So, you’ve done it, graduates! You’ve completed what could possibly be one of the most challenging and important seasons of your life. You are about to enter a new environment and a set of new opportunities. It will be exciting but it will also bring great challenges. During this season...
In 1991, Gatorade ran its first “Be Like Mike” commercial. At that time, Michael Jordan was the most recognizable athlete in the world. Sports announcers could not say enough about the magic he created on the basketball court. And kids worldwide dreamed of becoming the next Michael Jordan.
The commercial promoted the idea that if you drank Gatorade as Michael Jordan did, you would somehow gain the ability to “be like Mike.” Gatorade sales sky-rocketed, especially bottles of the flavor Jordan favored: lemon-lime.
My son was one of the many kids who started guzzling Gatorade whenever possible. But he learned soon enough that being “like Mike” required a lot more than consuming Jordan’s preferred beverage. It required physical attributes and mental discipline that my son didn’t possess. So eventually he discarded the “Be Like Mike” dream, along with his Space Jam video.
Be Like Jesus, through Jesus
Twenty-four-year old Englishman James Rowe had a different dream when he emigrated to America in 1890. For 10 years, he worked for the railroad companies; later he worked for music publishers. He even wrote verses for greeting cards for a while. But he is probably best known for the hymns he composed, including “Love Lifted Me” and “I Would Be Like Jesus.”
Meditate for a few moments on his heartfelt lyrics:
Earthly pleasures vainly call me;
I would be like Jesus;
Nothing worldly shall enthrall me;
I would be like Jesus.
Be like Jesus, this my song,
In the home and in the throng;
Be like Jesus, all day long!
I would be like Jesus.
Is your heart stirred, as mine is, by that noble desire? Be like Jesus. Quite frankly, I have as little hope of realizing that dream as my son had of becoming like Michael Jordan. I don’t have the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual attributes to attain that status. Not on my own.
But the Bible tells us how that dream becomes a reality — we become like Jesus through Jesus. At least forty verses in the New Testament tell us what is possible through Christ.
First, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:1, emphasis mine). We are no longer God’s enemies because we have been “saved from God’s wrath through [Jesus]” (Romans 5:9). Through the obedience of Jesus — his willingness to die for us — we have been made righteous (Romans 5:17-19). Through Jesus alone, we stand fully pardoned before God the Father and fully reconciled to him.
Second, “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set [us] free from the law of sin and death” so it is possible for us to “not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:2, 4). Through Jesus alone, we can have victory over our sinful natures. We can choose forgiveness instead of bitterness, mercy instead of revenge, love instead of resentment, and service instead of selfishness.
Third, through Jesus our daily lives can be different. Do we have trouble with employers and conflict with family members? Are we confronted with the hardship of a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a job? Do friends and neighbors smirk when we invite them to church or tell them we are praying for them? Do we live in neighborhoods or work in environments that are dangerous? Romans 8:37 declares that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
You may be able to quote Philippians 4:13 as readily as I can quote it: “I can do everything through him who strengthens me.” But too often we are misled by the word order in that verse. It begins with “I can” and so we conclude that being like Jesus is all about what “I can do.” Perhaps our English translations should rearrange the word order of that verse: “Through him who strengthens me, I can do all things.” For it is only through Christ that we can accomplish anything that has eternal value.
[tweet_box design=”default”]It is only through Christ that we can accomplish anything that has eternal value.[/tweet_box]
Hebrews 13:21 sums up what God is able to do in us through Christ—“equip you with everything good for doing his will…and work in us what is pleasing to him.” Think about that for a minute. Through Christ — through his life that now abides in us — we are empowered and equipped to accomplish all that God wants us to do on any given day and in any circumstance:
- We can be kind to difficult customers.
- We can be patient with self-willed toddlers.
- We can continue to love and serve unappreciative family members.
- We can maintain joy in illness, financial setbacks, and relationship break-ups.
All is possible through Jesus Christ – even the inestimable privilege of being like him.
No Greater Joy
Do you, like James Rowe, long to “be like Jesus”? It will take much more than the consumption of some kind of spiritual Gatorade. It requires a total emptying of self, so that Christ can fill us with himself. It’s a hands-off process rather than a hands-on project. And that’s bound to be challenging, especially since most of us tend to be do-it-yourself-ers.
But God has guaranteed our success. 1 John 3:1-2 promises that “when [Jesus] appears, we shall be like him.” I honestly don’t know all that God will have to do to effect that transformation in me. And I’m glad I don’t know because I don’t think I could handle that knowledge. But I’m grateful that God is not going to give up on me until I am “like Jesus.” He’s not going to give up on any of us. And someday, when we stand before his throne and he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we’ll know that there is no greater joy on earth or in heaven than to “be like Jesus.”