It cannot be stressed enough – what the Heavenly Father wants for us in this world is that we be like Jesus. Paul put it this way in Rom 8:29 : “…whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” We are sons of God, adopted into His family and intended to share with Jesus in the “family inheritance.” It should be expected that we share in the family characteristics as well.
But what does it mean to be like Jesus? Why does God want us to be like Him? And what does being like Jesus have to do with being a Christian? For many, being a Christian is about “going to church” and “doing good” – whatever that means, or “being faithful” – whatever that means. For others, it is about following the rules in order to please (placate?) God and “go to heaven when we die.” But what did God mean when He “determined beforehand” that we should be conformed to the image of His Son?
First, remember that when God created mankind He made our first parents in His own image and in His likeness (Gen. 1:26). Undoubtedly, as with all new things, there would have been a time of growth and learning, of developing and maturing for them. Apparently before they could ever comprehend the full significance of that fact, they transgressed. Before that ever happened, they sinned. They denied the most fundamental truth about themselves, their likeness to their Creator.
Since then it has been unimaginably more difficult for us to see His glory, much less see ourselves possessing it. Sin has separated us from Him. Instead of knowing, loving and admiring the qualities that make God God – the qualities we must somehow and to some degree possess to be like Him – we fear Him and like Adam and Eve, hide from Him. And by hiding from Him, we further distance ourselves from the knowledge of our own true and intended nature.
The only way we will ever recapture the knowledge of our true nature is by coming to know the God in whose image we were originally made. Our loving Heavenly Father wants us to know Him in order that we may know what we were always meant to be and what we can be again. But how can this possibly come about? In our brokenness and sin-blinded condition, seeing or comprehending God is like trying to see our own image in a broken, smoky, soot-smeared mirror. Try as we might, we can never get all the pieces aligned just right or remove the filth that obscures the brightness and purity of His glory. We can never by even the best effort ever see Him clearly enough to ever understand how we can be like Him.
God has solved the problem for us by sending His Son into the world as a man. Although begotten by the Holy Spirit, to the world He was born to ordinary parents, reared in an obscure village and lived among common people, Jesus lived the kind of life that God wanted for every human being who has ever been born into this world. He lived as the ideal man and that life He lived was lived in the image of God, reflecting the glory of God into the world. His was a glory that continues to this day to bring the light of God into the world.
Jesus’ miracles have been mistakenly interpreted as being merely for the purpose of proving Him to be who He said He was – that He was deity, the Son of God come to the earth. They are somewhat like Nicodemus when he said to Jesus, “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Certainly His miracles served the purpose of confirming His identity and authority, but they have a meaning that reaches far beyond that. As it was said in many instances before He performed a miracle, He did so because of His compassion. This is simply telling us what He, as the exact representation of God, was really like.
If we fail to notice the reasons behind His miracles we miss much of the message God intended that we have from the record of His life. God sent Him into the world, not just to show that He was deity, but to show us what deity was like. That Jesus healed sick people, brought sight to unseeing eyes, fed people when they were hungry, taught them when they had no trustworthy teachers, led them to God when they were going astray and did all the things He did for the benefit of hurting and helpless people as a living, graphic demonstration of the heart of God. God has compassion on people who hurt. He cares about widows and orphans. He is pained by the pain of His creatures. Peter says that we can cast all our cares on Him because “He cares for you” ( 1 Peter 5:7 ).
But since Jesus was also fully human – even to the point of suffering temptation as you and I experience it – he was a living demonstration of the ideal man. He was a man made fully and completely in the image of God. He was man as God intended all mankind to be. The traits of character He exhibited are traits of the divine nature which will be increasingly seen in us as we grow to be more and more like Him. At times He was compassionate, at other times he was found in great sorrow. He was tender and gentle and yet on occasion showed rough indignation and anger. While showing all these very human qualities and emotions, He was at the same time demonstrating that God possesses all these same characteristics!
But there is something we should observe about Jesus’ divine/human nature. Never did He allow any of these very real, very human, very divine qualities to overcome Him. He became angry, but He knew the boundary beyond which anger must not be allowed to transgress. He knew sorrow, but He was never overcome by it. He was compassionate, but not to the point of an unreasonable, improper response to every sob story.
Do you want to be like Jesus? That should be the highest aspiration of every Christian! Then respond to the people around you in the same way Jesus did as a servant. Do not look at that response as a duty, or as a matter of keeping some supposed divine requirement arbitrarily impose on you by an imperious God. In living our life in the same way Jesus lived His life, we will be like Him – fully and completely human – which is all God ever wanted of us from the beginning of human existence.
Teach us to know You as You desire us to know You through Jesus whom You sent to reveal Yourself to us.
May we, by becoming more like Him, be servants to those around us so that we may lead them to know You and your love for them.