From the time you enter this world on the day you are born, you are growing in one form or another. From infancy through toddlerhood and eventually, to adolescence, you hear announcements like, “You are growing so fast” or “You have grown so much I didn’t recognize you.” From weight and height numbers recorded in “baby’s first book” to measurement marks on the door facing, you have evidence that you are growing. 

Then from adolescence into your young adult years, you experience moments, even years, of maturing. Whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, you can look back and see how much you have matured in stature, in knowledge, and in self-reliance. Through the moments of embarrassment, you want to forget, to the experiences of self-confidence you want to capture, you have evidence that you are maturing.

Interwoven into the fabric of your living, are experiences of being at one with God and creation. At times you recognize those experiences as growing spiritually, other times you articulate them as growing in faith, and still, at other times you are at peace with God and the people around you. These experiences are evidence that you are becoming who you have been created to be.

The Human Experience

Growing and maturing is part of your human experience. Yet when it comes to becoming more who God created you to be, sometimes you live as if you have arrived at a special place where your life and the world around you does not and should not change.

 You anchor your identity in special issues or beliefs and when those issues or beliefs are challenged there is no room for growth. Even to love the people who are challenging your life forming beliefs or tightly held positions is beyond open conversation and the possibility of transformation. Personal growth and emotional maturity are set aside as you draw a line in the sand, plant your stake in the ground, and refuse to interact with the people who hold different beliefs and opinions. 

Becoming Like Christ

For me, most of my growing and maturing has come with pain and discomfort because I had to change to live into the likeness of Christ. As one example, when I first became a Jesus follower, it was all about me being a good Christian. It was about me being saved, doing the right things, and believing the right beliefs.

As I have encountered Jesus in and through the people I have met over the years, I am grown to understand that being a Jesus follower means I am either a Christian or I am not a Christian. It is about my relationship with others, developing a sensitivity to people, and sharing life’s joys and hurts with people.

I have grown to understand I can only be who God created me to be when I am in a relationship with the people around me and that I can only know the joy of Jesus when I know the sorrow of Jesus.

Are You Growing?

That leads me to this question: how do you know you are growing in Christ? As a Jesus follower, what evidence is there that you have your eyes on Jesus and that you are maturing into a who God created you to be?

When I stop and reflect on these questions, Paul’s letter to the Philippians comes to mind. What I remember is this:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

The characteristics of Jesus’ life were humility, obedience, and self-giving. He did not desire to dominate but to serve. Jesus did not desire his own way but God’s way. He did not desire to exalt himself but to give himself for the glory of God and the goodness of the people around him.

Love So Amazing

So, to grow into the likeness of Christ means that you will exhibit humility, obedience, and self-giving in your ordinary daily living. Here are some things to remember.

  1. Jesus won your heart not by blasting you with power, but by showing you a love which moved your heart. My guess is, you did not say, “I cannot resist such power,” but you did say, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.” I bet you did not say, “I have been beaten to surrender.” But you did say, “I am lost in wonder, love, and praise.” It is not the might of Christ which reduces you to a defeated surrender; it is the amazing love of Christ before whom you kneel in transforming wonder. 

2. Growing and maturing is part of your human experience. So, imagine yourself growing into the likeness of Christ. The one aim of Jesus was to serve others, no matter what the cost of self-giving love. Jesus focused his eyes upon glorifying God. So, as a follower of Jesus, imagine yourself, not thinking of yourself but of others, not of your own glory but of the glory of God.

Can you see yourself with the same mind that was in Christ Jesus? 

Make Me Like Jesus

Let me tell you about Joe. Joe was known as a hopeless, dirty, drunk for whom there was little hope. Sleeping in the back alleys of the inner city, he was alone, known only as an alcoholic and a drug user. 

One night, trying to keep dry at the Salvation Army shelter during a heavy rainstorm, Joe met Jesus. Everything changed for him that night. He became the most caring person that anyone at the shelter had ever known. He spent his days and nights doing whatever needed to be done. Whether it was cleaning up the remnants left by a sick alcoholic or scrubbing the toilets in the men’s room, or offering words of encouragement to a person in detox, there was never a task that was too low or a person he considered beneath him. 

Joe greeted everyone with a soft smile. He was grateful for the chance to help. Joe could be counted on to feed the hurting and broken men who wandered in off the streets. He was known to tuck them into bed when they were too out of it to take care of themselves. 

Is Jesus Like Joe?

One evening, the shelter chaplain was delivering his nightly sermon to the usual crowd. Most people present were simply waiting for the sermon to be over so that they could eat the evening meal. 

At the end of the sermon, an invitation was given. One man came down the aisle to the altar. He knelt there and began crying for God to help him change. He cried out, “Oh God! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Please, O God, make me like Joe.” 

The chaplain knelt beside him to assist him. He leaned over and said to him, “You know, I think it would be better if you prayed, “Make me like Jesus!” 

The man looked up at the chaplain and said, “Why? Is Jesus like Joe?” 

Who Does Jesus Look Like?

Does Jesus look like Joe? Or does Jesus look like Tim? Does Jesus look like Sara or Amy, Dennis or Greg, Karen or Bill, or does Jesus look like you? For people who don’t know Jesus or know about him, they will be looking at you. “Who does Jesus look like?” If they are going to know Jesus or anything about him, it will be through someone they already know, someone they recognize, someone who is familiar, someone who bears the likeness of Jesus, someone like you. 

Can you see yourself growing into the likeness of Christ for the sake of the people around you? 

Your Turn

Over the next week, respond to these questions with your actions.

1. How will your actions show Jesus?

Where will you show mercy? In our day, mercy seems to be rare. When people sense it, it always seems to be extraordinary. Whenever you show mercy, you show Jesus. To grow into the likeness of Jesus is to engage in acts of mercy. Where will you show mercy this week?

2. How will your words show Jesus?

What message will you share? Dorothy Day said, “If I have achieved anything in my life, it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk about God.” Take a minute to write down five things you want to say out loud about Jesus. Now, have a conversation with your spouse, your children, your parents, your best friend. Tell each of them about who Jesus is in your life. Ask each of them to help you grow into the likeness of Jesus so that when you speak, your words show Jesus. What message will you share this week?

3. How will your relationships show Jesus?

With whom will you express God’s love? The love you experience in and through Jesus keeps you in a relationship with the people around you. This Christlike love knows no bitterness and always seeks the good of others. It may reside in your heart, but it does not originate in your heart. God’s love is given to you so you have the Christlike ability to love the unlovely and the unlovable. The love of God is given to you because you will need it to love those who do not love you. It is the very essence of the life of a Jesus follower. It is what makes a lasting impact on the lives of people God loves through you. With whom will you express God’s love this week? 

What one step will you take to grow into the likeness of Christ? As a Jesus follower, you have this strange and wonderful authority from God to be Christ for others, to be the very presence and love of God. You will not always see it. But, God’s grace is shown and known in your acts of mercy, in your words of kindness, and in your friendships. God’s love, when fully realized, leaves a lasting impact on who you are and what you do. 

What evidence in your life shows you are growing into the likeness of Christ? If you are not growing in pointing people to Jesus, then what is the point of your life? 

You want to live a life of significance. That makes you human. You want to make a difference in the lives of your children, spouse, friends, colleagues, community, and world. That makes you a compassionate human. You work to make your efforts be worth something.

But, let me ask this question: Are your actions aligned with your values and what you do best? It’s likely there is a lack of focus for you. Again, welcome to being human.

It could even be that as much as you want to make a difference, you live with internal conflict and uncertainty that demands your attention. Let’s explore what and where you can focus so that you can accomplish your desired outcomes.

The Mission

At work, your company has a mission.  The mission is posted on the wall in strategic places throughout the building.  As much as you seek to align your work with the mission, you notice that when it comes to making decisions, the mission is nowhere to be found as a guide in moving forward.  It is on the wall, but it never becomes part of the culture.

Over the past 45 years, I have intentionally focused on the mission of the church.  I help develop systems that focus on assisting individuals to discover and develop their purpose. I also help people do this as a congregation.  Ultimately, I want individuals and congregations to keep the focus of their ministry aligned with their mission.

Focused to a Fault

At times, keeping a focus upon the mission has been offensive and inconvenient.  There have been times when I was accused of being “focused to a fault.”

At those moments I am challenged to be centered upon the God who has created me, live into who God created me to be and to reaffirm my purpose. Through prayer and reflection, I turn to search the scriptures for direction and confirmation.

When it comes to focus, I often turn to Luke 9:51-53.  It reads like this:

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.”

Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem because he was focused upon being who God had created him to be.  His purpose was to be the Christ, the anointed one.

