I pose the question in the title of this blog, because I believe how you perceive Jesus, the Savior of the World, will have profound consequences on how you walk out your faith. What preceded this question and the following thoughts, was an article I recently read on the website, Christianity Today. It was an article written by Stephani McDade, titled "Jesus Christ Is Not A Superstar". The reasoning behind her title was as simple as it was astute ... Popular portrayals of the God-Man can draw admiring crowds, but they can't create imitating disciples.
Think about that for a minute. As Ms. McDade pointed out, our culture has many images [or adaptations] of Jesus to choose from. There is the intense Jesus of Passion of the Christ; the personal and intimate Jesus of The Chosen; the ethereal Jesus of King of Kings; and the rock star Jesus of Jesus Christ Superstar. The aftermath of the popularity of the recent movie, The Jesus Revolution, has raised the very issue that McDade proposed ... what's the difference between admirers of Jesus and imitators? And which one advances His Kingdom more?
We can begin to see the importance of these questions when we consider if there are any effects of being an admirer or an imitator of Jesus. "To effect" something or someone means there has been a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause; the state of being or becoming operative [functioning, active]. We all know admirers of Jesus -- people who love Him, esteem Him, praise Him, worship Him, and delight in Him. Admiration can result in an image of Christ as He meets what we need from Him. We can find ourselves seeking that image of Jesus that feeds our image of ourselves. But do we see a change or transformation in our lives that causes us to seek less for ourselves and more for Him and His Kingdom? Or is the demand on our life [to become more than an admirer] cost us too much? Is the price too high to actually become an imitator?
So, what makes a person an imitator of Jesus Christ? First, let us consider that Jesus sought men and women who would become effective disciples; imitators of His ways, seeing and doing what the Father revealed to be His will. He never sought the admiration of crowds [although His radical message drew them]. He never wanted to be "Jesus Christ Superstar". But to be His follower, one had to believe in who He said He was ... the very Son of God, who was willing to sacrifice Himself for the benefit of others. And being a follower means imitating that character of Christ. Imitators not only look like Christ, but they act like Him!
And that brings me back to the overwhelming popularity of the movie, The Jesus Revolution. Based on the book of the same name, the film follows youth minister Greg Laurie, Christian hippie Lonnie Frisbee, and pastor Chuck Smith as they take part in the Jesus movement in California during the late 1960s. Probably unknown by most of those who are rejoicing over how well the movie has been received, is the backstory of the primary characters of the movie, Laurie, Frisbee, and Smith. Those who were there and witnessed [in person] the supernatural revival that occurred, and knew the individuals personally, speak of how sincere imitators were soon ostracized within the movement when the effects of following Jesus in Truth and Spirit became too uncomfortable for the admiring evangelists. Those who were able to receive the fullness of who Jesus was -- with all the accompanying signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit -- became imitators of the Son of God. Those who could only go as far as the admiring and prevailing conventions of orthodox Christianity would accept began to fall away from the direction the movement was taking. I am not condemning either faction -- just stating that being either an imitator or admirer of Christ can look quite different from each other.
In the end, the world needs both to point them to the Savior. And no matter how you perceive Him, we all need the Holy Spirit to help grow our vision of Him and teach us how to represent Him, be like Him, imitate Him. Jesus came to earth, as the Son of God, to draw and invite followers to carry on His work until He returns. This weekend we celebrate the culmination of His time on earth, when He sacrificed Himself so we could be reconciled to the Father, and He rose from Death with the promise that we, too, can live again eternally in Heaven with Him. And until that heavenly reunion, He calls all true followers to model our lives after His -- healing, casting out demons, raising the dead, and spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom [from Salvation to Resurrection Life].
We are to be all He calls us to be, effecting change and transformation in our own lives and showing the way to others. It is incumbent upon us to respect and admire Him; but when we are actually willing to risk the admiration of others for the sake of becoming like Him, then we can truly be called His Disciples. I thank you, Jesus, for showing us how to be obedient followers who declare with abundant faith, "He has Risen"!
#truedisciplesofjesus #imitatorsofjesus #followersofjesus
1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.