Monday, February 2, 2015

Like Him

                When I was a young Christian, just starting out on this journey with Jesus, I remember a pastor that I used to listen to teach about what the life of a believer should look like. He taught on how we are to be living epistles being lived out before the world around us. This was also the first time I heard the sayings, “we may be the only Bibles people ever read” and “we may be the only
Jesus people ever see”. This past weekend made me come to the realization that I wasn’t exactly living out an epistle that people should be reading, and the same selfish behavior that I was complaining about in someone else was also in me. Once again, a reminder that when we find fault in someone else all we are really doing is bringing that same fault to light in our own lives. They may have a spot, but we are the one with the beam. If I am the only Jesus people may ever see then what kind of Jesus am I showing them? This is a question that came like an arrow into my heart the other morning as I was working out and listening to the gospel of John on my headphones.
                “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example; that you should do as I have done to you.’” John 13:12-15
                He has given me an example that I should do as He has done. This hit me like an arrow into the heart because lately, if you were to read my life epistle it would be all about me. It would reflect me, it would talk about me, and it would look less like Jesus and more like me. The more I spend time in God’s Word, and the more I learn about Jesus, His Word, His Life, His love, the more I see my need to repent. I need obedience in my life, daily obedience. Not just obedience for the tough stuff, but for the day to day stuff. If I say I live for Jesus, then my life should speak that all the time, not just some of the time. I have people tell me they are Christians, and some of these people are even pastors and teachers, however, when you spend time with them and get to know them, their lives look more like the world than they do Christ. The things that they say, the things that they talk about just throw up warning and flags and make you wonder if they know who Jesus is at all. Jesus has clearly told us in His words to the disciples that we must follow His example and do as He has done. If we are not always following that, then what are we following?
                So what exactly should our lives as Christians look like then? If we say we are His and we follow Him, what should people be seeing and hearing from us? Well, let’s start with what the word “example” means. It means to show, to be an example meant for imitation. Paul stated this for us when he wrote, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) So, if we are living our lives for Jesus then our lives will look like His. The greatest picture of Jesus that I have ever read is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul writes to us about what love truly looks like and as far as I can tell, Jesus was the perfect example of love lived out before us. Jesus suffered long, and was kind. He did not envy, nor did He parade Himself around town, bragging or giving praise to Himself. He did not behave rude towards others. He did not seek His own desires, only those of the Father’s. He was not provoked into anger, or into evil thinking. He did not rejoice in our sins, because of the price that He had to pay for them. He rejoiced in the truth of the Father as it was being lived out in Him and through Him. Jesus bore all things for us, He believed all things for us, and He hoped in all the promises of God for us. He endured all things for our sakes. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Does your life resemble that?
              Jesus gave us an example to follow. In John 13 when Jesus tells us to follow His example, He was not referring to the washing of other’s feet. If He was then there would be some other reference to it in the book of Acts or the epistles, but as far as I can tell, the disciples did not keep this ritual going. If they had, I am sure someone would have mentioned it. No, the example that Jesus gave us was not just the washing of their feet, but the example of His whole life. The way He walked upon the earth up until that point in His life, and also the path that He was about to take to Calvary. Peter was the first one to speak up to Jesus and tell Him not to wash his feet, (John 13:6) but I believe Peter finally understood the depth of what Jesus was talking about when He told the disciples that this was just an example and they were to follow it. Peter refers to the example of Jesus’ life in his epistle. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21) Peter may not have understood at first what Jesus was doing, but he did finally get it. Do we get it?
                John also was present when Jesus gave this example, and he too refers to it in one of his writings. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6) Our lives should look like Jesus’ life.  They should resemble and be an example for others to follow. Does your life resemble Christ’s life? John tells us that if we say we “abide in Him” then our lives ought to show that by the way we walk upon this earth. Telling me you are a Christian today means nothing to me if your life does not resemble His. Jesus tells us in John 15 that if we “abide in Him” we will bear much fruit. (John 15:5) What kind of fruit should our lives be producing then?  I mean if we say we are in Him, and we follow Him then the same fruit He produced should be producing in us too, right? We are the branches and He is the vine so if He produced fruit we should be producing that same fruit also. So what is this fruit we should be producing?
                “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23a
                If we are in Him and we are following Him and we are “abiding” in Him then our lives will resemble His and the fruit that people will read and see in us will look just like His did. We will be loving, not jealous or hateful, or selfish. We will seek to be servants of others, not seeking to be served. We will be genuine. One thing I have learned over the years is just because someone tells me they love me and are my “friend” does not mean that is the truth. If we are His and we are following His example then our lives will look like His, it will sound like His and will be sincere like His. One thing that the Lord has shown me and is showing me is that anytime these things (the list following) pop up into my life, my thoughts, and my heart, then I am in my own flesh and the example I am following is not His example but the example of sin. (The list: adultery and fornication {not just the actual act, but the thoughts, desires and lusts that are derived from them in my heart} uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like: {Galatians 5:19-21a})

                If any of these behaviors, whether spoken or thought or found to be in my heart are made manifest then I am no longer following Jesus but I have now chosen to follow sin. Jesus lived a life before us so that we would know how God wanted us to walk. He does not desire us to walk in the ways of the world, but to follow Him in obedience, no matter how much that obedience hurts. But, you say, Jesus was God in the flesh, He was able to walk a perfect life before us. Yes, that is true, but I also think we forget that the same Holy Spirit that was in Jesus, working in Him and through Him to walk out the will of God on the earth is the same Holy Spirit that is in us, if we are truly His. The
same Spirit that kept Jesus from sinning is the same Spirit that is in you. We are without excuse before God our Father, my brothers and sisters; we are without excuse because He has taken them all away. (John 15:22) If we do not choose to follow the example that Jesus has given us to follow, then we are going to be very disappointed, and we may just be those ones who are weeping and gnashing our teeth on that great and fearful day. Don’t be so confident in yourself that you miss the truth of His Word today. Don’t miss the mark because you want to fit God into your box, when God wants to mold you into His.  Jesus tells us to follow Him, not our flesh, not our desires, but to follow Him. Does your life resemble Christ’s or does it resemble someone else’s? May we all see the truth of His Word today and may we begin to live our lives like He did, in obedience to God’s Word, and God’s will- not our own. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.