To live into his purpose, he was obedient to God by caring for the people he encountered each day. He gave his life in such a way that he was living beyond himself. In Luke’s story, we read of Jesus feeding, healing, caring, loving, dying as he lived into his purpose.

What I have learned is that you have an ultimate purpose that is greater than your own life.  To be focused upon your purpose is to live beyond yourself. Let me illustrate with a story.

Is Your Purpose Greater Than You

Terry Fox was eighteen years old when he discovered he had cancer. He was diagnosed with fast-metastasizing cancer.  He settled in his legs and arms and later spreads to his lungs, brain, and liver. After the agony of his new reality set in, Terry basically had two choices: give up hope and wait for death or discover something meaningful for which to live.

He chose the latter.  Cancer meant he would lose his leg.  As he lay in his hospital bed, he dreamed of running across Canada.  That day he made a commitment to make his dream a reality.

By committing his life to make a difference in the fight against cancer, he created a true purpose.  The goal of his one-legged run, named the Marathon of Hope, was to raise one million dollars for cancer research.

A New Purpose: Hope

Terry discovered a purpose so great it uplifted him physically and mentally. This power of purpose drove him to remarkable heights of performance.  Even though he had only one healthy leg, a prosthesis attached to the stump of his other leg enabled him to run.

While running, he often wore running shorts. This, of course, exposed his false leg and made some people feel uncomfortable. Instead of trying to please the people who were offended, he lived into who he was.

His response was, “This is me, why hide it?”  Starting out on April 12, 1980, he ran the equivalent of a marathon (twenty-six miles) almost every day, covering a total of 3,339 miles in only 143 days. His amazing feat provided hope for thousands of people all over the world.

In the midst of cancer, Terry Fox successfully forged a new purpose.  His purpose was to help eliminate cancer.  His goal was to raise one million dollars for cancer research.  He met his goal living into his purpose. When he aligned his everyday living, his goals, with his purpose, he enjoyed the peace of mind and a wonderful sense of being alive.

Becoming Who God Created You to Be

What does that story have to do with you?  I am convinced you can do the same.  You can become who God created you to be by focusing upon your purpose.  As you live into your purpose will you make a difference, a life-changing difference, in the lives of the people around you and the world?

First – Discover Your Purpose

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are your strengths and talents?
  • What do you do best?
  • What do you really enjoy?
  • Where do you feel you are making a difference?
  • What do you care so deeply about that you are ready to give your life to make it happen?

Terry Fox was profoundly touched by younger cancer victims.  Those persons spurred him on every day, despite the hardships.

Remember, your purpose is bigger than you and will live on after you. What legacy will you leave for those who follow you?

If you want to explore how to leverage your strengths or help your team leverage their strengths, contact us.

 

Second – Align Your Purpose with Your Natural Strengths and Talents.

Terry Fox aligned his purpose with something he really enjoyed.  He excelled at running, so running across the country became a natural vehicle for him to achieve his goal.

You have unique strengths and talents.  Discovering your strengths is part of living your life.

Once you have discovered your strengths, then use your natural strengths and talents to live out your purpose.  Remember, the greatest joy and peace of your life comes when you align your everyday living, your goals, with your purpose.

Listen to Episode 103 of the Podcast to learn how getting clarity drives connections with others and brings your purpose to life.

Third – Stay Focused on Your Purpose

Every day Terry Fox stayed true to his purpose. Despite snow, rain, and sleet, he set his heart, soul, mind, and strength on something bigger than himself. In the early stages of his run, there was almost no media coverage.  He sometimes felt alone and misunderstood.  He overcame that by keeping his purpose at the forefront of his mind.

It is okay to be “focused to a fault.”

Too often, you lose your direction in life because you are easily distracted or influenced by other people. Living your purpose requires single-mindedness, a resolve to do whatever it takes. Staying focused will create a deep passion and a sense of significance deep within which will shape your everyday living and relationships.

Remember, it is a compliment to be “focused to a fault,” especially when your purpose is assisting others to become who God created them to be.

Fourth – Stay True to Your Purpose

In the later stages of his Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox attracted thousands of people in every major city. His attitude throughout was, “Whom am I among all these people? I am no better or no worse than anyone else.  There are a lot of other people involved with this, and they deserve recognition too.”

It was this humble outlook and genuine concern for others, plus his never-give-up attitude as he battled adversity, that endeared him to millions of people.  Even after cancer spread to his lungs, he was determined to carry on.

Terry never got to finish his run.  He died on June 28, 1981.  Yet, the ongoing legacy he left continues to help cancer victims.  Terry Fox stayed true to his purpose which allowed him to live beyond himself.

So, stay true to your purpose.  Don’t allow an unhealthy ego to override your good intentions.  You will have your greatest and most positive impact on your family, friends, and community because you are focused upon something greater than yourself.

Align Your Strengths & Purpose

Remember, when you align your strengths with your purpose and stay focused upon your purpose, your life will have meaning.  You will close your eyes at night with a feeling of fulfillment instead of worrying about all the day-to-day stuff that creates stress and tension.

I don’t know what season of life you are living at the moment, but I do know this; discovering and developing your purpose, then living your purpose indicates that you will make a significant difference in the lives of your family, friends, and community.

You will leave a legacy.

So, set your heart and mind upon the person God has created you to be. As you live into your purpose, care for God’s people you encounter along the way each day. Give your life in such a way that you live beyond yourself.

Your Next Step

Wondering your next step to grow as a Jesus? Take the quick, 5 question quiz. You’ll unlock your “Season” and learn your next steps to grow as a Jesus follower.

As you’ll soon learn, two of the Seasons of Following Jesus focus on claiming your gifts and talents and aligning your purpose. What season are you in the midst of right now? Learn more with the quiz.

You are known. You are valued. It might even be you are seen for who you are and what you have done. I don’t know a person who doesn’t want those things. As human beings, it’s likely your desire to be taken seriously and to be valued for who God created you to be.

Again, I don’t know a person who feels complete when he or she feels marginalized. Settling for less than who you know you truly are, robs us of wholeness.

The writer of the Psalms agrees.

“…I praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14).

You are uniquely created by God. You are one of God’s great accomplishments.

The Baptism of Jesus

The story of the baptism of Jesus affirms it as well. “…And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22).

When you are baptized, you are claimed by God and given a purpose. In fact, God says, “You are mine and I am proud of you.”

Even though you have been “remarkably and wonderfully made” and have been claimed by God as God’s very own, there are times you don’t live into who God has created you to be. Sometimes you just want to fit in because it is too painful or difficult to stand out. So, you live into less than who God intends for you.  Sometimes, you conform to a group’s standards because you “don’t want to draw attention to yourself,” or “rock the boat,” or “that’s the way things are done.” So, you give up a part of yourself to be a part of the group.

God has created you with unique talents that are to be used for God’s purposes.  But there are times you don’t explore or live into what gives you meaning and purpose because you feel selfish or you feel like you are taking a place that does not belong to you.

Who Are You?

I know how you feel, and I know what you are thinking.  I have lived much of my life with a false humility, saying that “I’m not good enough” or afraid to step out and lead, when deep inside knowing that it’s God’s goodness, not mine, that matters and that I have been given certain strengths and talents to lead in a particular and needed way. A few years ago, just to survive, I had to accept God’s claim on my life and live into the uniqueness of my personality and strengths. 

I went through a season of rediscovering myself and who God had created me to be.  As I listened to God say, “You are my child. I love you and I am proud of you,” I heard friends and colleagues say, “We believe in you.” Sometimes, to become who God created you to be, you have to answer the question, “What does it mean when someone believes in you when you do not believe in yourself?”

I don’t know what season of life or leadership you are in at this point in time, but I do know that to be whole and to be at peace with yourself and with others, to be who God created you to be, you have to be clear about who you are and your purpose in life.

So, here is what I want you to do.  This is for you and it is not hard to do.  I want you to take a few minutes to focus upon yourself and reflect upon what follows. 

Live into Your Name

As a Jesus follower, accept Who You Are. You have a name.  Live into your name. Let’s do it this way.

    Ross Marrs tells the story of being a teenager.  Before he went out on a date or to be with his friends, his dad you say, “Come here, Son.  What is your name?” 

     “Ross.”

     “What is your last name?”

     “Marrs.”

     His dad then would ask, “How do you spell that?”

     Ross would reply, “M-A-R-R-S.”

     His dad would say, “Does that sound like Smith, Altizer, or Miller?”

     Ross would reply, “No.”

     Then his dad would say, “So, be a Marrs.  Behave as a Marrs.”

As a Jesus follower, your name is Christian.  How do you spell that? C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. Accept who you are.  You will become who you were created to be as you live into your name. Reflect upon how you can live more into your name as Christian.

