They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. We have many celebrities people want to emulate. When you look at the Bible you find characters you want to be like. We notice certain characteristics about others and we want to be like them.
Abraham was a man of faith. David was a man after God’s own heart. Solomon was the wisest king who ever lived. Maybe you desire to have these character traits. But the greatest person to imitate is Jesus. And we can be like him.
Jesus shows us God’s character in person. When he walked the earth over two thousand years ago he taught us what God expects of us. Jesus first shows us God’s character in his holiness. He expects us to be holy as he is holy so we can dwell with him forever in heaven.
We are called Christians, meaning “Little Christs.” It’s our goal to be like Jesus not to show off or be praised by others but to walk with him and know him here and in heaven. The Bible shows us many characteristics the Holy Spirit works in our own character to conform us to Jesus’ image. But I want to highlight a few of the ways Christians look like Jesus.
The most important characteristic of Jesus is his unconditional love for others. John tells us we learned love from Jesus. Jesus tells us that we will be known by the world because of our love for one another (John 13:35).
Unconditional love is unlike any other love. Before we met Jesus we loved selfishly. We loved the people that liked us or did something for us. But now as Christians we love everyone, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
We love unconditionally, with no strings attached. It surprises people because they are not used to someone who loves them for who they are. They want to know why you are doing nice things to them. Jesus showed us his unconditional love for us by dying on the cross in our place.
That same sacrificial love Christian husbands give to their wives. Christian husbands are not the only ones who must love sacrificially. Sometimes we sacrifice our reputation and our own desires to unconditionally love others.
We show our love for other people through our hospitality and kindness (Hebrews 13:2; Acts 28:7; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9). We do whatever we can to help others, going the extra mile.
Showing others unconditional love isn’t easy, especially when you are loving your enemies and praying for them. But Jesus calls us to demonstrate a holy lifestyle and loving others the way he loves us.
Grace and Truth
When Jesus came to us he taught us the paradox of being graceful in our tactics but not giving up the truth (John 1:14). Now he calls those who follow him to also before of grace and truth. All of these hallmarks of Christian character are impossible for us to do in ourselves. The Holy Spirit must work in and through us.
When we talk to other people we tend to fall on one of the sides of this paradox. Either we are gracious to the point of not telling the truth to others so we don’t “offend” them or we tell them the truth with no grace.
Truth without grace is found in the sidewalk preacher who yells at passersby and tells them they’re going to Hell. Jonah did this to Nineveh but God used his message of judgment to change that rebellious city.
Grace without truth comes through those who don’t want to lose a friendship or relationship with those who care about them by telling them what they should know to be saved. When people say wrong things like, “We are all God’s children,” or “I’m a good person so I’ll probably go to heaven,” and we don’t respond by telling them the truth about those ideas, we have grace but not love. We don’t love someone if we let them believe a lie when we know the truth.
But grace and love are not tactics to get people to listen to us. They should be our true nature as Christians. We treat others with grace because Jesus did. We treat others with love because Jesus taught us how to love.
You will be pressured more and more in our culture, as you are already seeing, to tell the truth to others. They will ask you “gotcha” questions like, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” They want to see if you’ll be honest about what the Bible says. If you are not, they will tell you what it says. If you are, they will call you a bigot, homophobe, and whatever else they feel like calling you.
When we tell people the truth we must do it in love, with respect, gentleness, and grace. This is not easy. They will do everything in their book to make you feel terrible about what the Bible says. But there are a few people who can bear down on someone that loves them, respects them, is gentle and graceful, and shows by their actions and words that they care about that person.
Suffering for Jesus
We don’t usually talk about the idea of suffering for Jesus in America. We live privileged in the land that has free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. Unlike Christians and other nations and parts of the world, we do not have to be worried for our lives if we share our faith.
But that gives us no excuse. The time is coming when every Christian will suffer for speaking about Jesus. If people find out you are a Christian they will persecute you to no end. They will cause as much suffering as possible.
I’m not trying to be a downer, but this is what Scripture tells us. Jesus told us we would have tribulation in this life (John 16:33). He said because they hate him they will hate us (John 15:18). Peter talks an awful lot about suffering, and Paul is not far behind.
You must be prepared for this reality to change. There will be suffering at least on some small level. We already experience that today, being called intolerant, behind the times, believing in ancient morality, and whatever else people like to say about us. Some of the New Atheists have said that our religion is a danger to society!
We must learn to suffer for Jesus. We must do it with grace, knowing that Jesus will bring us peace in our suffering. We must not expect that our world will continue to give us the benefit of the doubt.
Suffering is part of being a Christian. Persecution comes with sharing your faith. There are people out there vehemently hate Jesus and will hate you because you walk his path. I’m not even talking about suffering through trials and sickness that are part of living in this world.
The time for comfort is over. If you are not suffering in at least some small way for your faith, start talking about Jesus more and you may be surprised at the suffering you will begin to endure.
Let us ask Jesus first of all to suffer for his name’s sake. This may be a prayer you have never prayed before. Let us also ask him that he will give us the grace, ability, and peace as we suffer. When we suffer for Jesus, we represent him in how we deal with that suffering.
The storms of this life, the needs that we have, and the worries we allow ourselves to take on challenge the Christian character born from contentment. Paul talks about being blessed Jan measure and in want and need (Philippians 4:12).
Our needs are real. That’s what Paul is saying, that he trusted in God so much that he never really was worried. But we must also remember the promises of God. He is our Provider. Every need that we have he has already taken care of. When we trust in the provision of God we need not worry about our needs. We can be content in his provision.
God knows about your needs before you have them. That doesn’t mean we can’t tell him about them. He likes to hear from us. But we must have a deep down understanding and trust that God is going to take care of us.
After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen to you as a Christian? Even if you physically die on this earth you are going to heaven. One of my mentors, Pastor Paul Grabill, was fond of saying, “You can’t scare a Christian with heaven.” In Jesus’ second coming all Christians will be bodily resurrected to him.
Jesus tells us that we don’t even need to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). If God takes care of the flowers and birds, he will take care of us. Nothing catches God by surprise. He is not wringing his hands were shaking his head at the adversity and trials you suffer.
When we trust in God’s provision and providence we fear no lack or need. In the middle of our needs we need to seek the Lord. He is our greatest need. When we have Jesus walking with us we don’t need to worry. It’s easy for me to say but I have seen God fulfill my needs over and over. We tend to forget that for a moment.
Contentment is not a gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s not something that’s in your genes that are born with. Contentment is a learned behavior. Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). The Holy Spirit teaches you contentment as you live for Jesus.
Consider that being in need is the perfect time for the Holy Spirit to teach you contentment. You can also give you wisdom on how to save for those times of need when you have a surplus for our being overly blessed. But as we strengthen our muscles through lifting more weight, we strengthen our faith muscles that God provides in our need.
Paul learns how to be content in every situation of his life. That’s why he says he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13). Christians take this to mean anything, Paul specifically refers to “doing all things” as the range between having plenty and being in want. No matter what situation we find ourselves, we can do all things when we learn contentment. But it is not of our own strength. It is through the strength of Jesus Christ.
Another hallmark of the Christian life is to become a very generous person (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). When we know God provides all of our needs and lavishly blesses us in abundance, why would we not bless others?
God blessed Abraham to make him a blessing to the nations (Genesis 22:18). When we receive God’s lavish blessings in our lives, we can give some of that blessing to those who need it. The most foolish person in one of Jesus’ parables was so blessed he decided to build bigger barns to hoard it instead of giving it to others (Luke 12:13-21). And God took his life that very night.
God doesn’t bless us with abundance to hoard it or throw it away. We are here to help others, and sometimes it comes down to being generous with our resources to help them. He blesses us to bless others. So we can be generous because God wants us to be generous.
Don’t be generous begrudgingly. Paul calls us cheerful givers. The way you sow into other people’s lives is the way you will reap in your own. This doesn’t have to refer to money. It could refer to any of the resources God has blessed you with.
Pray and ask the Spirit how you can be generous with his blessings in your life. Find ways to bless others. And do it with a cheerful heart, with a smile. It blesses God’s heart when we bless others.
Serving in Humility
Jesus makes us servants in his kingdom, a place of high honor. One of the last things he taught to the disciples in John 13 was to become a servant of all. Service in God’s kingdom brings glory to him and helps others.
We can serve others through seeing a need and meeting it. Another way to serve others is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit he has given to us. But most of all, we need to serve in humility. We don’t serve to look good in front of others. We serve to honor Jesus.
We don’t serve because Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). We don’t serve him because he said those who humble themselves are greater in the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:4). We serve to bless and glorify him. We serve because it pleases him.
Find a way to serve others. Fill a need. Look for ways to be a blessing to others. Maybe you hear about someone’s need and have a way to fill it. Perhaps you are told by the Spirit other people in your congregation need help with something. Volunteer and be the first to serve.
We must become encouragers of others. When we hear about another saint being blessed we should cheer them on and be happy for them. I mean genuinely happy. We encourage one another because we don’t get much encouragement in the world.
But in the Church, we must be the first in line to encourage others. Yes, encouraging others is a spiritual gift, but we must be able to encourage others and to join in praising God for their success.
When we see something good and honorable and pleasing we need to speak out and encourage those things around us. We bless others when we encourage them. We spur them on to even greater works. We need more encouragement in the body of Christ.
Reach out and encourage someone. Do it without hearing about some laudable thing they did. Just encourage them. You can do it. Look, I just encourage to you. See how easy that was?
These are only a few of the ways we can become more effective Christians. This is what Jesus sees in each of us. He wants you to become a person like what I have described in this post. But more than that, the Holy Spirit is cultivating even more things than this in you.
Become a Christian who searches the Scriptures to find out what God expects, would pleases the Lord. But don’t just know what God expects. Do what he tells you to do. Become the person you see described in the Bible. Leave a comment and describe some of the marks of a Christian you see in the Bible.