Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.Luke 6:40 NLT
In a poll of random acquaintances, I asked the question, “When you hear the term manhood, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I tallied the responses in the hope of identifying characteristics of manhood that are written in hearts, not what has been taught us in school or portrayed by the media. (See Man Alive: What is Manhood?) Response number 1 was “responsible. The second most frequent response was some variation of the term, “Christlike.”
The first task in discussing how to be Christlike is to define the term. For most of us, the idea is quite subjective. The picture one has of Jesus can vary greatly depending on religious background and Bible knowledge. I determined I would only look at aspects of character that can be clearly seen in the gospel accounts. Second, they had to be concepts that have been attributed to Jesus in secondary sources, either Christian or secular, things that are not so obscure and theological as to be unlikely to be in the common mind.
It’s important to note that Jesus walked the earth as a man. He lived in a place and time very different from our own. We want to reflect His nature, the character He demonstrated in facing difficulties, dealing with people, and following the will of the Father. Those things translate into any culture and any time. Let’s take a look:
- Christlike Characteristic #1: Loving with a peculiar kind of love.
In any discussion of Christlike character, love must be at the top of the list. We know that He loved with a perfect love. The train of logic is unmistakable. God is love (1 John 4:8), Jesus is the perfect image of the father in human form (John 14:9), Jesus held Himself out to His disciples as the pattern to follow in love (John 13:34-35)
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus defined a new kind of love for humankind. This is a love that is unique and all-encompassing. In giving His disciples their marching orders, Jesus commanded them to, “love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)” He said this after the Passover dinner the night before His crucifixion. He knew what was about to happen, and He took the occasion to humbly wash the feet of the disciples.
The love that we are to emulate as men of God is simple: We follow His example of being willing to lay aside our pride and serve another. In this case, He washed the feet of men who would, the very next morning, deny that they ever knew him. He washed the feet of the man whom He knew was about to betray him for a few dollars, and who had been stealing money from the funds of the ministry. This love is humble. This love seeks to serve others. This love forgives the most egregious wrongs.
Another striking aspect of the love Jesus showed was His remarkable proclivity to reach past social and religious convention to love the unlovely and insignificant. He reached out to touch lepers, He let little children “bother” him, He dined with tax-collectors and people of questionable character. His love was not based on human values, but on the value He placed on humans.
We use the word, “love” to describe all manner of things. I love my coffee in the morning. When someone tells me they are “In love,” I know what they mean. People love kids and baseball and sushi and puppies. None of these things comes close to the kind of love Jesus embodied. This agape kind of love is reflected in the God-given capacity to move beyond self-interest and see others as valuable and precious even when they are behaving badly, when they have no visible value to me or my mission, and even when they have purposely and viciously done things to hurt me. That’s Christlike.
- in your circle of acquaintance that you would consider Christlike in their love for others? What do they do or say that makes you think of them in that way? Philippians 3:17
- Of the characteristics you listed in #1, which one are you willing to try to emulate? Hebrews 13:7
- Is there a particular kind of person that you try to avoid? Maybe it’s a racial or sexual or cultural issue, or perhaps they have a disability or social status that makes you uncomfortable. Take a good prayerful look at what it is in your thinking that drives you away. 1 Corinthians 10:32-33
- Take time to find someone in the class of folks you usually try to avoid. Introduce yourself. Find some simple way to be kind to them. If they are willing to talk, take a few minutes to let them tell their story. Matthew 11:28-30
- Listen to your own conversation. When you hear yourself talking negatively about someone for what they have done to you or to those you care about, write down their name. For the next week, pray for God to bless and help those on your list. Matthew 5:45-48
- Along with your prayers for others, pray these things for yourself by putting your name where you see the word, “love.”
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG
- Christlike Characteristic #2: Mind on the Mission
Jesus was a man on a mission. He had instructions from the Father God and He was determined to carry them out. Once, early in his ministry, He had a large crowd looking for Him to come preach and minister to them, but instead He went on to the next town because the mission called Him forward (Mark 1:35-39). His own earthly family tried to dissuade him from continuing His mission, but He pressed on. (John 7:1-10) How did He manage to do keep his focus?
As a young man, He steeped himself in the scriptures. He knew exactly what had to be done in order to fulfill the prophecies about Him. He knew who He was and what the Scripture said He was here to do. He continued to attend synagogue as an adult, taking part in the services and teaching. In addition to the written Word, He knew the voice of the Father. He repeatedly told the religious leaders that He only spoke what the Father told him and only did what the Father showed him. He always put the will of God first. Remember the Garden of Gethsemane when He faced crucifixion? He expressed it so well,” Not my will but they will be done.”
As followers of Jesus, we have a purpose and a mission. The Bible tells us several things that are part of the calling of every believer. We are each admonished to study the Word of God, to pray, to work and care for our families, and to serve and support our local churches. Those things are bare minimum. In addition, each of us has a particular gifting or ability given by God. These abilities are our tools to fulfill the calling, the job, He has given us here on earth. In order to do that, we also need to learn to be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit on the inside, to let Him lead us into our personal and specific assignment. He guides us into circumstances where we can be blessing.
