Philippians 2:5-8. NKJV.
Jesus said of Himself in John 5:30, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.” NKJV. In addition, Jesus spoke: “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me that the Father has sent Me.” John 5:36, NKJV. In this verse, Jesus was referring to John the Baptist, who baptized Him and heard the voice of God confirm Jesus as His son. See John 1:29-34.
When we compare ourselves to other people, we will conclude that we are greater than some and probably inferior to others. Our comparison will then be flawed, because we have chosen a worldly image as the basis of our assessment. By using worldly standards to compare, we will find ourselves somewhere in the middle between those who are indifferent toward God and those who are truly abiding in Him. The middle area is the comfort zone. It is neither cold nor hot. Mediocrity is a dangerous mindset because those are the lukewarm Christians Jesus addressed in Revelation 3:15-17. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked–.”
Those who become content with who they are will lose their edge. They quit trying to be more, they coast along thinking they have attained all there is and fail to realize there is so much more to discover including living a life in Christ Jesus. The lukewarm leave the “heavy” work up to others, and form assumptions upon other’s experiences rather than seeking God for their own. They trust others to teach the proper “doctrines” of the Kingdom without investing their time in researching the Word for themselves. We were charged to “judge” the prophets, not by our own reasoning, but comparing their message to the Word of God. Knowing the Word of God is a powerful litmus test we must apply to “doctrines” and interpretations man might develop and declare as the word of the Lord. If we are “Biblically” illiterate, we will not have one of our most important tools of discernment.
Praying a prayer to be saved was not the end of our journey, it was just the beginning! Being born again is not our final goal, KNOWING and INTIMATELY loving God is! Our lifetime pursuit must be that of becoming one with Christ by conforming to His image, not the image of others or what we think is the ideal Christian example. When we compare ourselves to others, we become judges of them and of ourselves because we judge by our natural eyesight rather than knowing the intent of their hearts. We then position ourselves to be judged by God, “Judge not that you be not judged” Matthew 7:1, NKJV. Jesus is not only our best example to follow, He is our only true example of God. As we approach the end times, intimacy with God will be our only protection from deception because the Word of God may no longer be accessible.
Comparing ourselves to Jesus’ example will not cause us to become depressed, hopeless or discouraged; it will actually cause us to become encouraged, hopeful and excited! Continually surrendering our hearts to the Lord’s will bring fulfillment and amazement as we see the fruit of being conformed and then transformed into His image. Through that process, our eyes will turn their focus from ourselves to solely focus upon Him.
Before the end of the age, the sons of God will be revealed. Our transformation will not occur by osmosis, it will come from being in God’s transformation boot camp. It is not for the faint of heart nor the lazy because those are lukewarm traits. It will be for those who have a zeal for God and crave to fulfill their purpose in the Kingdom. We will not find our purpose by looking toward the things of the world. Our purpose can only be found in Him. His is the only image we need to imitate.