Be At Home With God and With God’s Children. 

You have a home where you are not a stranger or a guest but God’s beloved child.       

You will become more who God created you to be when you allow God to shape your life and your living through relationships, through the people around you. Sometimes God will shape you through family, sometimes through friends, other times through colleagues or co-workers, and often times through strangers or enemies.

Take time to notice where God is showing up in the people around you. Experience God’s love through your children, grandchildren, spouse, nieces and nephews.  Begin to live as God’s beloved child and be generous with God’s other children who are loved as well. Become vulnerable in your relationships so that your heart and arms are open to God in and through your interactions. As you look for God, you will become more at home with God. 

Isaac Watts wrote these words:

Your sure provision gracious God attend me all my days.

Oh, may your house be my abode, and all my work be praise.

Here would I find a settle rest, while others go and come;

No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home.

As a Jesus follower, you have a home. Your home is God. You will become who you were created to be when you are at home with God. Reflect upon how you can become more at home with God and God’s children. 

You Have A Purpose.

Your purpose is God’s business. 

You become who you were created to be when you see yourself involved in God’s business. Claim this reality: You have been chosen by God. You are God’s daughter, you are God’s son, you are loved. God is proud of you.  There is nothing you can do to earn God’s choosing or to deserve God’s love. God has already named you and claimed you. But you can decide to be about God’s business.    

As a Jesus follower, living into your name and being at home with God, you have the opportunity and responsibility to live as a loving, caring, healing, feeding, living, dying, rising child of God.

Look at Jesus, still wet from his baptism, he left the Jordan and went about God’s business.  Every crying person, every brokenhearted person, every hungry person, every diseased person, every alienated person, every suffering person was his business. God’s business was his business. He was to serve the needs of every human being.

As a Jesus follower, your purpose is God’s business. Want to become who you are created to be? Give yourself to the purpose for which you were created. Reflect upon how God has created you and how you were created to be a part of God’s business. 

If you’d like a little help with these reflections. Take the 5 question quiz we put together. Determine your “Season” of following Jesus and uncover your next step to grow as a Jesus follower.

What’s Your Business?

Let me wrap it up with this. My friend, Fred, tells the story of being a pastor, in a small town, early in his ministry.  The town’s population was about 450 people on a good day. He also said there were four churches in that town, with each church having its share of the population. 

     He said the best and most consistent attendance in town was at the little café where all men gathered on Sunday morning. While their wives and children were in one of four churches, the men discussed the weather, their cattle, their crops, etc. Although the church attendance would rise and fall according to the weather or to times of harvest, the café had consistently good attendance.  Better attendance than some of the churches. The men were always there.

     Fred said the patron saint of the group at the café was Frank.  Frank was a seventy-seven years old man when Fred met him. He was a good man, a strong man, a farmer, and a cattleman.  He had “pulled himself up by his bootstraps” and had earned his credentials. All the men at the café considered him their leader. Fred said, “I heard one man laugh and say, ‘Old Frank will never go to church.’”

     One day Fred met Frank on the street. They visited for a few minutes before Frank took the offensive.  He said, “I work hard, I take care of my family, and I mind my own business.” He said that as far as he was concerned, everything else was fluff.  Fred said, “I took what he said as, ‘Leave me alone; I’m not a prospect.’”

     So, Fred did not bother Frank.  But Fred said, “I was surprised, indeed the church was surprised, and the whole town was surprised, and the men at the café were absolutely bumfuzzled, when old Frank, seventy-seven years old, presented himself before me one Sunday morning for baptism.”

     There were some in the community who said that Frank must be sick and that he must be scared to meet his maker.  Others said, “He has heart trouble. I never thought old Frank would ever go up to be baptized.” 

     Fred said he and Frank were talking the day after his baptism and Fred asked him, “Frank, do you remember that little saying you used to give me? ‘I work hard, I take care of my family, and I mind my own business?’” 

     Frank replied, “Yeah, I remember.  I said that a lot.”

     Fred asked, “Do you still say that?”

     “Yes.”

     “Then what’s the difference?”

     Frank replied, “Back then I didn’t know what my business was.”

God’s Business

Frank discovered his business was God’s business. He went into the water minding his own business but came out of the water minding God’s business.

Want to become who God created you to be? Live into your name, become at home with God, and give yourselves to God’s business.  It is with God and God’s business that you will find peace within yourself and in your relationships.

