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Sure You’re A ‘Christian’… But How CHRISTLIKE Are You?

I struggle to be Christlike. While I know this is probably a common realization most of us have, I can’t speak for anyone else’s walk with the Lord. And as the saying goes, the struggle is real.

Obviously, the question is…”What’s the difference?” Well, let’s look at how Christianity is delineated. There are three main divisions to the Christian faith: Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox. Each one of these has numerous sub-divisions. For example, there are over 200 variations of Protestantism worldwide, with over 40 in the U.S. alone.

Therein lies the emphasis of this article. Are we more focused on our dogmatic, denominational church than we are on the personage of the Lord Jesus Christ?

I don’t want to get into specific churches, and who believes what; no, I want to focus on what it means to be Christlike. The best way to do that is to understand different attributes of Christ.

I firmly believe that most Christians regard being Christlike as similar to what I call The Good Shepherd Christ. The idea here is that Christ is passive, non-judgmental, non-threatening, and practically a little limp-wristed hippie dude wandering around talking about love, peace, joy, rainbows, unicorns and fuzzy bunnies for everyone. If that’s what you want to be believe, have fun. You’re missing a lot if that’s your Christ. Let’s look at seven different scriptural attributes of our Lord.

Emmanuel is Hebrew, meaning “God with us.” Isaih used this term to prophesy of Christ’s coming (Isa. 7:14; 8:8). This is what the Angel of the Lord said to Joseph in regard to Mary being pregnant with Jesus. Christ’s attribute of deity was affirmed even before His birth.

In Luke 2: 41-49, we have the account of Mary and Joseph traveling after attending Passover in Jerusalem. Since they traveled with a large group for safety, they didn’t notice that Jesus, aged 12, was missing. Going back, they found Him in the temple, sitting with the elders, listening and asking questions. Keep in mind that at age 12, Christ was still considered a child. However, His knowledge and insight was astounding to temple leaders and teachers.

It was custom for a Jewish male child to take up the same trade as his father. In Mr. 13:55, Christ is called “carpenter’s son.” In Mark 6:3, He is called “a carpenter.” Most historians and Biblical scholars feel this is a misinterpretation, and that he probably was actually a stone mason. Regardless, the point is that Christ was a tradesman who did manual labor in an era before power tools. He worked for a living.

Rabbi is another Hebrew word that is the title denoting a teacher. At the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, He was recognized as a teacher with authority. The word “master” is often used in the same context as Rabbi, as is the word Rabboni occasionally. Examples are: Jn 3:2 (as Rabbi); Mt.26:25, 49; Mark 9:5, 11:21, 14:45; John 4:31, 9:2, 11:8 (all as “master”.)

The Good Shepherd
Christ calls Himself “the good shepherd” in John 10:14. As previously mentioned, this is probably the most popular view of Christ, next to that of Saviour. The Sermon On The Mount, as found in Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7 encapsulates this attribute. Also, see Mt. 18:11-14; Luke 6:20-49. It would not be conjecture or hyperbole to say that all the miracles and healings that are recorded throughout the four Gospels also belong to the category/attribute of Good Shepherd. That’s exactly what a shepherd does…he meets the needs of the flock.

The Sacrificial Christ
Christ’s earthly ministry lasted a mere three years, but it changed reality. He made it known that He was here as a sacrifice, as an atonement for sin, for all the world. He went into great detail in what is known as the Olivet Discourse how this sacrifice would come about. ( Matthew chapters 24, 25; Mark chapter 13; Luke 21:5-28) In John 18:37, while speaking to Pilate, He verifies that the very reason for His birth was to be a sacrifice.

The Returning King
Just as Isaiah foretold the birth of Christ, the prophet Zechariah spoke of His recognition as king during His earthly ministry. (Zech. 9:9). Mt 21:1-9 is the fulfillment of the Zechariah prophecy (also Luke 19:29-38; Jn 12:12-19). Each gospel also records Christ affirming that He is indeed a king during questioning by Pilate (Mt.27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; Jn 18:33-37). Luke 3:23-38 establishes Christ as Hebrew royalty from the lineage of David, through the genealogy of Mary. With His earthly kingship established, His authority as the Returning King is in no doubt, as seen in Rev. 19: 11-16 as the white horse rider and conqueror. The last chapter of Revelation includes the promise of Christ the King…”I come quickly.” (Rev. 22; 7, 20).

Understanding these various attributes of Christ, how are we to live our work lives, our intellectual lives, and conduct our lives with each other and the world in general? Denominational dogma is easy; striving to be Christlike is a struggle. Thankfully, we can access help every step of the way: (2nd Tim 2:15) “Study to show thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth.”

In closing…
So what does any of this have to do with politics? Just as there is a realization of the difference between being Christlike and the often over-organized church structure, there is also a difference between being an American citizen, verses following a political party. In other words, is your patriotism based on the Constitution and the rule of law, or a particular partisan agenda. In essence, where is your balance and focus? Where is your deeper commitment? As always, thanks for your indulgence.

John DeGroff

John DeGroff is the original bass player for the Christian rock band Petra. He currently plays for the band GHF which is comprised of other original members from Petra. DeGroff has extensive experience as a freelance music journalist and newspaper reporter as well as an on-line music reviewer. He is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and lives in Warsaw, Indiana where he is employed as a care giver for mentally challenged adults.