(Matthew 16:24) – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
We are studying five primary goals of the Christian life, taking each goal in three steps of natural progression: knowledge (head), conviction (heart), and action (hands). All five goals are:
- Living Like Christ
- Proclaiming Christ
- Serving Like Christ
- Worshipping Christ
- Fellowship in Christ
Today we begin with the goal of “living like Christ”. In order to live like Christ, we must first begin with the knowledge required to understand and act.
As we consider five basics of Christian living, there can be no more obvious or appropriate goal than simply “living like Christ”, or put other ways: becoming like Christ, being transformed into the image of Christ, getting to know Christ better, imitating Christ and the popular but mostly ignored “what would Jesus do?”
One of my favorite verses, one that I’ve written lessons about, composed poems, and given as advice countless times is:
1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)
It is a simple and definitive explanation of how to live like Christ. Imitate Him. Imitate others that are imitating Him. Learn about Him and know Him directly, and imitate what you learn. Befriend, fellowship with and surround yourself with others who are living like Christ, and imitate them.
It is not only our goal to be imitators of Christ, but to become a person that OTHERS can imitate. I often find it sobering (as do those I ask the question of) when I think about my children, co-workers, friends and family who my be influenced by me and as a result, imitate my behavior, attitudes or beliefs in some way.
Will the imitation be something I’m proud of, or embarrassed about? What kind of imitation is it? Is it Christ-like? Or is it impatient, worldly or selfish? We are called not only to live “Christ-like” individually and privately, but be someone that others around us can imitate, whether we realize they are or not. It’s not adequate to say: “I don’t want anyone imitating me yet… I’m not living like I should… but I will some day.” That would be a nice option, but it’s not the way it works. Those you influence and set an example for will imitate you whether you like it or not, whether you want them to or not. So for good, or bad, you will imitate, and you will be imitated. It’s the perpetual cycle of living “Christ-like” as Believers. It is in fact the cycle of all humanity, Christian or not.
Now, is imitating others the only, or primary way of living a Christ-like life? I’m not sure if I can answer the “primary” question because people’s lives and circumstances are far to complex and varied. I can say that generally speaking it is a process of gaining knowledge via God’s Word, and seeing it lived out by others (imitation of mature, disciplined brethren).
The Bible gives us assurance that we have all the knowledge and instruction necessary to live a Christ-like life. Consider the following:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NKJV)
Of first note is the word “ALL”. All Scripture, not just the parables, principles or doctrinal instruction. This also includes Genesis, miracles and teaching on marriage, salvation and sin. We can be assured that we will have the knowledge needed to live a Christ-like life. Look at the comprehensiveness of the list: doctrine (beliefs put into action), reproof (to confront and rebuke), correction (instruction, direction, advice), instruction in righteousness…. all enough to make us “complete” in God’s eyes and ready for every good work He leads us to.
Read Psalm 119. Take note of how exhaustive it is declaring God’s Word to be our commands, our laws, our instruction, our statutes, our teacher. This Psalm alone leaves no doubt that God has given us in written form everything necessary to gain the knowledge of how to live a Godly life.
And now my favorite verse:
2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (NKJV)
I frequently return to the this verse as we live in an age where many people consider the Bible as only PART of what we need (and often the lesser, simplistic part). Countless “professionals” and entire segments of our population also believe that knowledge such as pop pyschology, self-help, positive thinking, mood altering drugs and endless fads are needed to “complete” our wholeness as both humans AND Christians.
To which I say NONSENSE. Either the Bible is true, all of it, or it cannot be trusted. Scripture is abundantly clear that GOD, through Scripture, has revealed to us ALL things which pertain to “life and godliness”. What does that leave out? Which emotions, which attitude, which principles, which disciplines are left wanting in the phrase “all things that pertain to life and godliness”?
Everytime I hit this issue I get harangued and villified by the “mental health professionals”, both secular and Christian. So I will state my position on this yet again: to the degree that “mental health”, Christian psychology and counseling reveal, enhance and parallel Godly, Biblical principles that spring from a Godly worldview of mankind… then it is to that degree that “professional mental health” is productive and helpful. To the degree they depend on and are espoused from the foundation of humanist concept, they are destructive and counter-productive.
The difference is the foundation. Biblical counseling is based in the fact that man is inherently sinful, dependent on God and is a slave to sin until freed from it through salvation in Christ. Humanist pop pyschology believes that man is inherently good, that he only does “bad” due to environment, chemical imbalance, and genetics. “Sin” is typically a “sickness” outside of man (ie, addiction, alcoholism, etc) and the most common solution is pharmaceutical or endless “therapy” (talking about and continually examing). Humanist counseling has people living perpetually with their problems (“hi, my name is John, I’m a drug addict”) which is understandable because the entire industry depends on people staying stuck in, and dependent on the help of “mental professionals”. In contrast, Christianity has a person repenting of sin, receiving forgiveness, putting the past behind and moving forward in victory through Christ.
Note: I’m speaking here of the typical garden variety emotional difficulties and struggles with sinful behavior and habits. It is usually at this point that I get all the extreme examples of behavior and sickness thrown at me as “proof” that the Bible can’t deal with the person down on all fours barking at passing cars, or the crazy insane, or the burned out drug addict. There are indeed difficult cases that need “professional” help but again, it should come from someone medically and professionally trained with a correct worldview and TRUTH of man’s sinful state and predisposition to wickedness. Even the very “mentally sick” have need of God’s love, care and salvation. Their “sickness” is temporary and eternity awaits them as well.
I know people get weary of me getting on this particular soapbox rather frequently, but it is a REAL problem with Christians today and there aren’t near enough teachers and leaders speaking frankly about it because it invites a LOT of retribution from a very large industry and interest group who stand to lose a lot if people aren’t dependent on them. I’m not a Pastor; I don’t have a large organization or support base and I’m not positioned to have my “livelihood” threatened by attacks against me about this. So admittedly, it’s easier for me to be blunt on the topic. It also means that I don’t have a lot of credibility in the eyes of many people and I often get responses that fall into the category of “who the heck to you think you are? Who should be trusted? YOU??? Or professional, educated doctors and counselors???” That’s a question each person has to decide for themselves. I probably would have a hard time trusting me too… I’m basically nobody, and don’t pretend otherwise.
To summarize, the reason I “harp” on this is because Christians need to be sure that God has given us ALL we need to live the life He wants us to live. We can rest confidently knowing that God’s Word and prayer are more than adequate to deal with any thing this life throws at us emotionally, spiritually and behaviorally speaking.
2 Peter 1:16; 20-21 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty… (21) knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)
We are talking about gaining the knowledge needed to live Christ-like. Notice here that it is not “blind faith” or the following of fairy tales. We trust in the Reaveled Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by men as they were supernaturally inspired. We can trust the “knowledge” we get from Scripture and through our Spirit-led conscious. God has provided EVERYTHING we need to know to live a pleasing, contented, fruitful Christian life. This was true for Christians 2000 years ago, 200 years ago, and today. God didn’t leave out a big chunk that would be discovered in the 20th century by men who don’t even believe in Him to start with (Jung, Freud, etc).
The first step and primary goal of the Christian life is to live like Christ. Imitate Him. God has given us all the knowledge we need to do this. Tomorrow, we will continue by looking at how to take the knowledge (head) of Christ-like living and make it our conviction (heart).
Lord God, help us to love and seek the knowledge of living like your Beloved Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?