Step 2 – A Christ-Like Attitude
“Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29)
A: Discovering the Truth
It seems almost contradictory that the Creator of the universe, exhibiting the fullness of God, with everything under His power, would choose the role of a servant. Knowing that everything was under His power He could have exercised that power. Instead He set the example of a servant. If He, the Master, prefers to serve, how can we, the servant, choose anything else? Christ desires that we should do as He did. That we be transformed into His likeness – Christ-likeness. It begins with attitude, a Christ-like attitude, a “Be” attitude.
B: Exploring the Truth
Attitude. It is the way a person thinks or feels about someone or something that all too often affects not only their disposition but their behavior as well. We have heard it said many times – boy does he (she) have an attitude. Usually this comment is not meant as a compliment. Negative attitudes come in a variety of shapes and sizes – arrogance, haughtiness, superiority, self-centeredness, anger, bitterness, to name just a few. If left unchecked negative attitudes can affect careers, relationships, character, health, and in the context of discipleship our witness. Charles Swindoll, Chancellor or Dallas Theological Seminary, author, and senior pastor of Stonebriar Community church in Frisco, Texas puts it this way – “the longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company . . . a church . . . a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace that day. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you . . . we are in charge of our attitudes.” The question is: how do we gain control of our attitude? How can we transform what might otherwise be a negative reaction (attitude) towards the people and circumstances we encounter in our daily walk into a positive one? How can we change an arrogant, self-centered and negative “I will” attitude into His other-centered, humble and positive “Be” attitude? How do we make sure that “the old has gone” and that “the new has come”? How do we become Christ-like? We do it by learning from Him, by studying His words (talk) and by choosing to follow His example (walk).
C: Knowing and Understanding the Truth
Jesus said and did many things during His earthly ministry. But in a sense, His sermon on the mount was His manifesto – His public declaration of His views on how His creatures should live their lives. During the course of this sermon Jesus repeatedly used the phrase “you have heard that it was said…but I tell you…,” as a way to challenge people to go beyond the mere outward observance of the law and tradition, and to be transformed by inward motivations that “hunger and thirst” for true heartfelt righteousness. While there is a wealth of wisdom in the entire sermon, this attitude of righteousness is summed up beautifully in its opening lines, commonly known as the beatitudes (meaning supreme blessedness or happiness).
In these few opening lines of the sermon, Jesus not only defines some of the things that are blessed, but also what it takes to achieve the blessedness. On the surface they do not appear to be so blessed or happy (poor, mourn, meek, persecuted). But this is consistent with Jesus’ message throughout the sermon. “You have heard that it was said” this is what it takes to be blessed or happy (by the world’s standards). “But I tell you” to be different if you are seeking true blessedness or happiness. “Learn from me” how to develop a Christ-like attitude – a “Be” attitude. As we look at the beatitudes we will contrast them with the the opposite worldly attitude – an “I will” attitude. In so doing, perhaps we can better avoid the pitfalls and obstacles to becoming Christ-like.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority [but I tell you], and not as their teachers of the law [you have heard that it was said]. (Matthew 7:28-29)
D: Weighing the Truth
There are rewards for faithfully pursuing a Christ-like attitude and resulting lifestyle. As we continue to build upon this foundation in increasing measure, we lay up treasures in Heaven (we will see God, inherit the earth, Kingdom of Heaven) that cannot be lost. But we also receive a down payment with rewards that we can enjoy this side of Heaven (comfort, called Sons of God, shown mercy, filled), no matter what our circumstances might be.
There is a touch of irony to this pursuit of a Christ-like attitude. In the beginning it may be that we pursue it because we should, and because of the rewards we will receive. But as we grow in Christ-likeness a strange thing begins to happen. We continue in the pursuit because we want to, not because we ought to. The prospects for the rewards (which we will still get) become less and less of a motivating factor. Rather, we are motivated by a stronger and stronger desire to simply please Him, and that is reward enough. In a way it is like our life here with our earthly parents. When we were young, we followed their direction (obeyed them) because we were afraid of the consequences if we did not, or because of the promised rewards if we did a good job. As we grew older and became adults we no longer had to follow their directions. We were our own “masters.” Strangely enough we often find that we still follow the directions they gave us when we were young. Not because we have to, but because we want to. We came to realize how right they were most of the time. Finally, we want to please them and honor them in our conduct as adults for the valuable lessons they taught us as children.
Of course there are children who do the least they can get by with as children and go their own way as adults. The same is true with God’s children. But their works (or lack of works) will be tested with fire. They will not cease to be children (he himself will be saved), but they will lose so much of what they could have had if they had been more diligent in pursuing a Christ-like attitude. The scales can tip either way. Which way are the tipping in your life?
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing On Your Own
1. How might the world be different if Jesus never came? How would you be different?
2. Besides the fact that He did come to be Savior, what do you think was the most striking characteristic or attribute of Christ’s life and the one which you believe He would want us most to learn from and make a part of our own life?
3. Why do you think that being a gentle and humble servant is so important in becoming Christ-like?
4. How does a person’s attitude define who they really are? Reveal the quality of their beliefs?
5. What’s wrong with wanting to be like God? Aren’t we supposed to “aspire to His desires?”
6. How do we prevent a “be” attitude from becoming (or remaining) an “I will” attitude?
7. What is so bad about being self-sufficient?
8. Why is it so hard to be sorry but so easy to rationalize and make excuses?
9. Is being meek a sign of weakness? Explain
10. Why would we want to hunger and thirst for righteousness if we know that it could result in persecution?
11. How is showing mercy to others a reflection of a Christ-like attitude?
12. Why is just doing the right thing not good enough in God’s eyes?
13. What is a peacemaker? Why does it result in being called a son of God?
14. Would your motivation to be like Christ be the same, greater or less without the promised rewards? Should it be? Why or why not?