Like Christ

Saturday, July 15, 2017, 8:41 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read several scriptures (ESV) on the subject of Christ-likeness.

Image of Christ (Ro. 8:29; 2 Co. 3:18 NASB)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

The goal of our faith in Jesus Christ is not merely to be free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), and to have the promise of eternal life with God in heaven. God’s purpose in saving us is that we might be conformed to (to be consistent with) the image (likeness, pattern, character) of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. In fact, His grace, which brings salvation, instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return.

So, what does this look like? What was/is Jesus Christ like? Well, he is God, and he is perfect (sinless), and he is holy and righteous and just. He is also kind, compassionate, loving and forgiving. He is also unselfish, and giving of himself to us to meet our legitimate needs. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but he provides for our needs. Yet, his kindness and compassion is based in his justice, in his righteousness, and in his love for us. In other words, if we are Christ-like, we won’t placate (appease) sin in ourselves or in others, and we won’t lie to others just to make them feel good about themselves while they are engrossed in their sinful practices. But, we will be honest with ourselves and we will speak the truth in love to others, too.

Also, we will walk (conduct our lives) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and not walk after the flesh, to please our sinful passions. God, who saved us and who called us to a holy calling, is in the process of transforming us, who have died with Christ to sin, into the image of Christ. Some people refer to this as the process of sanctification. Yet, our salvation is also a process, for we are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved when Christ returns (future), and our salvation is complete.

Like Him in Death (Phil. 2:5-8; Phil. 3:10)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

When Jesus walked the earth, he told those who would come after him that they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if they held on to their old lives (of living for sin and self), they would lose their lives. But, if they would lose their lives (die with Christ to sin), they would gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). And, the Apostle Paul reiterated Jesus’ words when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we would live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

So, becoming Christ-like means that we are becoming humble, unselfish, obedient to Christ and his Word, and that by the Spirit we are putting the deeds of our flesh to death, so that sin does no longer reign in our bodies. It means that “I” am crucified (put to death) with Christ so that “I” no longer live, but that Christ lives in me to his glory and for his purposes. And, now I live by faith in Jesus Christ, meaning I now allow Christ to rule and reign supreme in my life, instead of me still having control over what I do or don’t do. I listen to his Word, I do what it says, and I follow Christ with my life. Yet, this is not saying we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but that we should no longer walk in darkness (sin), but we should walk (conduct our lives) in the light (righteousness, truth, the gospel, Jesus Christ).

Imitators of Christ (1 Thess. 1:6-7; 1 Pet. 4:1-3)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.”

We are to be imitators of Christ, not in the sense of a performance or a mockery of someone, but in the sense of following him, being his disciples, doing the things he did, saying the things he said, and taking on his character, morals, values and attitudes and actions, making them our own. When we do this, people will think us strange, out of touch with reality, crazy, or hyper-religious, because this is not the norm, not even among those who also claim to be followers of Christ, at least not in America.

Some of them will say we are too serious, and we need to lighten up, or we need to chill (relax) and enjoy life the way they do. They may think it odd that we do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they may heap abuse on us (1 Pet. 4:4). Yet, we are not to fear what others think of us.

As imitators of Christ, we should arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ had about sin. He gave his life up for us so that we could go free from slavery to sin, and so we would be free to walk in his righteousness. And, we should lay down our lives by dying with him to sin so that we might live with Christ to his righteousness and holiness. We should no longer live to fulfill the desires of our flesh, but we should live to please God with our lives, and to do his will. Sensuality, adultery, fornication, lust, gossip, gluttony, lying, cheating, stealing, idolatry, perjury, and deceit, etc., should have no place in our lives. We should not think and act like the world. And, we should be set apart (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Jesus.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

When Sorrow Comes

Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 9:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Look to God.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 3 (select vv. NASB).

Be Harmonious (vv. 8-9)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

In the previous verses we are instructed in the necessity of being in submission to authorities instituted of men who are there to punish wrong and to commend those who do what is right. In this submission, we do what is right in God’s eyes. We live as those set free from sin, but we do not use our freedom as a cover-up for evil, as some are in the habit of doing. Instead, we are to live as servants of God. Thus, we are to never compromise our faith in Jesus Christ, or his Word, in order to be in submission to humans, or to live at peace with all people. If human authority demands we do what we know is wrong, we must obey God rather than man. And, this applies, as well, to wives who are to be in submission to their husbands, and to slaves who are to be in subjection to their masters.

So, the point of all this is that we are to live in harmony with one another, as much as it depends on us. But, again, we don’t compromise our faith or truth in order to be harmonious. Remember, Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but a sword – to turn family members one against another. It isn’t, though, as though his intention was to pick fights, but rather he knew that when we stand for what is right against what is clearly wrong, we will be opposed, and we will be hated, rejected and mistreated for righteousness’ sake. So, we should seek harmony, but never at the cost of truth or righteousness. We should not be proud, but humble; not contentious, but peaceable; not resentful, but compassionate; and not spiteful, but forgiving.

