September 29, 2011

Why Do You Want to be Like Jesus?

Never underestimate the diabolical dexterity of the human heart. We have an amazing ability to contort virtue into sin—all the while believing that we are doing what is noble. We have the ability to climb onto God’s throne while simultaneously believing that we are humbly beneath it.  

I read a sharp description of this in H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture as he was describing the views of Christians similar to Martin Luther. When we realize the depth of human sin, we start to see the wide variety of ways that we subtly try to replace God as God. Niebuhr writes:

The will to live as gods, hence without God, appears in man’s noblest endeavors, that is, those that are noblest according to human standards. Man whose business it is to reason exalts reason to the position of judge and ruler of all things; they call it the divine element in man. Those who have the vocation of maintaining order in society deify law itself—and partly themselves. The independent, democratic citizen has a little god inside himself in an authoritative conscience that is not under authority.

Thinkers believe the power of their thinking is King. Rule keepers think rules are King. Individualists think their opinions are King. But it is not only the rest of the world that plays these games inside their hearts.  Some people who desperately want to be Christ-like want that for the wrong reasons. Niebuhr continues:

As Christians we want to be the forgivers of sins, the lovers of men, new incarnations of Christ, saviors rather than the saved; secure in our own possession of the true religion, rather than dependent on a Lord who possesses us, chooses us, forgives us. If we do not try to have God under our control, then at least we try to give ourselves the assurance that we are on His side facing the rest of the world; not with the world facing Him in infinite dependence, with no security save in Him (155).   

Do you want to be kind because you realize that God has been kind to you, or is it because you desperately want to feel that you are a kind person? Or is it because you want other people to believe you are a kind person? It is ironic that many Christians—who think they are supremely loving—end up causing damage because they would rather be thought well of than to tell the truth in love. You can’t out-love God without distorting love.

Why do you want to be Christ-like? Is it so that you can be the merciful hero who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds? For many of us, we try to live that way because we see that as a more attractive self-image than the reality that we are pitiful and helpless from the self-inflicted wounds of our sin. 

The paradox is that we should try to be like Him but we should not try to be like Him. Seek to be Christ-like, but do not seek to be Christ. 


  1. We talked about this in our growth group the other day. Of course no one was able to vocalize their thoughts in such an impressive manner, but we talked about it nonetheless.

    Colossians 1:9-10
    9And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

    This is just one example that shows the way to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord is to be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” A biblical theology and belief must come first in order for your actions to glorify God. Faith comes before works, otherwise works are dead.

    Therefore we must live a life in constant prayer and constantly increasing in the wisdom of the Lord. God will use us in a manner that he sees fit. We must not live for ourselves but do everything for his Glory. God’s will be done.


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