Over the past week my social media feed has included all sorts of excellent blog posts about starting 2019 out right. Spiritually speaking, articles on reading God’s word diligently and fighting our sin have resonated with me. In other realms, like losing weight and exercising, my resolve is renewed because the calendar year has changed.
As I consider specifically what my focus should be in this new year, though, I keep coming back to simply imitating Jesus in doing the will of the Father. This may be ‘simple’, but it is such a hefty goal that it needs to be broken down before it can be digested and applied. I’m sharing this personal goal with you because this isn’t a goal unique to just me. To anyone professing Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, we are called to imitate Christ. So, whether it’s January 1st or any other day of our lives, may imitating Jesus be the focus of our lives.
Glorify the Father
As Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, His desire was that God would be glorified (John 17). His life, and His death, was all about God and making Him known. Each day of our lives we have many choices to make. Are these choices centered on me? Is this good for me? Does this make me come out on top? Or are these choices centered on God? Knowing His Word, His commands, doing what pleases the Father as Jesus did, these are all practical ways to glorify God the Father. I rejoice that this is how Jesus Christ lived! May we imitate Him.
The God of the universe, the Creator of all, humbled Himself and became like His creation. From birth as a baby to death on a despicable cross, Jesus’ life was one of humility. Philippians 2 prescribes the way we can imitate Jesus in this humility too.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:3-5
Jesus did not demand His own rights; He surrendered all. Most Christ-followers understand this and know that following Jesus means giving up our rights. But to live it…that’s where it gets impossible. We can’t just “do better” or resolve to change our ways. The path to imitating Jesus’ humility is to imitate His death. Dying to ourselves is dying to our insistence on being right, on being understood, on getting our way. This is humility and this is how Jesus Christ lived. May we imitate Him.
In Ephesians the apostle Paul instructs the church, which includes us in this present day, to let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Imitating Jesus is clearly spelled out in this Scripture passage.
Forgive as Christ forgave you.
When we withhold forgiveness, we are refusing to imitate Jesus. Instead of glorifying the Father, we are glorifying ourselves because we are putting the spotlight on our needs, wants, hurts and not on the Father. We will all be hurt in this lifetime. Unfortunately, that’s a guarantee. But, the question is: How will we respond to that hurt? In a way that makes us feel better temporarily? Or in a way that imitates Jesus (trusting Him to make all things new and right)?
Jesus Christ was perfect. He did wrong to no one. Yet, He was so despised that He was murdered. Have we been hurt to this extreme? Not only this, but Jesus did not defend Himself…and, yes, He FORGAVE His wrong-doers.
And, we are one of these wrong-doers. Colossians reminds us that we were enemies in our minds against God, but that Jesus died in order to reconcile us to the Father. In order to secure our forgiveness.
If Jesus Christ could forgive us for this kind of awful wrong-doing, how could we then turn around and withhold forgiveness from anyone? Jesus Himself warned us of this in Matthew 18 in the parable of the unforgiving servant.
Jesus Christ has forgiven us for everything. May we imitate Him.
The ever-popular chapter 13 in 1 Corinthians underscores that everything must be done in love or else it’s just a clanging cymbal or loud gong. Imitating Jesus must be saturated in love. Recently I read about the difference between self-centered love and others-centered love. The actions can be the same, but the motive is vastly different.
Love that imitates Jesus is not about ourselves.
If we have any question about what this love looks like, again, 1 Corinthians gives us specifics. And these specifics are straight-up impossible in our own flesh. This is imitating-Jesus-love, and we are not Jesus. We can’t do it on our own. We must be filled with His Spirit if any of these specifics are to be seen in our lives. The fruit of His Spirit is love; He produces this others-centered, imitating-Jesus love in us.
As we head into 2019, if our goal is to imitate Jesus (and, if we are Christ-professors and Christ-followers, do we have the choice to say this is NOT our goal?), godly love must be the firm foundation upon which we live. Notice I said “godly love”, not a love that the world—or even we—defines. This is what godly love looks like and this is produced through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us:
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.
Love is not proud.
Love does not dishonor others.
Love is not self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
The Key to Failure…And to Success
To imitate Jesus by glorifying the Father, humbling ourselves, forgiving others, and loving is impossible. This is a goal that you are sure to fail at, a resolution never achieved…IF you try to do this in your own strength!
We must depend completely on Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit for this impossible work. In doing so, we will be closer to Him and we will look more like Him come the last day of 2019. May we glorify God the Father in this beautiful goal: may we imitate Him!