(Scroll down to leave a comment on WWJD and LLJL)
You’re probably familiar with the letters WWJD, typically seen on bracelets, as well as a variety of other Christian apparel items. They stand for “What Would Jesus Do?” It’s a great concept, which dates all the way back to a novel written by Charles Sheldon in 1896, titled In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? The book depicted a congregation that determined not to make any decision without first considering “What would Jesus do?”
WWJD and LLJL
Now, as important as the letters WWJD are, I believe there are four other letters that must come before them: LLJL — “Live Like Jesus Lived!” When you think about it, there is no sense asking “What Would Jesus Do?” if we are not willing to Live Like Jesus Lived.
This isn’t my idea; it is the revealed Word of God. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).
The imitation of Christ
One of my first seminary professors, Dr. R. C. Sproul, provided some tremendous insight to living as Jesus lived in his book, The Imitation of Christ: “We need a pattern to follow if our lives are going to be conformed to the character of God. God Himself, especially as He has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, is our pattern. We must look to Him and His commands to understand the righteous way in which we must live. The righteous acts and traits that we must display will not justify us, but they do demonstrate that we have been truly set apart as God’s holy children, and they are necessary if we are to reflect His image.”
In the beginning, God created everything perfect, including mankind, which is made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Adam and Eve were created to perfectly reflect the character of God in every way. They reflected God’s qualities of love, kindness, gentleness, creativity and faithfulness, to name just a few. But after their willful rebellion against God’s purpose for their lives, all that changed. The image had been marred by sin. To this day, every person still bears the image of God, but the reflection of God’s character is now damaged and distorted.
Nevertheless, there is a universal craving deep within every human being to be more than we are. No one has ever been entirely satisfied with the person they have become. Why? Because we know, whether we will admit it or not, that we have been made by God, for God, and we will never find the meaning, purpose, peace and happiness we all desire until we have been remade in His image, which is God’s ultimate goal for every person who, by grace through faith, trusts in Christ for eternal life. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).
Transformed by grace
How is God bringing us back to our original divine design? It is all by grace, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s grace that saves, and it is God’s grace that sanctifies. What begins in grace continues in grace, and it is completed in grace. But that grace must be appropriated in our lives.
Dr. Jerry Bridges put it this way in The Discipline of Grace: “Our part, that is, our response to the Holy Spirit’s work and our cooperation with Him in His work is the pursuit of holiness . . . the pursuit of holiness, though requiring diligent effort on our part, is dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul expressed this principle of dependent discipline quite succinctly in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Paul did the work, in that case, learning to be content. But he did it through the enabling strength of the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to grasp this principle of being responsible yet dependent. But it is absolutely vital that we grasp it and live by it.”
It is the believer’s responsibility to pursue holiness by imitating Jesus — by living like Jesus did. We are totally dependent upon God’s enabling grace, but we are responsible to be diligent, disciplined, and devoted in our pursuit. My work as a coach and trainer taught me that one of the guiding principles for helping athletes achieve peak performance is to have them study the techniques and skills needed to play their sport at the highest possible level. The athlete then works at reproducing those skills, in hopes of carrying them onto the field of competition.
The same principle holds true for our Christian walk, with one primary difference. In coaching athletes, the goal is behavior modification — changing behavior through hard work and disciplined effort. In coaching Christians, the goal is heart transformation, which only happens by grace, through faith, through the renewing of the mind. The best way to increase our reflection of the character of Christ is to study Jesus as we find Him in the Scriptures and then focus on what we find, looking to the Author and Perfecter of our faith to transform us.
In looking intently at Jesus, the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), we see what we lost because of sin and what we have been promised in our salvation. It is my prayer that you will come into the presence of Jesus on the pages of Scripture each day, ready to receive all God has for you to encourage, empower and equip you to Live Like Jesus Lived.
One final point: You will always do this imperfectly on this side of the grave, so never forget that when you mess it up, you have a Savior who loves you unconditionally and has forgiven you completely. Fall down seven times, get up eight!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach (www.thecrosscc.org). He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.