“I’m not talking about a guilt-driven process of behaviour modification. I’m talking about life transformation.”
“If Jesus were physically living in Canada today, how would He spend His time, energy and money?”
Half a lifetime ago I engaged that pressing question in my personal study and prayer. Some nights I would stand at our second-floor window and picture the people of our city as I asked, “If Jesus …”
Recently, during a time of extended study, I pulled out my journals from that period and began to re-engage that question. I worked my way chronologically through the Gospels with my eyes fixed on Jesus, asking, “If Jesus …”
Some people become cautious when you ask a question like this. They are concerned that when a person tries to be just like Jesus, a messiah complex may take root. The potential danger of wanting to be like the King of kings and Lord of lords is that you may begin to believe you are Him! Our world has seen the damaging results of that scenario.
Perhaps the more common danger in answering questions such as “If Jesus …” or “What would Jesus do?” is that we pick and choose the personality characteristics of Jesus that we are most comfortable with. People who pride themselves on being uncompromising and firm in their convictions tend to like the stories of Jesus turning over tables and rebuking the Pharisees. Other people picture Jesus as an inclusive, no-judgment-from-me kind of guy. They like the images of Jesus pulling children up on His lap and calling the rejects of society to come follow Him.
What we need is a well-interpreted, fully integrated, transforming revelation of Jesus that allows Him to be seen through our character and actions. I’m not talking about a guilt-driven process of behaviour modification. I’m talking about life transformation. Our challenge is to allow the Spirit to shape that transforming image of Jesus in us.
We begin with the conviction that the Scriptures present Him in a reliable way. Jesus Christ is “the Word made flesh” (John 1:1-3,14, KJV). He is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In Him “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). The person of Jesus—His birth, life, death and resurrection—is rooted in history. To passionately pursue Jesus, and to really know Him, we must read the Scriptures.
According to the Scriptures we are called:
To be conformed to His image: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:28,29).
To know Christ, both in His power and in His sufferings: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).
To keep His commands and to live as He did: “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6).
Living out the answer to my opening question begins with a passion to know Jesus. The transformation of our daily lives will happen only as we come to know and experience Jesus through His Word and by His Spirit. If we short-cut that process by picking and choosing our favourite attributes and sayings of Jesus in order to justify the way we want to live, we will never live as He did. But if our passion is to know Christ in all His fullness, then we can trust the Spirit to make us more and more like Him.
And so we pray: Lord, we want to know You more! Amen.