Before and Becoming
September 28, 2023
Stuck as the ‘Before’ Picture
We’ve all seen advertisers use ‘before and after’ pictures to show the effect of everything from weight loss programs to plastic surgery procedures, closet organizers to auto refinishing services. We love the after images; slim waistline, wrinkle-free forehead, organized closets, and shiny cars.
In our discipleship journey, we have a similar ‘before’ picture. Remember who you were before you were seized by Christ (Philippians 3:12) and overwhelmed by His love for you (Ephesians 3:18-19)? Remember your heart before it was washed over by the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and your attitudes before you had undergone the transforming of your mind (Romans 12:1-2)?
In our discipleship journey, it would do us well from time to time to reflect on this ‘before’ state. While this is a very real image of our ‘before’ state, in the journey with Jesus there is no final ‘after’ stage, at least not one we will attain in this lifetime. Instead, there is and should be an ever-emerging ‘becoming’ picture as we are conformed to the image of Christ and transformed into His likeness.
Simply put, we should look different, act differently, think differently, live differently, serve differently than before. Think about a few major aspects of the discipleship journey and ask if your ‘becoming’ picture today looks different than it did a year ago. Here are a few examples.
- Am I less fearful?
- Am I more trusting of God?
- Am I practicing my love for my neighbor more frequently?
- Am I sensing God’s presence in my life more acutely?
- Am I forgiving others more easily?
- Am I living with less shame and guilt?
These are pictures of progress on our journey. They provide us a contrast between our ‘before’ picture and where the Holy Spirit has led us in our continual ‘becoming’. Let these ‘becoming’ snapshots encourage you.
Until they don’t. The other service these ‘becoming’ pictures provide is to show us where we don’t look much different than where we started. They project onto our consciences the harsh reality of our lack of progress toward transformation, sanctification, or maturity in Christ. They are sobering and, if we’re not careful, discouraging.
I’m struggling with just such an image. For the past twenty or more years I have been preaching, teaching, and writing on the simple truth that God cares more about who we are becoming than what we are accomplishing. Put another way, God wants our hearts before our hands, our presence before our production, and our worship before our work.
I’m fond of saying things like, “Don’t become so busy doing things for God that you leave no room for Him to do things in you.” Great line. And true. My discouragement comes from just how hard it is to prioritize life in this Christ-centered way. The gap between what I know to be true and how I live is painfully large. For instance:
- I know that the time I spend in God’s presence in devotion, prayer, and stillness is more important than the time I spend accomplishing God’s work, yet my time at work dominates my schedule.
- I know that God measures my success primarily in terms of faithfulness, while I measure it almost solely in terms of fruitfulness.
- I know Jesus calls me to a life of surrender, quietness, and adoration yet I remain driven by control, outcomes, and effectiveness.
- I know He wants me to abide in Him, love Him, journey with Him, and enjoy Him yet I am challenged to ‘find time for Jesus’ in my busy workday.
- I know He created and redeemed me so that my doing flows from my being, yet I try to do it the other way around.
- Finally, I know I am most useful to God when I am like clay in His hands on the Potter’s wheel, yet I want to be the finished shiny pot on the shelf He can put to good use.
Peter Scazzero describes this penchant for doing as “that driving, grasping, fearful self-will that must produce, that must make something happen, that must get it done for God (just in case he doesn’t).”
Are you struggling with the same thing, or is it only me? Are you responding to this by saying, ‘Get your act together Scott, I am already way down the road from you’? If so, please write me and tell me how you have seen such victory in your life. Honestly, I’d love to learn from you.
If, on the other hand, you are struggling with me in this battle, let’s take a few steps together and see if we can’t be set free from these shackles, or at least see a few of them fall off as we continue our journey. Here’s my commitment for the next 30 days.
- I will pray diligently for the mind of Christ regarding my attitude toward work. We are promised this radical change in perspective as we are transformed into the image of Christ. I deeply desire to see life as Christ sees it; to have my values shaped by His word, my attitudes conformed to His perspective, my priorities aligned with His will. I want to see reality from God’s viewpoint. Is that asking too much? I don’t think so. In fact, it may be only the tip of the iceberg of what God would reveal to us if we were truly surrendered to Him. I believe that’s where the journey must begin for me. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
- I will repent daily of my pride that drives much of my ‘need to succeed’. This is, in the end, a matter of pride. I’d like to dress it up as a ‘passion to advance God’s kingdom’ or a ‘stewardship of the talents God has given me’. And while both may be true, God did not intend for them to lead to a driven-ness that forces my time with Him to the sidelines. As I said above, these were meant to flow from the continual transformation of who I am in Christ. This order of being-then-doing is reversed by pride. That must die within me.
- Finally, I will find people to journey with me and keep me accountable to #1 and #2. I am becoming more acutely aware of the power and importance of being part of a transforming community. I can only walk this new journey if I have co-travelers committed to the same journey and to one another. Without that community, I will revert to viewing life with the ‘mind of Scott’, giving in to pride and justifying my production-driven ways.
This is my challenge. If any of this resonates with you, then join me on this 30-day journey. And please write to me and tell me about your experience. Did you discover a newfound freedom? Did you sense the Spirit reshaping your perspectives? Did your attention to being with Christ take priority over working for Him? Or did you find new ways for those to become one and the same?
Join me and let’s see where God might take us.
 Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. (Zondervan, 2017), p. 112.