We ARE To Walk As Jesus Walked
Farley argues in this section that believers are not to live like Jesus lived. He wrote, “Hence, we’re not being asked to imitate the recorded actions of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, we’re invited to allow Jesus to do what he has always done—be himself. The risen Christ wants to do this through our unique personalities in every moment of every day” (p. 178). One of the problems with this statement is that Farley fails to describe what that looks like. Farley also rejected living like Christ when he wrote, “Some Christians mistakenly obsess over everything that the historical Jesus did in the four gospels. We memorize his words and actions and try to imitate them the best we can” (p. 180). Farley discarded living like Christ when he wrote, “The motivation for daily living within the New Testament centers around acting like the person you truly are and benefiting from Christ’s life in the here and now…We’re urged to grasp an important spiritual truth: when we come to Jesus Christ, we receive his life. Through our expression of him, we find fulfillment” (p. 182). Again, Farley fails to describe what this looks like,
but his statement here has undertones of Osteen-ism—“acting like the person you truly are” and “benefiting from Christ’s life in the here and now”.
I would agree that mere “imitation” is insufficient and ineffectual.
Farley believes that no one will “…run up to you and ask a lot of questions because they notice how much you’re like Jesus…the popular teaching that everybody’s watching and that we live in glass houses doesn’t jibe with reality. The reality is that most people are busy thinking about themselves!” (p. 194-195).
Farley is again, way off the mark. He would appear to be living in an alternate reality. Why? He is off the mark because people do watch the lives of believers. People do pay attention to how believers face or deal with the issues of life. People do ask questions about the lives believers live before them. This writer has had it happen on scores of occasions—people have noticed something that is different about my life, and want to know what it is. To “kiss off” the idea that how we live has an impact on those around us is just wrong. An excellent treatment of this idea can be found here, wherein the preacher describes what it is to “Be The Book” from 2 Corinthians 2:17-3:3.
Continuing, a major problem arises in this discussion—living as Christ not being something we pursue—and that is what would Farley do with 1 John 2:5b-6? There, the Apostle wrote:
By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. [1 John 2:5b-6]
In addition, Jesus himself called those who would be his followers to take up his yoke (Matthew 11:28-30) and to learn from him. In his gospel, the Apostle John recorded the fact that Jesus himself said he was obedient to his Father, that he came to do his Father’s will—not to avoid it—and that his desire was to please his Father (see John 5:19-47). But we already know that Farley rejects what Christ taught because it was under the “Old”. (see “Cheating on Jesus”)
In discussing the submission of the believer to authority and suffering that can result, the Apostle Peter wrote,
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. [1 Peter 2:21]
Peter provided for the believer an understanding of our union with Christ (discussed by Paul in Romans 6) that includes being united with him in his suffering. That understanding is fleshed out as we live as he did. We are to walk in his steps!
Not only that, but Jesus said his followers were to abide in him.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:4-5, 8)
Of course, the works Jesus talked about are the result of having been saved, not the cause of salvation. But we are to abide—menō in the original—which actually means to “stay in” or “remain in” Jesus! It is an imperative and the “you” is understood. Jesus is saying, “you, believer, abide in me…”
But Farley disagrees. “The term abide,” he wrote, “is often used by those who seek something to do in order to maintain the reality of Christ living through them. The word abide simple (sic) means ‘to live’, and Christ already lives in Christians! Some have made it out to be something beyond what Jesus intended it to be. Christ abiding in us is a truth, not a command for us to keep up our end of some bargain” (p. 193). While it is true we are not keeping up “our end of some bargain”, Farley is very wrong to say it is not a command. The passage cited from John 15 above makes it clear Jesus intended to instruct us, command us, to intentionally abide in him. Again, this is something we will do naturally as true believers. Our affections will be set on him, they will be set on abiding in him.
Farley talks about “expressing him” (Christ), “through your personality”, “knowing who you are”, “allow(ing) Christ to counsel you”, and “being yourself” (p. 194). But he provides no Scriptural support for such direct exhortations, and still does not describe what he is talking about. It would seem that the reader is to decipher that himself.
Farley’s discussion relating to spiritual growth is severely lacking. He wrote, “After the salvation experience, some of us grow impatient with God’s natural plan for growth and fall prey to alternate means of ‘maturing’. But the genuine path to growth is quite clear: ‘Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord continue to live your lives in him’ (Colossians 2:6, italics added) (p. 187). He goes on, “So how did we receive Christ Jesus? By hearing truth and believing it. Then how do we grow in him? Again, through exposure to truth and continually setting our minds on truth” (p. 187, italics in original).
Farley then talks about how simple those concepts are, and that “the message of ‘Jesus plus nothing’ from start to finish is often too humbling for us to swallow. Instead, we opt for performance hoops to jump through in order to impress God” (p. 187).
Where to begin? First of all, “being exposed to truth and continually setting our minds on truth” in order to experience spiritual growth is much the same as saying that living in a garage, being exposed to gasoline, oil and the like will make one a car. One can be exposed to all sorts of truth, but not “get” it! In like fashion, one can be “exposed” to all sorts of error and, because there has been no investment in one’s spiritual life, one can easily buy into the error. Think Gnosticism or the Judaizers in the first century.
The fact of the matter is that we have examples of discipleship relationships—which involve spiritual disciplines, something Farley dismisses as “hoops”—when emulated, will provide assistance in an individual’s spiritual growth. Such relationships will also theoretically protect against erroneous doctrine being adopted. God instills in the true believer a desire to read the Word, memorize Scripture, study the Word, and be an active part of a church. If engaging in such things become burdensome, if one adopts a legalistic attitude toward them, then one would have a problem, no argument. But the affections of a true believer are changed by God, and the true believer will pursue such activities with a right motivation.
There Will Be Fruit!
So, Farley asks, “Is James really telling us to examine our Christian life’s track record to determine if we’re trusting? Should we self-examine to such a degree? Or is his landmark chapter really about something else altogether?” (p. 197). He then claimed that “James 2 clearly says we’re justified by works too, not by faith alone. To dance around this passage by saying it refers to works after salvation is faulty. The passage specifically asks, ‘Can such faith save them?’ (James 2:14)…Without a doubt, James says we’re justified by works and not by faith alone. But the important question is: What does James mean by ‘works’?” (p. 197).
Wow—where to begin. It is my intent to keep it simple. James 2 does not teach that we are justified by works and by faith together. Despite Farley’s suggestion that it constitutes dancing around the passage, James clearly taught that one’s faith would be evidenced by his works (hence the section title in Chapter 29—“Look for Evidence?”) Obviously, Farley “gets” it—works are evidence of one’s faith. James was clear—there is no ambiguity. If one says they have been saved, but there are no resultant works in that person’s life, then they need to examine their “salvation” experience. It is the same as John 15, where Jesus taught that the only way one can bear fruit is if one abides in the vine. And one cannot abide in the vine apart from the vine! One must be “in Christ” if one is to abide. One must be “in Christ” if they are to bear good works. The good works are the evidence of the faith! The outward fruit in the life of the believer constitutes the works James is discussing. The Apostle Paul made it crystal clear when he wrote: