BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Christians may have certain persons we admire and try to emulate, but Jesus is our perfect role model. The best of human beings still have their faults but Jesus is without any human weaknesses because though He was the Son of man, He is also the Son of God and, indeed, God. He said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30 NKJV). So He is God. He is the person we should ultimately seek to emulate in all things.
I have identified some outstanding habits of our Lord Jesus Christ that every child of God should recognize and emulate. If we do that, we shall resemble him. I must, however, admit that though I’ve identified these habits, I’m very far from excelling at doing them. Nevertheless, I’m not giving up. As Paul said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV).
Below are these habits I have identified:
1. Commitment to doing the will of God. Throughout His ministry, even to the point of death, Jesus demonstrated His commitment to doing the will of God. He said He came not to do His own will but the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38).
In John 5:30, He said, “I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (NKJV). Also in John 4:34, Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (NKJV). Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus did not have His own agenda; He pursued God’s agenda. He said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4 NKJV).
Jesus didn’t pursue an independent agenda. Even shortly before He was arrested, His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).
His desire and command are that we also should pursue the will of His Father. And He said in Mark 3:35, “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (NKJV). We should emulate Jesus and be passionate about doing the will of God. “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17 NKJV).
We should not just understand the will of God but regularly do His will. We should be led by the Spirit of God as sons of God (Romans 8:14). But first, we should commit ourselves to do His will that is already revealed in His Word. Be like David of whom God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22b NKJV). Hebrews 10:36 says, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (NKJV). Be committed to doing God’s will.
2. Obedience to the Word of God. This is related to doing God’s will. Jesus was consistently committed to obeying the Word of God. He knew the Old Testament very well and His life was guided by the instructions there. When Satan tempted Him, He replied from the Scriptures (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 4:4, 8, 12). The early church also lived by the teachings of Jesus and sometimes quoted scriptures from the Old Testament.
Live your life in obedience to the teachings of Jesus; live by the words of God. Make it a habit. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4).
God told Moses to tell the Israelites, “If you obey my laws and regulations, you will find life through them. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 18:5 NLT). So obeying the Word of God is in the best interest of human beings; it is not God who benefits. Jesus said, “Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them” (John 14:21 NLT).
Jesus emphasized obedience in his teachings because He was also obedient to the Father. It will be hypocrisy to claim to be a Christian and live in disobedience to the teachings of Jesus or the Word of God. Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10 NKJV). To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22b).
3. A discipline of solitude. Solitude is a crucial spiritual discipline every Christian should practice. Jesus gave us this example. No matter how busy He was, He would, after some time, slip away to observe some quiet time with God.
A time to be alone with God, a time to separate from others, and spend time with God alone is crucial to your life as a follower of Jesus. It may be for some minutes, hours, or extended to days on a retreat. Solitude helps you to cultivate intimacy with God in prayers and silence. “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20 NKJV).
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He practised solitude. We find this recorded in Mark 1:12-13, 35; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 11:1; Matthew 14:13; John 6:15; Mark 1:35. In Matthew 17:1-2, it was Jesus together with Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. The other disciples were excluded. We also see Jesus’ practice of solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though He took some disciples along, He kept some distance from them to pray alone (Matthew 26:36-46).
The disciples of Jesus, apparently emulating Jesus, also practised solitude both individually and collectively as a group after His ascension to heaven (Acts 1:13-14; 2:1; 10:9).
Don’t be too busy not to practise solitude. Create some time daily for it – it doesn’t have to be a long time. But find time to be alone with God, regularly, for a longer time – it could be for some hours. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV). Your father who sees in secret will reward you openly (Matthew 6:6, 18).
4. A devotion to public prayers and thanksgiving. Jesus did not only have the habit of closet prayer, He prayed in public but not the exhibitionistic type of prayer (Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:9-14). Jesus prayed not for personal aggrandizement but to invite heaven’s intervention in people’s lives; to cause miracles to take place. And Jesus never prayed without giving thanks to God. At His baptism, He prayed and heaven opened (Luke 3:21). At the tomb of Lazarus, He gave thanks and prayed; Lazarus came out of the grave alive (John 11:40-44).
At the feeding of 4,000 men, He gave thanks (Matthew 15:36). Similarly, before feeding the 5000, He blessed the loaves of bread and two fishes. At the last supper, He gave thanks before giving the disciples the cup to drink (Matthew 26:27). Before breaking bread, He gave thanks (Luke 22:19). Jesus was crucified publicly. Nevertheless, He prayed before He died (Luke 23:34).
In all the scriptures referred to on Jesus’ public prayers, the prayers were usually brief probably because He had spent much time with God in solitude. The only exception is the high priestly prayer which covers an entire chapter in the Bible, John 17.
Be bold to pray in public when necessary. Don’t be apologetic about it but don’t show off or put up an act. Beware of exhibitionism. Paul writes, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere…” (1Timothy 2:8 NKJV). Luke 18:1 says men ought to pray and not lose heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says we should pray without ceasing while Psalms 69:30; 95:1-2; 147:7; Philippians 4:6 and Colossians 4:2, among numerous scriptures, talk about praying and/or giving thanks to God.
Some people erroneously believe that Jesus, in Matthew 6, condemned public prayer. They argue that that was why He did not pray in public. No, Jesus did not condemn public prayer; He only condemned praying in public out of a wrong motive such as praying to show off. Follow Jesus’ example in prayer.
5. An undivided focus on his mission. Jesus was focused on His divine purpose. He did not allow any distraction from the religious leaders – the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes. They were His greatest critics and detractors.
At a time, He was accused of casting out devils by Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15). But Jesus remained focused.
In John 8:6, they tried to trap Jesus with a question on the woman caught in adultery but they couldn’t get Him.
In Mark 12:13-17, they tried to trap Him with a question on tax payment but they failed. He knew their hypocrisy that they only wanted to test Him; it was a trap set for Him to make Him say something they would use against Him. But it failed as Jesus continued to be focused on His mission. He refused to be drawn into any controversy on taxes. He gave them an appropriate answer. This story is also recorded in Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26.
Jesus’ undivided focus on His mission is also shown in the incident in John 6:15. Some people wanted to come and take Jesus by force to make Him king after they had seen how He miraculously fed five thousand men with just five barley loaves and two small fish and twelve baskets of fragments of the five barley loaves were gathered thereafter. When Jesus perceived this, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. He did that because He knew His mission. His kingdom was not of this world as He later told Pilate (John 18:36).
When Jesus was asked to intervene in the sharing of a family inheritance, He refused to get involved (Luke 12:13-15). That was not part of His mission. He didn’t have an anointing for that!
You, too, must be focused if you’re going to make heaven, and also fulfill your destiny. “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you” (Proverbs 4:25 NKJV). Matthew 6:24 says no one serves two masters; he will either hate one and love the other or be loyal to one and despise the other.
As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, His followers should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added to us. We must focus on our mission on earth and not let anything derail us from its pursuit after discovering it. David said, “I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8 NKJV). The prophet Isaiah said something similar this way: “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph” (Isaiah 50:7 NLT). Don’t go here and there; don’t wander away from your life’s mission. Set your face like a flint in its pursuit.
6. Compassion for the hurting. Jesus was always moved by compassion any time He saw the sick, the disadvantaged, and the weak or vulnerable. Compassion also means kindness.
In Matthew 20:34, Jesus had compassion on two blind beggars. He touched their eyes and healed them.
In Luke 7:13, Jesus again had compassion on the widow of Nain and restored her only son back to life.
Mark 1:41 also records how Jesus had compassion on a leper, touched him, and healed him.
The Bible says He had compassion on the multitude because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. He prayed for more workers for the plenteous harvest (Matthew 9:36).
In Matthew 14:14, Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowd and healed their sick. Similarly, Mark 6:34 records that He was moved with compassion for the multitude because they were like sheep not having a shepherd and, therefore, He began to teach them many things. On that occasion, he fed them also – 5,000 men and their families.
It should not be surprising that Jesus demonstrated much compassion in His ministry because God is full of compassion (Psalms 86:15; 111:4; 112: 4; 145: 8). Jesus and God are one (John 10:30).
The Bible tells those who believe in Jesus Christ to have compassion, kindness, or mercy which is an expression of love. We are to have compassion for one another (1 Peter 3:8). The apostle John says, “But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help — how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:17 NLT).
Also in 1Corinthians 13:4, the Bible says love is kind, and kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit as stated in Galatians 5:22. Have compassion for people; don’t be judgmental. “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13 NKJV). The Bible in Basic English renders the verse thus: “For the man who has had no mercy will be judged without mercy, but mercy takes pride in overcoming judging.” Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
7. Faith for miracles. Jesus had faith for miracles. He didn’t record any failure regarding any mountain He confronted. He had faith and spoke His faith to the hearing of all. In Mark 11:14, He cursed the fig tree and the Bible says the disciples heard Him. “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13 NKJV).
Jesus always spoke out His faith whether to open the eyes of the blind, heal the leper, raise the dead, or calm the storm on the sea. He told the disciples Lazarus was sleeping – He didn’t say he was dead (John 11:11). When He got to the tomb of Lazarus four days after he had died, He commanded him to come out of the grave and he did (verse 43-44).
When the disciples expressed surprise that the fig tree He had cursed the previous day had withered, Jesus told them what they needed was faith – faith without any doubt (Mark 11:22-24; Matthew 21:21-22). Earlier in Mark 4:37-41, He had calmed a great windstorm and rebuked the disciples for their little faith. This is also recorded in Matthew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25. The winds and the sea obeyed Him.
Also in Mark 9:19, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith when they couldn’t cast out an evil spirit from a boy and the father brought the boy to Him. The father said to Jesus, “Have mercy on us and help us. Do something if you can” (verse 22 NLT). But the Bible says, “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes’” (verse 23 NLT). Jesus both lived by faith and taught it.
When His disciples were arguing among themselves because they had not brought bread, Jesus rebuked them for having little faith despite the fact that He had miraculously fed five thousand men with just five loaves of bread and two fishes and fed another four thousand men with seven loaves and there were was a large leftover on both occasions (Matthew 16:5-12; Mark 8:14-21). They did not understand that Jesus was not talking about bread when He said they should beware of the yeast of Pharisees.
Jesus exercised faith for miracles and also commended those who received their miracles by faith in Him. Jesus told Bartimaeus who defied all odds and kept crying for Jesus to have mercy on him, “Go your way. Your faith has healed you” (Mark 10:52 NLT).
He told the woman who had twelve years of bleeding but got her healing by touching Him by faith, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. You have been healed” (Mark 5:34 NLT). Matthew 9:22 records a similar statement from Jesus to this woman.
Jesus didn’t fail to recognize faith whenever He saw it in action. He told the immoral woman who anointed His feet with expensive perfume and cleaned His legs with her tears and her hair, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50 NKJV).
In Luke 17:19, Jesus told the Samaritan healed of leprosy, the only one who came back to him out of the ten lepers he had healed, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well” (NKJV).
Jesus always wants us to have faith for miracles, faith to receive, and faith to minister it to others. Commending the faith of the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire’” (Matthew 15:28 NKJV).
There was also the centurion, a Roman officer, whose faith was exceptional. The man asked Jesus not to bother to come to his house to heal his young servant who was sick but to just speak one word and he would be healed. That was unusual, and it came from a non-Jew. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matthew 8:10 NKJV). Because of this centurion’s uncommon faith, Jesus told him, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you” (verse 13 NKJV). The centurion’s sick servant was healed that same hour. Hallelujah!
The Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith comes by the continuous hearing of God’s Word (Romans 10:17). We must daily build our faith to receive, and, more importantly, to minister such that God will do miracles through us as He did in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore (Hebrews 13:8). The angel Gabriel told Mary with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37). Your name can be added to the list of those recorded in the Bible who did great things by faith especially those recorded in Hebrews 11.
