Have you ever wanted to be more like Jesus?
Often I hear people say they are tired of religion and playing church. They just want to be more like Jesus.
This is a wonderful hope and prayer for our lives: to be more like Jesus.
To follow Jesus more closely, and be more like him in the process, is not about simply repeating his words and mimicking his actions.
It’s about embracing his mindset.
To follow and be like Jesus, we need to understand him, know what he said, what he did, how he prayed, how he responded to people in various situations.
Scroll down to see Part 2 Notes
The challenging part
The hard part in this process is that the human mind is reluctant to actually change.
Sometimes I’ve prayed very earnestly, Oh, I want to be more like Jesus and truly follow him. But way down deep, I’m holding onto some things that prevent me from it. Like pride, or my personal opinions. Or sometimes it’s been a lack of self-worth or holding onto something someone did to me who I haven’t forgiven.
The human mind, without the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, is disinclined to change at this deeper level or even admit it needs or wants to follow Jesus. We can say we want to be more like Jesus, to follow him more sincerely, but we don’t always really want to do what it takes.
And if we’re just attempting it with a lot of human effort and will power, it won’t get us very far.
Jesus asked lots of people to follow him
Think of all the folks Jesus asked to follow him. In one sweep he asked Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him and they immediately left their nets to do just that.
He saw Matthew collecting Roman taxes and called him to follow. Matthew also responded quickly. The same with Philip and others.
But some people were a little less sure of their commitment. They had conditions to meet before they could follow Jesus. One fellow didn’t want to give up his dependence on his material wealth. One wanted to bury his father. Another wanted to go back home first. And on and on.
Jesus expects a lot from us
It’s a big commitment to follow Jesus. He makes some pretty strong demands on us: deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.
What on earth does that mean?
To deny yourself means to quit clamoring for what you want, to give up your will and seek God’s will.
To take up your cross means to face and overcome the world’s hatred of God and Christ. We can’t run away from it or ignore it.
How often do we maneuver to get what we want, or to get glory for ourselves? We need to take an honest look at ourselves here.
Are you really willing to give up your personal opinions, perspectives, and preconceptions of everything–how you see God, yourself, others, and the whole world?
The more you do this, the more you will be like Jesus.
To really be more like Jesus
To be more like Jesus, there are some things we’ll need to change—in the way we think, the way we act, the way we pray, the way we love.
You may already be doing a pretty good job of following Jesus, of being like him. But we can always get better at it.
So, how do you change behavior?
The root of any action is the thought behind it. The only way to correct un-Jesus-like behavior is to eliminate un-Jesus-like thinking. That was one of the very first things Jesus asked us to do, is repent, which means to change our thinking.
But how do we get rid of un-Jesus-like thinking?
Pour in God’s love
I saw a great video on YouTube several years ago. A man had a big 2 liter soda bottle full of very black liquid.
He put it under the faucet and very slowly, as the clean water kept going into the bottle, the color of that liquid got lighter and lighter, until it was completely clear.
We need to constantly pour in God’s love and truth into our hearts. This flushes out whatever thoughts and actions are not like Jesus.
Sermon on the Mount
There are so many things Jesus says and does in the New Testament that help us in this journey.
The best place to start with understanding Jesus and embracing his mindset is by deep, prayerful study of the Sermon on the Mount. And then putting the ideas in it into practice in your daily life.
The more you practice the Sermon on the Mount, the more you will be like Jesus.
I encourage you to re-read the Sermon on the Mount this week. And ask this question: What was Jesus’s mindset that impelled him to say what he did and to tell us who we are and what we’re capable of?
Next week in Part 2 of How to Be More Like Jesus, we’ll take a look at how the Sermon on the Mount is the bedrock of Jesus’s mindset and the litmus test to how much we are like him.
Last week we started the discussion about how to be more like Jesus.
This week we’re going to look at a few things in the Sermon on the Mount to get a better insight into Jesus’s mindset. Everything Jesus tells us to do in this Sermon, he does as well.
It’s how he wants us to think, how to act, how to follow him, how to be more like him.
There’s no way to cover everything in the Sermon on the Mount in this single episode, but I’ll share a few ideas.
Last week I encouraged you to read the whole Sermon, pondering what it tells us about how Jesus thought and acted, and how he wanted us to think and act.
In the verses we do talk about, we’re going to look at Jesus’s mindset, that he could say such things.
The beatitudes show us how to be like Jesus
First, let’s look at a few of the beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
William Barclay, one of my favorite Bible Commentators, says poor in spirit means “those who have realized their own utter helplessness, and who have put their whole trust in God.”
