The pattern we typically set for people who wish to be more like Christ is this:
Start from the inside out.
It’s not unreasonable. Jesus says roughly that to the Pharisees:
Matthew 23:25-26 ESV “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (26) You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
And I think the advice in generally sound. But, sometimes people’s desire to be like Jesus is evidence that the Holy Spirit is already working on the inside and they need something to do to actualize the potential God is putting there.
First, a passage from Proverbs:
Proverbs 24:30-31 ESV I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, (31) and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.
What the passage is getting at is that the sluggard won’t even care for his own property. And the problem with the sluggard is a spiritual problem. But it would seem that taking care of the outside, the literal outside of his house (his field), might help his inside. And Proverbs does mention something like that:
Proverbs 24:27 ESV Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.
The meaning is very practical, but it may have a spiritual application as well.
If so, for some Christians, especially young men and women, maybe the first steps in discipleship might really be things like:
- Clean your apartment.
- Clean out your car.
- Change your oil.
- Get out of debt.
- Get to work/class on time.
- Groom yourself.
One somebody turns their life into something resembling order, it might be easier to help them overcome something like despair, arrogance, porn, or anxiety.