By Peter Amsterdam
March 1, 2016
If we desire to become more like Jesus, the logical starting point is to believe as He did—to hold those beliefs close in our hearts, to embed them in our being. It’s clear that Jesus believed and lived according to what His Father revealed in Scripture—the revelation of God through the Old Testament.
One of the most significant things Jesus taught through what He said and how He lived was the vital importance of God in our lives. To Jesus, His Father was everything. He was totally dedicated to and dependent on His Father, and He taught His followers to live in the same way. Godliness and Christlikeness begin with embracing God as a living and personal all-powerful Being who created all that is, and who loves and cares for every human being. He is not some faraway entity that created the universe, wound it up like a watch, and then walked away, letting it run on its own.
The whole Old Testament story is one of God’s interaction with humanity, and in particular with the descendants of Abraham—the people through whom He chose to reveal Himself. Through the story of God’s interaction with humanity as told in the Old Testament, we understand that God is living, personal, spirit, holy, righteous, just, patient, merciful, loving, self-existent, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere. Because God is our creator and the sustainer of our being, He is the most important thing in our lives, our most important relationship. He deserves our love, worship, devotion, obedience, and allegiance.
We see Jesus’ love for, worship of, and devotion, obedience, and allegiance to His Father throughout the Gospels. This shows us that being Christlike fundamentally begins with a personal commitment to God. The succinct yet overarching overview of that commitment is seen in the first of the ten commandments which God gave to Israel after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.1
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He made the same point with other words:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.2
Having “no other gods before me” means that we are to put nothing in our lives above God. This doesn’t mean we don’t love and care about other things—we do, and deeply. But the ultimate priority is loving God above all else. He is, after all, the creator of all things, and has created all that we love—our parents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters, friends, pets, etc. In Jesus’ words and throughout the Old Testament, there is the expectation that our desire for God, our willingness to love and serve Him, to follow after Him, is pursued with all our heart and soul.
What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.3
This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.4
Obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul.5
Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.6
Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.7
We are to be loyal to God and His Word. This expectation of loyalty is seen in the Old Testament, based on the covenant God made with Israel—that He would be their God, and they would be His people. As such, they were to keep God’s commands; and God, in turn, would give them a land to dwell in and call their own, and care and provide for them.
The same expectation of loyalty to a covenant is expressed within the New Testament. Jesus shedding His blood for us has brought about a new, better, and eternal covenant between God and His people. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.8 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.9 He is the mediator of a new covenant.10 Our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant.11
We also hear the expectation of love and fidelity to Jesus when He says that loyalty to Him surpasses loyalty to family. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.12 The principle that Jesus lived and which Scripture teaches is that our first priority is to love God (who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with all of our hearts. We love Him first and foremost; and then we love our parents, spouse, children, family, etc. Loving God most does not take away from the deep love we have for others, but it puts it in proper perspective.
Loving God first and foremost is part of being like Jesus, as this was what Jesus did—so much so that He yielded to His Father’s will and went to the cross so that we could become God’s children, members of His family.
The natural outcome of loving the one who created, loves, and cares for us, the one we are loyal to, is worship. We worship Him for who He is and what He’s done.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.13
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.14
In the Old Testament, worship included prayer, but it mainly focused on the sacrifices offered in the temple—sacrifices of animals as well as of flour, oil, and wine. When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, He spoke of a difference that was coming, a time when the place where people worshipped would be unimportant. Instead of a sacred place, like the temple for the Jews or Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans, the believer would become the place where the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit make their home.15
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.16
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”17
Who or what we worship has to do with who or what has first place in our lives, who we are loyal to. When Satan tempted Jesus, he tried to persuade Jesus to switch His loyalties, to seduce Him through the riches and glory of this world:
The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”18
Part of being more like Jesus is to model our loyalty to God after His loyalty to His Father; we are to worship God only, and not put anything else before Him.
Jesus made reference to His Father over 100 times in the Gospels, and in doing so He conveyed the importance of having a right belief about, understanding of, and relationship with God. God revealed His nature and character to His people within the Old Testament,19 and more was revealed through the words Jesus spoke and the actions He took during the years He lived on earth.
Jesus deepened the understanding of the relationship individuals could have with God. He brought to the fore the concept of God as our Father and us as His children, and our relating to Him as such. Through this, He helped make the relationship we have with God more personal. We’re His children, and He loves us and takes care of us. We can fully and completely trust Him with every aspect of our lives. We can cease from worry because He knows and loves us, and knows what we need.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” … Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.20
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!21
If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.22 The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.23 I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.24
While God was described as a father on several occasions in the Old Testament,25 He is never directly addressed as such. Jesus introduced the term Father as an intimate form of address to God. He used the Aramaic word Abba, which was a term of endearment used for one’s father. By introducing this term, Jesus conveyed the concept of intimacy and affection. He made the point that the Father loves us and treats us as His children, and we can relate to Him with familial intimacy, as one would relate to a loving father.
The apostle Paul points out,
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.26
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.27
While Jesus is uniquely God the Son, we are also God’s sons and daughters, and the Father loves us as such, cares about us, and values each of us. The relationship we are meant to have with God is not meant to be distant, cold, and fearful, but full of love and trust.
Knowing the relationship we are meant to have with our heavenly Father should help us understand and believe in our value as individuals. We have value to God as His children, and because we do, we should recognize our own self-worth.
Jesus revealed to us His relationship with His Father—a relationship of love and trust—and in doing so, set the example of the kind of relationship we are to have with God. Being more like Jesus means being serious about growing in our relationship with God, loving Him, being loyal to Him, putting and keeping Him first in our life and in our love. Understanding that God is our creator, that He is infinitely greater than we are and yet loves us, should cause us to praise and worship Him, love Him, obey Him, and desire to do the things that glorify Him.
Jesus was focused on God and lived His life in complete surrender to His Father’s will. He reflected His Father in all that He did. As followers of Jesus, who wish to imitate Him, we too should strive to focus on God, doing our best to love and worship Him from the depths of our being, obey His Word, and live in a way that reflects His attributes and brings Him glory.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Exodus 20:2–3.
2 Mark 12:30.
3 Deuteronomy 10:12.
4 Deuteronomy 26:16.
5 Deuteronomy 30:2.
6 Joshua 22:5.
7 1 Samuel 12:24.
8 Luke 22:20.
9 Hebrews 7:22.
10 Hebrews 9:15.
11 Hebrews 13:20.
12 Matthew 10:37.
13 Psalm 29:2.
14 Psalm 95:6–7.
15 Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John, A Commentary, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 617.
16 John 14:23.
17 John 4:21–24.
18 Matthew 4:8–10.
20 Matthew 6:8, 31–33.
21 Matthew 7:11.
22 John 12:26.
23 John 16:27.
24 John 20:17.
25 Deuteronomy 32:6; 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13, 22:10, 28:6; Psalm 68:5, 89:26; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 3:4, 19; Malachi 1:6, 2:10.
26 Romans 8:15–16 NIV.
27 Galatians 4:6–7 NIV.