Do You Really Want To Be Like Jesus?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

are you sure

As I was going about my day recently, I had an old song stuck in my head. The words say, "To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all I ask is to be like him. All through life's journey, from earth to glory, all I ask is to be like him." It has been probably 20 years since I have heard that song so I am not sure how it managed to surface in my mind. As this song resonated in my mind that day I was suddenly struck by this thought - do we really know what we are asking for when we say something like that? The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that we most likely do not fully understand the magnitude of such a prayer.

1 Peter 2:21-24 says, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” I will be honest and say that when I declare I want to be like Jesus I am thinking of performing miracles like he did, casting out demons, teaching the multitudes, and the glamorous parts of his earthly ministry. To tell the truth, the furthest thing from my mind is being persecuted, insulted, abused and crucified. I think the true nature of Christ is discovered not in the display of power and authority, but in how we handle suffering and persecution. When we are being insulted we tend to retaliate. When we are suffering as a result of others actions towards us we tend to make threats. We tend to react rather than entrust ourselves to the Father. To put it bluntly, we simply can not claim to be like Jesus until we respond like he did in the midst of difficult and painful circumstances.

So how do we become like Jesus? In these verses, Peter gives us three qualities Jesus exemplified that if we strive to exemplify in our own lives, will make us more like him. The key is to respond to our circumstances the same way Jesus responded when he was being crucified.

The first Christ-like attitude is do not try to defend yourself.
Verse 2:22 tells us that when Jesus was being crucified, no deceit was found in his mouth. Jesus resisted the temptation to prove his innocence or defend himself. When you are being persecuted for your faith human reasoning will not help you. For people to persecute someone simply because of what they believe requires that they abandon all basic, simple human reasoning. Persecutors are not reasonable so trying to reason with them only fuels their need to persecute you. Jesus also knew that his Father could take care of any defending.

The second Christ-like attitude is do not retaliate.
Verse 2:23 said that when the soldiers and the crowds were hurling insults at him as he was dying, Jesus did not retaliate. He had every right to, but he chose not to. We may not face death for our faith but we certainly will face ridicule and persecution and it is crucial that we resist the temptation to retaliate. Retaliation is the act of passing judgment upon the other person and that is God's job.

The third Christ-like attitude is let God take care of those who mistreat you.
Verse 2:23 says, "Jesus entrusted himself to him who judges justly." We cannot be trusted to judge justly. When we are mistreated, left to ourselves we would call down fire from heaven to instantly consume our offenders. It is basic human nature to want vengeance but we cannot forget what Romans 12:19 says: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” As I pointed out in the previous chapter, God always seeks reconciliation, not justice. We always seek judgment and avoid reconciliation. We want our offenders to suffer and pay for what they have done to us. We have to admit that if God left it up to us, the moment someone merely looked at us wrong, we would incinerate them. We are not able to see past the offense and see the person behind the offense. God always sees our offender as a person who Jesus died for and he wants them to experience forgiveness. If Jesus had retaliated, justice may have been served that day, but salvation would have not been provided and we would be lost.

According to our human reasoning, it would appear that the outcome of these three principles would be that we lose and they win. It would seem that this attitude only gives the world permission to walk all over us and we might as well put a sign on our backs that says, "Persecute me!" However, these three principles always lead to a win-win. We win in the end because God is glorified through us and they win because our actions build a bridge of grace. What appeared as a loss when Jesus suffered and died on a cross was actually the biggest win in the history of the universe. It also resulted in the biggest win for all of mankind because it meant that man was no longer separated from God. How we respond in the face of suffering, great or small, has tremendous implications for eternity for those around us. Either we push them away from God's grace or we lead them right to it.

When a friend of mine was a missionary in a Muslim country, it was discovered that a young man that had joined his group and had been faithfully serving was actually a member of al-Qaeda and was planted there to blow himself up during one of their meetings to kill as many members of this missionary outreach as possible. As this young man spent time infiltrating my friend's group, his heart was greatly impacted by the lives of those he was sent to kill. On the night before he was supposed to carry out the bombing, he simply could not go through with it and confessed to his evil plan. He was certain that they would either turn him over to the authorities or worse, kill him on the spot, but they didn't. In the midst of their shock, they reached out to this young man and offered forgiveness and as a result, he surrendered his life to Jesus that day. Not only did they forgive him, they helped him sneak out of the country to escape what would be certain death for betraying al-Qaeda. Because my friend and his group had the same attitude that Christ had on the cross, not only did it save their own lives, it resulted in the salvation of a cold-blooded murderer. That is what is at stake for us in how we deal with suffering. It could literally mean the difference between life and death, even heaven and hell for someone.

This is what it really means to be like Jesus. It isn't glamorous and at times can be risky, but that is the life we are called to. We are called to lay our lives down for others as Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. We are not called to become like Jesus for our own sake, but for the sake of those who don't know him.

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