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Aiming For Christlikeness (Acts 23)

The Bible portrays all people, with the exception of Jesus Christ, as mere mortals, flawed and often weak, yet greatly loved by God. This is the book of truth, inspired by the Spirit of Truth, and you will find no sinless man in its pages, apart from the one Man who, in all truth, committed no sin. You will read accounts of sins committed by even the greatest “heroes” of our faith. By contrast, you may find yourself even more astounded when you read of the perfect love exhibited by Jesus Christ, even in his most painful trials.

We live in a generation that is unruly and grossly unappreciative of mentors, superiors, and elders. Many of us need a humbler view of ourselves and would greatly benefit by gleaning from the veteran believers in our churches. However, our culture also loves to put mere mortals on pedestals. Christians can commit the same error.

As soon as we look at a mere mortal and say, “I want to be just like them,” we are on the threshold of idolatry. This is true, no matter how godly the person. Any godliness we may see in someone else is like a beautiful crown, which will be cast at the feet of Jesus when that brother or sister stands in eternity. They will give all the credit and glory to our Lord and Savior! We should too. That being said, we must honor and respect the godly examples we have, in that they are a treasure to God and to us. Yet, if you seek faith and character like theirs, make Christlikeness your goal. After all, that is what they spent their lives pursuing.

When Paul is struck in the face before the Jewish Council, his reply is truthful, yet colored with a hint of human anger. Have you ever been punched or slapped in the face? If so, you know the almost-unconscious reflex reaction of a stern, raised voice. Was Paul in the wrong? No. Could his statement, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!” actually have been prophetic (Acts 23:3)? I believe so.

Yet, we cannot help but see a clear contrast in Jesus’ reply when He was struck in the face before the high priest. John 18 shows the perfect, measured humility of Jesus as He reasons with the one who struck him: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” (John 18:23). Jesus would continue in perfect meekness and love even on the cross, where He pleaded, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The mere reminder of these things ought to stir our hearts to love the Lord even more.

This beautiful goodness we see in Jesus, unshaken by the fiercest storm, is what Peter calls “the divine nature.” We are called to “become partakers” of this nature after being born again, and we do so by continually holding to the promises of God with faith (2 Peter 1:4). The divine nature is Christlike character and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Paul was still becoming a partaker, though I say he was much further along than most. Perhaps the key is that he humbly admitted when he was wrong: “I was not aware, brethren, that he was the high priest” (Acts 23:5). With a humble, repentant attitude, you and I can also maintain a “good conscience before God” and accelerate our conformity to the image of Jesus (23:1). Avoid throwing stones, even mentally, at those who fall short of reflecting Christ. Instead, use the occasion to worship your Lord. He alone is worthy.

Alex Mack

Teaching Pastor

The Rock Church

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