Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of John Eldredge's book, Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, (Faith Words, 2011).
Reading or hearing about Jesus without knowing His personality may leave you with the wrong impression of Him as someone who’s distant or strange. Too often, religion presents just such a distorted view of Jesus.
But when you get to know Jesus’ personality, you can better understand His divinity, and why He chose to say and do things that woke people up from their religious comas and brought them face to face with truth. Knowing the kind of person Jesus was on Earth can help you relate to Him better now as your divine Savior and Lord.
Here’s how you can discover the real Jesus through His personality:
Ask Jesus to show you who He really is. Jesus wants you to know Him. He came to Earth to show the world what God is really like. Knowing Jesus will give you the greatest fulfillment of all, and being mistaken about Jesus is the worst mistake you can ever make. So pray for Jesus to reveal Himself to you, and give you the wisdom you need to let go of false ideas about him so you can embrace the truth about Him.
Get to know Jesus’ playfulness. Look at what Jesus has created to see glimpses of His playfulness on display. Laughter was His idea, and He made many playful creatures, from golden retrievers to dolphins.
Get to know Jesus’s fierce intentions. Jesus is serious about standing up for His convictions and fulfilling His purposes. He is passionate, but never reckless, when he expresses His intentions. Remember how angry Jesus got when He cleared the temple of people who were using it as a place of business instead of a house of prayer, but also remember that Jesus directed His anger in a constructive (rather than a destructive) way.
Get to know Jesus’ humanity. When Jesus lived on Earth, He had the most human face of all, because He lived in the way that God wants human beings to live. He was fully divine, yes, but He was also fully human. He felt hunger, thirst, and physical pain. He felt emotions running the gamut from happiness to sorrow. He faced the same temptations that you must face in this fallen world. When you realize that Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to be human, you can approach Him more comfortably than you can otherwise.
Get to know Jesus’ extravagant generosity. Jesus gives an innumerable amount of generous gifts to you every day – from the food you eat, to the people you love. Use the senses He has given you (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching) to notice more of His good gifts in your life, and make a habit of thanking Him for His extravagant generosity.
Get to know Jesus’ disruptive honesty. Jesus always speaks the truth, even when doing so startles people. Whenever you find yourself offended by something Jesus tells you, recognize that the offense is something within you, not Him. If the truth about something makes you feel uncomfortable, ask Jesus to give you the courage to accept the truth and empower you to deal with the situation the way He wants you to handle it.
Get to know Jesus’ scandalous freedom. Jesus offers you a freedom that’s scandalous to religious people who are caught in the trap of legalism. Instead of focusing on external rules, Jesus focuses on internal holiness – and that’s what will truly change your life for the better.
Get to know Jesus’ cunning. Jesus has a brilliant strategy for reaching out to people: He never forces them to follow Him, but instead shows them a compelling view of love and holiness in action, which inspires people to seek relationships with Him. Every day is a new opportunity to keep seeking Jesus and growing closer to Him.
Get to know Jesus’ humility. Jesus chose to leave the glory of heaven and temporarily sacrifice tremendous power to be incarnated as a man on Earth, and His willingness to die a horrible death on a cross to save people from their sins also demanded extreme humility. Just as Jesus humbled Himself to obey His Father’s plan, be willing to humble yourself when you sense God calling you to do something, so you can faithfully respond to His call.
Get to know Jesus’ truth. Jesus was completely faithful and true, no matter what. Rather than worrying about what other people will think of you if you say or do something that you sense God wants you to say or do, choose to respond faithfully, speaking or acting in ways that reflect the truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind to purify your motives, so you can serve God for His glory, not yours. Resist telling “little white lies,” even when others around you or doing so. Pray for the courage you need to always tell the truth.
Get to know Jesus’ beauty. Jesus is beautiful because He puts love in action. Aim to follow His example, and you will grow more beautiful, too.
Learn how to love Jesus. Jesus welcomes you to enjoy a close relationship with Him. He’s on a first-name basis with you: “Jesus,” not “Mr. Christ.” So forget about having to use special language or tones when you pray; simply be yourself with Him. Also, be careful not to confuse doing tasks for Jesus with loving Jesus. First, focus on investing time and energy into your love relationship with Jesus and growing closer to Him. Then, your Christian service will naturally flow from the love that you and Jesus share.
Let Jesus be Himself with you. Remove whatever limits you’ve set on how you expect to experience Jesus in your life. Invite Jesus to be Himself with you, even when that means surprising you or taking you out of your comfort zone. Consider what you think Jesus thinks about you: If that doesn’t reflect unlimited love, your own brokenness is distorting your perspective on Jesus, and you need to pray for healing so you can see how much Jesus truly loves you.
Clear away the religious fog. Consider whether or not you really experience Jesus in your church in the same way you experience His personality when you read the Gospels. If not, then make whatever changes God calls you to make so you can worship Jesus as He truly is.
Let Jesus’ life fill your life. Every day, decide to resist the urge to rely on your own efforts to live faithfully, and place your trust in Jesus in a fresh way. Invite Jesus to fill your soul with His life so that it will flow through you, empowering you to live faithfully. When you do so, the incarnation continues in you, as Jesus transforms your personality so that you become all you can be.
Adapted from Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, copyright 2011 by John Eldredge. Published by Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY, http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/.
John Eldredge has written 12 books, including the bestsellers Wild at Heart (Thomas Nelson, 2001) and Captivating (Thomas Nelson, 2005), written with his wife, Stasi. After earning his master’s degree in counseling from Colorado Christian University, Eldredge worked as a counselor in private practice before founding Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs, Co. Ransomed Heart hosts numerous events annual in the United States and abroad, helping people discover the true heart of God and empowering them to share the message with others. Visit the website at: http://www.ransomedheart.com/.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: email@example.com send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: October 3, 2011