No person ever practiced what he preached better than Jesus. If His assignment was for us to be an example like Him, then we must have an intimate knowledge of what that means largely through His earthly example. He was relentlessly self-disciplined. The consistency of His words and behavior transformed every place and every person He encountered.
Despite the human tendency to proclaim and prove one’s independence, Jesus recognized and freely acknowledged His total dependence upon God. In both His public ministry and private life, He lived as a servant seeking to be used by God the Father. His self-worth was not based on His own power, position, possessions or performance; it was based on how faithfully He did the will of God and operated in the power of the Spirit.
Unlike many people who assume power or influence, Jesus was never under the delusion that His service to humankind would produce universal applause and adulation. He was very aware that he was fighting a spiritual battle.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
One of the most intriguing insights into Jesus is His recognition that He was a person in process. He perceived many trials and challenges and endured them as means of demonstrating His worthiness and shaping His character. He underwent many of the same growth pains that we experience. Perhaps that refined sense of timing enabled Him to have greater patience with the daily battles He faced.
The most compelling aspect of His self-image, though, is that He understood His role to be a twofold mission: to love God and to love people. That perception is simple but not at all simplistic. As the embodiment of love, Jesus tangibly modeled various facets of love – compassionate love, tough love, enduring love, forgiving love – as well as the dramatic impact authentic love has on the world.
Our self-image creates the infrastructure through which we respond to the world. Jesus clarified His priorities by speaking about them and then supporting those words with action. If we are to follow in His footsteps, we must embrace and pursue the same priorities He was committed. His mind was locked into the Kingdom of God.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33”
What are the priorities that reflect our absolute sellout to the Kingdom of God?
- Obedience to God: “Anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:19
- Love: “But I say, love your enemies!… If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” Matthew 5:44,46
- Justice: “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” Matthew 5:6
- Peace: “God blesses those who work for peace” Matthew 5:9
- Holy Living: “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” Matthew 5:37
- Integrity: “Just say a simple, ‘Yes I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t'” Matthew 5:37
- Generosity: “When you give to someone in need, … give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” Matthew 6:2,4
- Spiritual connection: “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him” Matthew 4:10
- Spiritual wholeness: “Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:26
- Biblical literacy: “Haven’t you read the Scriptures? Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures” Matthew 19:4 & 22:29
- Faith in God: “Because of your faith, it will happen… You don’t have enough faith… if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed… nothing would be impossible… but with God, everything is possible.” Matthew 9:29
- Blessing People: Jesus not only regularly taught this, but His constant healing of, training, and praying for others demonstrated how to bless them.
- Disciple-making: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations” Matthew 28:19
As you study the gospels for lessons and clues, notice that Jesus ignored customs, expectations, and even laws in order to be all that God intended. His focus shows us, in the flesh, what is possible and how to make the most of every opportunity provided by God. His life is our model.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
May we live to model the life of Jesus Christ and be all that we can be in Him.
Christy Demetriades, Ph.D.