Christ-Likeness

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My Musings – 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.

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).

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 this sermon Jesus repeatedly used the phrase:

“you have heard that it was said…but I tell you…,”

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.

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, NIV 1978),

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be A Self-Sufficient Spirit – Proud. Self-seeking “spirituality” that fails to recognize our pitiful state before a righteous God. Feeling that we can be good apart from God’s grace. Full of self at God’s expense.  “You say, ‘I am rich and do not need a thing.’ But you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be Poor In Spirit Humble. Conscious of spiritual bankruptcy, recognition of unworthiness before God and inability to achieve “spirituality” by ourselves. Empty of self, full of God.  “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2, NIV 1978)

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be Arrogant And Unrepentant – Failure to recognize or acknowledge our sins and shortcomings. Make excuses, rationalize, but don’t be sorry.  “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector.’” (Luke 18:11, NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be A Mourner – Recognition of spiritual bankruptcy. An intense, sincere and Godly sorrow for our shortcomings that leads to repentance.  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”  (2 Corinthians 7:10, NIV 1978).

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be Rebellious – Aggressiveness out of control. Reactionary in the midst of pressure. Resist the Spirit’s working in your life. “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature.” [They are] bold and arrogant.” (2 Peter 2:10, NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be Meek – Strength under control. Calm, gentle and disciplined in the midst of a pressurized atmosphere. Quiet submission to God.  “Insulted, he did not retaliate, suffering, he made no threats. He entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23, NIV 1978).

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be Apathetic Regarding Righteousness – Accept injustice as inevitable. Moral compromise. What’s the use in pursuing Holiness, it’s unattainable.  “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11,NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be Hungry For Righteousness – Insatiable appetite for what is right. Passionate drive for justice. Eager relentless pursuit of God. “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1, NIV 1978).

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be Cold-Hearted – Uncaring about the hurts and needs of others. Passive, don’t get involved, it’s not your problem, eye for eye mentality.  “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” (Matthew 25:42,43, NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be Merciful – Compassion for the needy. Active empathy and involved in helping. Showing same mercy we have received from God.  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35, 36, NIV 1978).

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be A Hypocrite – Spirituality only on the outside. Legalism. Sunday saint, weekday sinner.  “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.‘” (Mark 7:6).

“But I Say To You” Be Pure In Heart – Internally clean, not just outward appearance. Don’t just do what is right, do it for the right reasons.  “What does the LORD your God ask… fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12, NIV 1978).

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be A Trouble Maker – Delights in division and strife. Unforgiving. Stirs up trouble or keeps it stirred up. Satisfied with estrangement.  “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:16, NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be Peacemakers – Catalysts of forgiveness. Agents of reconciliation. Doesn’t mean avoiding conflict, compromise or appeasement.  “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV 1978).

“You Have Heard It Said” I Will Be Safe From Persecution – Avoid affliction. Not persecuted because of compromising on God’s standards. Not a threat to the devil.  “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebrews 11:25, NIV 1978).

“But I Say To You” Be Persecuted For Righteousness – Undeserved affliction. Persecuted solely because you uphold God’s standards of righteousness, justice and purity.  “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13, NIV 1978).

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.

My Advice – 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.   Be diligent.  Have a “Be” attitude, not and “I will” attitude.

 

 

 

 

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