When Jesus became human, He joined Himself with humanity with a connection of love that cannot be broken by any power except for the power of human choice. Satan is constantly pressuring and tempting us with distractions that will entice us to break this tie—and to separate ourselves from Christ. This is the biggest temptation that we must watch out for, because we must always be on the lookout, guard against, and pray that nothing may lure us into choosing another master, because we are always free to do this. We can guard ourselves from this temptation by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, and trusting in Him to keep us safe. When we are placing our trust completely in Him, nothing can steal us out of His hands. By continually staying connected with Him, we are both safe and made “more and more like him as we are changed into His glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
This is how the disciples became like Jesus. When they heard Jesus’ words, they felt their need. They pursued Him, they found Him, and they followed Him. They stayed with Him in homes, at meals, and outside, in every moment they could. They followed Him as a teacher who gives life, and were eager to receive the lessons that He taught. They saw Him as a master and they were His servants, and they desired to know what they needed to do. The disciples were men “as human as we are” (James 5:17). They shared the same weaknesses we do, and they battled with temptation and sin that we face. They needed the same grace as we do, to live the lives that God designed for us to live.
Even John, the disciple who is known as the one Jesus loved, and the one who best reflected Jesus’ character, did not naturally have this character. Before Jesus, and during some of the time he was with Him, he was not only pushy and self-centered, but also impulsive and resentful at times. However, the longer he stayed with Jesus, and the more he saw Jesus’ character in action, he began to realize and see his own faults. Realizing his faults humbled him and the strength mixed with patience, the balance of power and tenderness, and the glory blended with humility that he saw displayed in Jesus’ life filled his heart with respect, wonder, and love. Each day that he stayed with Jesus found his heart growing closer towards Christ, until he lost himself and all his personal desires in the love for his Savior. The power of Christ working in his life transformed his pushy, self-centered, and impulsive attitude. The Holy Spirit working on his heart renewed his life and the power of the love of Jesus transformed his character. This is the same results we can expect when we unite with Jesus. When Jesus Christ lives in our hearts, our whole nature is transformed. His Spirit and His love relaxes our hearts, humbles our being, and redirects our focus, thoughts, and desires towards heaven—and towards God.
When Jesus ascended to heaven, His followers still sensed His presence. The presence they felt was personal, full of light, and overflowing with love. Jesus, the man and Messiah who they had shared life with for over three years, who had prayed with them and for them, who had shared messages of hope and comfort with them, was taken to heaven while the message and mission were still on His lips. Often they would hear and remember Jesus’ voice in their minds and hearts saying, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). When He ascended, they knew He was still human. They knew that He was going to stand before the Father’s throne in heaven, never changing in His role as their Friend, Savior, and Advocate, and that He would never forget His experience on earth and the sacrifice He made because of the love He has for us. Before the throne of the Father, the disciples knew He was presenting Himself, His life and His blood, as a reminder of the price that was paid to give humanity the choice of freedom from sin. They knew that Jesus had ascended to heaven to prepare places for them, and that He would return to bring them to heaven to be with Him. (John 14:1-3)
Every time they met together after the Jesus returned to Heaven, they did not shy away from presenting their requests to the Father in Jesus’ name. With respect to both Jesus and the Father, they would bow their heads for prayer and claim the promise Jesus gave them that “I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and He will grant your request because you use My name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using My name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy” (John 16:23-24). They stood on the declaration that “Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (Romans 8:34). When the celebration of Pentecost came, it brought the presence of the Comforter, who Jesus had promised would come. “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate [Comforter, Counselor, and Encourager] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is continually able to live in our hearts and our lives when we have chosen to become His children. The connection to Jesus was closer with the Holy Spirit than when He was personally with them. Jesus’ light, His love, and His power were displayed in a powerful way. “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Everything that Jesus was to His disciples, He wants to be to His children today. In one of His last prayers, with the small group of disciples around Him, Jesus prefaced the prayer by saying, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message.” (John 17:20).
As His followers, Jesus prayed for us, and in that prayer, He asked that we would become one with Him, just as He is one with the Father. (John 17:21) What an awesome privilege is this! Before this, Jesus said, “the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does,” (John 5:19) and “The words I speak are not My own, but My Father who lives in Me does His work through Me” (John 14:10). With Jesus living in our hearts, He will transform us by “giving [us] the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Philippians 2:13). We will present the same spirit that He displayed, and our motives and actions will be transformed to be like His. With Jesus living in our hearts and lives, “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15).
Next week, we will begin to look at what Christian living really looks like when we focus on the Work and the Life.
P.S. As always, if I missed something, or if you would like to respond on this topic, join the conversation below!