Made to be more like Christ
It is only four letters, but most of us know what the abbreviation stands for – WWJD – what would Jesus do? But do you know when that slogan first became so popular? In fact, the current WWJD popularity started almost exactly one hundred years after the first.
When Charles Sheldon became the preacher of Central Congregational Church of Topeka, Kansas in the 1890’s, the church board told him he had to preach two sermons a week. Sheldon preferred that they cancel the Sunday evening service. It was supposed to be primarily a youth service, but hardly anyone came. The board didn’t change their mind so Sheldon adopted Plan B. Instead of preaching a typical sermon, Sheldon decided to tell a story. Each Sunday evening he would tell an episode in an on-going fictional drama. He would end each episode with a cliffhanger designed to draw the young people back to find out what happened next. Eventually, a growing throng of young adults crowded the Central Church sanctuary to listen to Sheldon’s tale. By the time he brought the story to a close, the preacher had spun thirty-one episodes.
In 1896, the story was picked up and ran as a weekly series in a popular religious newspaper of the time. When In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do came out in book form, it swept the world like wildfire. It has sold over thirty million copies making it the most widely published religious fiction book of all time. The book recounts the stories of the people who decided to take that question seriously. A newspaper editor, an actress, musicians, businessmen, parents, students, labourers—all wrestle with the challenge of putting their faith in Christ into practice by asking themselves what Jesus would do before they made any decision. Some succeeded. Some didn’t. All were changed. The title for Sheldon’s book and the idea behind the WWJD slogan comes from 1 Peter 2:21
God is more interested in who you are than He is in what you do. We define ourselves by our jobs, our homes, our wealth, our education, our friends. But these are secondary issues. When you die, you won’t take your career to heaven; but you will take your character. Are you becoming more and more like Jesus? God is far more interested in our character than in our comfort – in our holiness than our happiness. The process that He uses to make us like Jesus is called discipleship.
What is a disciple? To be a true Christian – to be a real Christian – means that I am living a life of following Jesus. He takes a step and He leaves a footprint and I put my foot where His was.
Christ… suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. I Peter 2:21
Following Jesus means that Jesus is my pattern. Jesus is my example. I walk in His steps. I say what He would say. I do what He would do. I live how He would live. I go where He would go. I act how He would act. I think how He would think. I feel how He would feel. Christ-likeness –putting my feet where His would be.
To become more and more like Jesus, I will follow Him…
1. … in my relationships.
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. II Timothy 2:2
Paul disciples Timothy. Timothy disciples faithful followers. Faithful followers disciple others. Who’s my Paul? Who’s my Timothy?
2. … in my experiences.
God uses every single experience we have to disciple us. But the types of experiences God uses that I want to mention today are painful experiences. Every problem in your life has a purpose. Like a sculptor, God seeks to chip away everything in our lives that keeps us from looking like Jesus. God uses problems to make you like Jesus.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:28-29
3. … in my practices.
Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. I Timothy 4:7b-8
Practices that produce spiritual fitness…
Worship, including public and private forms of worship
Fellowship, including accountability
Discipleship, including Bible intake and prayer
As Rick Warren says, “We can’t watch television for three hours, then read the Bible for three minutes” and expect to become more and more like Christ. No. That’s just going to make us more and more like the world. “The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the son of God.”
I want to emphasize something that the Bible makes very clear. Christ-likeness does not happen because of imitation, but because of inhabitation. You say, “What do you mean by that?” We cannot become like Christ because we try hard. That’s trying to change from the outside in. It won’t work. We can become like Christ because He lives in us and seeks to live His life through us. That’s changing from the inside out. That’s what works.
For this is the secret: Christ lives in you. Colossians 1:27
“Wouldn’t it be better if you pray, Make me like Jesus?” After thinking about it for a few seconds, the man looked up and asked, “Is he like Bill?” We are to so live that our very lives magnify the Lord Jesus Christ. People are to see Jesus in us!