Bringing Home the Faith: a Pastor writes to her teenage son about Christian belief is a series of ten letters I wrote for my son addressing his doubts about Christian faith and answering his questions about what Christians believe and why. Each letter is preceded by an Introduction which introduces its particular topic.
Please share these weekly installments of Bringing Home the Faith with someone in your life, whether young or old, who wants uncomplicated and honest answers to their questions and concerns about Christian faith.
Last week in letter No. 6: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us, I explained what happens when we don’t allow Jesus to be the Lord of our life. This week I write about how Jesus was able to do what cannot do on our own. I begin with the last paragraph from the previous post:
…Have you ever tried to do something you think God wants, such as doing a good deed or giving up something that mattered to you for someone else’s sake, only to discover you were also doing it to receive attention or to feel better about yourself? This happens to all of us. On our own, we do not have the ability or strength to do good things without being self-serving in some way.
As he lived on earth, Jesus was able to do what his Father wanted, perfectly. He carried out faithfully his Father’s will and he was never self-serving. He did not trip himself up in any way and no one else was able to trip him up. Jesus is the perfect model of what our lives should be like and he wants to help us be like him – to be fully what God intended us to be like. Only then will we be truly happy and finally free to be the delightful and holy people God created us to be. Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (11:28-30)
In case those verses do not make sense, let me explain: Jesus often made reference to common, everyday activities when he spoke. Since most people in his day were either farmers or shepherds he used farming or sheep-herding terms in his teachings. A yoke was a crossbar, made out of wood or iron, which joined two animals so they could work together, plowing a field or pulling a cart. Two animals together could work more effectively than just one. What Jesus is saying is that if we are willing to be “yoked” to him, in a metaphorical sense, he can help us to do what would be impossible for us, on our own, to do.
In the gospel of John Jesus says:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)
In both of these passages Jesus is indicating the same thing: If we turn our lives over to Jesus, by saying “You are my Lord and Master. Live through me so that your will is accomplished,” he can begin to bring out in us the good that we could not do on our own. Paul describes what this is like in his letter to the Galatians:
…It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, Revised Standard Version translation)
Paul’s life is a great example of why becoming like Jesus is what’s best for us. When he turned his life over to Jesus, it changed, dramatically, for the better. Here’s how it happened: While on his way to do much harm to Christians in Damascus – about three years after Jesus was put to death and raised back to life – a heavenly light flashed around Paul (at that time he was known as “Saul”) and he fell to the ground. He heard a voice saying to him:
Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord”? Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts of the Apostles 9:4-6)
From this moment on, Paul stopped persecuting Christians and became one himself. He immediately allowed Jesus to become the Lord of his life and he went on to convert thousands of people to faith in Jesus. To this day, his writings in the New Testament help people become more like Jesus. They help me, continually.
However, if you are thinking at this point that allowing Jesus to be Lord of your life does not seem like a very pleasant way to live, I understand. It does sound, at first, as though you will stop being “you”; that your friends will start to think you’re strange and you won’t have fun anymore. But that’s just not true. Only when you give Jesus complete control of your life can you begin truly to become the delightful, kind-hearted, and contented guy you were meant to be. This is the only way you’ll ever find real happiness in life.
Pride, idolatry and fear are what kept me from truly turning my life over to Jesus. I was prideful in wanting my own way. By making “success” my highest goal I was being idolatrous. And, by worrying about what people thought about me, I was operating out of fear. These negative forces in our lives can also be called “strongholds”. Anything that has a grip on our life, that has control over us, is a stronghold. So, in truth, I was not in control of my life, nor was I happy; these strongholds had control over me.
Next week Letter No. 6: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us concludes. This will be the last installment this summer from my book, Bringing Home the Faith. I will post the remaining four letters and epilogue next year. You can find in numerical order the prologue and first five letters (I will soon add the sixth letter) up on the black page bar, which runs under the large picture, at the top of the blog. Click “Bringing Home the Faith” for the drop-down menu.
In two weeks a new series begins.
Discussion Questions for Eighteenth Installment: Why Becoming Like Jesus is What’s Best for Us
1) What does Jesus mean when he says, “…Take my yoke upon you…? (Matthew 11:29) Why would anyone want to do that?
2) Why would going through life wanting what you want be an unpleasant way to live?
3) What can we learn from the life of St. Paul about becoming like Jesus?
4) Why can’t you become the person God created you to be without Jesus’ help?