Trying to Imitate Jesus? How’s that Going?

2 Corinthians 5:  17“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Casual followers of international rugby probably can’t name many teams, but there is a good chance that if they were asked to name just one, they would say the “All Blacks”.  New Zealand, with a population of less than 5 million, is a surprising powerhouse in rugby.  In addition to winning the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, they have won the past two tournaments in 2011 and 2015.  Wearing the black jersey is the ultimate dream of every young rugby player in New Zealand.  When you join the All Blacks, you are more than an individual player, you become a part of a much bigger identity.  All Blacks player Dane Coles said:  “We know our identity.  Who has worn this jersey what they have done in it and all the people who have worn it before us. You learn you are only a caretaker of the jersey. You don’t own it. You try to leave it in a better place than it was before you wore it.”[i] 

If you talk to most successful team coaches many will say that success only comes when their team finds their unique identity and each player becomes a part of that identity rather than the sum of individual players.

Years ago, it was fashionable for Christians to wear a bracelet that said WWJD, standing for “What Would Jesus Do?”.  I understand the sentiment, as Jesus is someone who was certainly worth emulating, however I believe it can also be dangerous because it leads to imitation rather than impartation.  God never asks us to imitate him or his son, because ultimately it is an impossible task.  It also renders Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross useless if all a person needs to do is emulate his behavior.  No, the scripture is clear: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  We need to understand that we are sinners and separated from God; that sin separates us from God; acknowledge that Jesus is the only bridge to God; and accept Jesus Christ into our lives as our personal savior.  After that we become a new creation and we begin the process of sanctification as we identify ourselves with Jesus.  As much as we allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who now indwells us, to change us, we will become more like Jesus.  It’s not by trying our best to imitate him – that only leads to frustration.  It is allowing the Holy Spirit to do a work in us, and that can be a painful, humbling process, but it is where real change starts.  Increasingly we see the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), growing and ripening in our lives.

Oswald Chambers said: “The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh.  Sanctification is ‘Christ in you…’ (Colossians 1:27).”[ii]  Quit trying to imitate Jesus. Instead invite him into your life anew and ask him to change you.  Immerse yourself in the Word of God, allowing it to work like a double-edged sword penetrating your soul and judging the attitudes of your heart (Hebrews 4:12).  Allow that to happen, and you will see real change in your character.  More importantly, all those around you will see real change – they will see someone whose identity is in Christ.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_national_rugby_union_team

[ii] https://utmost.org/sanctification-2/ My Utmost For His Highest, July 23.

 

 

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