Becoming Like Jesus

Matt Barlow - 09 March 2022

You remind me of your mum

The older we get the more Josie seems to have developed little habits that remind me of her mum. One of them is a little laugh she does as she finishes a sentence, even when that sentence isn’t funny. Sometimes it can just be an odd phrase, that I respond with ‘You sound just like your mum’ to which she responds ’That’s great because my mum is awesome!’ #smackdown

Without realising it, we all end up picking up habits, good and bad, from those who have formed us most - closest family, really close friends. It’s like relational osmosis, we gradually become quite like each other.
(Osmosis: the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of values, ideas, knowledge)


Jesus hoped we’d have relational osmosis, in fact the whole vine and branches analogy was suggesting exactly that, that the branches grow, taking on the nature of the vine, so it’s hard to see where one starts and the other stops. And thinking about the original scientific meaning of osmosis, it’s a process where God seeks to suck all the bad stuff out of us and purify it, whilst we take on his nature, and it purifies us.

The Christian punk rock group Earthsuit, whom I love, sang a song Osmosisland (please google it, you’ll make my day), and in it they use the famous philosophical term ‘What we behold we become!’ And in that phrase, we see the link between ‘Be with Jesus’ and ‘Become like Jesus’ - by being with Jesus, by beholding him, we will become like him.

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it

‘Become like’ is talking about the nature and essence of someone, in this case Jesus. It’s not talking about what Jesus did, but more about how he did it. As Bananarama sang, ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it’ and really they were just ripping off 1 Corinthians 13 which challenges us that even good acts without love are worthless.

Some approaches to Christianity over the last 5 or 6 decades have seen an overemphasis on simply believing the right things and an underemphasis on allowing those beliefs to change you to become more like Jesus - whereas it’s clear from the bible that both are important. At its very worst, and thankfully quite rarely here in the UK, we have seen overly judgmental Christians with under ripe, under grown fruit of the spirit, preaching the good news of Jesus, but projecting an unpleasant version of humanity, the very opposite of what Jesus did.

Imitate God

And so, as we think about what it means for us to be a disciple, and for us to disciple others, i.e. teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands, ‘Becoming Like Jesus’ is really important. As Paul urged us in Ephesians 5:1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.

Imitating God sounds like a pretty huge task, which is why Jesus came and lived as a man, he made the impossible very achievable, by showing us what full, perfect humanity (God in a bod) looked like, and calling us to become like him, to imitate this image of God.

There are so many ways that we can be like Jesus, in the ‘how’ Jesus lived, rather than the ‘what’ Jesus did and this list is not exhaustive, but for us as a leadership team, it’s our opinion that if anyone in our church gets close to this, they are doing well in representing Jesus to this world.

Here’s the framework (trellis) for ‘Become Like Jesus’, by..….

Becoming secure in your identity - it starts here, because we know that the rest of the list will only truly be worked out healthily when you understand that you are  accepted, secure and significant. Knowing that you are loved, you are a child of God, you are a new creation, you are forgiven, you have a purpose. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to truly get that established, but that’s the place that God wants you to live out of.

Becoming a ‘fruits of the spirit’ personality - just imagine what the witness of the church would have been, if every action, motive, word spoken had been sifted through the filter found in Galatians 5:22-23. For me this is one of the very best checklists for our heart and reviewing the person we are becoming - abiding in the vine means becoming more like Jesus, which means we become more loving, joy filled, at peace, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self controlled.

Becoming humble and servant hearted - 'the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’ Jesus in Matt 20:28. ‘He (Jesus) made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant’ Paul in Phil 2:7. This is what our God is like folks, not brash, arrogant and full of himself. Perpetually self giving in his love, always longing to serve the needs of others. Jesus deconstructed power hungry leadership like no one else ever has, nor ever will. This is our God, the servant king. Let us become like him.

Becoming courageous and radically obedient - Humble didn’t mean weakness, it meant strength and courage and we see such courage in the man Jesus, combined with radical obedience. This also is where the word ‘holy' sits, radical obedience means being set apart to live a life of holiness and godliness. Our sinless saviour, tempted in every way found courage to radically do whatever the Father told him, then called us to live likewise.

Becoming counter cultural - Jesus rejected many of the social, political and religious norms of the time, he was scandalous in the eyes of many, yet always righteous in the eyes of the father. Anything that got in the way of sacrificial, grace filled, inclusive love, righteousness and justice he stood against it. Whilst this might be one of the harder ones to work out exactly what it means, Paul in Romans 12 is clear, we aren’t to be conformed to the patterns of this world. Let’s stay gracious and kind to each other as we work out the detail of being counter cultural!