Here we are at the beginning, not only of another year but of new decade. You have decided things in your life are going to be different. Things like your health. You are going to change your diet and eat nutritiously. You are going to exercise, lose weight, and get more sleep. Things like spending your money are going to be different. You are going to save money for the kids’ college expenses, save to beef up the retirement fund, or save for that anniversary trip you have been planning. 

You have been thinking about these things for months, just waiting for the right time to get started. So, what better time than the beginning of a new year? 

Will This Year Be Different?

Yet, there is a problem. Your health will not improve, and you will not save money just by saying you want to be healthy or you need to save money. If your life is going to be different, you will have to be different. 

At the beginning of this new year and decade, you can develop new ways of living by changing your habits and behaviors. The word for such a change of living is “repentance.” 

Now, before you say, “Tim Bias has lost his mind” and stop reading, trust me enough to take the next step. Over my 65 years, I’ve stood at this juncture a few times. The only way I am able to make a difference in my life is to change my living.

An “Aha” Moment

As you enter this new year, you also enter a time of new discoveries. It is time for an “aha” moment in your life. 

It will be your “aha” that will bring you to the point of changing your living. I believe the story of Jesus’ baptism gives us clues to such an “aha” moment. 

So, together, let’s start a new habit. Let’s read scripture, reflect upon it, respond to it and return to it before we put our head on the pillow each night. This pattern of reading, reflecting, responding, and returning is key to developing new habits and changes of behavior.

So, let’s get started. 

  1. Read the Scripture 

Let’s start with Luke 3:21-22.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22

2. Reflect on the Scripture.

Now, the question is, “What does God have for me in this scripture?” or “What is the ‘Aha’ for me in this scripture?” Let’s look at the context for a clue. You may not take it as far as I have below. But, give yourself an opportunity to explore what is happening in the scripture.

The Background

There is a lot in the background of this story, but for our purpose of reflection, we know that John the Baptist was the one preparing the way for the Christ, the Messiah. When people wondered if John was the Christ, he said, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, whose shoes I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” 

The people knew enough about what he was saying to be afraid. The Holy Spirit of God was one thing, sweeping across their souls like a wind from heaven, but fire was something else altogether. Fire was a purifier. You might be a better person for having gone through the fire, but it was going to hurt, and the scars would be ugly. 

The Presence of Jesus

Can you imagine people’s surprise when Jesus shows up? 

He is not at all who they expected. He was not an ax carrying arsonist. He was a gentle carpenter in whom the Holy Spirit chose to take up residence and who God claimed as his own beloved son. At that point, people were so taken back, they did not believe that Jesus could be the Christ. They were a lot like some people today. It is easier to believe in an angry God than in a loving one. 

So, Jesus did not take over John the Baptist’s ministry. Instead, he got in line with a whole crowd of sorry-looking people and took his turn in the water like everyone else. Nothing unusual there. 

It is only after his baptism, as he is praying, that the remarkable thing happened. Heaven opened, the clouds parted, and a figure that looked like a dove, straight from God, settled on Jesus as a voice from somewhere other than earth told him what it meant, “You are my beloved son, and I am proud of you.” What words! What acceptance!

A Defining Moment

Now, what did Jesus do that was so pleasing?

He was at the beginning of his ministry. All he had done so far is to say, “yes” to ministry. And what was that? He came to be with us in human flesh and blood. When he joined us, a voice from heaven declared, “You are my beloved son and I am pleased with you.” At that moment, you have a God-given description of who Jesus is and what he has come to do. You have a public declaration of what his ministry is about. 

So, what is the “Aha” moment? 

Jesus goes into the waters of the Jordan a carpenter and comes out a Messiah. He is the same person, but with a new direction. His “being” is the same, but his “doing” takes a radical turn. 

That is the definition of repentance: to turn, to go another way, to go God’s way. So, in that sense, it is true that Jesus repented; if not of sin, then of going his own quiet way in peace. He enters the water his own person, a private man. He comes out as God’s person, a public figure at the center of controversy for the rest of his life. 

Why Baptism?

But why baptism? Why not an eloquent speech or a simple ordination to mark his passage in life? Why not make a piece of furniture? After all, he is a carpenter.

  • Why did he become human when he could have stayed God? 
  • Why was he baptized when he could have stayed on the banks of the Jordan and supervised? 
  • Why does he come to you where you are, over and over again, when he could have saved himself the grief, the pain, the death, by insisting that we come to him where he is?
  • Do you know what I think? 

