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Becoming like Jesus


Last updated 2/16/2011 at Noon

I remember reading about a man named Harry Hahn who has acted like Abraham Lincoln so long that he started to look like Lincoln. He lives in Mt. Pulaski, Ill., not far from Springfield, where Lincoln lived.

Several years ago, they had a centennial in Mt. Pulaski, and all the men were asked to grow beards. Harry Hahn, who is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds, discovered that when he grew his beard he looked a lot like Abraham Lincoln.

He was the same size, had the same lines in his face, and pretty soon, people were saying, “Hey, here comes Abe Lincoln!”

That inspired Harry Hahn to buy a long coat and a top hat and some nineteenth-century looking boots and to start making appearances as “Abe Lincoln” at fairs, school assemblies, and service clubs.

Harry Hahn became so fascinated with Abe Lincoln that he began to collect all the books that he could find about Lincoln. He read, and continues to read, all about him. He memorized Lincoln’s speeches and anecdotes.

When he is out in public, Harry Hahn takes on Lincoln’s persona. You would swear Lincoln has come back from the dead!

He is dignified and kind and humble and humorous. People in Springfield say, “He’s even beginning to walk like Abraham Lincoln.”

So it ought to be said of those of us who study and follow Jesus: “You know, you are a lot like him.”

Are we becoming more like Jesus each day? Are we being shaped into his image, so that when people look at us they see something of him?

There are something like 2 billion Christians on Earth – it is the world’s largest religion, one-third of the population of Earth.

What would this world be like if every Christian thought and acted like Jesus? Can you imagine? We wouldn’t recognize this place.

Love would abound, forgiveness would reign, broken relationships would be restored, the hungry would be fed, the naked would be clothed, the sick and the dying comforted – peace would rule the day.

If all 2 billion Christians thought and behaved like Christ, this world would be turned upside down.

Obviously, something is wrong.

You can understand the comment by the German philosopher Nietzche: “I might believe in the Redeemer if His followers looked more Redeemed.”

If the great need of the hour is for Jesus’ followers to look more like the Redeemer, what must they do? What must we do?

It is not enough to simply stop every turn and ask ourselves: “What would Jesus do?” and then do it. That’s okay as far as it goes, but there is a sense in which we shouldn’t even have to ask the question.

We should know Jesus so well and he should be so much a part of our lives, that we just naturally and almost instinctively reflect his character and actions in our daily lives.

It is like that guy who “became” Abraham Lincoln. He knew Lincoln so well that didn’t have to ask himself at every turn, “What would Lincoln do? What would he say?”

Lincoln was so much a part of him that he acted like him naturally. He “became” Abraham Lincoln. So then, how do we become like Jesus?

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to Christ-likeness. There are no spiritual quick fixes, no crash courses in spiritual growth. Transformation into the likeness and image of Jesus comes only through effort as we take time to practice certain time-honored spiritual disciplines that have always shaped God’s people.

I am talking about the need to regularly engage in such practices as worship and celebration, solitude and silence, prayer, self-examination and confession, reflection on scripture, study, service, simplicity, secrecy – to name a few.

As we practice these disciplines, we train our spirit to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, so that – to use the Apostle Paul’s words – “Christ is formed in us.”

Christ-likeness is the result of a life-long spiritual shaping process. The key is to undergo training.

Many of us are so careful to keep ourselves physically fit. Every day we go to the gym or we take our walks or ride our bikes. We all do that, right? No one wants to be physically flabby. What is true in the physical fitness realm is also true in the spiritual realm.

Training is key: “Train yourself to be godly,” says Paul to Timothy, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Let me encourage you to get more acquainted with some of these spiritual disciplines and begin to practice them. There is no other way to grow.


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