The challenge for every one of us is to recognize and overcome the hindrances that divert us from our mission. There is a devil, and he hates to see us live in obedience. The culture around us pushes in the opposite direction most of the time, and our own self-indulgence seeks constantly to drag us off track. My experience tells me that I require frequent Gethsemane moments to remind myself of what I’m here for. The “not my will but they will be done” prayer is to be used when I know the will of God but just don’t want to do it. It is a frequent stop for those who want to follow fully.
- How is your devotional life? What are you doing to learn what the Scripture says about you? Matthew 4:4
- What do you pray about every day? What issues are you praying about in this current season? If you can’t answer those questions, maybe your prayer life could use an overhaul. Matthew 6:5-7
- What do you believe is your responsibility in caring for your family? How about your actions and attitudes on the job? Where do you get those ideas? What does the Bible say about them? Ephesians 5:25-6:9
- Are you an active part of a local church? Do you attend but keep your distance? Jesus attended. It was his custom. He participated, and so must you. Luke 4:16
- What is your mission in life? Write it down and say it out loud. “I am here on earth in order to…’ Ephesians 4:16
- What was the last thing you know God spoke to you? How do you know it was God? What do you do to make yourself more mindful of His voice? Romans 8:14-16
- Reviewing the questions above, where do you need to make adjustments in order to be in obedience to the will of the Father? What’s holding you back? What one step will you take this week to move in the direction of obedience?
- Christlike Characteristic #3: Candid and resolute
Though meek and mild toward the humble, the sick, and the lost, Jesus had another side that we often downplay. He was strikingly direct, even caustic, in his condemnation of religious pretense and hypocrisy. He used terms like “brood of vipers” and “fools and blind” to describe religious leaders of the day. On one occasion He turned over the tables of the religious hucksters in the temple. (John 2:13-17) He was angry when religious tradition tried to forbid the healing of a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-6).
Jesus was bold in condemning anything that prevented people from receiving what God wanted for them. He took umbrage with any attitude or practice that used people’s hunger for God for the personal enrichment of the clerical class. His anger was never about Himself but was reserved for those who placed religious barriers between people and their God.
His outspoken condemnation of hypocrisy, combined with religious envy of the passionate following He attracted, brought great persecution. In the face of that persecution Jesus never wavered, nor did He take advantage of His heavenly privilege by calling on angelic avengers. He lamented Israel’s history of persecuting the prophets, but even though He saw Himself to be in that same prophetic lineage, He never slipped into, “How could you do this to Me?” He faced derision, threats, and violence without avoiding, complaining, or seeking retribution. He trusted God for ultimate justice and for protection, not for Himself, but for His mission.
- What things in the culture around you make you uncomfortable or angry? What’s the root of your anger? Acts 17:16
- Is there anything that bothers you because of your concern for its impact on others? Do you speak up? How? James 1:26-27
- How about in the Christian community? What really bothers you? Why? 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
- Do you see doctrines or practices that you believe to be potentially harmful to others? What steps can you take to protect the unbeliever and the unlearned? Romans 14:21-23
- Listen to your conversation today. What things are you complaining about? Why? Are they important? Would action be more effective than griping? Philippians 2:14-15
- Have you ever been persecuted – been the object of mistreatment – for your faith? If so, what did you do? If not, why not? 2 Timothy 3:12
- Is there anything about your life that would lead others to believe that you are different? If not, where are you compromising your principles? 1 Peter 3:15-16
- Can you defend your beliefs without becoming defensive and angry? How can you learn to do so? Colossians 4:5-6
If you saw things in your character you would like to be more like Jesus, let’s apply the process of change from Man Alive: Change Gonna Come
- Admit you need it. You can’t change something you won’t admit. 1 John 1:8-9
- Find scriptures that tell you what God thinks about it. Review these passages daily. Say them out loud. Psalm 19:7-11
- Go to the Lord and ask Him to help you make this change. Psalm 121:1-2
- Commit to a process of learning to listen and obey. God will guide you if you take a moment to listen. There is a place in your heart that knows what to do when you need to do it. Romans 8:14-16
- Address the root, not just the behavior. Trade in your ideas and values and prejudices for the thoughts of God. He is God. He’s always right. Get your mind in line with His. Romans 12:1-8
- Make a very specific plan for change and begin walking in that direction. What are you going to do and when are you going to do it? Write it down! Habakkuk 2:1-4
- Find someone you can trust and talk with them. Share the problem, share the plan, ask for input. Pray together and stay in contact to report your progress. James 5:16
- If you screw up, get up. One step in the right direction is one more than you made before. Process the lesson and take another step. Romans 8:31-37
OK, let’s do this! More like Jesus every day!!!