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How Can Imperfect People Follow Jesus' Perfect Example?

  • Aaron Berry Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2019 19 Jun
How Can Imperfect People Follow Jesus' Perfect Example?

We all have role models — individuals who embody the character and lifestyle to which we aspire. And often, we prefer our role models to be fallible — to make mistakes that they then overcome, to have shortcomings that they turn into strengths.

We like our role models to admit they aren’t perfect, because after all, we aren’t either.

If that’s the case, can a perfect, sinless Jesus really be my example?

After all, how in the world am I supposed to imitate the God-man, fully human yet fully divine? There is a debate out there as to whether or not Jesus could have sinned, even though he never did (peccability vs. impeccability).

Although I’m not going to dive into the intricacies of that debate, I will say here that I believe Jesus was “impeccable” — unable to sin, because God is unable to sin. But this makes the question at hand even more troubling.

If Jesus couldn’t have sinned, how does his resistance of temptation provide any example for us sinful humans? It’s a fair question. After all, if I was incapable of sinning, temptation wouldn’t seem as scary!

Does Jesus’ sinlessness ruin his example?

One of my favorite passages that speaks about Jesus’ example is Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” But, although this verse says that Jesus can “sympathize with our weaknesses,” It seems that phrase, “yet without sin,” might tempt us to downplay the power of Jesus’ example.

But I don’t think it does—not in the slightest.

Consider his temptation by the Devil in the wilderness.

Consider, not only the fact that he successfully resisted the Devil’s temptations, but also how he resisted those temptations in Matthew 4 and Luke 4.

When prompted by Satan to turn the stones into bread, jump off the pinnacle of the Temple, or bow down and worship him, did Jesus ever play the “God card” to resist temptation? Did he ever respond to Satan’s schemes by saying, “Nice try, Satan. That sure would be tempting if I wasn’t God-in-flesh. But it’s impossible for me to sin, so take your best shot”? No! Why? Because Jesus is our example, and as such, he resisted temptation the exact same way in which he calls us to resist temptation.

How did he resist?

Jesus resisted by power of the Spirit, in submission to the Father, and through the authority of the Word.

Luke 4 describes Jesus as “full of the Holy Spirit” when he was led into the wilderness. In each of his responses to the Devil, he exhibited a complete submission to his Father, while he magnified him through the use of Scripture. And this wasn’t just his approach during these temptations, this is how he lived. 

He performed miracles and cast out demons by the power of the Spirit (Matt 12:28; Luke 14:18). Everything he did was in submission and obedience to the Father (Heb 5:8; 10:7; John 14:31). And he was constantly referencing the authority of God’s Word, as he reminded his audience, “Is it not written?” (Mark 11:17; Luke 10:26; 19:46; 22:37; 24:46; John 6:31; 10:34).

We can resist temptation the exact same way that Jesus did.

Here is what makes Jesus’ example so powerful: every weapon, every strategy, and every advantage Jesus utilized in his fight against temptation is available to us!

We have the same Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6). We have the same Father (John 20:27). And we have the same Word of God (John 17:17). If you have been saved by the blood of Christ, then you also have been united to him, baptized in the same Spirit and part of the same family.

No, you aren’t perfect and you never will be in this life. Yes, you will mess up. But you have every advantage and resource that Jesus used when he encountered the devil in the wilderness.

With this baffling realization, we don’t have to be overwhelmed with the Scriptural commands to imitate Jesus. When 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked,” we can imitate Jesus because he made sure that his example was a human one, complete with the weakness, hunger, and fatigue that comes with being human (yet without sin).

And he did so, not just to succeed where Adam failed in the garden, but to set forth as an example for all believers the only way to live righteously. He resisted temptation yet without sin, and he did so as we ought. And in his baffling grace, he provided us with everything we need. We are at no disadvantage.

We may not be perfect, but we also have no excuse for succumbing to temptation.

The example of Jesus is truly incredible. As we see in Hebrews 4:15, the God of all Creation can honestly say to us in our struggle with temptation, “I know what you’re going through.” He was tempted in every way, yet he emerged victorious and sinless. 

And now he gives us all the weapons Jesus used to conquer sin in our lives. The verse after Hebrews 4:15 gives us this reassurance: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

During his earthly life, Jesus showed us exactly how we can find grace to help in time of need: rely on the Spirit, submit to the Father, and live by the Word of God.

Although we aren’t perfect, it sure is nice to have a perfect example in Jesus Christ.

Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and two children, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

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