Each of us have thought it, most of us have said it. “I know Jesus did some pretty amazing things, but I can’t follow Him as closely as I’d like to, I’m only human.”
How can you relate to someone who exhibited superhuman abilities? Sometimes we feel as if there is a great gulf between our Lord and us because of our inability to “imitate” Him. Our heart aches for a deeper relationship with Him, but because of the differences between Him and us, we settle for less, but our hearts and our souls long for more.
We’ve all been in situations that called for Divine intervention; that is, we’ve all had days when the obstacle before us would take an act of God to remove, but we are powerless against it.
We’ve trapped ourselves and we’ve unwittingly allowed ourselves to be further bound when we read on the back of T-shirts, on bumper stickers and book covers those now famous words, “What would Jesus do?” and once we realize what He would do, we feel as if we have to do “it” ourselves, only to discover that we can’t.
Once we realize that we can’t do “it” we then sink lower into despair and feel worse; the situation itself was bad enough, but now we feel like failures and there are some of us who have even wondered, because of the situation and subsequent failure, if we are really saved at all.
Some of us have found a measure of comfort by saying “Well, I know I’m supposed to do this or that because Jesus did, but I can’t, I’m only human. It was easy for Him to do this or that, after all, He’s God.” It sounds good and on the face of it, it does seem to make sense, but, is it true?
There are still others among us who have cried themselves to sleep at night because they don’t know exactly why they fail in so many areas of this life. The fowls of the air have nested in the branches, if you will, and that is exactly what Jesus said would happen, in Mark 4:32.
The fowls of the air spoken of in Mark’s Good News are the adversaries of both God and men. Like vultures, the god of this world circles around men and women who have fainted. Heart sick and broken, desperate for victory, but finding defeat at every turn, they lie down at night and long for death to take them home. “Why bother? I’ve tried and tried to live this Christian life and all I’ve been able to do is to make things worse. I quit.” The vultures have landed.
“Life stinks! I don’t know why I even bother. I wish I’d never heard about Jesus and I sure wish I’d never started this journey in the first place.” We say. “Life was bad enough as it was, but this? This is even worse.” More vultures are drawn to the scent of death and begin to peck away at our minds.
“If only I were like Jesus, I could forgive more than I do. I could love more than I do. But, it was easy for Him, He’s God. I don’t understand, the pastor told us we are ‘called to be like Jesus’, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t do it. Why did I ever start with this nonsense in the first place?” Peck, peck.
Sadly, many have turned away from the Lord because of this. You either know them or you are “them” and even though you’ve all but given up, you happen to be reading this. Don’t stop now, this is gonna’ be good, refreshing and the “hope” you’ve wanted will be yours.
The first question ever asked in scripture was God saying; “Adam, where are you?” and there are many churches that still ask the people “Where are you at in your life?” and although that has its place, we need to realize that there is another question we must ask and answer, for the answer to the second question will provide the answer to the first one.
You see, not only are we to read our bibles, but we need to read them with one purpose in mind. Just one. Like the wise men who came from the east seeking the Child, we can open our bibles and ask the same question they did; “Where is He?” Matthew 2:2
No matter where you open your bible to, look for Him, search for Him the same way Joseph and Mary did when they had traveled three days without Him. (Many of us have traveled a few days unaware that we’ve “lost track” of Jesus, but do what Mary and Joseph did, go back to the place where you “saw” Him last and talk to Him, you’ll be blessed to know that He’ll “go home with you.”)
There are many of us who have acquired a tremendous amount of theology. We’ve accumulated so much information about God, but in our digging through the gold mine of scripture, we’ve failed to find the treasure. We may know a lot about God, but we don’t know God. Yet none of us have attained to the level of the Apostle Paul.
If there was ever a man who lived, other than Jesus, who had a powerful grip on theology, it was Paul. But, what did Paul do with all that theology? How valuable was it to him after He’d seen Jesus? I’ll let him tell you himself, read his words in Philippians 3.
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…”
It was, in his own words, “Dung.” Manure. Pooh-pooh. He counted his years of study under the famous Rabbi Gamaliel as being equal to body excrement. Now, before you discount what is really being said here, let’s take a look at this “dung” for a minute.
“Dung” is nothing more than proof that we’ve been fed. Paul had been fed by one of the reputably finest teachers of his day and the “food” he’d taken in had served its purpose, it brought him to Jesus. It was now to be discharged, eliminated.
In the same way, there are things we’ve been fed that need to be eliminated. They’ve served their purpose inside of us, but now it’s time to flush. After all, if you don’t go to the bathroom, you’re going to be bloated (the bible uses the phrase “puffed up”), miserable and you’re life is going to stink.
