We’re talking about the spiritual life of Jesus. It’s important because most people don’t think he had one. We simply assume that he was born full-grown, overlooking the shattering impact of the Incarnation. He really was a baby. He really thought like a baby. He really grew up.
And he did all of that as a human, though he at the same time always was and always will be true God.
And that’s exactly what makes average evangelical followers of Jesus scratch their perplexed heads.
“But, John Doe and Jane Doe will instantly object, “It can’t have mattered very much to him if he was God. A God can’t really suffer like you and me. Besides, the parson says we are to try and be like Christ; but that’s all nonsense–we can’t be God. And it’s silly to ask us to try.” This able exposition of the Eutychian heresy can scarcely be dismissed as merely “interesting to theologians”; it appears to interest Jon and Jane to the point of exasperation. Willy-nilly, we are forced to involve ourselves further in dogmatic theology and insist that Christ is perfect God and perfect man. . . .
“That,” replies John Doe, “is all very well, but it leaves me cold. Because, if he was God all the time, he must have known that his sufferings and death and son on wouldn’t last, and he could have stopped them by a miracle if he had liked, so his pretending to be an ordinary man was nothing but playacting.” And Jane Doe adds, “You can’t call a person ‘altogether man’ if he was God and didn’t want to do anything wrong. It was easy enough for him to be good, but it’s not at all the same thing for me. How about all that temptation stuff? Playacting again. It doesn’t help me live what you call a Christian life.”
John and Jane are now on the way to becoming convinced Apollinarians [an ancient heresy], a fact which, however interesting to theologicans, has a distinct relevance also to the lives of those average men, since they propose, on the strength of it, to dismiss Christian principles as impractical.
[Sayers, in Letters to a Diminished Church, 55, 56.]
Simply put, most Christians dismiss the life of Jesus as irrelevant for all practical purposes. They do it because they are a) under-instructed in the person and work of Christ–the heart of theology and, b) understandably eager to be evaluated by any standard other than the life of Christ.
Enter today’s blog. Here’s my central point: JESUS VOLUNTARILY RESTRICTED THE USE OF HIS DIVINE POWERS SO THAT HE COULD LIVE AS A HUMAN. He restricted himself to the same powers that you and I would have once we were saved.
The implication of my central point is: YOU CAN, THEREFORE, WALK IN HIS STEPS, BUT ONLY IF YOU UTILIZE HIS POWERS.
I see three such powers operating in his life: The Holy Spirit, The Word of God, Unbroken Communion with the Father.
1. THE HOLY SPIRIT
When Jesus loved the unlovable, when he resisted temptation, when he cast out demons, when he performed miracles, and when he fulfilled the will of God, the source of his supernatural power was the Holy Spirit. The Third, not the Second Person of the Trinity.
I’m not making it up, honest!
- His conception: “18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18, NKJV.
- His ministry: “18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” Luke 4:18, NKJV.
- His anointing and power: “22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”” Luke 3:22, NKJV.
- His direction and performance of God’s will: “1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,” Luke 4:1, NKJV.
- His divine mission: “18 “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” Matthew 12:18, NKJV.
- Casting out demons: “28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12:28, NKJV.
- Speaking forth God’s Word: “34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” John 3:34, NKJV.
- His resurrection: “18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18, NKJV.
The role of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life has been radically neglected. That’s too bad, because the same Spirit stands ready to empower you to walk in Jesus’ steps. If Jesus did what he did by his own divine power, then we cannot walk in his steps. If he did what he did by the divine power of the Spirit, and if he gives us that same Holy Spirit, then we’re good to go.
Not only that, but his temptation and suffering were real. Actually more real than ours because we cave in before temptation has reached its peak; he didn’t. He, therefore, felt a fuller, more vicious temptation than any of us ever will. Jesus walked in the Spirit. So can we.
2. THE WORD OF GOD
The Word of God is infused with God’s own power. It is not only the truth of God, it is also a container for the power of God. Think of God’s Word not only as “truth pills” but as “radioactive truth pills.”
When you take in God’s Word, you not only receive truth, you also receive power.
Says who? Says the Word:
- “12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, NKJV.
- “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16, NKJV.
- “11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11, NKJV. (Later he will say that it grows “automatically.”)
- “32 “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able [lit. “has the inherent power”] to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32, NKJV.
“Okay,” you’re thinking. “So the Word is powerful. What does that have to do with Jesus. He IS the Word, incarnate. So he had a massive head start.”
Yes, he is the Word incarnate. But no, he didn’t have a massive head start. Jesus grew in his knowledge of Scripture. As a baby he knew what all babies know: “Feed me, shelter me, help me, change me, burp me, goo-goo, smile, squeeze the finger.”
- “52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke 2:52, NKJV.
The fact that he “increased in wisdom” means that he was not always complete in his knowledge, humanly speaking, of God’s Word. He learned, studied, contemplated, and grew. This is the true humanity of Jesus.
And you have access to the same Word of God that he did. And the same power it created in him, it will create in you. You can be a WWJD kind of person–but not by your own power.
The spiritual life of Jesus points the way.
3. COMMUNION WITH THE FATHER
Communion with the Father is both a cause of power and the result of power operating in Jesus’ life. I used to teach that communion with the Father was the result of #1 and #2 (above) in Jesus’ life. Now I teach that it is a 3rd source of power, though it’s still a result. What I mean is that the Spirit and the Word are means to an end: fellowship with God the Father. Or, as our postmodern friends love to call it, “Intimacy with God.” Though that phrase still gives me the willies.
It is that closeness to God, that felt sense of God’s presence, that in itself increases your momentum to walk as Jesus walked.
Jesus love his father, so Jesus obeyed his father. That love was the end result of his spiritual life and growth. It can be the same for you.
- “29 “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”” John 8:29, NKJV.
- “25 “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”” John 17:25, 26, NKJV.
- “7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come– In the volume of the book it is written of Me– To do Your will, O God.’”” Hebrews 10:7, NKJV.
It can be the same for you–the same communion with the Father’s heart that Jesus enjoyed can be yours.
- “3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3, NKJV.
Give Jesus his due. He did what he did as a man, with the same limitations of other men and women (except for sin). Since Jesus lived in unbroken communion with the Father, his life demonstrated the fullest human potential possible. He is the first human to live up to his potential. He displayed what God created us all to be.
His love, his character, his wisdom, his magnetism, his integrity, his humor, his gentleness, his fierceness, his perfect timing in ministry and prayer, his miracles… all flowed out of his human nature, in perfect fellowship with the Father.
And that fellowship, in turn, was energized by the filling of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Jesus lived with one arm tied behind his back. But God made it up to him. He’ll do the same for you.
You can be like Christ. He has left you his legacy, his example, and most importantly, his sources of power. You can walk in his steps. You can resist temptation. You can love like he loved. You can become emotionally and spiritual healthy. You can have his joy.
The power is there just waiting for you to use it.