Turning Points Magazine & Devotional

September 2022 Issue

It's the Little Things That Mean So Much

From the August 2022 Issue

Identify the Man of Our Measure

Identify the Man of Our Measure

Rise Above Mediocre Expectations

We spend a lot of life figuring out if we “measure up,” a phrase someone coined in the mid-1800s. Even in childhood, we begin comparing ourselves with siblings and kids at school, and it never seems to stop. The problem goes back to Cain and Abel, doesn’t it?

Most of the time, we don’t go about the “measuring up” process in a wise way. The result? The way we feel about ourselves takes a battering, and the way we evaluate others is skewed.

We need to identify the Man to whom we should compare ourselves.

Romans 12:3 says we should think of ourselves “with sober judgment” (NIV). There’s only one accurate measurement that leads to a healthy self-assessment. Have you found it? What is your measure? Your standard? Your mark? Is it a true one?

Have you heard of the little boy who found a long stick and cut notches he assumed to be accurate measurements? He went running to his mother and said, “Mom! I made this ruler and measured myself! I’m seven feet tall!”

If we use the wrong measurements, our self-perception will be biased. The only true way of measuring up is given in Ephesians 4:13, which says we should strive to “be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (NLT, emphasis added).

He is the Man of our measure, the only One with whom we should make comparisons. A little soul searching might reveal we compare ourselves to friends and neighbors more than we do to the Lord. We’re prone to say, “At least, I’m not as bad as so and so…” We can find a million ways to feel better about how we’re performing, but that leads to a mediocre life. We need to identify the Man to whom we should compare ourselves. Our expectations about how we’re to live shouldn’t be from our society; we should measure up to the full and mature standard of Christ.

Let’s get specific about Christlikeness.

The Measure of His Character

Everyone needs compassion if they’re going to receive salvation.

First, consider His blameless character. There was never a hint of immorality or an inkling of greed. No lie passed His lips nor did any abusive attitude darken His personality. He didn’t yield to anxiety or resort to exasperation. He was kind without being gullible, gentle without being weak, and wise without being smug.

None of us are like Him, but we can grow more like Him, and that’s what the Bible commands in Ephesians 4:13, to mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

It’s impossible to become like Christ… except for one secret resource—the Holy Spirit within us.

As you face the troubles of daily life and respond to its challenges, keep your eyes on Jesus and walk by faith. In the process, the Spirit will correct, mature, and make you more Christlike.

The Measure of His Conversations

As we study the teachings of Jesus in Scripture, we also learn to measure up to His conversational skills. He was just as comfortable talking to a leading rabbi as to an adulterous woman. When necessary, He could speak sharply. But there was never a wasted word, and the people were amazed for “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29).

We all know from experience how easily we can say something foolish. But the more we read the “red letters” in the Gospels and study the words of the Lord Jesus, the more we’ll emulate the patterns of His speech and measure up to the wisdom of His words.

The Measure of His Conduct

Christlikeness also involves conduct. I’m amazed at how Jesus moved through life with grace and with graciousness. I’ve read the story of His rejection in Nazareth many times, and I’ve been to where it happened—Mount Precipice in Nazareth, where the crowd sought to throw Him down a cliff. How did He escape? Luke 4:30 simply says, “Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

We’re left to wonder how that happened! It seems Jesus conducted Himself with such deportment that the crowd parted like the Red Sea and He went His way. Can we have that level of poise in our conduct? Maybe not, but the Bible does tell us: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Novelist Michael Phillips remembers the day he began praying a very personal prayer: “God, make me like Jesus.” That became a lifelong quest. He wrote, “I have been asking God to develop Christlikeness within me for thirty-five years. It is sometimes difficult to see much headway. But I continue to pray it…. It is a quiet prayer, a personal prayer, a humbling prayer, an invisible prayer.”1

It’s a prayer God answers day by day as our conduct increasingly reminds people of Jesus and we rise above the mediocre expectations of the world.

The Measure of His Compassion

Growing into the measure of Christ also involves compassion. Jesus had a heart for all the world, which He saw as fields white unto harvest. It’s easy to look at the masses in a warzone with compassion, but we should also have compassion for the network correspondent reporting the story on a cable station that doesn’t reflect our political views. Everyone needs compassion if they’re going to receive salvation.

This isn’t easy. Harvard Business Review reported a study that showed how the middle managers of many corporations are in an impossible situation—caught between performance demands from those above them and calls for compassion from those beneath them. The magazine used Justin as an example. The executives of his company needed better results to keep the enterprise viable, but when Justin looked at his team of workers, each had a problem. One had a teenage child struggling with addiction. Another was coping with a hospitalized parent. Another had just lost her lease, and several 

others had been dislocated by wildfires. Justin was between two pressures, but he had to take care of his people.2

Life isn’t easy to balance, but, all things considered, compassion always has a place. Matthew 9:36 says, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them.” Shortly afterward, Matthew again wrote, “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them” (14:14).

We never want to water down the demands of Christ, but ask yourself honestly: Am I being too hard on someone who desperately needs a little compassion right now?

Let’s measure ourselves by the personality of Christ.

The Measure of His Self-Control

Finally, think of the measure of Christ’s self-control. I don’t know all the reasons, but self-control is collapsing in our world today like the walls of Jericho. Whether it’s related to addiction, anger, violence, morality, or issues of health, we’re living in an age of unraveling disciplines.

Jesus had to put up with a lot, whether it was from His immature disciples, His abusive critics, or His deadly enemies. He even had trouble with His own siblings, who didn’t believe in Him at first. He was arrested and murdered for simply being who He was. He was tempted by the devil, provoked by His fellow countrymen, and challenged by the authorities.

He lost His freedom, His clothing, His well-being, and His life.

But He never lost His self-control. He proved the dictum of Proverbs: “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32, NIV).

So how do you measure up?

Oh, yes, I know it’s impossible to become like Christ… except for one secret resource—the Holy Spirit within us. His glorious inner working combines with our desires and determinations. And then God can make something out of us—someone out of us—the growing likeness of the Lord Jesus.

Let’s throw away our homemade yardsticks and reject our competitive attitudes. Don’t worry about the status of that other person. Be Christlike, not “you-like.” Jesus is the One to whom our lives should measure up. He is our Standard in all things. He is not mediocre, but marvelous!

Only as we grow in the stature of Christ can we rise above it all to serve Him with divine success and lifelong satisfaction.

Sources:

1Michael Phillips, Make Me Like Jesus (New York: Rosetta Books, 2017).

2Heidi K. Gardner and Mark Mortensen, “Managers Are Trapped in a Performance-Compassion Dilemma,” Harvard Business Review, April 7, 2022.

 

 

This Month's Magazine Resource

Moving Mountains 2023 Calendar

In our 2023 Calendar—Moving Mountains—we remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness and the power of faith with majestic mountain landscapes from all around the world. The monthly themes remind us of the power of faith and the strength the Lord gives us to move mountains! With a monthly Scripture and a Bible reading plan, you will be reminded of how powerful even the smallest acts of faith can be in the face of adversity and trials.

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