Turn from Evil (vv. 10-12)

For,

“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
“He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
“For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

We were put on this earth for a purpose. We live, because God willed that we should live. We were created by God to give him glory. We are to honor him and give him thanks. We are to worship him as the One and Only God who created us. He made himself known to us that we might praise and exalt him for who he is, and that we might revere him and give him due respect. When he called us, he called us to holiness, righteousness, obedience, and submission to his will for our lives. He called us to leave our lives of sin behind us, to die with him to sin, and to live with him to his righteousness. When he saved us, he delivered us out of slavery to sin so that we might become bondservants of his righteousness and of his truth. This is the life he has given to us to live when are are “born again” of the Spirit of God. And, this is the life we should love; that we should desire.

So, if we desire life as God has given to us to be lived for his purposes and for his glory, to live at peace with him, and to experience his blessings, then we need to keep our tongues from all evil (wickedness, sin), as defined by God, not by man. We should not be those who practice telling lies and who willfully and purposefully say things to people in order to deceive (trick, cheat, betray, mislead and/or to defraud) them. We must turn from all evil and do good. This means we should cease doing what we know is wrong, and we should be in the practice of doing what we know is right. The peace we are to seek and to pursue is not peace with the world, by the world’s standards, but it is peace with God and harmony with his Word, which then flows (spills) over into our relationships with human beings. Again, we never seek peace at the sacrifice of doing what we know is right in God’s eyes.

Suffering for Doing Good (vv. 13-18)

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.

In a perfect world, or even in a world where truth is truth and lies are lies most of the time, if we do what is right, we should not be harmed for it. Where justice truly prevails, we should be honored for doing what is right and chastised for doing what is truly evil. But, we don’t live in such a world. We live in a world where evil prevails most of the time, it would appear, and were lies, immorality and cheating are accepted as normal practice, even among many people who call themselves Christians. Thus, if we stand for what is true, and we hate what is evil, and we forsake sinful practices, and we cling to what is good, we are often rejected, hated, despised, ostracized, falsely accused, gossiped about and ill-treated for doing what is right. And, it isn’t just the world who treats us this way, either. Much of this kind of treatment comes from those closest to us, even from among those who call themselves followers of Christ, but who live in conformity with the world.

Yet, we should not fear this kind of treatment. We should not even be afraid of being wronged, or of being slandered, or of being misrepresented. We should not go around fretting and worrying over what humans might do to us. We have no control over what other people are going to do. Hate is a very strong force, and it will lead people to do some really horrible things. All we can do is do what we know is right, and then trust our lives into God’s hands, and let him work it all out for good. He does not promise us that following him will be smooth sailing. In fact, he promises the opposite.

Instead, we are to make Jesus Christ the Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and allow him to direct our steps, and to watch over us, and to carry us through when life gets really hard. We should keep a clear conscience in all that we do, i.e. we should not be guilty of knowingly and willfully practicing what is wrong. We should make every effort, in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, to live holy lives, pleasing to God. Then, no one will have cause to accuse us of doing wrong. It doesn’t mean that they won’t falsely accuse us, though.

And, when we give answer as to what we believe and why we believe the way we do, we should be gentle (showing power with restraint), and we should show proper respect (concern for, consideration and value) to the ones to whom we are giving answer. We should not trade tit-for-tat or insult for insult, but we should be loving, kind and honest, speaking the truth in love. It is never kind to tell people lies. We should always tell them the truth that Jesus died that he may bring us to God, so we might live in love, submission, surrender, obedience, faithfulness, and in holiness. And, in all things, we should turn our hearts to God, and trust our lives into his hands, and let him lead us in the way we should go, and then we must obey him.

Look to God / An Original Work
November 11, 2016

Fear not. Look to God.
He will strengthen you. He is your Rock.
He’ll meet all your needs.
Rest in Him, and be filled with His peace.
When sorrow fills your life, pray to the Lord.
Believe His promises. Trust in His Word.
He’ll lead you each day.
Give your life to Him. Follow His ways.

Lean on Him today.
He will comfort you. Trust Him always.
Read His Word and pray.
Tell the world of His love and His grace.
When trials come your way, be not afraid.
God watches over you. Be not dismayed.
He’ll work all for good,
For the called of God. Jesus, they love.

Sing songs. Praise your Lord.
Lift your voice to Him. Shout out His Word.
He forgave your sins,
Cleansed your heart. You are made new within.
When you are faced with temptation to fear,
Remember God will be with you. He’s near.
He’ll take care of you.
He will keep you in His love, tis true.