February 23

Christ, Our Example, Part 1

Bible Reading: John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:32-5:2; 1 John 3:16

“In His Steps” is a best-selling Christian fiction novel written by Charles Monroe Sheldon. First published in 1896, the book has sold more than 50,000,000 copies, and ranks as one of the best-selling books of all time.  Written by a pastor, it tells the story of a small town who resolved to take no action without first considering Christ’s example.  The book was subtitled, “What Would Jesus do?” and popularized that expression, which later adorned Bible covers and Christian paraphernalia with the acrostic WWJD.

So what would Jesus do?  And how are we to know?  And how is it even possible that we could think or live or do or speak according to the example of Jesus?  He is after all, no mere man, He is the Divine Son of God who was (and is) perfect in every way.  There’s arguably no loftier aspiration than to follow Christ’s example.  There are many Scriptures which speak to the need for us to imitate Christ (you’ve read a few of them today).  I wrote my master’s thesis on this topic, some 32 years ago.  It was entitled “The Imitation of Christ: A Proposed Doctrine.”  I was glancing through it the other day, I’m thinking it could use some revision.

The problem is that we don’t have it in us to follow in His steps.  Not in our own wisdom or strength.  In fact, the very thought of “what would Jesus do” in any given situation is beyond our human capacity to even discern, let alone do.  A better question might be to prayerfully ask “what would Jesus have me to do,” but there’s still the need to be led and empowered by the Spirit for that to happen.  The flesh has no power to do that which Jesus would do, it is only as we walk by the Spirit that Christ-like virtues are borne in us, which are in turn expressed in Christlike deeds and words (Galatians 5:16-26).  The imitation of Christ then becomes possible as the Spirit of God mediates the presence of Christ to us, in us, and through us.  The key then to following in Jesus’ steps is walking closely with Him!

Christ is our perfect example in every virtuous way: in His love, His leadership style, His subjection to the Father, His obedience, His willingness to suffer, His servanthood, His deeds, His Words; the list goes on and on. But it is His example with respect to love that Scripture speaks to the most.  John 13:34-35 is notable in this regard.    There are two striking truths we find in these verses.  Jesus calls the command to “love one another” a new commandment.  In what sense?  Wasn’t there already a command to love (Matthew 22:39)?  Indeed.  But the new commandment differs in that the standard is new.  By nature we love ourselves, orienting our lives and decisions based on what we deem best for us, and we were commanded to love our neighbors in the same way.  The new standard is not to love others as we love ourselves, but to love according to the example set before us in Jesus and His selfless sacrifice–“just as I have loved you” (John 13:34; Ephesians 4:32-5:2; 1 John 3:16).  The term “love” is used in society’s vernacular in all kinds of different ways, but God has demonstrated and defined love for us in terms of Jesus’ sacrifice.  In following Jesus’ example we are called to that same kind of selfless, sacrificial love which works to put the needs of others ahead of our own.  The other notable thing we find in this passage is how the practice of Christlike love relates to our testimony.  “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).  Francis Shaeffer called love “the mark of the Christian,” undoubtedly in part because of this passage.  The practice of Christlike love is a distinguishing characteristic of the followers of Christ. In following Christ’s example of loving and forgiving, we bear a credible and appealing testimony before the lost, directing folks to the source of love, God Himself (1 John 4:7-8)!  There’s no better example to follow than His!

Lord Jesus, how incredible is the example of love You have set before us.  That you would undertake to transform any of us, sinful and selfish as we were, to make us to be like You–indeed Yours is a salvation to the uttermost!  We are forever prone to looking out for ourselves first, but You’ve unveiled to us a radically different manner of life that is altogether pleasing to You, and of great benefit both to ourselves and others.  Grant us that by the Spirit that we might put off the old sinful and selfish ways and put on Christlikeness, that we might be channels of the love You revealed to us and Calvary and shed abroad in within our hearts!  


May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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