Christlikeness

Recently our staff did our written reviews. I was pretty confident going into the review. It had been a great 6 months. I was able to accomplish a lot so I was pretty sure I was going to kill this thing. So, I start taking it and about half way through the first page the wind is taken out of my sails with one section where I have to rate myself.

Christlikeness: am I becoming more like Jesus?

It’s a 0-5 scale; 0 being anti-Christ and 5 being Jesus’ twin brother. On my best day I don’t know how to scale myself on this one. If I’m a 1, I’m an unbeliever. I can’t be a 5 because Jesus is humble so that disqualifies me. My best-case scenario is a 3.

Maybe it’s where I was at that day, but this question made me reflect on all those accomplishments and goals I had achieved and come to the conclusion that I had become pretty good at doing Christ-like work even when I didn’t always have a Christ-like heart.

Many of you have been there; we can do the day to day Christ-like work in our sleep. We can put on the pastor voice, do the concerned eyes and even give good solid Biblical advice. We do this while deep inside it has been a while since our hearts have really been bent toward heaven.

As I search Scripture I’ve come to the conclusion that:

“It is the bend of our hearts that drives our Christ-likeness, not the work of our hands.”

The best example of this is the life of Jesus. There is a particular example right after the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6 and Matthew 14. It’s here that I think Jesus gives us a great example of keeping our hearts bent toward our heavenly Father in the midst of successful ministry pressure.

You may know the story. Jesus has been teaching. It starts to get late in the day. The disciples want to release the people so they can go eat. Jesus tells them to feed the people. It sure looks like in John that they steal this kid’s lunch but I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t allow that. Jesus blesses the food and they feed all of these people on 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, with plenty of leftovers. It is obviously miraculously multiplied.

John ‪6:14-15‬‬‬‬

When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

The first thing we see that Jesus does in the midst of great pressure to be elevated is to stay humble.

Jesus was very aware of the people around him; their ulterior motives, but more than that he knew the will of the Father for his life and he didn’t deviate from it when what could have been seen as a better offer came up.

Jesus didn’t have insecurities like we do; he didn’t have daddy issues- so when the push came to make him king- he could walk away.

How do we respond to ministry pressure? Sometimes my arm isn’t long enough to pat myself on the back or to seek the accolades of others.

 

We have to fight to stay humble.

As soon as we lose our humility, we become the idol. We become the driving force of our doing Christ-like work and that in no way is Christ-honoring.

“It is the bend of our hearts that drives our Christ-likeness, not the work of our hands.”

The second thing we must do to maintain our Christlikeness is to escape from the crowd.

(John ‪6:15‬) ‬‬‬

15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

To care for our own souls we must escape from ministry at times.

Jesus had to be exhausted. He was teaching, ministering and just being drained by caring for people. We’ve all been there. You and I both know when we get exhausted and don’t withdraw we get burned out. When burnout comes, our hearts turn cold to the very people God has called us to care for. Jesus escaping here was the best thing he could do for those people because he was exhausted.

I remember my first church when I was young in the ministry and excited to just be in full-time ministry. I was at everything! Every time there was an event or the doors were open, I was there. I took no time off. Before long the ministry I had been so excited about became just a job to me, and one my wife resented.

I wish someone had told me to escape, to take a vacation, to take a day off. I didn’t know and I want to warn you that it is the bend of your heart that drives your Christ-likeness, not the work of your hands.

Friends, We must fight for humility and fight to escape.

The last thing I believe Jesus shows us we must do to maintain our Christ-likeness is found in the parallel story in Matthew ‪14:23.‬‬‬‬

Here, Matthew lets us in on what Jesus did when he withdrew.

He went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.

Here on the mountain Jesus engaged with the Father. Notice the author’s emphasis on the time and Jesus being alone.

It doesn’t say that this was a 15-minute quiet time. Many times when we are so busy we run through quiet times like pre-trip vehicle inspections. We do just enough to make sure we can drive it hard. Jesus takes a much different approach here; he engaged.

We get so busy that we live off short quiet times and check off our boxes, but we never engage. We never really get connected in worship. When we get there our Christ-likeness gets weak and frail.

I see it all the time with pastors and staff. They get frustrated and worn out, so this glorious work becomes a job that uses more skill than heart. I know many of you have great worship services, but that cannot be your only time in worship. If you are like me on Sunday mornings I hear and see everything that is wrong or that should be done first. Many times Sundays are distracting and draining. Let’s call it what it is, a workday. You and I must retreat into our closets and get alone with the Father. That may look like journaling, praying, listening to music and of course reading Scripture. Get to a place where you can get lost for a moment in just being with the One who has your days in His hands.

Our hearts need a reset, a realignment and that only happens when we connect with the Father.

Friends, it is the bend of our hearts that drives our Christ-likeness, not the work of our hands.

If you are like me, you may need to take some time and repent of where your heart has been, escape the madness and get alone with your heavenly Father.