Plugged-in, Trained and Growing in Christ-likeness
PAUSING TO CELEBRATE
Congratulations. Let’s pause for a minute to rejoice and glance backwards. Renewal is about rebirth and transformation. It’s a big deal! If you have never taken this renewal step of faith before, then you need to remember this time as “your moment”. Accepting God’s provision and receiving Jesus’ sacrifice is a monumental step.
Angels are rejoicing and singing in heaven (Lk 15:10) because you accepted God’s provision and Jesus’ payment for sin. In looking back over his own victories and struggles, Nehemiah wrote, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Neh 8:10, emphasis added). There is deep and abiding joy in accepting Jesus’ eternal promise. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, glance backwards into your rearview mirror and remember that God’s joy is your strength.
Before transformation training begins, let’s pause to remember the amazing, mountain top experience of renewing and re-purposing your life! This turning point should always return feelings of joy, confidence and assurance. Pause and give God thanks with joy, confidence and assurance for your decision! Look backwards often. Celebrate your victory.
“Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be lighthearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. Our work is jubilant, carefree, merry. Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration.
TRAINING: JESUS' EXAMPLE
Our goal is to live like Jesus for the rest of our life. If this is our goal, then, then our training in Christlikeness begins by doing what He did. We need to learn about His habits. We need to copy those habits and apply them to our lives. Don’t forget that Jesus was 100% human. As such, he worked at spiritual disciplines as He grew-up. The Bible gives us insight into three of His practices.
Jesus’ custom was to read scripture. We should, too. Matthew, Mark and Luke, in their biographies of Jesus, provide us with examples of Jesus’ mastery of scripture. In them, we see the depth of Jesus knowledge when He corrects Satan’s mis-statements (Mt 4, Lk 4), explains the role of Mosaic Law (Mt 5:17), teaches the purpose of the Law and Prophets (Mt 22:40), explains Messianic prophesy (Mk 12:10, Lk 4:21) and repeatedly corrects (and condemns) the scribes and pharisees (Mt 23; Mk 12; Lk 11; Lk 20 and more)
Jesus’ custom was to pray. We should, too. Again, in the biographies of Matthew, Mark and Luke, we get insight into Jesus prayer practices. In His teaching at “The Mount”, Jesus taught His followers “how” to pray (Mt 6:9-13). After feeding 5000 and before walking on Galilean waters, Jesus prayed in private (Mt 14:23). Luke writes that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Lk 5:16). Luke writes that Jesus retired to a mountainside and prayed all night following a Sabbath healing and confrontation with scribes (Lk 6:12). Jesus was praying in private moments before Peter confessed Him to be God’s Messiah ( Lk 9:18). While Jesus was praying with Peter, John and James, His face was transfigured and began to shine (Lk 9:28-29). After driving a demon from a possessed boy, Jesus explained that the boy’s healing required prayer (Mk 9:29)
Jesus’ custom was to disciple others in fellowship. We should, too. In Capernaum, the synagogue congregation marveled at the insight and authority of Jesus’ teaching (Mk 1:21-22). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave new insights on the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law (Mt 5:17). In Nazareth, Jesus taught that OT prophesy (Is 61:1-2) was fulfilled by Him (Lk 4:21). In a post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught His disciples “all that had been written in the Scriptures concerning him.” (Lk 24:27)
If the greatest man to live trained with these three habits, we should, in every way and at all times, follow His example and walk in His footsteps.
TRAINING: PAUL'S EXAMPLE
“Copy me, my brothers, as I copy Christ himself,” Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church. We’re all students! Even Paul, the great apostle of the first century church, was mentored. Mentoring in Christlikeness is best visualized as Solomon admonished:
As iron sharpens iron,
so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Prov 27:17)
Is it possible for one piece of iron to sharpen another? Yes, it is! If one of the iron pieces is heated up significantly, it becomes ductile and it can be sharpened by the other, cooler piece. The metaphor makes sense and correctly illustrates how believers can co-mentor one another.
Spiritual transformation (i.e., growing to become like Jesus) requires apprenticeship. Deciding to become an electrician does not make one an electrician. The same can be said for musicians, carpenters, teachers and more. The early Christians knew this. Some parts of The Way are intuitive. Other standards of Christlike living run counter to our culture. Think about this.
Nine fruits of the Spirit are mentioned in Paul’s letter to Christians Galatia (Gal 5:22-23). The fruits are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. Human nature tells us how to treat people we like and … and dislike. Christ-character challenges us to love everyone, friends and enemies, like we love ourselves. Human nature confuses joy and peace with pleasure. Christ-character assures us that joy and peace are abiding expressions of faith despite circumstances that might suggest otherwise.
Mentors are God’s sounding board in rough and uncertain times. Mentors give and gain with their brothers by applying biblical principles to real life situations. Developing Christlike character in men impacts home life, friendships and business relationships. Solomon’s analogy of iron sharpening iron shows that he understood that men are continuously being refined “in fire”.
Every man has Christlike leadership potential. The need to apprentice Christlike leaders has never been greater. People chant, “God is love”. However, Christlike leadership understands that Godly character balances His love with righteousness, obedience and responsibility. Faith is balanced with effort. Jesus’ role as Savior and Lord implies that there are Kingdom values which our “Lord” champions. The mantle of Christlike character requires a humble and gentle spirit with purposeful conviction in the midst of social change and moral compromise.
TRAINING: MENTORSHIP & DISCIPLESHIP
If discipling is a “verb”, then mentoring should be a ” super verb.” For example, if discipling helps men understand the role of each component of God’s Armor, then mentoring helps men suit-up for battle. Mentors pray for you in combat. Mentors bandage your wounds. Mentors give suggestions and offer encouragement. They empathize with our setbacks. A mentor is a fellow combatant and brother-in-Christ.
Paul encouraged Ephesian Christians and prepared them for battle when he wrote about the importance of God’s armor and readiness for combat. Paul wrote,
“In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organisations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.
Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you.
Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women. (Eph 6:10-18), JB Phillips translation, emphasis added)