Learning to be Christ-like

 

Learning to be Christ-like can be very challenging at times and we as Christians will experience many difficulties as we continue to grow stronger in our faith. Every time we take a new step closer to being Christ-like the easier it will become for us to overcome those difficulties because they will make us stronger and better Christians. One thing we must always try to remember on our journey to heaven is what Paul said in,

 

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

 

Anytime we feel like giving up on growing more Christ-like we need remind ourselves that we have made commitment to serve God for what He has done for us through His Son and that our life belongs to him and it is our duty to live our life for Christ and be a shinning lamp for Him in this dark world of sin, but this is easier said than done. So, this morning we are going to be looking at the Jesusí disciples and how they struggled with becoming more Christ-like as they grew stronger in their faith. As we do this we will see that we have struggled with some of the same things they struggled with.

 

Now at first many of those that followed Jesus did so because He simply invited them to come follow Him and so many left their jobs to do that very thing. These men didnít have any idea the impact that decision would end up having on their lives and how important they would become in influencing others to follow Jesus as well. As Jesus started gathering more disciples they had they privilege to see the master at work as He healed people and showed great love and compassion for the poor and the down trodden but it didnít take long for his disciples faith to be tested as we read in,

 

Matthew 8:23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"26 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.27 So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

 

Now several of these disciples that were with him were experienced fishermen and they knew how dangerous the water could be and they were scared. I can imagine what was going through their mind when they saw the Jesus was sleeping like a baby through all this. They didnít waste anytime waking him up because of their fear and they looked to him to be saved. Then Jesus points out how weak their faith is at this point and then he calms the storm and his disciples are truly amazed.

 

This same thing happens to many Christians today. Things will happen in the life that will cause them to have great fear in their lives because they have not learned to have enough trust in God nor have they fully grasped what Paul said in,

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

 

God can take any situation that may arise and make good come from it in one way or another and when we see God working in our life and the results that come from it we to will stand in awe just like Jesus disciples did as He calmed the storm in their life that was causing them to fear.

 

Another difficulty that Christians face is staying committed to God when times are tough or they donít fully understand Godís Word. We see this happening in John 6 where Jesus began telling those following him that he was the bread of life that came from heaven. Letís pick up in verse,

 

John 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.54 "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.55 "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.57 "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.58 "This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?62 "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.64 "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

 

This situation happens to those Christians who have not counted the cost of discipleship. They like the concept of having a God that loves and offers them salvation but if they cant wrap their minds around what God reveals for us to do then many times Christians will fall away and follow Jesus no more just like these people who didnít take the time to try and understand what Jesus was teaching here. One or two things will happen when we face situations like this, we will either try to understand and grow from this experience or we will simply through our hands up in the air and give up on God. Times like these in a Christians life separates the pretenders from those who truly are trying to be Christ-like.

As we continue on this chapter we will see the Jesusí apostles did not allow this situation to fall away.

John 6:67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"68 But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.69 "Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

 

These are truly words spoken by someone who understands that Jesus had the word of eternal life and He was willing to follow after Jesus all the way to the best of his ability and we must do the same and realize that even when we donít understand why God has set up things a certain way we must trust in His infinite wisdom and conform to his teachings found in the Bible and when find scriptures that donít fully understand we should not allow it to make us falter on our faith instead it should challenge us to try and figure out what it saying. This will lead us to praying for wisdom and having deeper hunger for Godís Word.

 

Now as more time went on Peter, James and John were eye witnesses of Jesus transfiguration upon the mountain where they saw Elijah and Moses but while they were gone Jesusí other disciples had another problem with their weak faith as we read in,

 

Luke 9:37 Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.38 Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.39 "And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.40 "So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."41 Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here."42 And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.

 

Once again we have instance where Jesusí disciples faith was weak and they not able to accomplish what they wanted to do which was casting this demon of this child. Now while demon possession doesnít occur today we can still see how this relates to us today in the fact that sometimes there are things we want to accomplish in the name of the Lord but because of our weak faith we donít have the drive to follow through and so we give up before we really tried very hard but the stronger we become in our faith the more drive we will have and we can and will accomplish what we set out to do knowing that we can draw strength from God to help us with goal.

 

Another thing some battle with as we grow as Christians is pride and we can see this with Jesusí disciples in,

 

Luke 9:46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him,48 and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great."