The purpose of the law is to bring men to Christ and in the same way we have imposed on men some laws that either are or are not in scripture. In our frustration and despair some of us have even considered going back to the life we’d known before we came to church. (This is sometimes different than coming to Jesus)
The message telling us to “be like Jesus” weighs heavy on our hearts and minds and we find ourselves powerless to do it. Some of us have, by God’s grace, come this far, but there are among us some brothers and sisters who are about ready to throw it all away. Maybe, you’re one of them.
“Of course, Jesus could walk on water, He was God, but don’t expect me to!” Some of us are saying.
“I know I’m to forgive 490 times, but I can’t, I’m only human. I have a limit and sooner or later, I’ll ‘snap’.” Others of you are thinking. “Jesus could forgive, He was God.”
Our dilemma is only made worse when we hear messages telling us to “be holy” and we go our way trying to be holy, but at the end of the day we’ve only succeeded in making a bad situation worse. Our efforts, though well intended, may have produced fruit. Grapefruit!
Sermons telling us that we are to “be perfect” only serve to magnify our helplessness and try as we might, we come up short. “Well, it was easy for Jesus to be perfect, He’s God. But it’s not fair or reasonable to expect that of me. I’m only human.”
Well, gang, we’re in good company. In fact, we’re in the best company of all. For you see, there was a time when Jesus could have said “I’m only human.” For, in every way, he was. That is the mystery we read about in 1 Timothy 3:16, but before we forget, this is also information that the “fowls of the air” don’t want us to get a hold of. Our knowing this will deprive them of a meal.
In a way that we may never understand, God became a man. Trying to comprehend how God Almighty could become a human being is like trying to picture a man becoming an ant. How could the Omnipotent One transform Himself into a mere mortal? How could He, who is immortal, take on mortality?
We all know the story of Jesus’ temptation, but what we overlook are the first few words that begin the tale of His journey.
In Matthew 3:16 and reading through Matthew 4:1, we see that;
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”
When He was on the earth, if He’d come as God Almighty, why then did He need to be baptized? Why did He need to be baptized in the Spirit? If He’d come as God in all His power, why did He need the power, the anointing, the indwelling of God the Spirit?
Furthermore, if He’d come as God the Sovereign One, then why did He have to be “led?” Being God, wouldn’t He already have known where to go? Why did Jesus have to be led anywhere?
Before He came to earth, He was in Heaven. Simple enough. But, what He didn’t know was what it was like to have a will of His own. The Father, the Son and the Spirit were “on the same page” about everything. We call it “harmony.”
In one garden man exercised his own will. In another garden, Gethsemane, Jesus knew what it’s like to have a will that would attempt to remain independent. Why else would He have said “not my will, but yours be done”? He didn’t just take our sins; He took upon Himself our nature. By nature we have a wretched desire to remain independent, but, He overcame the “unholy” spirit by the Holy Spirit and remained dependent on God.
On a more personal level; if Jesus had come as God, in all His power, majesty and glory, which of us could relate to Him? We can only relate to people who are like us.
I might be able to carry on a conversation with the billionaire owner of Microsoft, but I’d never be able to relate to him and I sure can’t comprehend his lifestyle. It’s beyond my mental abilities to grasp the ease by which he’s built and paid for a $64,000,000 house!
We might be able to talk, but since I can’t “come up” to his level financially, there’s only one way Bill Gates and I could relate; he’d have to come down to my level. Now, try to imagine Mr. Gates choosing to leave his wealth behind and all the power that comes with it, just so he could have a relationship with me! I could only have a relationship with Bill, if he became like me in every way. That’s the difference between “relating to someone” and “identifying with them.”
Well, in an immeasurably larger way, this is precisely what God has done.
Jesus, God the Son, left it ALL behind. How He was able to suspend, if you will, His power, His might, His glory and majesty long enough to come to you and me? This is not only the mystery, but it is also the hope we have in Him!
God the Son came as the helpless Bethlehem babe. If he’d come in all of His power, then why would God the Father have sent an angel telling Joseph to “run for your lives” when Herod had decreed that all the boys be slaughtered? Why were they told to “protect God?”
Now, I’ll agree that we are to “be like Jesus” but where we get ourselves into troubles, heartache and despair is when we fail to keep our own lives in context. What I mean is that we think (which leads to “belief”) is that we are to follow Him as He is NOW. This isn’t what the bible teaches and it surely is not what Jesus meant when He said “follow Me.”
We want to follow Him and He sure wants us to follow Him. That’s why He came. But the one thing we need to see and believe is that there can only be one way that we are like Him at all.
