Thursday, January 23, 2014

Becoming Like Jesus

             Most Christians would readily admit that they would like to be more like Jesus. But they also discover that wishing doesn’t make it so. I recently read this amazing statement: “Hope is not a strategy!” In order to become more like Jesus you are going to have to couple your desire with a commitment to spiritual disciplines.

The most obvious beginning point is prayer. Jesus prayed – a lot! Although he is the very Son of God, he knew the value of prayer in spiritual formation and he kept in constant contact with his Father. Obviously we need this even more than Jesus did!

We need to be immersed in the word of God. Jesus was so familiar with God’s word that he could maneuver the Isaiah scroll to the exact spot he wanted in a time without chapter and verse notations! He used God’s word to answer temptations. He spoke with themes, ideas, and truths mined from Scripture. Recently the church family in Ukraine gave up TV and Internet each night at 6 PM and committed to an hour of Bible reading for a week. They learned it was both more difficult than they imagined and more rewarding than they would have guessed. Imagine how much more helpful the Gospel according to Matthew would be than another episode of your favorite TV show or an hour of surfing the internet. 

Both prayer and Bible reading/study are spiritual nutrition but there must also be exercise if we are to become healthy like Jesus. While there are many types of spiritual exercises the cream of the crop is certainly simple service to people around you. Jesus spoke of the value of just a cup of cold water. He also demonstrated the awesome power of washing someone’s feet. There are multiple opportunities all around you to serve someone in the name of Jesus. Learn to see then DO them! (The disconnect for most Christians is the lapse between intention and performance).

If you really want to become like Jesus – try doing what Jesus did. He will walk beside you in prayer, study and service! He desires nothing more than for you to follow him. These three simple practices can change your life and greatly increase your faith.

Creation, Re-Creation, Transformation

            With a gleam in his eye and a dream in his heart, God created. He spoke and it came to being. Every part of his creation ordered and functioning just as God imagined and wanted. And it was good. Then God created people – those creatures who imagined themselves to be creators! And God’s pronouncement was – “It is very good!”

            What a wonderful world, but only for a short while. Then disobedience entered our lives. We chose, not obedience but self rule and rebellion. We listened to lies about a better life and a short cut to be like God. We traded that perfect world for our current world. We chose poorly!

            But still God worked on his creation, seeking to restore it to his original vision. He called people to follow him, to turn from sin and trust their creator. Some did, most didn’t. We wondered far away from God’s creative vision and created a nightmare of sin, violence and destruction. But God still dreamed. He sent leaders, and prophets and teachers. There were great moments of success when people trusted God. There were also terrible moments of failure when those who once trusted stopped trusting and once again rebelled. The story of creation was filled with highs and lows, detours and false starts. But God was not finished.

            He sent his Son in the fullness of time. Jesus became flesh and lived as a creature rather than as the creator. He sacrificed himself as a sin offering. He lived out everything he preached – he fulfilled the dream of God for what a life of holiness could look like! Jesus loved everyone with the tenacious love of God. But that was not all…

            After Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of God, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all who believe. The prophets had promised it, the earliest disciples of Jesus lived it. They were utterly transformed. That group of men and women who were overwhelmed and fearful when Jesus died became an unstoppable team of witnesses to the salvation and blessing found in Jesus Christ. Re-creation became the hope of the world.

            And now the Holy Spirit works to transform all believers into the image of Jesus Christ. It is quite ironic that in our rebellion we were seeking “to become like God.” Sin will never make us like God; but the Holy Spirit will do it every chance he gets! Are you cooperating with God’s desire for your life?