It is because he loves you. 

Because he is unbelievably pleased with you. He has come to lead you through the waters of life and death. He has come to make you who God created you to be. It has never been his style to shout directions from some safe place of his own. He has always led by joining you and me in the situations and circumstances of our lives.  

The Path of Jesus 

Here is the “aha” moment. 

If he had not been baptized, that would have been sin for him. He could have chosen to separate himself from us. He had every right to do so. But he didn’t. He took the plunge right along with the rest of us and so it came to pass that he who was without sin was baptized in the River Jordan to avoid the sin of standing apart from us.

Jesus is “God with us.” He never asks you to go anywhere he has not been first. From birth to death, from cradle to grave, through the waters of baptism, he knows what you are up against and has shown you how to live so that you might have a life full of peace and joy. 

He has chosen God’s way. He has chosen what will bring us closer together. Above all, he has chosen the things of earth to carry out the purposes of heaven.

3. Respond to the Scripture.

This is where you incorporate what God has revealed in your daily life. If Jesus is God with us, what would happen if today you started paying attention to where you noticed Jesus is with you. Yes, Jesus is always with you. The question is, when did you notice Jesus’ presence?

Here are a few other questions to consider:

  • Where will you see God in your everyday living? 
  • With whom will you join their struggles, pain, celebrations, or joy? 
  • Where will you enter as your person but leave as God’s person? 

Let’s return to where many of us start the year. If you are going to be healthy, you’ll need to exercise and eat nutritiously. That takes more than wishful thinking. It takes intentionally reading your environment, reflecting on what needs to change and responding in intentional ways that lead to a new habit and behavior. And daily, you’ll need to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. 

The same is true in our life with Christ.

If you want to grow as a follower of Jesus, here is what you need to do: 

  1. Read the scripture each day.
  2. Reflect upon the scripture asking yourself, “What does God have for me in what I am reading?” 
  3. Respond by incorporating what God has for you in your everyday living.
  4. Return each night and reflect on how you incorporated your “aha” into your daily life.

This habit will change your life. You will begin to have “aha” moments that will bring depth and meaning to every situation and circumstance. 

  1. Return

No, I didn’t forget step 4.

My reflections often come in the form of a story. So I’ll leave you with this story to model how an “aha” with Jesus can lead to transformation in daily life.

Fred Craddock tells of a conversation he had with a man in a restaurant in the Great Smoky Mountains. It a witness to one man’s “aha” moment. 

The man said, “I grew up in these mountains. My mother was not married, and the whole community knew it. I was called an “illegitimate” child. In those days that was a shame, and I was ashamed. The reproach that fell on her, fell on me. When I went into town with her, I could see people staring at me, making guesses as to who my father was. At school the children said ugly things to me. So, I stayed to myself during recess and I ate my lunch alone.”

He said, “In my early teens I began to attend a little church back in the mountains. It had a minister who was both attractive and frightening. He had a chiseled face, a heavy beard, and a deep voice. I went to hear him preach. I don’t know exactly why, but it did something for me. But when I would go, I was afraid I would not be welcome. So, I would go just in time for the sermon, and when it was over, I would leave because I was afraid that someone would say, ‘What’s a boy like you doing in church’.”

“One Sunday some people moved into the aisle before I could get out, and I was trapped. Before I could make my way through the group, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. It was that minister. I saw him out of the corner of my eye. I caught a glimpse of his beard and his chin. I trembled in fear.” 

“He turned his face around so he could see mine. I knew what he was doing. He was going to make a guess as to who my father was. A moment later he said, “Well, son, you are a child of…” and he paused there. And I knew what was coming. I knew I would have my feelings hurt. I knew I would not go back again. 

He said, ‘Son, you are a child of God. I see a striking resemblance.’ Then he said, ‘Now you go claim your inheritance.’”

The man said, “I left that church building a different person. In fact, that was really the beginning of my life.”

What will be your “aha” in 2020? 

Listen closely. I just heard a voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved child. I am proud of you. Now, go claim your inheritance!” 

Your Next Step

If you’d like to get into this “habit” of reading, reflecting, responding and returning, join the Facebook group, “Following Jesus Every Day” Every Sunday evening, we post a series of scriptures for the week that follow this pattern.

Uncertain what your next step is to grow as a follower of Jesus? Take this quick, five-question quiz. You’ll identify a “season” of following Jesus and what to do next.