“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” Ephesians 5:1-2.
I just stepped on something that crunched. Where’s the broom? Is the dishwasher full again? What is this sticky stuff on the floor? Please don’t touch that! Oh no, someone is having a meltdown. Who is it now? Oh wait, it’s me!
Perhaps this sounds all too familiar to you or brings back memories you’d long forgotten. With four grandchildren living with us for a time, I’m being reminded each day that motherhood offers many opportunities to see where sin is still at work in us. But you don’t have to be a mom for sin to be revealed.
What comes out of us when milk is spilled all over the brand new rug, a child throws a tantrum at the worst possible time, someone else gets the credit for an idea we had, we get cut off in traffic, or our husband says something unloving? The truth is: whatever’s inside of us will spill out when our comfort or security gets squeezed.
Scripture says there’s a holy war going on between our flesh and the Spirit who dwells inside of us as believers (Romans 7:14-20). For example, these days my flesh cries out for rest, time alone, and some order in the house. But the Spirit quietly reminds me that the Lord is my rest, I’m here to serve Him, and all that I have is His.
God allows things in our lives to test our hearts and remind us that we have need of the gospel every single day. Christ lived and died to set us free from sin’s power so that we could love as Christ loved us. Sadly, apart from Christ’s saving work, we are hopelessly self-oriented. But even after we are redeemed, learning to walk as God’s beloved children often looks a lot like my 16 month old grandson. He falls a lot. He cries a bit. But then he gets right back up and tries again. And, as we learn to love as Christ loved us, that’s what we must do as well.
Because our flesh naturally loves self, I find it helpful to look at some of the ways Christ loved us and empowers us to love others.
1. Because He loves us, Jesus left the comfort of His home in heaven (where He was worshipped and adored) to die on a cross for rebellious sinners (John 1: 1; Romans 5:8).
Consider the condescension of Jesus who left His heavenly throne in submission to His Father’s plan to rescue sinful men. Philippians 2 tells us that the Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. The Lord of all humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!
When I begin to feel entitled to my space, rights, rest, or possessions, I need to remember that Jesus willingly gave up all His rights to break the power that sin and deception had over me. As God’s beloved daughters, we are called to lay down whatever exerts power over us, so that others may see Christ’s power instead. We imitate Christ most when we humble ourselves and serve others for His sake. Even though some will respond out of the belief that they are entitled to our service, we can joyfully lay down our lives in hopes that others may be saved and God will be glorified.
2. Jesus was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering; Because He loves us, He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…Isaiah 53: 3-4.
Isaiah 53 doesn’t sugar coat Jesus’ 33 years of life on earth. Imagine Christ leaving unbroken fellowship with His Father and all of heaven’s joys to submit Himself to a teenage girl’s womb, to be born amidst farm animals with a feeding trough for a bed. Known to most only as the carpenter’s son, He was nailed to a rugged cross for those He came to save. Though Jesus Himself was sinless, He suffered in our place, teaching us that there’s no greater love than to lay down our life for others.
Isn’t it interesting then that, in spite of the fact that we follow a suffering Savior, we are often surprised when suffering comes our way, especially when we feel we’re doing our best to live a godly life? Sometimes we act as if something strange were happening to us! Yet Peter exhorts us to rejoice insofar as we share Christ’s sufferings, that we may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).
It was years before I grasped that suffering alongside of Christ is where our deepest joy is found. And because we have a Savior who walked the road to Calvary in our place, we can take heart that we will never have to endure suffering alone, and that our suffering will never be in vain.
Have you carried the sorrows of family members, friends, or those you’ve ministered the gospel to, only to find yourself completely depleted? Jesus knows what it’s like to pour Himself out for others.
Perhaps you have experienced misunderstanding, rejection, or have even been betrayed by the very people you have sought to serve and help. Consider Jesus, who looked His betrayer Judas in the eyes, then washed his feet before dying on the Cross for all who would repent of their sins. We imitate Christ when we love our enemies and lay down our lives for those who still dwell in darkness.
3. Because He loves us, Jesus took the punishment that brought us peace and by His wounds we are healed. Apart from the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf, we would still be at enmity with God. There would be no true peace.
Even as Christ’s followers, we can fall into believing that we need peaceful and happy circumstances to experience joy and rest. But Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
Through Christ, we have peace with God. Nothing can touch us outside of His determination that it can be used redemptively. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty brings us peace when we trust that Christ rules over every germ, illness, “random” circumstance, job loss, unhappy marriage, failure, accident, nation, miscarriage, financial disaster, and other unexplainable mysteries of life. Everything is assigned and all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
In times of conflict, Christ calls us to bend the grace He’s given us toward others. When clutter and chaos surround us, we can flee to Jesus, who is the Prince of peace. When divorce, death, or job loss is thrust upon us; we can take our fear, grief, and hurt to Jesus, who offers rest for our souls.
While it is true that we imitate Christ by being servants, we must not make the mistake of thinking we can be anyone’s savior. If our lives are not pointing others to Christ, we can do more harm than good by taking on responsibilities and burdens we were never intended to bear. The Holy Spirit alone is able to convict hearts of sin and righteousness.
Jesus said; “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” John 16:7-8,13.
I have often been helped by John the Baptist’s words in John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John’s mission was to point all to Christ. Likewise, as we pour ourselves out for others, their dependence upon us should gradually decrease as Christ increases. While there may be seasons when a person looks to us in their need, our ultimate goal is for them to turn to the One who gave His life for them.
I am thankful for daily tests that keep me running to the gospel. The truth is, I know how easy it is for me to depend on my own strength and wisdom, forgetting how truly weak I am while diminishing Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf.
For all who desire to be imitators of Christ, we will be wise to pay close attention to what comes out of us when we’re bumped or squeezed. When sin is revealed, we must run to the Cross where we’ll find mercy and rest for our souls. And, by God’s grace, as we extend ourselves in trusting obedience and service to Him, our lives will become a fragrant offering that pleases Christ and blesses those whose hearts are bent towards Him.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,
photo by: liveenergized.com