Once a person had been raised to walk in the new life, his pathway was directed to become like the master (Luke 6: 40). He must grow the way the master determines, not way he would like to grow. There are two possible ways in which one can grow to the be “like Christ;” one correct and the other false. The first way a man can be like Christ is to do the same deeds and outward actions he did. This would be to imitate Christ. Jesus helped the sick and poor. We can imitate the same deeds. This is following Christ on the outward man. We can follow this pathway of imitating Jesus’ outward actions even to the point of giving our bodies to be burned. However, if our inner man is not first formed in love, there is no profit (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
The second way we can follow in the pathway to grow into Christ’s spiritual image in heart and mind. Jesus called men to follow him by learning of his meek and lowly heart (Matt. 11:28-30). Paul prayed that the Ephesians would grow to be like Christ on the inner man (Eph. 3:14-19). The Pharisees did not consider their eternal inner nature and so could not follow Christ (Matt. 23:23-28). Jesus requires the formation of the eternal inner man first (Matt. 23:26).
Today we have those who have made an agreement to follow “in his steps.” Their lives become very different. They begin to walk in Jesus steps. Their outward actions are generally ‘as Jesus would do.’ They “outwardly appear righteous unto men” (Matt. 23:28). Before they make any decision they ask “WWJD,” which is “What would Jesus do?” and then do it. They are not hearers only. The aim is toward the outward action that Jesus would have done in their same situation. Is the change permanent? Sadly enough, this is not New Testament discipleship.
These souls believe that by doing good things, the heart will then become good. If that were true – the Pharisees would have been clean and pure in heart. Jesus testified that the Pharisees “indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). Outwardly their actions were righteous. If their outward righteousness had made them inwardly righteous, then the Pharisees would have been pure in heart. Jesus testifies that the Pharisees aimed to make certain that their outward actions were pleasing to men (Matt. 23:5). They succeeded. Jesus testified that their hearts had not been formed in righteousness say that (Mt 23:27, 28). These WWJD men today make certain their outward actions are correct. Is that enough? Jesus testified that it was not enough for the Pharisee. Jesus declared that the inner man must be formed first. How many do not make the conclusion that if we just do the work of faith and labor of love on the outward man, that this will in turn form the inner man? That method is a mistaken notion. It did not work for the Pharisee. The problem was that their hearts were not right and doing the outward actions did not change their hearts. Jesus said: “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:26).
First things must come first. We all know that giving our bodies to be burned without first forming love in the inner man is of no profit to God or to us. Unless we form that love in the inner man first, all of our ‘walking in his steps’ will avail little. How, then, is the inner man formed?