Let’s begin today with a question—what is the key to living like Jesus?
If that question sounds impossibly high-minded, it isn’t intended that way. Living like Jesus is in fact how we are called to live as Christians (1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 4:17). Of course, we all fall short of this ideal in many ways—but Scripture is clear that as we grow in our faith, we will resemble Jesus more and more. The Christian life is meant to have a trajectory to it.
There’s a problem though. Anyone who takes seriously the teachings of the New Testament apostles and tries to live them out quickly realizes it. Living like Jesus is very difficult. We might clean up our behavior for a little bit—but eventually, we realize just how entrenched our behaviors are in ways that look very little like Jesus—even ways that are diametrically opposed to Him.
Often, it feels that the harder you try, the more difficult it gets.
Eventually, there comes a point for any serious disciple of Jesus where they realize the futility of their efforts to produce the fruit of Jesus’s life in their own. Exhausted, burnt out, and utterly spent, they cry out, “There has to be a better way!” And of course, there is.
Living in obedience to God and reproducing the fruit of Jesus’s life in our own is not something that can be achieved in human effort. At least Jesus certainly didn’t seem to think so.
The secret to Jesus’s life was that it flowed from unity with His Father. The gospel of John drives this point home over and over again. Just take a look at the following passages:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19, NKJV)
“I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30, NKJV)
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:9–11, NKJV).
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:16–20, NKJV)
Unity with the Father is what made Jesus’s life possible. And you know what? Unity with God is what makes the Christian life possible. It’s the secret sauce, if you will. After all of the passages we just read about Jesus’s union with His Father, we see Jesus making this famous statement in John 15,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NKJV)
This verse is often taught to us in isolation, but it is in the larger context of all the verses and chapters before it, many of which are listed above. Jesus shows us that His life is made possible by His connection to the Father, and then similarly, that our life is only possible through our connection to Him. Life flows through connection—and fruit comes from life.
If we make behaving the right way our primary focus, we are concentrating on the wrong end of the equation. The branch of a vine does not bear fruit by redoubling its efforts. As a branch, it does not have in and of itself the ability to produce anything unless the life of the vine—powered by the water and nutrients it pulls from the ground—is flowing through it. It bears fruit simply as a result of staying connected to the vine. It’s the same with us. If we want to live like Jesus, we need to learn to draw our life from our unity with Him, as He did with His Father.
Tomorrow, we will dive into specific ways we can live with a greater awareness of and connection to our unity with Christ, but for now, just let this truth sink in. Your struggles to change your behavior have very little to do with your actual behavior. We struggle to live as we should when we attempt to live while disconnected from our unity and connection to Christ. When we learn how to stay connected—which is the primary area we should focus our effort on—the fruit will take care of itself.
Day 27 Freedom Work
Scripture Reading — Read John 14-15 and note how important unity with Christ is to the Christian life.
Journaling Exercises — Answer the following questions at length in your journal. Aim to spend at least 5–7 minutes per question.
- Does the idea of living in unity with Christ seem foreign to you? How much of your Christian life feels like it’s just about doing the right things and learning to obey God?
- When you look at the life of Jesus, do you see Him trying to do things in His own strength, or do you see Him relying on His union with the Father? In what ways? Give some examples here.
- What are some practical ways you can live with a greater awareness of your unity with God on a daily basis? How might your life change if you made those your focus rather than simply trying harder to behave better?
Prayer — Father, I am tired of trying to do this thing in my own strength. I cannot do this on my own. I’ve tried and failed so many times. I’ve been down that road and I know how it ends. I want to learn how to live like Jesus, depending on you for my very life. Reveal to me just how close you are. Holy Spirit, show me that my life is now hidden with Christ in God—that you have taken up residence inside of me. Help me to live with an awareness of your indwelling presence and to do life in partnership with you. Teach me how to stay connected to the vine so your life can flow through me to the world around me. Amen.