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.

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Unlawful to Practice

Wednesday, November 30, 2016, 12:36 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 16:16-34 (NIV).

Before the Magistrates (vv. 16-21)

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

It is already unlawful to practice the Christian faith, as Jesus taught it, in many countries throughout the world, whether or not that law is actually on the books. And, it is becoming unlawful to do so in America, too. How do I know this? I know this because of the words that our leaders are speaking to the people, and I know it because of the witness of the Holy Spirit within me who gives me understanding to see what these leaders are saying.

For instance, ever since Obama took office, he has made no secret of the fact that he and America are partnering with many other nations across the globe to fight religious extremism. And, he isn’t just talking about people who commit horrible crimes against humanity all in the name of religion, either. Quoting from the vision statement of the UNAOC:

The UN Alliance of Civilizations works toward a more peaceful, more socially inclusive world, by building mutual respect among peoples of different cultural and religious identities, and highlighting the will of the world’s majority to reject extremism and embrace diversity.

The UN, Obama, Pope Francis, the mayor of Akron, Ohio (where I live) and Donald Trump, et al, are all giving the same (or similar) message as one another. The message is loud and clear that we must remove from the earth (or from our nation) all which divides us as the people of the world; that our differences must not define us, for if they do, then that is what sows hatred and conflict. They speak much against individualism, exclusion, differences, division and disagreements. These, they believe, must all come to an end.

They are calling for the people of the world, including in America, to have shared and common ground, goals, resolve, cooperation, integration, purpose and tolerance (permissive indulgence), and, in America, for all of us to “speak with one voice and one heart” (Donald Trump quoting Abe Lincoln). Their goal is purportedly world peace, where all the people of the world live together in harmony, regardless of religion or lifestyle choice.

Yet, Jesus said that he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. He came to turn family members, one against another (See: Matt. 10). What he meant by this is if we follow him, in the way in which he taught us to follow him, the world will hate us, and they will reject us. And yet, if we love the people of this world more than we love him, then we are not worthy of him, he said. And, if we do not take up our cross daily and follow him, we are not worthy of him, he said. In other words, Jesus called us out of the world. He called us to be holy – separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Christ. So, we are not supposed to be united with the world in harmony, having one mind, heart and purpose with them.

From this, we should know that we are going to be facing serious religious persecution, if we are not already, if we do not compromise our faith in Jesus Christ in order to conform to and cooperate with the international community in breaking down all which divides us so that we can live in a more peaceful and socially inclusive world where all the people of the world, regardless of religion or lifestyle join hands and hearts and sing Kumbaya.

Praying and Singing (vv. 22-28)

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

Satan hates those who are followers of Jesus Christ, because we do not conform to his ways, and we work against him when we tell people about Jesus and they are set free from their slavery to sin (from their demons). He wants to hold people in bondage to sin so they will not serve Jesus Christ, but so they will serve him and do his bidding, instead. He wants the world to all come together in harmony (a false peace), and to break down all which divides us, because then the gospel of Jesus Christ will not be preached, and people will not be saved, and everyone will all be the same. But, they will all go to hell, too, because they have not believed in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of their lives, for they loved their own lives more than they loved Jesus.

But, when they hate us and they persecute us, which they will, we must know that greater is He who lives within us than he who lives in the world. We must believe that our God is completely sovereign and absolutely in control over all that he has made. He is allowing this for a purpose, and it is to make us holy, to revive his wayward church, to spread the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, and so many will be saved before the day when he returns for his bride. So, we must not let it undo us. We must keep on keeping on sharing Christ and his gospel of salvation, and we must remain steadfast in faith and faithful in purpose and stand strong on the truth of God’s word and against Satan’s evil schemes against us. And, we must keep on singing, and not be silent, even if they take our lives.

What Must I Do? (vv. 29-34)

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Amen! Hallelujah! God is faithful! He will take what Satan meant for evil and he will turn it around for good. If we remain faithful to our Lord, even in the face of great opposition and persecution, and we keep on loving God and the people of this world, and we don’t retaliate, but we live in perfect peace with our Lord and we share his joy and his salvation with others, I believe God will use it to bring people to Jesus Christ. So, hang in there. Don’t let what others do or say get you down. Rejoice in the Lord and in his mighty strength, and shout out his message of salvation for all to hear.

His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014

Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.

Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.

Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.