Before retirement, I did not study the Bible like I should unless I was preparing to lead class discussion. If I was not leading a class, my efforts to study to grow my relationship with God and Christ left much to be desired. Other things took over my priorities. There may be folks who struggle with study because of careers, raising children or other priorities. We just don’t take or make the time to grow with God. The only way to improve our relationships with God and Christ is study and prayer. Some people believe that the only book we should study is the Bible and their point is understandable. However, writers can cause me to think differently about what I always thought the Bible has to say. These writers are an aid to a more in-depth study.
If you have read any of my articles, you probably know that Max Lucado is my favorite writer. He can write things in such a way that they have an effect on me. I’ve contacted other writers to get permission to use their material, but some have not responded. If they give permission, their material will also be in future articles.
I would like to try something. For those who struggle with finding time to study, I would like to write a synopsis of Max Lucado’s book, Just Like Jesus. The reading time should be short, but hopefully will generate a great deal of reflection. This book was published by Word Publishing in 1998. I use with permission from Mr. Lucado. This synopsis cannot and will not do justice to the book!! You can buy Max Lucado books from his website or any book sellers for a deeper study.
During my English education in high school and business writing classes in college, it was driven into my head that using the word “I” too frequently was not appropriate. At times, I spend more time trying to avoid using “I” than its worth. I’m too old so, excuse my use of “I”. There are going be references to my experiences. They are the only experiences I can completely relate to so they are used only in hopes you can use them to avoid the same mistakes.
It seems that many writers are all about making us feel good about ourselves. Romans 3:23 New Living Translation (NLT): “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” lets us know the truth about our lives. We need to improve! Try to measure yourself objectively as you read the articles. It helps my growth to be realistic about my life.
In the foreword, Max writes: “My prayer for all who read these words is simple. May God open your eyes so that you can see Jesus. And in seeing Jesus, may you see what you are called to be.”
Chapter One – A Heart Like His
Max asks: “What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with his heart? What would you be like? Would people notice a change?”
Max challenges us to spend some time focusing on what effect the change of having Jesus’ heart in us would have on our lives. Will our stress, our anger, our mood swings, obligations, time commitments, etc. change? My reply: Without a doubt!!
Max continues: “What you see is what God wants. He wants you to think and act like Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you have a heart like Jesus.”
“ God loves you the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”
Max says: “Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one. Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart just like his. Can you imagine a better offer?”
Max writes about the heart of Christ: “The heart of Jesus was pure. Jesus’ heart was peaceful. His heart was purposeful. How pleasant were his thoughts! But the crowning attribute of Christ was this: His heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected his intimate relationship with the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in me, he stated in John 14:11. Jesus took his instructions from God.” These thoughts make it easy to see why God would want our hearts to be like Jesus.
Max continues with thoughts on the heart of humanity: “Our hearts seem so far from his. How could we ever hope to have the heart of Jesus? Ready for a surprise? You already have the heart of Christ. If you are in Christ, you already have the heart of Christ. He has made your heart his home. Christ lives in me. Gal 2:20 MSG”.
“If I have the mind of Jesus, why do I still think so much like me? If I have the heart of Christ, why do I still have the hang-ups of Max?”
“With our souls saved but our hearts unchanged---are connected but not altered. Trusting Christ for salvation but resisting transformation.” Does this describe me?
“If you have given your life to Jesus, Jesus has given himself to you. He has moved in and unpacked his bags and is ready to change you into ‘into his likeness from one degree of glory to another’ 2 Cor. 3;18 RSV. No doubt about it: God has ambitious plans for us. The same one who saved your soul longs to remake your heart.”
“God is willing to change us into the likeness of the Savior. Shall we accept his offer? Let’s imagine what it means to be just like Jesus. Let’s look long into the heart of Christ. Let’s spend some chapters considering his compassion, reflecting upon his intimacy with the Father, admiring his focus, pondering his endurance. How did he forgive? When did he pray? What him so pleasant? Why didn’t he give up? Let’s ‘fix our eyes on Jesus Heb. 12:2 NIV. Perhaps in seeing him, we will see what we can become.”
You may be thinking, if God wants us to be like Jesus, why didn’t he make us that way as he brought us into the world? God wants us to be like Jesus through our choice. One commentator believes that only love that comes from a free will is true love. Love isn't genuine if it’s the only choice we have.
As I read Max’s writings the following comes to mind: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do”. Romans 7:15 This is so true of my life! Satan always stands ready to come between God, Christ and us. Hopefully, studying Just Like Jesus will help!
Max offers a Study Guide following each chapter. Here are a few of his thoughts and questions:
- What things would you expect to change if Jesus came into your heart? Are you willing?
- Philippians 2:5-13 describes Christ’s attitude and directs us to continue to work out our salvation. How much effort are you willing to expend to comply with this passage? Think about what your answer says about you.
- Keep in mind Colossians 3:9-10: “… since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the imagine of its Creator.”
Years ago I tried to teach junior high classes in Sunday School. It seemed like more time was spent asking them to sit-up, stop talking and pay attention. Every once in a while they did come up with good questions. During a discussion about being more like Jesus, the question was asked: "Does God really expect us to be like Jesus?" h expects our very best effort but realizes we are not perfect like Jesus so that's why he offered Jesus as the sacrifice. The follow-up question: "Does God give credit for effort or does he grade on the curve?" Gods knows our heart and sees what effort we are making ro be like Jesus. Given God's wisdom and knowledge, I do not believe he finds it necessary to grade on the curve. I wanted to say that grading on the curve would indicate degrees of heaven and hell. NOT GOING THERE!!!