If Only!

If only every word I speak, each tone of voice,
were only what I’ve heard from you!
If only every action, in each sacred moment,
were only that which pleases you!
If only every step I take would move me forward
with my eyes fixed just on you!
If only I could grow in grace and holiness
to be in every way like you!

If only! Yes, we may long to become perfect, to be like Jesus, but attaining that goal can seem truly unrealistic! I remember feeling that way when we would sing this hymn in my youth:

Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.[1]

What does it take to achieve that kind of goal?

Lately I’ve been studying the diets recommended to combat certain physical issues. I even made a chart that notes which foods I should eat, which foods I should avoid. That’s all a great start. But what if I just leave it there and don’t follow any of these recommendations?

Or what if someone wants to get a license to drive. If they study the rules of the road, and even learn the parts of a car that one must master in order to make it run, but never actually practice driving with a parent or other mentor, will they be ready to pass the test? And you may have experienced the difference between when a student driver or a practiced driver navigates an unknown country road that has not been maintained. My husband Glenn (in the photo above) has spent years perfecting how to choose the best path through ruts, rocks and potholes and how fast to drive when out in the bush. Practice has definitely made his skills exceptional!

Studying what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount has impressed on me once again that being a true disciple means going beyond just conforming to outward appearances, like saying you are a Christian and attending church. It means truly knowing Jesus (not just knowing about him), and knowing what he and his Father said in the Scriptures, and then actually practicing those things. Many writers have pointed out that Jesus’ message has often been viewed as good moral teaching, then set aside while life is lived as the person wishes.

But Jesus said, ““My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Lk. 8:21 NIV) To be in his Family means taking Scriptural instruction seriously and actually learning to live it out! Otherwise, you are showing that you are not related to him!

At the end of his Sermon on the Mount he described it this way:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  (Matt. 7:24-27 NIV)

The foundation, the Rock, is Jesus and his teaching. Putting what he said into practice prepares the disciple to stand firm, to be unshakeable, when a “storm” comes. He may be facing suffering, or opposition, or danger. But his true inner person stays firmly attached to Jesus and the Master’s straight, narrow path. He has been made strong by building his life on that foundation, whereas the person who did not practice the teaching was fragile. He crashed.

So to be Jesus’ devoted disciple, we must practice doing what he told us. Try doing this along with me: go through the Sermon on the Mount, read each section and meditate on it, pray, then decide how you should implement it in your life. Practice it, so that you can live it out as an automatic way to navigate life—like a skilled driver who intuitively makes the right decision when faced with an unexpected challenge. Here is a beginning list of topics Jesus’ underlined as key:

  • dealing appropriately with anger at a brother
  • being a peacemaker, doing what is necessary to work toward reconciliation
  • conquering lust
  • keeping your promise
  • loving your enemy
  • working to please God, not just to please people (godly motivation)
  • doing what honors your one Master
  • not worrying—trusting God’s love, his care
  • developing discernment—not “judging” without careful personal introspection, and avoiding assumptions
  • doing to others what you want them to do to you
  • staying on the straight path – not swayed by false teaching
  • doing the will of the Father – not as a nominal Christian, but as a true disciple

The writer of Hebrews encourages doing good, showing love, and then says:

Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, 12 so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.1 (Heb. 6:11 CSB)

This is our hope: that there will come a day when everything is made new and we are in the actual Kingdom of Love established forever. But we are not supposed to just sit back and wait for it. If practice makes perfect, then it is true that laziness will not achieve the maturity in Christ that we desire. We cannot do it on our own—this is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in us—but our cooperation and diligence is also required.

Dallas Willard gives a useful process for being a true apprentice of Jesus. There are two primary objectives for this training. The first is that apprentices must come “to the point where they dearly love and constantly delight in that ‘heavenly Father’ made real to earth in Jesus and are quite certain that there is no ‘catch,’ no limit, to the goodness of his intentions or to his power to carry them out.”[2] If this is the reality in a person’s life, then their desire will be to do everything Jesus told them to do. The second objective is to be retrained so that our automatic tendencies to follow the kingdom of this world are changed into the automatic practice of the essentials of “the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Col. 1:13). This is accomplished through attention to the spiritual disciplines.[3] These are not punishments but practices that are like a curriculum for spiritual growth.

I personally have benefited hugely by following this curriculum. The Lord knows each of us intimately and he arranges the process according to our temperaments and needs. Our part is to pay attention to his direction, and then actually engage ourselves in the training. By doing so, we learn how to actually become more and more like Jesus, living out his principles. We get to know him better, becoming increasingly attached to him as we walk life with him and experience .his work in our lives and in the world around us.

In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing some of these key “disciplines.” I would love to hear from you readers! What has been truly helpful to you in getting to know and love Jesus and see personal transformation?

[1] Thomas O. Chisholm, “O to be Like Thee! Blessed Redeemer,” 1897.

[2] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997), 321.

[3] Ibid., 322.

Published by Linnea Boese

After spending most of my life in Africa, as the child of missionaries then in missions with my husband, I am now retired and free to use my time to write! I am working on publishing poetry and on writing an autobiography. There have been many adventures, challenges and wonderful blessings along the way -- lots to share!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: