Going into February, I’m reminded of the celebrations we had in grade school. When I was a kid, we didn’t celebrate “Presidents Day”; we celebrated George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. We read stories about how “Honest Abe” read and studied by candlelight and about how young George could not tell a lie. We came to know Washington as the “Father” of our country and Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.”
Certainly, our teachers taught those stories and lessons so that we might learn our country’s history, that we might learn how to be good citizens of our country, and that we might develop character traits similar to those great leaders. Those were good goals, and those were good plans for achieving those goals. Did we all learn the lessons well? Did we all become honest and studious like Washington and Lincoln? I suppose that’s best revealed in the way we have lived our lives since then.
That’s the reason why our next sermon series will take us through Luke’s Gospel, his account of Jesus’ life and ministry. The goal is for each of us to become more like Jesus, and the plan is to reveal who Jesus is by looking at what Jesus said and did.
There’s an interesting contradiction that exists within the modern church; it’s a conflict between our cultural affinity for celebrities and our spiritual goal to be more Christ-like. Our culture is fascinated by celebrities – athletes, actors, singers, billionaires, and others – and that fascination often leads many people to change themselves to be more like those celebrities. How many young, aspiring singers change their looks and style and mannerisms to be more like their favorite singer? How many young athletes wanted to be “like Mike” when Michael Jordan was at the top of his career? How many haircuts have been inspired by actors and actresses? There’s no denying that celebrity often drives the looks and lives of many in our culture today.
But when it comes to being a Christian, despite the fact that we wear the name of Christ, many of us don’t sound or act much like Jesus. However, many Christians bemoan that fact and look for ways to change, but instead of looking to Jesus, they look around Jesus. You can tell by the sermons and lessons that are preached and taught in many churches and by the articles, books, and podcasts that are popular among Christians today. A quick survey of the internet, from church websites to the few remaining Christian booksellers, reveals that there is far more attention paid to “7 Ways to Be a Better Christian [fill in the blank]” than what Paul reveals as the content of his preaching in 1 Corinthians 1:23: “We preach Christ crucified.” The result is that many people have become content to put on a “WWJD” bracelet and count on another quick self-help article or sermon of what someone has determined that Jesus would do.
The simple truth is this: if you want to know what Jesus would do, you have to know what Jesus said and did. That means getting into the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and reading and studying Jesus’ words and actions from the accounts of people who actually heard and saw Jesus. Again, this is why my next sermon series is coming out of the Gospel of Luke. This is also why I’ve put together a yearlong Bible reading plan for 2018 that takes us through all four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. These studies will help us know Jesus better, and that is what will lead us to trust and follow Jesus so that God might change us to be more like Jesus.