Chapter One: Two Ways to Be Human
To be human is to be a sinner. To err is human, and so is to sin. That’s how we often see things, anyway. But, in fact, humanity was not created to sin, and sin is not part of our original design. Therefore, if someone were to live a life completely free of sin, they would be acting in a more human way than the rest of us.
This is what Jesus did. He lived a sinless life and He is ready to help you to overcome sin because He overcame sin perfectly.
So what did this life look like? Here is where it gets interesting. If Jesus hadn’t started preaching the kingdom of God and doing miracles, He would not have been recognized as a unique man of God.
He started His ministry when He was about thirty years old. By that time, He had been living a sinless life for thirty years and yet nobody seemed to have noticed. In fact, the people who knew Him best, the people of Nazareth and even members of His own family, rejected His ministry. They knew Him so well, they were convinced that He was a normal guy, not a great prophet.
Sinless humanity is normal humanity. It is the natural way to be human. In this sense, Jesus was more normal than we sinners are. It is sin that is unnatural and even anti-human.
Yet it seems so easy and natural for us to sin. This is because we have it backwards. Jesus set it straight. If we want to overcome sin and live the lives that we were meant to live, we will have to re-learn everything we thought we knew about humanity from the greatest human who ever lived.
In other words, we will have learn to be human from God, for Jesus is also God just as He is fully human.
Jesus said to His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). You and I may never be able to comprehend exactly how Jesus could be God and man at the same time, but here He assures us, as He assured His disciples, that His humanity didn’t conceal His divinity from us, it revealed it.
For Jesus, being human wasn’t incompatible with being God. For you, being human isn’t incompatible with being holy. You were created to be holy as certainly as you were created human. Learn from Jesus how to be human, and you will find that He has also made you holy.
Chapter Two: For You and for the World
Of course, Jesus didn’t just come to teach us as an example. He gave His life for us. You get no benefits from Jesus apart from His death and resurrection. You can’t follow Him just as Teacher and not as Savior and Lord.
Jesus gave up His life for you at the cross, but before that, He lived it for you as well. To understand that a life has been lived for you is to understand that it was the entire life, every moment from beginning to end, and that it was for you personally, not just for you as part of a larger category or group of people.
You can learn from the example of Jesus’ life because it is more than just an example for you. It is a gift. It was always meant to be given to you and it was lived as a gift to you. Jesus had no other purpose than the purpose He accomplished in His death and resurrection. His crucifixion was not an interruption into His life, but its culmination.
All of this, He did for you as an individual. Yes, it was for millions of other people as well, but that does not dilute the concentrated power of the life of the Son of God lived and given for you, personally. You get it all, and for this reason you can share it all with the rest of the world.
Chapter Three: He Glorified God and Was Thankful
The apostle Paul said, about sinful humanity, that, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” (Romans 1:21). This is part of a lengthy description of sin contained in Romans 1. Jesus’ sinless life demonstrated the opposite of Paul’s description of sin. Jesus’ life was Romans 1 turned inside-out.
Jesus, therefore, did glorify God and He was thankful—and not just enough, not the minimum requirement, but perfectly and completely, for God deserves no less.
It’s hard for us to even imagine how God could be adequately glorified by human beings, and we never would have guessed how Jesus would do it. Neither did any of His followers understand, at the time, that Jesus was perfectly glorifying God by His perfectly obedient life. But He was, and He did. Through the gift of His life, He glorified God.
Jesus was thankful to His Father for His humanity and His experience on this earth. He enjoyed life and He is able to teach us to enjoy life.
For a Christian, enjoyment of life isn’t something that just happens. It is a discipline learned from Jesus. It begins with true thankfulness to God and continues with true appreciation for people. Your life is made up of the people in it, and you will never enjoy life less by loving people more.
Chapter Four: Temptation and Weakness
The New Testament promises us that, as we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit will purify our desires and affections to conform them to His. But the New Testament does not promise us that we will ever be free from temptation in this life. Neither was Jesus free from temptation until He died on the cross.
Before we are made like Jesus, we find sin attractive and are thus tempted by it. The more we are conformed to His image, however, the more we hate sin and are disgusted by it, just like He is. Yet temptation remains. If anything, it grows stronger because we don’t yield to it.
Before Jesus, we were tempted as those who could easily find pleasure and enjoyment in sin. Jesus, however, was tempted without sinning, and without even finding anything attractive about it. The more we become like Him, the more our temptations become like His. They become stronger but they also change. They look less like evil desire and more like suffering and weakness.
What never changes, however, is the goal of temptation. It is always to separate us from Jesus. The temptations of Jesus tried to make Him stop following His purpose. They failed. Temptations come to us to try to make us stop following Jesus. There is no reason they need to succeed.
Chapter Five: Nature and Learning
Jesus had access to the unlimited power of God but He choose, for your sake, to live His life as a human being. He did many astounding miracles, but He did them in submission to His Father’s will, and He did them as a man, not as some super-human being (although He could have).
He did what He did as a man, but as a sinless man with perfect faith. This faith gave Him a special appreciation for the wonder of creation. As God, He had created the world. Now, as man, He lived in the world in communion with His Father and in the kind of purity of heart that sees God ever revealing Himself through His creation.
Jesus had access to unlimited knowledge, but He learned about the world as a boy growing up in it. He shared in the joy of discovery that we all experience, and He did it with undiluted love for the truth.
He did all of this for you, and He’s ready to share with you His love of the truth and His pure appreciation for the miracle of creation.
Chapter Six: Resurrection
Jesus appreciated the miraculous, God-given, and God-sustained nature of world around Him. For Him, death didn’t fit into God’s creation. It was an invader, just as sin was.
We tend to accept death as inevitable and as a natural part of life. Jesus didn’t. He wasn’t under death’s authority like we are, and it showed. He revealed His authority over death in the way He lived and the way He spoke. His disciple Peter said to Him one time, “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus didn’t just talk about eternal life, He spoke with eternal authority.
Jesus’ attitude toward death was vindicated when He rose from the dead. He rose never more to die, He rose indestructible, and He rose human. He remains human to this day, living the kind of life that He has promised to give to His followers.
Even now, in His glorification at the right hand of God, Jesus shares our humanity with us. He also shares His Spirit with us. The Holy Spirit communicates forgiveness and the hope of eternal life to us. He communicates to us the word that God has spoken to us in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Holy Spirit keeps the gospel fresh in our lives just as He has preserved it in every generation since the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2.
Chapter Seven: The New Being
God the Father wants us to agree with Him about how wonderful His Son is. This is also what the Holy Spirit wants. The good news is that when we see how wonderful Jesus is, it’s not hard to agree with the triune God. We agree profoundly, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Out of this agreement flow fellowship and obedience.
This obedience is not offered grudgingly or reluctantly. Rather, it is marked by spontaneity and joy. It is offered in freedom, the freedom of the new creation in Christ, the glorious freedom of the children of God.
As a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you are a genuinely new person. Learn to recognize the characteristic marks of this new person, one of which is spontaneous and joyful agreement with the will of God. This new you is the real you. This obedience is real obedience, and it’s also real freedom. Appreciate and cultivate it, and it will increase in your life.
Chapter Eight: The Old Being
The freedom of the new person in Christ is a foretaste of the age to come. In that age, we will be truly free from sin, free even from the possibility of sinning. That kind of perfection will come when Jesus returns and judges the world. Until then, we taste the powers of the new age in the midst of the old age.
This involves a struggle. The flesh has been crucified, but as long as this old world still exists, and you still live in it, the opportunity to live according to your old, dead ways still remains. The Holy Spirit is jealous for you, however. He is going to fight for you, ever invading this old age with His newness.
Your old self is like King Saul after he had been told by the prophet Samuel that David would certainly replace him on the throne of Israel. Saul didn’t heed that warning because he didn’t want it to be true. So also, your old self doesn’t want to hear the gospel, because the gospel announces the death of the old self.
The gospel also empowers the new self. It gives life to the new, and this new life, lived out in the midst of this crucified world, is what makes the death of the old self effective. Your life is hidden with Christ in God. You must set you mind on heaven before you can deal effectively with sin on earth.
As you set your mind on heaven, you are not looking only to a promised future, but also to a present reality. This unseen reality is more certain than the world you can see with your eyes.
Without faith, you will not be living in the real world. You will be influenced by the delusion of unbelief. Unbelief distorts reality; faith grabs hold of it. The fight of faith is the fight to live in the real world, not to escape from it.
This is a fight that Jesus is going to help you to win, because He already won it for you. He lived His life for you so that He could be in the position He is in now: victorious over sin and death, ready and eager to help you, constantly interceding for you and supplying you with His Spirit of holiness and grace.
God be with you.