At this point Jesusí disciples were viewing their discipleship as a contest to see who was the greatest. This is wrong attitude to have as a Christian. We should never be in some competition to see who is the greatest Christian. Some Christians do this by comparing themselves with other Christians and the only reason I can see that a person would do this is so that they can try an make themselves feel better about how much better they are than someone else. Christians who do this remind of the story Jesus tells his disciples in,

 

Luke 18:10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

 

If we are not careful we can get caught up in this game of seeing who is the greatest by comparing ourselves but we must learn to get beyond this way of thinking and realize that we are all servants of God and that we should not worry about how much or little someone else is doing but instead we should focus in on what we are doing and if we are doing enough based upon our individual abilities. We should spend more time on encouraging others to do more for the lord instead of comparing what they do compared to us. Notice the words the Paul tells us as Christians to live by in,

 

Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

So learning to be Christ-like certainly includes learning to become humble and to think more than just about ourselves.

 

Another thing we struggle with as learn to be Christ-like is to have mercy upon the wicked and we can see that Jesusí disciples struggled with this as we read in,

 

Luke 9:51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.56 "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.

 

In this instance the Samaritans didnít want to have anything to do with Jesus and James and John wanted to go straight for the jugular vein and cast fire down upon them but Jesus lets them know that this should not be their attitude because he came to save peopleís soul not to put them to death at the initial rejection. Jesus understood that these people could possible follow after later on and they would never have that chance if they were destroyed right now.

 

Sometimes we as Christians have this mentality. We want to people to listen about Jesus and learn to love him but we get impatient when they turn us down and we start thinking bad thoughts about that person and we might even start hoping that something bad happens to them since they have rejected to hear the good news. We should not have this type of attitude instead we should realize that at some point in that persons life they may have a change of heart and then they will listen to the life saving message of Jesus and it may be us that has that opportunity. This means we should not give up on that person totally and we should pray for them that their heart will be opened to the truth because God wants all people to come to understanding of this truth so that they will repent and turn to him. We need to realize as we grow that all God has asked us to do is to plant his seed and water it and He will take care of the rest.

 

We are never called upon to force someone to become a Christian or take vengeance on that person for not listening because vengeance and judgment belongs to the Lord.

 

Jesus also sent out his disciples to teach the people about how the kingdom was on its way and Jesus has also commanded all Christians to go out and teach the gospel to the world but again to able to teach other is learning processes and it takes time. The Bible describes the word of God as sword and it also describes us as soldiers of Christ. Well we first become Christians we are green behind the ears and many times we first pull out that sword we may scream real loud and close our eyes and just come swinging that sword in every direction. I think just about every Christian has experienced this. I certainly have.

 

I have shared this story with before but I want to use again because is great example of what I am talking about. Many years ago I was sitting in my living room watching some cartoon when there was knock at my door and guess who it was it was a couple of Jehovah witnesses. Now I was young in faith and I knew I didnít agree with their doctrine and so when they showed me there little book with people living on the earth talking to animals and they asked me if I would like to live like that, I very quickly told them I donít believe in what you telling me because its wrong and I go to the church of Christ so you might as well leave and they did.

 

You can see that I handled my sword very poorly and all I did was do damage against the Lordís church and the ability to for someone else to reach those people. But, I learned from that experience on how not use my sword and I have learned over the years that that best way to use your sword is to target the heart and use the sword gracefully by seasoning your words with salt. You can only learn how use your sword properly by practicing all the time and learning from the mistakes that you make. In doing this you will learn to be more Christ-like.

 

Jesusí disciples went through many difficulties and learning experiences and this caused them to grow to become faithful followers of Christ. Once they had grown their faith stronger it gave the courage and the ability to face their adversaries with confidence. In Acts 4 Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and the Sanhedrin council wanted to punish them but they could not disprove the miracle they had just done that made a man walk that had not walked for over 40 years so they threatened them and told them not speak about Jesus. But watch their response based up on their strong faith in Jesus in,

 

Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."††† †††

 

Then as we move into Acts 5 we see the apostles preaching Jesus and once again they get arrested but this time a angle frees free them from prison and because of their strong faith they go right back and preach Jesus again and are seized one more time and this time they are beaten and told not to preach Jesus anymore but watch what happens as result of this.

 

Acts 5:41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

 

Because of their strong in the Lord they rejoiced in suffering for the cause of the Christ and this motivated them to preach even more and this is how strong our faith in the Lord can become as we continue to learn to be more Christ-like. Now, it doesnít matter how much you grow in your faith to the Lord because there is always more room to grow. We can certainly see this with the faithful apostle Peter as we read in,

 

Galatians 2:11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

 

Not only was Peter an apostle he was a elder at a congregation and he had grown leaps and bounds in his faithfulness the Lord but in this instance he fell short and he sinned as he played the hypocrite against the gentiles. But, I guarantee you he learned from this and grew more in his faith and became more Christ-like and that exactly what we must do as Christians. Never stop growing in your faith, continue to press on to learn to be more Christ-like. I would like to finish this lesson by reading the words where Peter teaches us what we must do as Christians to learn to be Christ-like so that we make to heaven.

 

2 Peter 1:5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth.