Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spiritual Formation, Day 11

"I want to be like Jesus."

Such is the heart-cry of so many people. They learn about Jesus, they admire him, and they try really hard to be like him. When they fail, they become disheartened and assume that it's impossible to be like him.

I think that sometimes we look at Jesus the man who lived on earth and assume that he lived such a good life because he was actually God. We read that he lived without sin, and we assume that this is because he was God and that he couldn't sin. And so we assume that the way Jesus lived was nice for him but out of the question for us.


I'd like to suggest a different way of looking at things. I think Jesus lived a life of goodness and rightness because He wanted to do so and he trained his body (his HUMAN body!) to live that way. Jesus intended to live his life on earth in complete accord with the will of his father in heaven, and he took steps bring this about.

I'll bet you've heard sermons and lessons given on the temptation of Jesus, haven't you? Taking Matthew 4 as their text, preachers and teachers talk about how Satan appeared to Jesus and tried to get him to sin. Jesus successfully resisted the temptations. We hear the sermons, we think "Hooray, Jesus! Way to beat that devil!" And sometimes the teachers add a little more "oomph" to the story by emphasizing the fact that the devil came to Jesus right at the tail end of Jesus's 40 days of fasting. I've heard preachers and teachers say, "Just imagine! Satan is smart and wily, and he tempted Jesus just when Jesus was at his weakest point." And then we really cheer "Hooray, Jesus! Way to go!"

But I think there's another, very important way to look at that story. It's true that Satan approached Jesus when Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. No doubt Jesus was really hungry and that his body was pretty weak at that point. Satan obviously thought he was going to catch Jesus in a moment of weakness.

I think those 40 days of fasting actually made Jesus stronger. Jesus was not fasting to make himself weak so that his resistance to the devil would be impressive. He spent that time fasting so that he could devote himself completely to being with his father. After 40 days of unbroken communion with God, Jesus's spirit was in a state of great strength, not weakness. I think that resisting the temptations of the devil was the pretty easy for him at that point. In other words, Jesus the man was able to resist the temptations of the devil not because he was God, but because he had just spent so much time with God--his spirit was full and strong, and what the devil offered was unappealing.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that Jesus never acted as God when he lived on the earth. Clearly, there were things that He was able to do because he was God. He knew what people were thinking. He could read people's hearts. He had the power to forgive sin. He was certainly God, and that's an important fact.

But he also lived as a man, and he lived the kind of life that we can live. God doesn't ask us to be divine. He doesn't expect us to be perfect; he knows that we're weak. But he does invite us to live a life of more strength and less weakness by doing the kinds of things that Jesus the man did--things that keep us in close communion with God so that we draw our strength from him.

So often what we hear proclaimed as the gospel is that Jesus died for us so that we can go to heaven when we die. That is a true statement, but it's only part of the truth. Jesus didn't die just so that we can go to heaven someday. He died to give us eternal life--and that life begins right now.

If you take a good look at Matthew 4 and read past the part about the temptation of Christ, you'll see that Jesus began preaching. His message? "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). I'm afraid that we might not understand that language very well. Here's another way to put it. Jesus says: "Change the way you think about things. The kingdom of the heavens--the place where God, who is always near us, reigns--is right here. I have come to make it available to you. I'll show you how to live."

That's good news!

"The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

Please tell me what you think!


This post is part of a 31-day series on spiritual formation. To see all posts in this series, click here. Or click here to see all the bloggers participating in the 31-day challenge!

31 Days

7 comments:

Mrs.B said...

I think you're right. 40 days with the Father...thanks for putting it this way!

GLENDA CHILDERS said...

I like the reminder that eternal life begins now.

Fondly,
Glenda

Stacey said...

I'm so glad He came - to show us how to live! What a blessing to have it written in black and white for us!

New Every Morning said...

A beautiful reminder, friend.

Julia said...

Thanks for your fresh perspective on this passage. I've never thought of it that way before, and your words have challenged me in a new way to "be more like Jesus!"

Jamie @ Six Bricks High said...

Yes! It begins right now! Great perspective.

Amy said...

that life begins now is true! Thanks for the great reminder!

Thanks for offering the link up which I saw on twitter to or I may not have found you!

Amy @ Missional Mama

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