I have a fondness for grand quotes of the Christian life. I am always looking for a pithy quote that says it just right. While I have several individuals who have become favorites over the past few years, I am always on the lookout for a new and fresh voice (even if the voice is several hundred years old). I have been intrigued with JC Ryle as of late, who seems like a solid man of God from years past. I have been receiving Ryle’s quote a day and found his words refreshing. Until today.
While his words sound true, they are greatly lacking a critical element. Here’s the quote:
The Lord God has mercifully provided His people with everything necessary to their sanctification. He has given those who follow after holiness the clearest of precepts, the best of motives, and the most encouraging of promises. But this is not all. He has furthermore supplied them with the most perfect pattern and example, even the life of His own Son. By that life he bids us model our own. In the steps of that life He bids us walk. (1 Peter 2:21) It is the model after which we must strive to mold our tempers, our words, and our works, in this evil world. “Would my Master have spoken in this manner? Would my Master have behaved in this way?”–These are the questions by which we ought daily to test ourselves.
I absolutely agree that God has given us absolutely everything necessary for sanctification. That “everything” IS Jesus! But what I disagree with in his quote is the “model” idea.**
Jesus is NOT our model. He is our life! He did not live His life on earth that we should attempt to emulate it. It is absolutely impossible to live Christianity in our strength, our own intellect, in our ability. If we try to do so, we will utterly fail.
But that is the point. We can’t live the life we are called to live; which is why we need someone greater than we are to live it for us. Thus our desperate need is for (thunderous intro music here) an indwelling God.
In the Old Testament, God was an “outside” God. He sat comfy in heaven (or in the Holy of Holies) and told us what to do. We tried to do it, but found it was never enough or to the perfect standard. But when we get to the New Testament, that whole thing flipped on its head. The outside God has come inside (Pentecost – the infilling of the Holy Spirit). We no longer live our lives, He lives our life. We no longer are the source of our intellect, strength, ability, energy, etc, He is!
Paul declared in Galatians 2.20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul was no longer living his life, Jesus was.
Jesus, through the indwelling of His Spirit, has taken residence in our lives to become the source and flow, not a cute example we talk about in Sunday school, or a WWJD bracelet we wear to remind us to “think like Jesus.”
The whole concept of WWJD is wrong! Before you throw stones, let me explain. When we ask “what would Jesus do?” it presumes that Jesus is the model or example and whatever He would do, I (in my own power and ability) will attempt to live or respond in the same way. You can’t. It’s impossible. We can’t live the life we are suppose to live, we must have the Spirit sourcing and flowing through our lives!
I still love Ryle. He has often said things with a profound simplicity; but in today’s case, I believe he is wrong. If Jesus is nothing more than an example for me to follow, I am lost and have no hope. But if Jesus IS my life and it is He (through the Spirit) who is living my life, I CAN be all that He wants me to be. I can live a victorious Christian life. I can be exactly like He is, because it is He, not me, who is living my life.
Oh that Jesus might be the big deal of my life! That He would live and source my life and bring me to the level of perfect holiness, righteousness, and Godliness. Jesus do so in me!
**Note: I realize 1 Peter 2.21 talks about Jesus being our example, but it must be read in context and while we could say Jesus is THE picture of perfect righteousness, it is not upon us, but Him, to produce this perfect standard in us.