When you hear or read stories of Christians of a different time, do they invoke in you a sense of disappointment for your life? Not that you need to do better - but that you wish you could have a faith like theirs? Does the boldness of Martin Luther, the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or the steadfastness of Saint Paul make you wish you lived a similar life? It’s not hard to look at the lives of these Christians and notice the lack in your own (this is leaving aside all of their faults as well). Of course, humanity has significantly advanced from the plague-ridden times of Luther or the reign of the Nazis Bonhoeffer faced down, but do you, like me, sometimes wish you could live during the time of the reformation? Not only to witness the amazing events that took place, but also to be a part of the changing of the world? Do you think that the adverse and downright terrifying circumstances these men lived in would spur you on to have a more authentic and deep relationship with Jesus?
Obviously, the time-period we might covet the most would be Jesus’ time. How incredible would it have been to be walking and talking with Jesus? It would be nothing short of life-altering, and it was for the men and women that had that opportunity. Unfortunately, we live 500 years after the reformation and two millennia after Jesus walked the earth, so we cannot experience what these men did. We, instead, must rely on their experiences to teach us and guide us in our lives.
Or do we?
Often, we approach the Bible as a historical book which we are to read to learn about God and his plan for the world. It can be easy for me (someone who is a student of Christian Apologetics) to view the Bible through this lens and constantly think about reliability of the claims within it. While there is certainly a purpose for this view of the Bible (it helps you engage with those particularly skeptical of the claims of the Bible and can also bolster your own faith), it doesn’t seem to be the main point of the Scriptures. Instead, as the author of Hebrews writes,
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12.
So, the Word of God is alive. It is not merely a textbook with which we are to discern the truthfulness of the claims. It is a miraculous, spiritual, and even sometimes mysterious book which we ought to allow to speak to us – literally.
This brings us back to our question, mainly, how would it be to spend time with Jesus? Or, what would it be like to be personally discipled by Jesus?
We certainly have that opportunity. Of course, we cannot literally physically walk with Jesus as the disciples did, but if the Word of God is living and active, and in it are four separate accounts of his life, shouldn’t we then spend as much time as possible in those accounts? If one of the life goals of the Christian is to be like Jesus, wouldn’t one of the best places to look be the gospels? Surely, all scripture is the Word of God and all Scripture is valuable to us, but no one would argue that each piece of Scripture is equally applicable and has the same contents. Instead, the differing pieces of Scripture provide a unique piece of the puzzle for God’s people. The gospels serve as a close look at how the second person of the Trinity behaved as he incarnated as a man. The gospels are the Word of God speaking to us and instructing on us on what exactly Jesus would – and did – do in very specific circumstances.
I am not, obviously, the first person to think this way; this certainly isn’t a revelatory thought or message. It doesn’t mean, however, that it might not be somewhat new to you. It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about what we ought to do because of it.
Here’s my proposal, and something I’ve been doing for quite some time: spend some time each day reading a portion of the gospels, and each day ask yourself, “How could I be more like that [the example Jesus set] today?” Then, try to live that day the same way Jesus would. Record your thoughts and experiences about the day somewhere (a journal, your phone, or a voice recording), and think about how it affected you to live like him.
I have created (for your convenience) a daily reading plan that will take you through all 4 gospels in roughly one month. The nice part about this plan is that on each Sunday you’ll be reading about the resurrection of Jesus, which is a great way to start the day you’ll probably be attending church.
So, join me in trying to live more like a disciple of Jesus by examining exactly how he lived and trying (and of course failing) to live the same way.