Saturday, February 2, 2013

Redigging Old Wells

     Some of you know that I have been thinking about writing a book for some time. I want to gather your input regarding this, dear readers. I plan to start with something fairly easy: a collection of some of my better blog entries. My question for you concerns what topics should I extract and publish first? Any of you who know me well, know that my passion is intimacy with God, grounded in His grace and infinite love for us. But I have also written a lot about the nature and state of the church, about making disciples, about the journey through grief and more. So I am asking for your input and welcome your thoughts and suggestions. 
     Today, for my blog I want to redig an old well, posting something I wrote quite a while back (see if you can find it). I have been going back and editing older entries in preparation for publishing the blog book, and as I worked on this one I realized that some of you probably haven't seen my earlier entries. I thought this one was good enough to share again. My apologies to any of you who have journeyed with me from the beginning :-)

A Few Thoughts on Becoming Like Jesus
     The Lord has repeatedly directed my attention to Psalm 44:3 lately: "It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them." (NIV) When I pondered why He was leading me to this passage so frequently, I realized it was because the Father wants me to "be like Jesus." Let me explain...
     Most followers of Jesus learn fairly quickly that our destiny is to become more and more like Jesus. Romans 8:29 says that becoming like Him is our God-determined purpose; see also Matthew 10:25, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 2:5 ff., 2 Corinthians 3:18, etc.
     Now before we go further, please remember that any transformation in our lives as believers happens because of God’s work in us and our trusting response to Him, not our own effort! We don’t become like Jesus by applying His teachings or by trying to copy His example, rather we allow Him by His Spirit to live His life in and through us. As we surrender to His guidance and trust in His power we are changed. It is a simple, childlike way to live that replaces human effort with childlike trust and dependence and surrender to the One who loves us most.
     So, having established “the how,” what does it mean to “become like Jesus?”
     Most Christians answer that question by suggesting that we are supposed to become like Jesus in terms of His character (loving, compassionate, kind, etc., Galatians 5:22-23 comes to mind), and that's certainly true. But my conviction is that there are many other ways in which we are to become like Jesus. A few that stand out are "doing what Jesus did" (signs and wonders, see John 14:12), living in close community like Jesus did ("All men will know that you are my disciples by your healthy relationships--John 13:34-35), discipling like Jesus did (by example, demonstration, leading to discovery, and occasionally by words!), living in faith like Jesus did, and the list could go on.
     But there is one way that we are to be like Jesus that is more important than all the others because it is the foundation of everything else. Can you guess what it is? It is to have the same kind of intimate, love relationship with Father God that Jesus did. If we are to become like Jesus and "do what Jesus did," we must first learn how to live in the Father's love as Jesus did. In fact, this is the core of “the how” that I talked about above—you cannot become like Jesus apart from learning to “live loved” like Jesus.
     We know that Jesus did nothing apart from the Father and that He lived a life of total obedience and dependence upon the Father (see John 5:17-30), but do we really understand how He lived such a submitted, obedient life? It was because of the intimacy He enjoyed with His Abba. From the time Jesus was a little child He knew God as His Abba, and what He knew most of all was Abba's love for Him.
     The love relationship between Jesus and His Father was passionate beyond comprehension, and I am convinced that Jesus' love for His Father was so perfect and complete that, more than anything else, it is what moved Him to perfect obedience and trust. And Jesus' love was in response to His Father's love for and delight in Him. It is no accident that the Father said, "You are my Son; I love you and I delight in You," before Jesus had done any ministry! (Ponder that one for a while and you will understand why it's so important for you to have the same relationship with Abba that Jesus did! Can you hear Him affirming you apart from what you do?).
     In addition to John 5, we see this intimate relationship with Abba in Jesus' life throughout all of the Gospels. Two places that always capture my attention are Mark 1:35-39 and Luke 5:15-16. Both of these passages show Jesus in the midst of extremely successful ministry. In the first passage, Jesus leaves very successful ministry behind after spending time with the Father (how many of us could do that?!!!). In the second passage, in the midst of the crowds and success it says of Jesus, (literal translation): "But Jesus was withdrawing to lonely places and praying." Most translations don't catch the meaning here, rendering this into something like "But He would often withdraw" but that's not what it says here: it says that in the midst of crowds all around Him, Jesus was (always/continually) withdrawing and praying. Think about this and you will catch the huge implications of what it means for us!
     You see, I believe that Jesus lived His life looking at the Father's face! He saw what the Father was doing (John 5:19), not because He was watching the Father to see what to do but because He loved His Father and couldn't help but gaze at Him! And it was His overwhelming love for His Father that motivated everything He did and enabled Him to trust Father God completely. And in my opinion, there is no other way to be like Jesus than to enter into this same kind of awesome, intimate love relationship with Abba.
     Too idealistic, you say? Perhaps you should read what David wrote in Psalm 27:4 (look it up). Perhaps you should consider a proper translation of 2 Corinthians 3:18. The NRSV gets in right: "And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit." The background of this passage is Moses' request to see the glory of the Lord in Exodus 33-34. You see, David and Moses were consumed with a love for God that drew them to a place of simply wanting to gaze upon His beauty (and His beauty includes His love for us/you).
     Want to be like Jesus? You can't! Not unless you first enter wholeheartedly into the Father's love. Romans 5:5 says that the Holy Spirit pours Abba's love into our hearts in an experiential way. My prayer is that as you read this, He will do that very thing for you in such as way that you can see "the light of His face."
Tom, one of Abba's children

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about a book! Thanks!


Abby / Linda said...

Tom, I would love to see something on the topic of the love relationship possible with Abba Father. There are plenty of books on the grief process, and there are books on the church (although I would like to see your words on this in writing!); but your relationship, how it began, progressed and unfolds, would be very valuable to those of us who struggle with being loved by an infinite God, and accepting that love. Praying for you in this decision, as we both know that Papa already knows what He wants from you, you are just in the discovery mode! Happy discovering!!!

Bill McCormick said...

Learning to trust, examples of trust, word pictures of learning what trust is would be extremely helpful. Was it Finney who equates trust with Faith (among others)? Also weaving in the reality that it includes His working the Absolute Surrender -- a gift as Andrew Murray describes it, but necessary for a love relationship.