Becoming inclusive and welcoming to all - 'If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Matt5:46-48. Enough said - it starts with the heart, and as we will see in ‘Do Like Jesus’ - it gets turned into action. Examine your heart today, who won’t you welcome? Who would you struggle to welcome in God’s family?

When Jesus said: This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 14:8)
He meant that you will be changed, you will become a better person, a nicer person, a braver person, a Jesus person. That’s a disciple, one small step at a time. Now spend some time thinking and praying this through and asking God that through your being with Jesus, he would change you and challenge you in one or two of the above areas in this coming week.

Be with Jesus

Matt Barlow - 09 February 2022

(If you haven’t read the previous blog in this series, I encourage you to jump down one and start there)

Big Question

So the big question is: Why has God rescued us from our old selves? Why has he saved us? Is it to be in close intimate relationship with him forever? Is it that we might be made new in a new identity, that transforms our character and personality from the inside out that we might better reflect the image of God in which we are made? Or is it that we might partner with God to bring his kingdom rule, his shalom his fullness of life to this world in which we live?

Well, the answer as we know is….. YES.  All of the above! But Jesus knew that this fruit of 'changed lives and lives that change the world' would only truly happen when it comes out of that deep, personal, abiding relationship with him.

As Jesus said: ‘Remain/Abide/Dwell/Live in me, as I also remain/live in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain/live in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain/live in me.' John 15:4

Returning to the personal trainer analogy, what might a spiritual personal trainer (such as Jesus, for this is what he was in part - they called it a rabbi back then) call us to in terms of practices, disciplines etc that we might know God more deeply in our mind, in our soul, in our hearts? In some ways the list we have come up with is what my kids might call 'basic', which I think they mean lacking originality. Yep, you are totally right, of course it isn’t original. We follow the unchanging living word of God - Jesus, and we study the unchanging written word of God - the bible -  to teach us and instruct us, so yep, it’s not really been original for about 2000 years.

So, how do you ‘Be with Jesus’? Well we reckon the following will truly help you…...

Being a person of prayer 
Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Matt 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. 
Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
Matt 18:19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

Jesus doesn’t ever tell us how long to pray for, nor how often to pray. He simply invites us to pray, both by ourselves and with others. He models a prayerful, dependent relationship with the father and invites us to do likewise. Not out of guilt, nor out of compulsion but out of love and relationship.

Being a spirit led worshipper
I 100% believe that ‘worship’ is a whole life activity, but here I’m specifically talking about worshipping God through song, music and other creative expressions of worship. You might disagree but I think this is one area we have done ok in as the Western church over the last few decades.
Reciting and singing the psalms were all part of the culture that Jesus was steeped in, and engaging spirit to spirit through song and other expressions connects us with God in a really special deep way. It doesn’t have to be the latest song from Bethel hammered out on an electric guitar, it could just as easily be a beautiful piece of classical music. But you know if you have had a spirit to spirit worship encounter, so let’s make space in our lives for them. Large gathered Church and Encounter meetings will be key ways most of us do this, but I’d love to see more worship in Home Churches as well.

Being in the bible
Jesus knew his bible, the Hebrew bible, or what we call the Old Testament, and regularly quoted his bible. Though interestingly we don’t see him ever sat reading it on his own, that’s more than likely because he didn’t have his own copy. That was why they taught their kids to memorise it - oh the days before the printing press, never mind the internet! God speaks, and leads, and teaches and instructs through the written word. He tells us the big picture story of his interaction in the world, and then calls us to write the next chapter through our own lives. We believe that to be in the written word, the bible, regularly reading and meditating is crucial to being with the Living Word, Jesus.
We affirm the words of Paul the apostle to Timothy 2Tim3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. So let's allow it to do just that.

Being a learner
One of the most powerful things that has shaped me has been reading and listening. In part because these are my favourite learning styles. But God has gifted amazing thinkers, authors and speakers and we have more access to them now than ever before. So we would strongly recommend a diet of reading, audio books, preaching and podcasts as we all continue learning and growing. As well as engaging in all our home grown teaching including Café Theology. From time to time we the leadership will recommend books, podcasts, online sermons etc for you to supplement your learning diet with. Sharing what you are learning, reading, listening to in Home Church will also be so valuable as we disciple one another.

Being in Christian community
I still recall a quote from my early listening as a Christian from the Aussie biker preacher John Smith: 'People ask me if you can be a Christian and not be part of a church. I tell them 'No!' You can get to heaven, but to truly follow Jesus is to live in community with other believers'
You may not agree with that, but Jesus and the rest of the New Testament seem really clear to me that this faith is to be worked out in close relationship with others.
So be it Home church or Big Church, or hopefully both, making it a priority is key to being with Jesus and growing in him. Jesus demonstrated this kind of community, the early church modelled it and the writer of Hebrews brilliantly challenged us to: 'let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.’ Her 10:24-25

Being still and at rest
Turn the telly off, put your phone down, ignore the emails and try to block out the kids (if you have them)! We live in a world of interruptions and noise and more than ever we need to 'Be still, and know that I am God;’ Psa46:10. Making a practice of having time to yourself, of being quiet before the Lord and working hard to put one day a week aside to know God more deeply (sabbath) and be at rest, jumping of the hamster wheel and enjoying God and life.  

Being a faster
‘When you fast…...’ Matt 6:16. Not if, when.
'But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” Luke 5:35
This is perhaps one of the hardest of spiritual disciplines - it definitely is for me. At least proper ‘eat no food’ fasting. Social media fast, yep can do that. Dry January of Veganuary, yep, just done that. But a whole day, or two, or more…. As Jesus said to his disciples the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We experience God in special ways when we fast, you truly do get to ‘Be With Jesus’ in a very different way through fasting.

Your habits

So, back to the spiritual training analogy - what might God be asking you to add to your daily, weekly or monthly routine or habits that will help you abide more deeply, grow in your love for God and then go on to produce more fruit? Stop, ask him, then think about how you can turn that into a new habit. Don’t get legalistic about it, don’t beat yourself up when you try and fail. But know that Jesus is constantly calling you into a close abiding relationship with him, he wants to come in and eat with you, the above will help you and him do just that.

Every branch needs a trellis…..

Matt Barlow - 01 February 2022

Personal Trainer

I’ve never had a personal trainer (you can probably tell.) Someone who just knows what they are talking about when it comes to health and wellbeing. Someone who can sit down with me, help me clarify my goals (hopefully goals to become physically healthier and stronger) and then point me in the right direction. Here is step 1 - stop eating rubbish/the wrong stuff/too much, here is step 2 - start exercising, step 3 - get better sleep and bedtime routines, you get the gist. They’ve thought about it, studied it and they get it. Of course their advice is never going to be perfect, it will always be their own personal take on it, but in most cases, it should definitely start to move us in the right direction to being a stronger, healthier you, no matter what or where your starting point.

Paul the apostle likened spiritual training to physical training…..
1 Cor9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

The prize?

The prize? Life in all its fullness, starting here today and enduring for an eternity. Eternal life, defined by Jesus as: 'Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ 1 John 17:3. The bible is really clearly that to know Jesus, to truly know him is to become like him and to do like him, not simply to believe in him. James especially is really clear on this: 'Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? James 2:18-20

Our discipleship framework trellis

As a leadership we believe it is God’s heart that fullness of life is found in being a disciple - a passionate obedient follower of Jesus. And it is with this in mind, and humbly accepting that God has called us to be spiritual personal trainers, that we bring to you the Discipleship Framework. This is not a legalistic list of dos and don’ts to get us into God’s good books. NO, absolutely not! It is a trellis upon which our lives can grow in response to Jesus’ free gift of restored relationship with him, to lead us into the counter intuitive, counter cultural ‘Life in all its Fullness’ that God has for us.


Big disclaimer - we are not claiming this to be perfect, for we are not perfect. Nor that it is complete, for we are not complete. Nor that it won’t change, for we are always changing. Nor that it won’t be misunderstood, for we are often misunderstood. But for those who will read it, digest it, apply it to their own lives with an open heart and mind to God, we are very confident that you will 1. Find greater joy and strength as you 'Be With Jesus’ 2. You will more and more 'Become Like Jesus,' and 3. You will more and more 'Do Like Jesus.’

Over the coming days, I’m going to unpack a little more of each area of growth and focus. I’d encourage you on your own, with your home church, with a close friend or partner to chew this over and consider where and how you might apply it to your life as led by the Holy Spirit.

Now, let's run the race!


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