WWJD and The Heart of Imitation
What example do we follow to build our spiritual life? How do we become disciples of Jesus? The answer is simple: We imitate him and those who faithfully follow him.
While this is simple, it can also be misleading. Consider the WWJD phenomenon in the 1990s. WWJD stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” A youth minister from Michigan invited young people to use WWJD as a motto of their personal devotion to live like Jesus. Young people were challenged to ask themselves, “What Would Jesus Do” in a particular situation. They wore bracelets with the letters WWJD to remind them to imitate Jesus. It spread across the country. Millions of rubber bracelets were created and worn by people of every walk of life, from students to professional athletes. This was a way for people to remind themselves to imitate the actions of Jesus in everyday life. A person must do more than imitate the actions of Jesus, however, if they are to be a disciple of Christ. A disciple also imitates the motives of Jesus. To imitate Jesus we need to wear two bracelets. One reading WWJD, but in front of that, one that reads WWMJ: “What Would Motivate Jesus?”
1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
Jesus expects us to imitate his good works. Just doing good works doesn’t make us disciples of Christ, though. Every day people do good things. It is how God made us to be. Take Angelina Jolie, for example. She lives a life devoted to good works. It could be said that she outshines many Christians with her charity and self-sacrifice. This doesn’t mean she is Christ’s disciple. You can imitate the actions of Jesus and still not be true imitators of Jesus. Just “doing” what Jesus did doesn’t make us his imitators. Our hearts must be devoted to the things his heart was devoted to.
Ephesians 5:8-10 tells us we are to “find out what _____________ the Lord.” Imitating Jesus is as much about “why” as “what.” What we do is motivated by why we do it. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” John 3:16 says, ” For God so _______________ the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Love motivates God. And not the sentimental love that is really just a feeling. Love that is total devotion.
Imitating the love of God is the heart of our discipleship. We are only able to truly love like God does when Christ lives in our hearts. Throughout the Bible we are taught to imitate God and to follow the example of Godly people in order to perfect God’s love in our lives 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, ______________ holiness out of reverence for God.”
The Imitation of Christ
What is the most widely read Christian devotional book next to the Bible? The Imitation of Christ by Thomas À Kempis, written in 1427. What has kept this book in circulation for centuries is the fact that it gets to the heart of discipleship. The writer understood that to truly imitate Jesus we had to learn to both imitate his affections as well as his action. It is worth reprinting the first chapter of the book:
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
BY Thomas À Kempis
(Translated from the Latin into Modern English: The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee)
The First Chapter
Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth
“He who follows Me, walks not in darkness,” says the Lord. John 8:12. By these words of Christ
we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all
blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.
The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His
spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little
for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words
of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.
“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease
the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him
pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit
us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without
grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him
“This is the greatest wisdom—to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It
is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be
puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe
punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent
life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come.
It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
Often recall the proverb: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing.”
“Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible.
For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.”
You can read an online version of The Imitation of Christ right here.
What Does it Mean to Imitate God?
Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow __________ example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of _______________, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines the characteristics of love. Which of these characteristics do you possess in abundance? __________________.
Jesus said we show we have the love of God in us when we love other people. In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus illustrates how we love people when he tells the story of the “Good Samaritan.” Here is an animated story of The Good Samaritan.
Have you ever been a “good samaritan” or have you been helped by a “good samaritan”? _____________ Is there an opportunity in your life right now for you to be a “good samaritan”?_____________________
Characteristics of God-Imitators
From Ephesians 5:3-4 we learn these characteristics of God’s people: “But among you there must not be even a hint of ________ _________, or of any kind of _______________, or of ___________ __________ _____________, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be ______________, _________ ______ or _______ __________, which are out of place, but rather _________________.”
Colossians 3:12-15 says, “Clothe yourselves with c_______________, _______________, ___________, ______________ and ______________. Bear with each other and ______________ one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. _________________ as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on _______________, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the ____________ of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be _______________.
Imitators Sometimes Suffer
As imitators we may suffer many things. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 Paul wrote, “You became _____________ of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of ________ _________ with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
How might imitating Jesus result in suffering for you.________________ 
In the following verses how was Jesus an example of remaining faithful during severe suffering?
Those who Imitate God are Transformed
2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit..” Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In the book The Shack a man spends the weekend with God in an abandoned shack in the mountains of Oregon. Over the coarse of the weekend the man is forced to take inventory of his life with God. The man has carried “a great sadness” for many years following the murder of his young daughter at the hands of a serial killer. As the man is confronted by his faulty ways of thinking he is given the choice to change.
If you were to spend the weekend with Jesus to take inventory of your life, what “old” ways of thinking would you be forced to address?
1. _____________________________2. ____________________________
3. _____________________________4. ____________________________
What are some new ways of thinking could you adopt that would make you more like Jesus?
1. _____________________________2. ___________________________
3. _____________________________4. ___________________________
Jesus is Our Example
He Understands and Helps Us
Consider this: Sometimes we say things that we don’t exactly mean. Maybe we are on vacation and hiking on a trail in the mountains and get lost. Later around the dinner table we say something like, “I was scared to death!” Which, if we meant it literally, would mean we were certain we were going to die. Why it may be true we were very afraid, we don’t usually mean to say that we were certain we were going to die. When a statement is made in the Bible, however, it is never an exaggeration or “just something someone said.” If it is said in the Bible you can accept it at face value.
This is why a verse in Hebrews is almost scandalous. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are.” Pause a second and consider these words: “EVERY WAY.”
Jesus is not just our model to imitate, he is our helper. Though Jesus never sinned, he was still tempted in “every way, just as we are.” Jesus knows the difficulties we face in imitating his example because, simply put, he lived the experience! In 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation” has overtaken you except what is common to mankind,” and that God will not let us deal with “any” temptation that he will not also help us to overcome.
The Example of Jesus
When we consider Jesus as our example to imitate we must understand we are not alone in following his example. He will help us. In the following three scripture passages notice how Jesus displays his personality, expressed his priorities, and used his power.
John 2:1-12: Jesus at the wedding feast.
John 4:4-26, 39-42: Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
The ultimate test for Jesus was when he was falsely accused and then crucified.
In John 5:19-23: we see that the personality of Jesus, his priorities, and his power are demonstrated by the presence of God in him.
Remember, love is at the center of everything an imitator of Jesus does. Why you behave is as important as to how you behave.
List one valuable insight you have gained from each of these sections.
Paul Teaches Us to Imitate God_______________________
Jesus, the Perfect Example_____________________________
My spiritual goal based on this lesson is:______________________
- “8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.”↵
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”↵
- “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”↵
- “1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.↵
- ” 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”↵
- “3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”↵
- ” 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”↵
- “6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”↵
- Maybe you feel you would be rejected by your friends and co-workers if your life imitated Christ. Maybe you come from a different religious background and you fear the rejection of your family.↵
- “1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.↵
- The devil is appealing to the human fears of losing possessions, pride, and prestige.↵
- “36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”↵
- Jesus prayed three times for God to free him from having to go through with dying on the cross but did God’s will.↵
- “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”↵
- “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”↵
- “1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.↵
- Respect for his mother↵
- Honor his mother and help others↵
- “4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”↵
- Does not show unfair favoritism↵
- Revealed himself as Lord of the Gentiles↵
- All knowing↵
- “32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[c] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”↵
- ““Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”↵
- God’s will↵
- “47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”↵
- Power of physical suffering and death↵
- ” 19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”↵