What is Jesus telling us about how to think in this beatitude? Would you describe Jesus as poor in spirit according to this definition? Not usually… But he said,
“By myself I can do nothing.” (John 5:30)
Even Jesus realized he couldn’t do anything without the Father. How often do we rely on our own abilities? If you want to be more like Jesus, this is one of the most important mindset shifts that must take place.
And what are the consequences of being poor in spirit, realizing your utter helplessness and complete dependence on God? You inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
What was Jesus’s mindset here that he could depend completely on God and expect us to? I’m not going to answer that for you, but please think about it.
Let’s look at one more beatitude to see how to be more like Jesus
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
Hey, if anyone was ever persecuted because they were righteous, it was Jesus. He knew that when you stand up for what is right in God’s eyes, you are basically living in God’s kingdom. He didn’t say the persecuted will get the kingdom of heaven sometime way off in the future. He said, “theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.” Right now.
Jesus was conscious of his citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, even though he walked on the earth, even though he was being persecuted.
This is true for us too. It’s the persecution that often causes us to turn to God, to experience His love and protection and feel the presence of God’s kingdom.
Salt and light
Jesus said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
What was Jesus thinking about who we are and what we can do when he calls us salt and light? What was his mindset that he could see our innate ability to be a positive influence in the world?
He first had to see it as true about himself before he could see it in us. Jesus knew he was The light of the world and The salt of the earth. Salt preserves and flavors. Light destroys darkness.
Jesus continues to do these things today. He expected all his followers to do likewise.
How can you be the salt of the earth? How can you help preserve and bring a rich spiritual flavor to your own life and those you come in contact with?
How can you be the light of the world? How can you disperse the mental, emotional, and spiritual darkness that engulfs the world right now?
Jesus said, “You are salt. You are light.” There’s no if, no conditions. To be more like Jesus, let your light shine and be spiritually salty. Bring a rich spiritual flavor to all you do.
Jesus gives us a deep insight into his mindset when he describes the mental nature of obeying the Commandments.
It’s not good enough not to kill someone. Don’t even be angry with someone.
Adultery is not just a physical act. Lustful thinking, or a greedy mindset, is the real sin and the root cause of the outward action.
What beatitudes come to mind here? How about “Blessed are the pure in heart.” And “Blessed are the peacemakers”?
Jesus is always pointing us to be more spiritually minded.
Jesus takes what we have been taught and turns it upside down and inside out.
Six times he says, “It has been said,” or “You have heard it was said.” And then he digs beneath the surface of whatever the teaching was to give a more spiritual perspective. See Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43
If we really want to be more like Jesus, we have to go beneath the outward appearance of obeying God to a deep spiritual level of obedience and oneness with God.
What does it mean to love like Jesus did?
Now we come to one of the favorite sayings of Jesus.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Why is this so hard? Because we’re trying to do it with our limited, egotistical, human mindset instead of the mindset of Jesus.
Jesus knew that God loves the just and the unjust. He uses the sun and rain as metaphors to show God’s love for everyone.
God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
Jesus said he only did what he saw the Father do,
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19)
There’s a real clue into Jesus’s mindset. Can you say you only do what you see the Father do? I sure can’t. I’ve had moments where that has been true, but Jesus did it all the time.
Do you love your enemies?
Jesus could see that God loves the righteous and the unrighteous. So he did as well. He loved his enemies. He forgave those who crucified him.
When you get to the point that you love your enemies, you will definitely be more like Jesus.
You may be thinking, “James, that is just pretty impossible for me right now. You just don’t know what people have done to me.”
I would agree with you that it’s impossible when you are trying to do it with the human mind and the human heart, without God’s help. Jesus could only do it because he saw God do it.
You don’t have to manufacture some artificial love for your enemies. The goal is to see that God loves them. Of course, God doesn’t love the bad things someone did to you. But he loves all His children, just as, and infinitely more, than a human parent loves their child even when they do something bad.
If this is a hard one, loving your enemies and blessing those who curse you, ask God for help. Ask God to show you what He sees, how He loves them.
Charitable giving, fasting, and praying
How else can we be more like Jesus?
Well, when we donate to charity or help someone, when we fast, and when we pray, Jesus expects us to do these things privately and not to show others what “good Christians” we are.
Why? What’s the big deal if we do things out in public?
With Jesus, it’s all about our motives.
Do we really want to help someone or do we want others to be impressed with how much good we’re doing?
Are we actually praying to get closer to God or for others to hear how eloquent and spiritually minded we sound?
Do we fast to earnestly seek God’s will or so others can see how earnest we (think we) are?
Jesus knew that if we do these things to be seen by others, our whole heart is not with God.
Jesus never prayed or helped someone just so others would be impressed. In fact, he often told people not to tell anyone he had healed them.
Have a secret with God
There’s something sacred about having a secret between you and God.
We know what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, but we don’t know how he prayed when he got up early in the morning or stayed up all night to pray. That was just between Jesus and his Father.
If you want to be more like Jesus, have some secrets just between you and God. Then let your life shine out from those private moments with God.
Don’t be such a worry wart
Jesus always put God first. He knew the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He was consciously living out from his place in God’s kingdom.
When we put the problems and challenges we have in our lives first, we can’t help but worry about whether we’ll have everything we need. Even if you have an abundance of things, you will still worry about how to keep it.
But when we seek the kingdom of God before everything else, we’ll begin to see our place in this kingdom, right now, where all our needs are met.
In the kingdom of the earth, or our own little self-created kingdoms, we can never find true happiness or satisfaction, even if we have amassed great wealth and resources. Our deep inner needs and yearnings can only truly be met with the spiritual realm of God’s kingdom, which Jesus reminds us is at hand.
How often do you seek the kingdom of heaven before you try to work out some problem you have? The more you start with seeking your citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, the more you’ll experience the infinite blessings of heaven here on earth. And the more you will be like Jesus.
Value yourself and your message
Have you ever given something valuable to someone who didn’t appreciate it? I have. It leaves kind of an odd feeling of regret and loss in your heart when you realize what you’ve done.
But how often do we do this? We try to share our peals of wisdom with those who don’t want them and then get upset with us.
Or we give our valuable time and resources to those who don’t appreciate it. In effect we’re throwing our peals to the pigs, to use Jesus’s metaphor.
Jesus talked to lots of different types of people, the outcasts, the regular folks, and the religious leaders. But the litmus test for who he spent time with sharing his message was how receptive they were to his message and to who he was as the Son of God.
How can we be more alert to who we spend our time and resources on in a way that will really make a difference?
Here’s another opportunity for us to take an honest look at who we spend time and resources on. Jesus never judged someone by their outward appearance. He always looked on the heart. That’s our clue.
What kind of mindset would give and follow this advice. Jesus knew the worth of his message. Do you value what you have to offer? Be more like Jesus. Value who you are and what you have to give the world.
Be a wise builder
Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount with that famous analogy of building a house on the sand or a rock.
When we put his teachings into practice in our daily lives, we build our lives on a solid, spiritual foundation that will withstand the challenges we face.
The more you obey these teachings, the more you will be like Jesus. The more you will experience the truth of his promise that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
As I did in Part 1, I invite you to dig down deep into the Sermon on the Mount.
A spiritual litmus test
Read, study, and pray with it to get down to the bedrock of Jesus’s mindset and how to be more like him. It’s really a blueprint for being like Jesus. It’s also a litmus test for how you’re doing.
Do you love your enemies? Are you a peacemaker? Are you meek? Do you pray for God’s kingdom to come or for your kingdom? Do you forgive everyone who has sinned against you? Do you always seek first the kingdom of heaven? I could go on.
Think deeply about everything Jesus says in this sermon.
The more you put all these teachings into practice in your daily life, the more you will be like Jesus. Then, rinse and repeat. Do it over and over.
The beautiful thing is, Jesus knew we can do it. He expected us to do it. And he has empowered us to follow him, and to be more like him.
Cherish the desire to be more like Jesus, to follow him the way he wanted us to. Ask God to show you the way. Then put one foot in front of the other, or rather, one Christlike thought in front of the other, one Christlike action in front of the other.
And you will be more like Jesus every single day.
James Early is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster and conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Bible References in this week’s episode:
Luke 9:23 ESV
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Matthew 4: 18-22 ESV
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.
22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 9:9 ESV
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
John 1:43 ESV
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Mark 10:17-22 ESV
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”
20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Luke 9:57-62 ESV
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
John 10:27, 28 ESV
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 12:26 ESV
26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
John 21:20-22 ESV
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”
21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV
16 But we have the mind of Christ.
Luke 22:42 ESV
42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
John 6:38 ESV
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 8:50 ESV
50 I do not seek my own glory;
John 15:20, 21, 23 ESV
20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
Romans 8:7 ESV
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God,
John 5:19 ESV
19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[fn] does, that the Son does likewise.
Matthew 5:28 ESV
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 3:2 ESV
2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 5:3 NIV
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
John 5:30 NIV
30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Philippians 4:13 KJV
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Matthew 5:10, 13-16 NIV
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:8, 9 NIV
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5: 21, 22, 27, 28, 31-34, 38, 39, 43-45 NIV
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’
32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’
34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
John 5:19 NIV
19 “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Matthew 6:2-6, 16-18, 31-33 NIV
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 7:6, 24-27 NIV
6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”