Jesus is NOT an Example to be Followed, He is Much More!

Jesus was an amazing teacher, leader, and human being; wouldn’t it have been neat to watch Him up-close-and-personal during those three years of ministry in Israel?  Unfortunately, because He was so influential, many persons today (even atheists!) will admire Him and put Him on a list next to great persons such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Socrates, Plato, and/or Confucius.  These men and women are or were leaders and thinkers who influence our society still today, but suddenly our Lord and Savior simply becomes a Jesus Among Other gods (see the book by this title by Ravi Zacharias).

Unfortunately, or fortunately actually, Jesus did not leave us the option of merely letting Him serve as an influential example in our lives, but 1.) demanded that God alone be worshiped and 2.) He claimed to be God Himself.  See Matthew 23:8 to 10, Mark 12:29 and 30, Luke 4:8, Matthew 16:13 to 17, John 4:26, John 5:18, John 9:36 to 38, John 10:29 and 30 to 33.  This, in part, is the meaning of the chilling verses in Matthew 7:21 to 23:

 

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.

 

Men and women were said to be prophesying or preaching in the Name of Jesus, casting out demons in the Name of Jesus, and performing many miracles in the Name of Jesus . . . in other words, they were following His example very closely and doing exactly what Jesus did.  Yet Jesus did not know them, because lordship is a relational matter of the heart.  Jesus is a Gentleman, and He will only befriend and be Lord for those who invite Him to be.  They had not surrendered their hearts and lives to His lordship and leadership, and though they were doing amazing “Christian” work, their motivation was not right, and the Spirit of God was not leading them.

I know this is a long explanation, but I believe that it is utterly fundamental, particularly in a dark world that does not clearly understand Who Jesus is or what it actually means to be Christian.  (Consider reading Magnificent Obsession: Why Jesus is Great by David Robertson.)  To make Christ an example is to cheapen and shrink our magnificent LORD of Lords into an attainable goal to be reached by our best efforts.  All other (non-Christian) belief systems teach you work for your goodness, salvation, holiness, or success.  Under Christ Jesus, however, it is only by grace that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:4 to 10; see also the Letter to the Galatians, particularly 1:6 and 5:1).  Only as we allow Jesus to have His way in us; transforming us from the inside-out; doing what we could not do ourselves no matter how hard we try–only then does our Lord get all the praise and glory through the name of Jesus Christ.

When we follow Jesus as an example to be emulated, the onus is on us to work hard to match our deeds, behavior, thoughts, and words to those of Christ.  It makes us little perfectionists, instead of “little Christs” (the definition of “Christian), and it places a burden on us that no one has been able to stand up under since the Law was given to Moses.  If I try to imitate Jesus’ example, I will either snap under pressure or be found to be a fraud.  It effectively enslaves us, trying to impress a God who cannot be impressed by our work.

When we follow Jesus as Lord of All, it places all on Jesus to lead us beautifully and safely to the Father and to complete His good plans through us.  See John 10:27 to 30 and John 17:9 to 26.

Jesus makes it clear: He is more than just a good man; He is the very Son of the Living God, worthy of our life, possessions, and worship.  This is more a matter of the heart and than of the mind and/or body.  Following Him can never be us working hard to match His example; it can only mean laying down our life and welcoming Him in His grace to live His perfect Christ-life in us through His Holy Spirit, to the glory of the only God and Father.

Jeremy K. Van Deman