He, that is Jesus, God the Son, accepted that He was completely helpless and needed the very power He’d left behind, if He were to be useful to God. Which of us can’t relate to the “helpless” and “powerless” part? But, it’s so much more than that.
He left it all behind so we wouldn’t be left behind. He didn’t do what He did so we could relate to Him, no, He did it so He could identify with us! Before His leaving His Father and before His leaving heaven, He couldn’t identify with mere men. He was neither helpless, living in darkness, struggling with sin and neither was He selfish. He wasn’t like you and me.
He’d never known the pain of divorce until He’d felt the sting of betrayal. In heaven, He had a “home” but it wasn’t until He was among us that He knew the feelings that assaulted Him when He was homeless. He’d never felt the oozing flesh of a leper until He touched one. If He were here physically, He’d reach out and touch folks you and me wouldn’t dream of touching; the AIDS victims with their highly contagious affliction. (But, He is here physically, think about it.)
He’d never known the effects of having been tempted by Satan and He certainly had never suffered because of sin. He never suffered because of His own sin; He deliberately suffered because of ours. Still, His justice demanded that before He could judge, He had to have all the evidence necessary to render a verdict in fairness, in equity.
But, it wasn’t so that He could be sympathetic (that’s an emotion native to man, but it is not one that is native to God; He’s compassionate, but He doesn’t sympathize. Sympathy makes excuses for sin and that is something God will never do.) He had to “identify” with our humanity.
But, not only has He identified with us in every way, He went way beyond that. You see, we may understand why someone sins and we are sympathetic; we remember the days when we fell in the same way and we ache for them, but that’s as far as we can go. Not so with our God.
He not only identified with us, taking on flesh, but He did what we cannot do. He was compassionate, but it didn’t end there. He didn’t just take our sins upon Himself on the cross, He took our nature. Something He could never have done if He’d come as God.
Jesus could have said, and rightly so, “But…I’m only human.” And although that would have been true, what He did do was something we can do, and that is to allow ourselves to be emptied of ourselves and filled with the Spirit of God and only then are we following Jesus and only then will we see the “and greater works than these will you do.” He tells us about in John 14:12.
Jesus, God the Son, made Himself dependent on the Father and the Father sent God the Spirit to do in Him what He could not (and would not) do for Himself. In the Garden, Eve declared her independence from God. Jesus declared His dependence on God. If He’d come as God Almighty, why didn’t He just depend on Himself?
In the Garden, by eating the fruit, Eve, then Adam, signed their Declaration of Independence. At another tree, Jesus declared His dependence and signed it in His own blood. The tree of eternal life was transplanted to Calvary and the fruit of that tree is Jesus.
Sin isn’t just “wrong doing”, it’s “wrong being” and for justice to be served, and served on Him who knew no sin, He had to be able to be made guilty. But, He wasn’t guilty of His sin; He accepted that guilt for us. He didn’t just take our sins; He took upon Himself our nature. See 2 Corinthians 5:21.
So, when you are despairing because you can’t be like Jesus, remember, we can be like Him but for now we can only be like Him as He was when He was here physically. Completely helpless, useless to God and man, until the day He was baptized (immersed in) the Spirit and from that day on “led of the Spirit.”
The next time you say “Yes, but I’m only human…” Listen carefully and you’ll hear Him saying to you; “I can relate, because I’ve identified myself with you.”
Sit still and also hear Him reminding you of that day when He too had to be “filled with the Spirit” so He could “walk in the Spirit” and do all that He did “by the Spirit” and know that He knows what it’s like to be helpless and He knows what it’s like to need to be comforted. If he’d come as the all sufficient God, then why did the Father send His angels to minister to Him? Matthew 4:11
Being like Jesus is something we can all do, but being like Him as He is now is something that has been reserved for another day.
1 John 3:2-
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Until the day He comes to take us to the Father’s house, we can be like He was, emptied of Himself and filled with the Spirit. Remember, the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9 & 1 Peter 1:11
It’s not you living the Christian life; it’s Christ living His life in you.
Consider these things; pray about it and see for yourself. Watch and see if some, if not all, of those pesky “fowl of the air” don’t take flight. I’m persuaded that this is the one truth above them all that the god of this world doesn’t want any of us to know.
Jesus didn’t depend on Himself to be God. He depended on God to be God in Him. Neither should we depend ourselves to be like God the Son, but the one thing we can know for sure is that, because of God the Son who became the Son of Man (identifying with us and our frail humanity), we are the sons of God and the Spirit of God has come to do in us, through us and by us all that the Father wills and it is Him in us who will glorify the Father.
“I’m only human!” Yes! “He’s only God!” Indeed!
“…and the Word became flesh” and it’s your flesh He’ll use to become flesh again.