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Do You Want to Be a Wonderful Christian or Do You Want Christ?

Do I want to be a wonderful Christian woman? Or do I want Christ Himself? Is there a difference between these two?

I’m 35 years old, an age that is, in many ways, still quite young. During my years in Christ, though I’ve known much grace, there’s still so, so much about who I am that I long to see changed and remade into something far better.

When I picture the woman I want to be in two, three, four decades (should I live that long), what I hope for is something wonderful—the kind of spiritual wonderful that only years of His refining hands could bring.

I can see my future, refined self, and she’s a beautiful, godly Christian. She’s holy, humble, patient, gentle, disciplined, grace-filled, passionate about Jesus, radically generous, boldly preaching the Gospel and overflowing with compassion for others. She’s a wonderful Christian, and her life is the kind of living sacrifice that points to God’s refining work.

Certainly there are ways now, even this very day, that I see both the beginnings of such fruit in my life and genuine loyalty to Jesus. Yet at the same time, I also see much lingering loyalty to sin. There are ways I’ve been made new, and yet still much that stubbornly resembles the ugly, old self.

This future me—this wonderful, faithful, radical Christian—is someone I’ve met in both the pages of scripture and in real life, too. Christian examples like this exist all around us both in history and today, and I so badly want to grow into a person who breathes grace.

My heart longs for this kind of life and faith and maturity.

Here’s the question, though: Do I want to be a wonderful Christian, or do I want Christ?

Does my soul long to be a better Christian, or does my soul long for the living God?

Do I simply want to grow in Christlike character, or do I want deeper intimacy with the Person of Christ.

Because those two longings aren’t exactly the same.

Recently I’ve detected that, at times, it almost seems as if the longing of my heart is for a better me, instead of more of Him.

When the heart’s motive is pure, it’s right and good to want to grow and to be remade into a person more holy. It’s a good desire to want to throw aside dirty, sin-stained garments and instead be clothed in the beautiful garments of Christ’s righteousness. But does this kind of beauty come through desiring to be a more beautiful Christian, or through more clearly beholding Christ’s beauty?

Is this a trivial or false distinction, I wonder? Desiring to grow in grace is surely an evidence of God’s Spirit at work within. It’s a good thing to want to become a better Christian. But as we walk through this life of faith, are our hearts too often preoccupied with our own sanctification and not preoccupied enough with the glorified Person of Jesus.

In our desire to be free of the sin which so easily ensnares, do we sometimes focus too much on freedom from sin and not enough on the Author of our faith?

Because sanctification happens not primarily through desiring to be sanctified but rather through desiring Jesus.

Scripture is full of Spirit-inspired saints—like King David and so many others—pleading with God to change them and remake them into His image. Longing for purer, better hearts is biblical. Yet sometimes there’s a subtle but distinct imbalance of desire that should prompt us to ask: Do we ultimately want to be wonderful Christians, or do we want more of Christ Himself?