Posts Tagged Christ-likeness

Questions on Our Journey toward Christlikeness

By Paul Wilkinson, Adult Minister–Groups Associate

If a disciple is one who naturally exhibits the words and deeds of Jesus where they live, work, and play, and if we understand disciple making to be a process, then what are some of the major “road signs” to move us along our way? Today I want to introduce you to four key questions that we as group leaders must be answering for our group members or, in the very least, putting our group members in a position to answer these questions for themselves.

    • Identity – Who am I? A major question that every believer must answer is the identity question. As we move from old life to new life by justification and then progress towards glorification through our sanctification, we must remain vigilant to self-critique. One of the major attacks of the spirit of the age is to attempt to define our identities for us. We, as group leaders, must be faithful to the Word to demonstrate people’s identity in Christ: you are an adopted child (Ephesians 1:5), you are co-heir of the kingdom (Romans 8:17), you are salt and light (5:14-16) . . . . Through your teaching, shepherding, and living of the Christian life before your group, you will be affirming and confirming their identity for them.
    • Purpose – Why am I here? We must also demonstrate to our groups their purpose in this world. I think that the first response to the Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it well: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. How do we do that? First, we glorify God in our worship; and, we understand worship as a lifestyle. We never want to devalue corporate worship on certain days of the week, but we must mature to the point where our lifestyles themselves during the other 167 hours of the week are celebratory worship. As Paul wrote, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And we glorify God by thanking Him and delighting in Him as we enjoy His good gifts. The other dynamic of the Westminster response is to love God forever. That, to me, implies evangelism. Are we expanding the kingdom such that we will have more adopted children and co-heirs to live with God eternally? So, we glorify God through perpetual worship and evangelism.
    • Location and Destination – Where am I? If we are regenerate and we do seek to glorify God in all that we do, then how are we going about doing it? Where am I currently on my sanctification (spiritual maturity) process? Am I radically dependent on a weekly group leader to feed me the Word and answer all of my questions, whether theological, biblical, or ethical? Am I like Peter during the night of Jesus’ persecution or am I like Peter at Pentecost? Our obligation as group leaders is two-fold: help our members understand where they are in their maturity and then to paint the picture for who Christ intends them to be. A general spectrum could go something like this: totally inward focused as they are coming to terms with their faith; a shift toward an outward focus where they are doing service projects, charity, and general evangelism; a further shift toward leading others in such projects, Bible study, and group worship; and an even further shift toward making disciples who can then go reproduce themselves as disciples who make disciples. God has called us to be their spiritual guide on that journey!
    • Significance – What are my next steps? If my destination is to be a reproducing disciple and I know that I am currently not such a disciple, then how do I become that? We must provide on-ramps for our group members to begin understanding themselves as disciples and then as disciplers of others. We need to apprentice someone. We need to be investing in a sub-group of 3-4 people who can then start their own sub-groups of 3-4 people. We need to be challenging them to love God, which means that they are keeping God’s commandments. (1 John 5:3) This part, group leaders, is the hard work. Here is where we must labor, life-on-life, just as Jesus did with Peter, James, and John, to produce transformed people. And while this work takes much effort; please know that this work is delightful!

Modeling Christ-likeness

By Paul Wilkinson

Our goal as LIFE Group and Focus Study leaders is to be disciplers such that we guide, direct, and influence our people toward Christ-likeness. One way to understand Christ-likeness is that the words and deeds of Jesus flow naturally out of us. Jesus and Paul give us a strong principle of what it means to live in such a way before our people.
I am trained as a philosopher. In modern times, philosophy can get a bad rap as some completely abstract, impractical enterprise. In some ways, philosophy can become that. But originally, or at least for Western philosophy since Socrates (470-399 BC), philosophy was about seeking the good life. What are virtues? What is the Good? How do we live well? In order to do this, groups of people would follow around these sages to ask questions and, essentially, copy their lives. The same can be said of the Jewish Rabbis. Individuals learned from them by living their lives with them.
Jesus and Paul epitomize this approach. In John 5:19, Jesus says, “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing.” And Paul makes a parallel argument to the Church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 4:15-6, “For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me,” and 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” The general principle seems to be that the leader emulates his/her authority. Jesus, though equal in nature to the Father, freely subordinated His will to Father’s will. Paul imitated Jesus and encouraged the Church at Corinth to do the same.
I would suggest that the same principle applies for us as leaders today. We feed our souls with the Scripture, prayer, fasting, etc., so that we do only those things we see Jesus, Paul, and others faithful in the Scriptures doing. We do those things through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, convicting us, and guiding us. And we must now adopt the mentality that those that God has called us to shepherd should do those things they see us doing. For that reason, feeding your soul and remaining obedient to Jesus’ commands become even more paramount. In that way, the words and deeds of Christ will naturally flow out of you, and as your people see that life modeled, they too will begin to live like Christ.