–November of 2005
Charles Sheldon popularized the question, “What would Jesus do?” in his famous book, In His Steps. The question implies that by asking and answering “What would Jesus do?” one could then imitate the behavior or response of Jesus in any given situation. The only problem is that this approach doesn’t work. Trying to answer what Jesus would do is highly subjective, differs from person to person, and can be implemented (and most often is) without any biblical data. The end result is a superficiality that fails to transform character to any measure of real Christlikeness.
The Bible leads us toward another question. That question is “What did Jesus do?” This is a question that forces us to search the scriptures to see how Jesus lived his life, responded to others, and revealed the character of His heavenly father. The Gospels offer a front row seat to watch and learn from the words and works of the Master Teacher. When one reads the story of the woman taken in adultery and carefully studies Jesus’ response to her, one has to draw the conclusion that to be like Jesus one must treat every human being with dignity and respect as well as with an overall response that is redemptive. But even this approach lacks what is needed for the development of true Christlike character.
Christlikeness cannot be produced by imitation (Sheldon’s approach) or solely by revelation (gaining insights from the study of scripture). True Christlikeness can only be produced by inhabitation. We must allow Christ to live His life through us. So how does this happen in real life? First, by the miracle of regeneration and entire-sanctification (things Christ does for us and in us). Second, by the choices we make and the disciplines we embrace. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we must: get rid of our old ways of living, let the Spirit and Word change the way we think, and develop new godly habits. As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, He can bring about character change that allows us to manifest the true image of Christ.
The real question isn’t what would Jesus do or what did Jesus do but what can he do with a fully surrendered soul who is cooperating with the Holy Spirit and applying the principles of God’s Word? The answer to that question will be transformational.