It seems like the desire to be more like Jesus has been all but lost in western Christianity. With most Christians embracing an “anything goes” mindset, it’s no wonder that their lives look mostly like their worldly counterparts.
But Jesus told us that as followers of him, we should stand out, or, in other words, we should conduct ourselves in the same ways he did.
So, the question is, “What did Jesus really do, and how do I emulate that?”
While often missed, the answer is quite simple, and that is Jesus’ whole purpose in life, and his entire ministry revolved around representing God as he truly was.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had developed many false ideas about God, which led to severe problems in their society. When Jesus spoke, he exposed these faulty opinions and urged people to see God as he really was.
From man’s perspective Jesus depicted and demonstrated the nature of God in what seemed to most as very unusual and unorthodox ways.
Basically, to people who had no real understanding of God, Jesus always did the unexpected.
Jesus forgave a woman who was caught in adultery, and exposed her accusers of being equally guilty before God.
Jesus healed people as an act of service on days of the week people were commanded not to work.
Jesus cursed a tree from its root causing it to die.
Jesus rebuked his disciples for wanting to rain down fire on a village which refused to accept him.
Jesus forgave the people who crucified him.
These seemingly contrary and disparate activities can leave most people wondering, “What was Jesus trying to say about God through that?”
The answers can be hard to find, but we know that Jesus’s life, actions, words and ministry were always for the purpose of showing mankind something about God and his kingdom that we had previously missed.
So, how do we as Christians model the same activities of Jesus? Do we simply ask, “What would Jesus do?” and try to emulate that?
While asking “What would Jesus do?” is a catchy mantra and a good tool for children to use when learning how to relate to God for the first time, mature Christians don’t wonder what Jesus would do in any given situation. They know what Jesus would do, because they understand his heart.
Therefore, the answer to becoming more like Jesus is not just in doing the things that Jesus did, (which is what most Christians have been taught.) The answer to becoming more like Jesus starts with knowing Jesus’ heart.
For example, if I’m at a restaurant with my husband, and he steps away when the server comes to take our drink order, I don’t say, “I’ll have a water, but I have no idea what my husband wants.” No. I order what my husband wants, because I know him – I know his desires, I know his wants, I know his preferences. I never need to ask my husband if he wants me to make him eggplant Parmesan for dinner, or steak on the grill. I know him enough to know his personality, his preferences, his hopes and his dreams.
This is the kind of relationship Jesus had with the Father, and the kind of relationship we are to have with Jesus. It’s why Jesus said, “I do only what the Father is doing,” (John 5:19) and “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30).
Jesus did the things of God, because his heart was one with God. This is the key to becoming more like Jesus.
So, do you have Jesus’ heart? Do you care about the things that were important to Jesus? If your answer is, “Yes, I care for the poor and the marginalized!” Unfortunately, you may have just exposed that you don’t fully know Jesus’ heart.
Yes, it’s true Jesus helped the poor and those who were not accepted by mainstream society, but it was for the purpose of exposing a greater spiritual truth – that is, “There is no life (not here, nor in the hereafter) apart from God, and I am the only way to get there.”
We can’t simply look at one activity Jesus participated in and assume that sums up his entire life. We must logically ask questions regarding his other activities, like, “Why did he curse the fig tree?” “Why did he call the Pharisees names?” “Why did he turn water into wine?” “Why did he wait three days before he raised his friend from the dead?”
You see, Jesus’ ministry embodied so much more than being nice for the sake of being nice. And if we want to become more like Jesus, we must move beyond the false notion that just by being nice, we are exemplifying the fullness of Jesus’ heart in ministry. Jesus ministry was about reflecting God, by saving us. And there were many, many other activities that Jesus did, which contradict the notion that the sum of Jesus’ life was just about being nice.
Since we know we are called to be like Jesus, are we to neglect those activities that Jesus did which were confusing, or more miraculous in nature, exempting ourselves from our responsibility to do Jesus’ work with excuses like, “Well, Jesus performed those miracles because he was God,” or “Some things Jesus did we just can’t expect to understand. After all his ways are higher than our ways.”
The sad news for most Christians is that there is not one aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry that Christians are exempt from living as an expression of God to this world. In fact, Jesus said that we would do even greater things than he did (John 14:12).
To narrow down Jesus’ testimony to simply a story that emphasized the importance of being nice and helping poor people, is to devalue and discredit the other 99% of his ministry, and the primary purpose of that ministry, which was to boldly proclaim, “This is what God is really like. And if you want to be with him, you must go through me.”
Jesus had one goal, one purpose, one mandate and that was to insert himself into this world and create opportunities for people to see God from a different point of view. Once people’s hearts were opened to the idea that perhaps the God they had been exposed to, was not really the God they were coming to know through Jesus, Jesus unequivocally told them, that the only way to get more of what their hearts were yearning for was by accepting Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6)
Becoming more like Jesus starts with understanding God’s true nature, and getting to know him at a heart level. Then, if we truly want to see Jesus’s ministry come to light through us, we must challenge ourselves to move beyond the simple mantras, and participate in the profound and miraculous ways Jesus demonstrated God to this world.