Just the other day, a person sent me a devotional from a local mega church that said the goal of the Great Commission is to be more like Jesus. The devotional read:
Today, as you open your hands and welcome God into your day, think of a significant relationship and one thing you can do (in the next few days) to encourage that person to be more like the Christ. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something big or dramatic, but think of something you can continually do as you help them become more like Jesus.
While the sentiments of the above devotional sound good on the surface, they reveal a very serious problem going on in the Church world today. Huge numbers of churches are sharing a message that has nothing to do with the Gospel or the Lord’s goal in redemptive history. Many people have come to believe that the Lord’s main goal for us is to be like Jesus, follow His example, be a good person and live a moral life of love and service to others. Millions of people are reading devotionals like the one above and hearing messages in their churches that we need to help others “become more like Jesus.” Somehow the salvation and Savior part of the Great Commission and resulting fruit of real discipleship is being confused or lost altogether. If we are not careful, people will be led into self-improvement through their good works and human efforts and the finished work of the Cross will not even be in focus.
You see the problem with this thinking is that this message and mission is NOT Good News. It is not Good News that I have to try to be like Jesus. That message and goal is really Bad News. None of us can live like Jesus on our own, and trying to do so is the most frustrating thing I can imagine. In addition, trying to help people “become more like Jesus” is a total waste of time since I can’t do it myself. The really Good News is that the Lord saves us, forgives us and makes us like Jesus as a free gift of His amazing grace alone. It is His work, not ours.
The Lord’s goal and plan for our lives is to know Him, not just know about Him. When we know the Lord our lives begin to be more like His life. Knowing the Lord is much, much different that knowing about Him. As an example, my wife really knows me, not just about me. We enjoy intimate fellowship every day and it is wonderful. If my wife just heard about me it would not be the same. It would be something entirely different. Sadly, that is what is going on today in the lives of many people sitting in Church every Sunday. People are being told to live the Christian life without the power of being a Christian that comes from knowing Jesus and His Gospel. People are trying to be sanctified without being justified. People are trying to save themselves through their own spiritual efforts and are forgetting what it means for Jesus to be our Savior.
The heart of the Bible’s message is the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:34 where the Lord tells us, “No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord’, because they will all know me from the least to the greatest.“ declares the Lord. In this wonderful passage the Lord is telling us that knowing Him is the goal of it all, being His friend as the Lord Jesus told the disciples in John 15:15. I know all my friends, I don’t just know about them. They are people I enjoy being with and sharing a wonderful relationship. It is this personal knowledge of the Lord that the Apostle Paul said was his great joy and delight in Philippians 3:10 when he said, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…..”
Let’s celebrate knowing the Lord personally today. Let’s celebrate the gift of knowing the Lord who loved us and gave Himself for our salvation on the Cross. The Good News is that we will be like Jesus one day in glory. Until that day arrives, we can celebrate His salvation that was freely given and the sanctifying power and promise to accomplish that great work in His time.