The Example of Jesus is one in a series titled ‘The Jesus Library’. Written in 1985 by Michael Griffiths, Principal of London Bible College, it seeks to answer a variety of questions, the primary one being “How do we become genuinely conformed to Jesus’ image?”
Griffiths categorizes his 10 chapters under three headings – “The Basis for Imitating Jesus”, “The Ways of Jesus”, and “How We Can Be Like Jesus”. He begins by discussing teacher-discipleships in both the Greek (Plato & Socrates) and Jewish (Moses-Joshua, Elijah-Elisha, etc.) worlds and how the student would seek to imitate his teacher. More foundationally, the root of this comes from Genesis 1:26-27 and our being made in the image of God – naturally, imitation should follow. We see the greatest example of this in the person of Christ as the image of God (Hebrews 1:3) and will see it in those who are Christ followers ultimately, if only now faintly. As Griffiths puts it, “…fallen man once made in the image of God, but spoiled like a broken pot (Jer. 18:4), is now to be remade and restored after this new and perfect image of God in Christ. Isn’t that a most exciting statement?”
One of my favorite chapters was “The Colours of His Life”, one in which Griffiths readily admits “…is inevitably incomplete in describing the qualities found in Christ”, but yet gives beautiful examples of how Jesus showed us perfectly what the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 should ultimately look like. Qualities such as humility and obedience are difficult for many of us, but Griffiths takes the time to show how critical they are. Highlighting humility, he says, “Achieving it in practice means many internal struggles and repeated acts of self-humbling: to apologise, to make the first approach, to accept unkindness without murmuring and self-pity”. Another particularly convicting chapter was “The Example of Jesus in Prayer”. I find prayer to be such a challenge, especially doing it consistently. Griffiths seeks to help us by pointing to examples Jesus gave throughout the New Testament, with a special focus on Luke’s Gospel. What I found most interesting about this chapter was the connection Griffiths made between Jesus’ intercession for Peter and his remarkable turnaround from denying Jesus to the success of his preaching and ministry in Acts.
Throughout this book, Griffiths quotes from a wide variety of authors and make his claims based on Scripture. Griffiths sees no other way to know Christ intimately and follow Him rightly than by meeting Him in His Word:
“We must avoid vagueness and shapeless generalities at all cost. Through careful Bible study, we shall shape our ‘great expectations’ of what it means to become like him. If our concepts are amorphous, ill-defined and foggy in the extreme – then we shall only have the foggiest of notions of what God promises and what we are aiming at. True though it is, that now we see darkly as in one of those metal mirrors made in Corinth, we can gain a much greater definition from Scripture. We cannot plead ignorance with a dusty unopened Bible on our shelves.”
I am surprised Griffiths’ book is not more widely known. Although written over 30 years ago, it doesn’t feel the least bit dated. I would recommend this highly and consider it one of the best books on discipleship I’ve ever read. Wonderful!
Image from Henry Formby [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons