The Natural Holiness of Jesus

What It Looked Like on Him and What It Means for You

The Natural Holiness of Jesus 100

Jesus Christ lived a life designed to help you live yours.

His life is a limitless resource for all who follow Him and want to be more like Him.

This book is written to direct you attention to Him, to help you to meditate on the life He lived two thousand years ago and the life He lives now.

Everything He did, He did for you. Because of what He experienced, He is uniquely positioned and empowered to make your life holy.

With Him you can do anything. Without Him you don’t even know how to be human.

Learn from Jesus how to be human, and you will find that He has also made you holy.

Discern the Spirit of Christ at work in your life:

The Holy Spirit is always working to make you into a certain kind of human being: the kind that Jesus was and still is. Learn what it was like for Him to live in purity and innocence in a corrupt world. See His example more clearly and follow it more closely.

Be led by the Spirit:

Be the kind of person he is leading you to be and you will go in the direction He wants you to go. Recognize the personality of Jesus and you will recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Love Jesus more by seeing him more clearly:

Loving Jesus makes everything else easier, and He’s not hard to love by any means. But you can’t love a religious concept like you can love a person.

Get a fresh perspective on Jesus. This book portrays our Lord in ways that have probably never been presented to you.

Begin to do today what you will do forever: Marvel at the glory of the Son of God.

Introduction

This book was born out of my repeated failed attempts at living a holy life. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I struggled for years to live up to the New Testament standard of holiness. I failed with such consistency that it seemed that either the gospel was not true or I did not understand it at all. I knew it was true, so I concluded that my understanding was lacking in some way. The gospel simply was not working in my life like it was supposed to. I resolved to study the New Testament until I discovered what I was missing and to learn from any Christian tradition that taught about holy living.

One thing that puzzled me, in my studies, was this statement from Hebrews 2:18: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” It seemed to me that Jesus, as omnipotent God, should be able to do whatever He wants regardless of whether or not He Himself was tempted. But I knew that I was someone who needed His help and I was desperate to better understand the kind of help He was offering.

I knew that prayer and fasting were essential to living a holy life but I wasn’t any good at either one. I found prayer hard and fasting harder. I studied instructions on how to pray from a variety of Christian traditions. As helpful and edifying as they were, much of these instructions seemed to be describing what I should do rather than helping me do it.

I already knew, more or less, what I should be doing. My problem was that, when praying, I was often tempted not to pray. And most of the time I spent fasting I also spent being tempted not to fast. I needed the help that Jesus offers to those who are tempted, and I needed it at the beginning of my attempts to pray and fast, not as the end result.

My search for His help brought me back again and again to the “in that” of Hebrews 2:18. In that He suffered, being tempted, He is able to help me. There is a critical connection between what He does now and what He experienced then. So I sought to better understand the kind of life He lived then, in order to better understand the kind of help He offers now.

I discovered that the life He lived, and which He still lives, is the vital context in which He helps me. The main point is not my own goal of becoming a more spiritual person. With that as my goal I remained frustrated. His own greatness and glory is the context in which He helps me.

My calling as a Christian is more than just to strive to be a holy person. It is to be satisfied with Jesus as the only holy person I will ever need. The wonderful reality of who He is provides the basis for understanding what He does. He helps, He saves, but more importantly, He is. This is all that really matters. Everything holy and good happens in this context.

In Psalm 16:5-6, David celebrates the discovery of his own destiny, his lot in life. It is Christ himself: “O LORD, you are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.” His destiny was to be satisfied with the Lord, and the Lord Himself would preserve this inheritance for him. When he learned that, he realized what a blessed and fortunate man he was.

This is your lot in life as well: to be satisfied with Jesus Christ no matter what happens. For this reason you follow Him. And as you follow Him you become like Him.

Thomas a Kempis wrote in the beginning of his book, The Imitation of Christ, “If you want to see clearly and avoid blindness of heart, it is His virtues you must imitate. Make it your aim to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.”[1]

What follows is a study of the life and virtues of Jesus Christ that will hopefully encourage you in your attempt to imitate Him.

But take to heart this advice from Martin Luther: before Christ can be imitated as an example, He must be received as a gift.[2] It is by receiving that we reign, as Paul tells us: “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 ESV, emphasis added)

Those who receive, reign. It is my hope that this book will deepen your appreciation of the greatness of the Gift you have received, who lives within you, and with whom you reign. He is abundantly willing and able to help all who aspire to follow after Him.

All of Scripture bears witness to Jesus Christ. We study the Bible in order to get a clearer picture of who He is. It is possible, however, to develop wrong ideas by focusing only on what some Bible verses say to the exclusion of others. The historical creeds of the church were written as safeguards against this error. Some people disparage them as unspiritual, political documents, but I like them. I have found them to be precious and helpful.

The Council of Chalcedon formulated such a creed in 451 AD. Its purpose was to protect us from saying the wrong things about Jesus Christ in our attempts to understand who He is. As one scholar has written, “Its terms are not calculated to picture the way in which Jesus is put together. Rather they are calculated to explain how it is proper to speak of him.”[3]

I want to speak of Jesus properly and scripturally. That is my intention in this book. Below is part of what is called the definition of Chalcedon. I agree with this creed and do not intend to contradict it by anything I have written. I have included it here in the introduction because I will say many things about Jesus as both God and man, and I don’t want to be misunderstood as deviating from the historic, orthodox faith.

“Following, therefore, the holy fathers, we confess one and the same Son, who is our Lord Jesus Christ, and we all agree in teaching that this very same Son is complete in His deity and complete—the very same—in His humanity, truly God and truly a human being, coessential with the Father as to His deity and coessential with us—the very same one—as to His humanity, being like us in every respect apart from sin. As to His deity, He was born from the Father before the ages, but as to His humanity, the very same one was born in the last days from the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, for our sake and the sake of our salvation: one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only Begotten, acknowledged to be unconfusedly, unalterably, undividedly, inseparably in two natures, since the difference of the natures is not destroyed because of the union, but on the contrary, the character of each nature is preserved and comes together in one person and one hypostasis, not divided or torn into two persons but one and the same Son and only-begotten God, Logos, Lord Jesus Christ.”[4]

And now, as we look at the person of Jesus Christ, I pray that He Himself will take hold of your heart and speed you on your way to your destiny: to become like Him.

The Natural Holiness of Jesus 100

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Footnotes:

[1]        Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book One, Chapter One, Catholic Book Publishing, 1977, p.15

[2]        Martin Luther, Faith and Freedom, An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, Vintage Spiritual Classics, 2003, p.71-72  See Endnotes

[3]        Richard A. Norris Jr., The Christological Controversy, Fortress Press, 1980, p.30-31

[4]        Translation by Richard A. Norris Jr., The Christological Controversy, Fortress Press, 1980, p.159