If you believe in Christ, you have probably asked yourself: How can I become a better Christian? I have asked myself this question many times during my life. I am still seeking everyday how I can become a better servant. I don't claim to have all the answers and I welcome input from others because it is tough being Christlike every minute of the day. But remember, God isn't finished with any of us yet. I will share what has helped me and the simple answer is being Holy. The key to being Holy is cultivating and growing the third person of the Trinity that dwells within us--The Holy Spirit.
So how do I become more Holy you ask?
1) Go to Church - As Americans, we are all getting physically fed quite well, but are you getting spiritually fed? This is important so that you don't drift off into fallen world we live in as it is easy to do when we lose our focus in life. In our Give-Me-Now culture, don't expect to be spoonfed because serving God requires passion, patience and participation on our part.
Remember what Jesus said was the first and greatest commandment?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37)
Going to church is part of remembering the Sabbath day, loving God and keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8). And also remember...
- Matthew 6:21: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
"We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing." -- St. Clare of Assisi
2) Read the Bible - If you want to be a better Christian, we have a book--the Word of God-- the Holy Bible. It is a book of love. If you want to BE the book, you first have to read and then know the book well. As St. Jerome said "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." The Bible wasn't intended to gather dust on your shelf, it wasn't intended to be used solely in life's crises and it wasn't supposed to be a Do-It-Yourself manual (See Acts 8:30-31). You need all the help you can get and that is why #1 above is important.
3) Pray More - In our busy lives, we forget to pray. Prayer establishes a friendship with God. And if you really need to get in touch with your Holy Spirit during trying times, try praying the Rosary. The meditation on the Rosary beads will help connect you with your Holy Spirit and the Rosary is praying the Gospel. I was once skeptical about this from Protestant criticism of repetitious prayer but Christ himself prayed the same prayer three times (See: Matthew 26:39-44).
In Revelations 4:8, the Angels in heaven kept saying night and day "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
Which brings up another point about praying, prayer shouldn't always be about our own selfish requests. Pray for others and remember to thank God for the many ways He has blessed your life. And He has when you really take time to think about it.
And when do you know when you are praying enough?
"He prays best who does not know that he is praying." -- Saint Anthony of Padua
4) Be Humble - Humility is something that is generally lacking in American culture. Just turn on the TV and see how athletes carry on after they score. Pride, arrogance and greed are all opposites of humility and are sin. God gives grace and lifts up those who are humble.
- 1 Peter 5:5: ...All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
- James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
"Attribute to God every good that you have received. If you take credit for something that does not belong to you, you will be guilty of theft." -- St. Anthony of Padua
5) Fellowship with other Christians - It is important to have people around us that will help build us up. You are the company who you keep as the old saying goes. If you are a Christian, you need a circle of friends who are trying to follow the Lord. Otherwise, you may be prone to stumble due to improper influences in the world we live in.
- 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
6) Fill the portals of your soul with Holy things. When you travel, be sure to visit Holy places. I make a point of visiting the most beautiful church wherever I travel. You can also see God in the wilderness. Listen to Christian music (some of my favorites are listed on the Music section of this blog) and watch and read spiritually-based book, movies or documentaries. I recommend new movies like Fireproof, classics like Lilies of the Field, Steve Ray's Footprints of God series documentaries or any of Father John Corapi's talks, especially his series titled Immortal Combat. Which leads me to my next point...
7) Learn the lives of the Saints - We spend a lot of time watching garbage on television and at the movie theatres. Some of us read books on politicians, celebrities and the Bill Gates of the world. They may be interesting stories but why are you really reading them? Do you fantasize about becoming rich, powerful or famous? None of these are important to God. As Father Corapi says, "The only real failure in life is the failure to reach heaven at the end of it."
If you want to become a better Christian, try reading or watching movies about the lives of Saints--even if you are Protestant. The Saints are filled with great wisdom and character. Christ gave us an example to follow on earth but reading about mortal people who sacrificed their lives for the Lord can help us and give us hope.
- Proverbs 24:14: Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.
8) Make your home a Domestic Church - The early Christians had to practice their faith underground due to fears of persecution. Many practiced their faith in their homes. So treat your home as a Domestic Church. Start off small if you need to, dedicate a room or two as a pure place free from swear words, arguments and other sin. Fill it with crosses, religious pictures/articles to serve as reminders. Dedicate other rooms over time until your whole house is incorporated.
9) Love Thy Neighbor - I put this last, not because it is the least, because it needs to make a lasting impression. Jesus said Loving Thy Neighbor was the second greatest commandment and like the first (Loving God Matthew 22:37):
- Matthew 22:39: And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
"What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul." -- St. Basil the Great
St. Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of Mother Theresa, was a Carmelite nun who knew that is was impossible for her to perform heroic acts or great deeds. So she approached life, as she called it, in her "little way" by being committed with love to the tasks and people she met in her everyday life. And having the humbleness and simplicity of a little child, who is trusting and expects all things from its father.
God is Holy (Psalm 99:9) and The Holy Spirit is a gift of God's love (Romans 5:5). In the grand scheme of things, as Christians, we should approach life like that of the Honey Bee. The Honey Bee goes from flower to flower collecting nectar, all the while pollen collects on its body and cross-pollinates other flowers, plants and trees. The end result is beautification of the world. The Honey Bee cross-pollinates cotton used to make clothes, many sweet fruits and vegetables. Of course, the end product of the nectar the Honey Bee collects is sweet.
And in Loving Thy Neighbor, remember this with those who are close to you:
“A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” -St. Francis de Sales
God is patient with us, so be patient with Thy Neighbor.
"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving." - St. Francis de Sales
See with your heart, not your eyes, and may your words be sweeter than honey.
© Michael J. Cox