Many today, as it was in the time of Jesus, will not believe without miraculous signs and wonders (John 4:48). Therefore, develop your faith for yourself and others whose lives may be connected to yours. The just shall live by faith (Hebrews10:38; Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17).
8. A readiness to forgive sin. Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, and Luke 7:48, record Jesus as saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” You’ll find this statement or something similar to it in these scriptures. Whereas the religious leaders were eager to condemn sinners as if they were more righteous, Jesus was eager to forgive their sins sparking off an argument about whether a human being could forgive sins.
In John 3:17, Jesus tells us why He didn’t go about condemning sinners. He said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (NKJV). This was why He was more interested in forgiving people’s sins and giving them another opportunity to start all over. Condemning sinners at the time of His ministry would deny them the opportunity of repentance. Even today, there is still room for repentance for sinners; the time for condemnation will come later when repentance will become impossible.
God doesn’t want anyone to perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). After those who condemned the woman caught in adultery had left one by one, Jesus told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11 NKJV). Once bitten, twice shy. After a close shave with death, that woman would run away from adultery!
In Matthew 9:2, when Jesus saw the faith of those who brought the paralytic to Him, He said, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (NKJV). Of course, the scribes started their argument on who could forgive sins. Jesus insisted the Son of man referring to Himself, had power on earth to forgive sins (verse 6). The same story is recorded in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26.
I earlier talked about the immoral woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume in the house of Simon and Jesus commended her faith. But Jesus also talked about her sins, saying, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48 NKJV). Again an argument followed: “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Verse 49 NKJV). But Jesus didn’t answer them. He simply told the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (verse 50 NKJV).
Jesus has the authority to forgive sins (Matthew 1:21). He delegated this authority to His disciples. Jesus said in John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you refuse to forgive them, they are unforgiven” (NLT).
God is ready to forgive sinners. All that is required of sinners is repentance. This is possible because Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross at Calvary and died in our place. The blood of animals was used in the Old Testament for the atonement of sin (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22) but under the New Covenant, Jesus paid the price with His blood. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV).
Jesus was ready to forgive those who wronged Him, even on the cross. He prayed for forgiveness for His enemies. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV).
As children of God, we should be forgiving because our God is a forgiving God (Daniel 9:9; Psalm 130:4). If we don’t forgive those who offend us, it means we don’t resemble our Father, God.
Jesus taught His followers to forgive. “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26 NKJV). Matthew 6:14-15 says a similar thing while Matthew 18:35 also talks about forgiving from the heart those who have wronged us.
In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (NKJV). But Jesus later explained to Peter that He didn’t say that he should forgive his brother up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven, which actually means as many times as possible (Matthew 18:22).
Don’t be tired of forgiving people, and don’t place a limit on forgiveness. Forgiveness is unending. Jesus says in Luke 6:37 that if you forgive others, you will be forgiven. Believers should not be quick to condemn others. “For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you” (James 2:12-13 NLT). We should let sinners know forgiveness is currently available for them in God. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7 NKJV).
A time is coming when there’ll be no more time for forgiveness. We should encourage sinners to take advantage of the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness currently available rather than condemning them. God doesn’t need our help to condemn sinners; He has already given His verdict. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18-19 NKJV). Any time anyone believes in Jesus, he comes out from under the sentence of the judgment of condemnation sinners are under. The believers’ responsibility, therefore, is to preach Christ to sinners, not to condemn them.
9. A diligence for teaching preaching and training. Jesus was a great teacher and a consummate trainer. He actually spent more time in His ministry teaching than doing miracles. He taught the crowd or multitudes and also taught His disciples, using parables to illustrate His teachings such as the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7; Matthew 8:12-14), the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32), the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13), the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30 with interpretation to His disciples from verses 36-43), and the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-8 with the interpretation from verses 18-23 and the same parable in Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8).
Others are the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19), the parable of the leaven (Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20-21), the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44), the parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46), and the parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-52).
By teaching in parables, Jesus sometimes hid the meanings of the parables from the crowd while explaining them later to His disciples (Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10). This was in fulfillment of Isaiah 6:9-10 which says, “And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed’” (NKJV).
Not all the teachings of Jesus were in parables. Matthew 5-7 records the teachings of Jesus to the crowd on different topics. He started with the beatitudes and went on to talk about the believers as the salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), His coming to fulfill the law rather than to abolish it (Matthew 5:17-20), anger (verses 21-26), adultery (verses 27-30), divorce (verses 31-32), vows (verses 33-37), revenge (verses 38-42), love for enemies (verses 43-48), giving to the needy (Matthew 6:1-4), prayer and fasting (verses 5-18), money and possessions (verses 19-34), refraining from judging others (Matthew 7:1-6), effective prayer (verses 7-11), the golden rule (verse 12), the narrow gate and the wide gate (verses 13-14), false prophets (verses 15-20), true disciples (verses 21-23), and the wise builder (verses 24-27).
From Matthew 5-7, we have three solid chapters of teaching. Most of these teachings are also recorded in other gospels. After Jesus had finished this teaching season, the Bible says, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority — quite unlike the teachers of religious law” (Matthew 7:28-29 NLT).
If ministers of God will emulate Jesus, we will devote much time to teaching the people the Word of God. The excuse of some ministers, who are in PULPIT ministry, especially those who preside over a body of believers, that they are not called to be a teacher, is not tenable. The major work of church leaders is to devote themselves to prayers and to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).
1Timothy 3:2 says, among other things, that a bishop (pastor/minister) must be able to teach. A person called to be a teacher, by virtue of his calling, may be able to go deeper and wider but every minister must teach the Word not just gathering the people together making only “prophetic declarations.” Jesus did not do that, and neither did the disciples who took over from him. Luke 5:17 says Jesus was teaching and the power of the Lord was present to heal those present. “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:20 NKJV).
Laziness could be the reason some ministers cannot preach or teach the Word because studying the Word requires diligence – hard work. “Elders who do their work well should be paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching” (1Timothy 5:17 NLT).
Jesus taught and preached. He has sent believers to do the same. While Mark 16:15 commissions believers to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature, Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (NKJV). Please take note that the latter part of that scripture, verse 20, talks about teaching those to be discipled to observe all things whatsoever Jesus had commanded the apostles.
Every pulpit minister should teach the Word of God. Malachi 2:7 says, “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (NKJV). Jesus did not only teach and preach; He trained His disciples. He transformed them into fishers of men as He had said to Peters and Andrew (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). He called the twelve disciples and sent them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out devils (Mark 3:14-15). This was part of their training.
In Luke 9:1-6, the Bible also records how Jesus gave His disciples power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases, and sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Also in Luke 10:17-20, the Bible tells us how about seventy (or seventy-two) disciples under Him came back from the field and gave Him a report on how demons were subject to them.
After the ascension of Jesus, we read in Acts 4:13 the impact of the training the disciples received from Jesus as Peter boldly addressed the religious council – the Sanhedrin – as a fallout of the healing of the lame by the Beautiful Gate. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 NKJV). The disciples might have been trained in an unconventional way but their Trainer, Jesus, made all the difference. They were proof of the success of Jesus’ training programme.
Under the leadership of the apostles, led by Peter, the early disciples were accused of turning their world upside down! (Acts 17:6). In a way, every Christian is a leader. We must emulate Jesus and ensure that we equip those under us to be better; they should be able to say later that they learned this or that from us – that we impacted their lives significantly.
Paul told Titus that older women should train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, live wisely and be pure, take care of their homes, do good, and be submissive to their husbands thus they would not bring shame on the word of God (Titus 2:4-5). That again underscores the importance of training in the church. We should have faithful men and women that we are training. What we had heard and we have learned, we should commit to them so that they will also teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).
10. A passion for building relationships. Jesus was people-centric! He built bridges rather than walls. He connected himself to people. Jesus didn’t discriminate in building relationships. At age twelve, He was already sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).
Right from when He started His ministry, He went after human beings seeking to build relationships. He didn’t pursue a one-man ministry. He sought for and chose His disciples, and built a relationship with them starting with Andrew and Peter (Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18). Then, He got connected to the sons of Zebedee (Mark 1:19-20; Matthew 4:21-22).
Notice how He courted Levi, son of Alphaeus, right in his tax collection office. He invited him, and the next thing we read is that Jesus was in his house eating! It wasn’t that He was hungry; He was building a relationship by honouring Levi’s invitation to Him and His disciples to be his dinner guests (Mark 2:14-17; Luke 5:27-32). Jesus showed love to Levi and might have used the opportunity of the dinner to minister to sinners – other tax collectors present.
Jesus built relationships; He didn’t discriminate. He went to people’s houses; He didn’t stop at meeting them in public. Consider Jesus’ relationship with Zacchaeus. When Jesus saw him on the tree that he had climbed in order to see Him, Jesus, calling him by name, said, “ Zacchaeus!…Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today” (Luke 19:5 NLT). Just as Jesus said, He followed him home to the disappointment of those who felt that if Jesus were truly holy, He shouldn’t have associated with a notorious sinner like Zacchaeus (verses 6-7). Jesus’ argument was that He had come to seek and save those like Zacchaeus who were lost (verse 10).
What is important is not shoring up one’s reputation or sustaining public opinion in one’s favour but getting as many people that are living in darkness to come to the Light, Jesus. Saving lost souls is more important than people’s respect for a preacher who doesn’t ‘rock the boat’ and, therefore, is not criticized.
Let us also look at Jesus’ relationship with Nathaniel. Though Nathaniel made a disparaging comment about Nazareth where Jesus grew up, He, nevertheless, made a friend out of him. He didn’t take offence the way many people would have naturally reacted. He waved aside what Nathaniel said which, actually was the general contempt for Nazareth where Jesus grew up. “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’” (John 1:45-51 NKJV).
Nathaniel thereafter became Jesus’ disciple. He was among the disciples who saw Jesus at the sea-side when Peter had gone fishing after Jesus’ crucifixion (John 21:1-2). That tells us that someone who may become very beneficial to you later may first appear contemptuous or unappealing.
Jesus went everywhere not just healing the sick and performing miracles but building relationships that helped His assignment. He didn’t discriminate. That was why He went to the province of Samaria, which in the time of Jesus, the Jews despised, and the aftermath of her conversation with the woman he met at the well of Jacob was that the woman and many in that city believed in Him as the Saviour of the world (John 4:1-26, 39-42).
Whereas in another Samaritan village that He tried to pass through He was denied access (Luke 9:51-56), but in Sychar, the people pleaded with Him to abide with them, not because of the testimony of the woman but what they had heard from Jesus. Jesus had told this woman she had had five husbands before and the sixth one she was living with wasn’t even her husband. In spite of this, Jesus didn’t put her away or condemn her. Jesus stayed in that city for two days during which He was able to minister to more people.
You can never fulfill your assignment without people, and you must go to meet them, most of the time, where they are; they may not come to you first. Jesus went to the house of Peter (Simon) and Andrew in company with James and John. That tells us how far Jesus went into building relationships. It was during that visit that He healed Peter’s mother-in-law who was down with a fever (Mark 1:29-31).
Look at His relationship with Lazarus and his family. Lazarus was His friend; he wasn’t one of the twelve disciples. When Lazarus was sick, Lazarus’ sisters sent a message to Jesus that the one He loved was sick (John 11:3). Lazarus was His friend, and his sisters knew that. Jesus also told His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (verse 11 NKJV). He was referring to his death because after He had received the message about his sickness, Lazarus died. Four days after he had died and was buried, Jesus finally arrived at Lazarus’ house. At the tomb of Lazarus, He wept and the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (Verse 35 NKJV). No doubt, Jesus loved Lazarus, and He brought him back to life.
If you’re going to succeed in life, you must know how to build relationships. Put your ego in your pocket; come down to people’s level. If you come down to their level, you’ll be able to lift them up. If they don’t come to you, go to them. Jesus built relationships; great relationships don’t just happen; you cultivate them.
Be aware of preconceived prejudices. Jesus was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners and other such derogatory names but He fulfilled His ministry (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Those who are sick need doctors; the righteous do not need repentance or the Saviour. He was sent to sinners (Matthew 9:12-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32).
Everybody cannot be your friend but don’t snub people! You don’t know who is going to be a blessing to you. Don’t despise anyone. “God is mighty, yet He does not despise anyone” (Job 36:5 NLT). The Bible says by faith Rehab the prostitute did not die for she had given a friendly welcome to the spies (Hebrews 11:31).
Abraham was friendly to the angels, not knowing who they were – he entertained them. The result was the birth of Isaac less than a year after, and the rescue of Lot from Sodom (Genesis 18). Hebrews 13:2 tells us to show hospitality to strangers for some who had done so have entertained angels.
The Shunammite woman did not know what would come out of her hospitality to the man of God, Elisha. She would have missed her miracle child and deliverance from the seven-year famine that visited the land later (2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6). Build relationships. You will always need people because God works through people! It is good to be strong but don’t be a lone ranger. The right partnership can even make you stronger.
In life’s journey, storms sometimes come against us, and during such a time, we benefit from the relationships we have. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (NKJV). Everybody may not stand with you in your period of trial but blessed are you if you have some people you can depend on. Jesus’ disciples slept when they were supposed to be praying for themselves (Matthew 26:40-45; Mark 14:37-42).
Worst still, after His arrest, the disciples He had built a relationship with for over three years deserted Him (Mark 14:48-50; Matthew 26:55-56). But that didn’t discourage Jesus from believing in them. After His resurrection, He went looking for them, reconnected with them, and reinstated them. They probably learnt from their past mistake and gave their all to the cause of the gospel. They did marvelously well and in their loyalty to Jesus suffered greatly, some were killed, in the course of ensuring that the message of salvation through faith in their Master and Saviour was heard by all. That’s why the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is still alive and spreading today.
If Jesus didn’t build relationships together with the associated risks – denial, betrayal, desertion, etc. – who would have continued the preaching of the gospel after His ascension?
You need relationships – more importantly, good relationships built on biblical principles. Even the great apostle Paul appreciated how important relationships are while he was under Roman house arrest or in prison. In 2 Timothy 4:9-21, Paul painfully expresses how he felt being abandoned, and he sought the company of some of his associates. He told Timothy, his son in the ministry, “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica — Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come — and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren” (NKJV).
The story of Job is well known. His name is synonymous with trials. Job was also criticized, condemned, scorned, and deserted by his friends and those he had relationships with including family members (Job 16:20; 19:14, 19; 32:3). They all failed to support him in his trial. Shortly before God turned Job’s situation around, God even expressed His anger with Job’s three friends because they had not spoken of Him what was right as Job had done in his trial (Job 42:7). But does that mean we should not have relationships because of the possibility of people failing us? No.
After God, you still need human beings. God doesn’t fail. Human beings will sometimes fail you but you still need them! You need both God and man. Know the place and role of each in your life.
Therefore, pray before you go into relationships, especially intimate relationships, and don’t let human beings replace God in your life. If you let God lead you into relationships, you’ll be able to minimize (not completely avoid), the painful occurrences of denial, betrayal, and desertion. As much as relationships are vital in life, sometimes you must stand alone rather than be in a bad, evil company. Jesus knew this. That’s why he had no deal with Pilate. He knew he must go to the cross and die there. “Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:10-11NKJV).
Conclusion: Have you learnt anything from the great habits of Jesus Christ I’ve discussed in this message? Cultivate these great habits which were in Christ Jesus. Make it your goal to be like Jesus; begin to cultivate these habits today. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you; receive the grace for it. Your life will be greatly transformed.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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