His life is the text book

(J. R. Miller, "In His Steps" 1897)

"Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

Jesus took His first disciples into His school and for three years taught and trained them. He made known to them the great truths of Christianity, which He had come to reveal. Then He taught them how to live.

Bible knowledge alone, does not alone make one a godly Christian. One might know all the great facts and doctrines of the Word of God, might be a profound Bible scholar and a wise theologian—and yet not be an advanced or even a growing Christian! We are to learn to live Christ as well as to know the truths about Christ. Jesus in His teachings makes a great deal of obedience. We are His friends—if we do whatever He commands us. We are to learn to be patient, meek, gentle, long suffering, compassionate. We are to learn to be humble, kindly affectioned, unselfish, truthful, sincere.

We enter Christ's school, to be trained in all the qualities which make up the true Christian life. Jesus is not only the teacher—His life is the text book which we are to study. Part of His mission to this world, was to show us in Himself—a pattern of a godly life. We are to look to His life to learn just how to live, the kind of character we are to seek to have, the meaning of the lessons which His words set for us. We are in the school of Christ—to be trained in all Christian life and duty.

The lessons the Bible sets for us—we are to learn to live out in common life. Every word of Christ sets a copy for us, as it were—and we are to learn to write it in fair and beautiful lines. For example, it is not enough to learn from the Beatitudes, that certain qualities are praised by the great Teacher; we are to get the Beatitudes into our own life as quickly and as perfectly as we can. Just so of all the teachings of Christ—they are not for knowing merely, as one learns the fine sayings of favorite literary writers; they are for living! They are to become lamps to our feet and lights to our path—and they are to be wrought into the web of our character.

In the school of Christ, we are not to expect perfection—but we have a right to expect an increasing knowledge of spiritual things, and also spiritual growth in all the qualities which belong to Christian character. We should become . . .
  more patient,
  more loving,
  more unselfish,
  more helpful,
  more faithful in all duty,
  more like Christ!

The ideal Christian life—is a growing likeness to Christ. Christ is the pattern after which we are to strive to fashion our life. As we study Christ in the Gospels, there rises up before us, the vision of His matchless beauty. We go over the chapters, and we find one fragment of His loveliness here, and another there. And as we read the story through to the end—beauty after beauty appears, until at length we see a full vision of our blessed Redeemer. This is the pattern we are to follow in fashioning our lives. This is the vision we are to seek to carve into reality in our own character. All our acts we are to bring to the example of Christ, testing each one by that infallible standard.

The Gospels should be studied by the Christian, as a builder studies the architect's drawings—that every minutest detail may be exactly reproduced; so far as in a faulty and sinful human life, the character and conduct of the faultless and sinless Jesus can be reproduced. The perfect pattern is ever to be held before us for imitation, and as we look at it glowing in all its marvelous beauty—yet far above us and beyond our present reach—we are to comfort ourselves and stir our hearts to the noblest efforts and highest attainments by the thought, "That is what I shall one day be!" However slow may be our progress toward that perfect ideal; however sore the struggles with weakness and sin; however often we fail—we are never to lose sight of the distant goal, nor cease to strive and press toward the mark. Some day, if we are faithful to the end and faint not—we shall emerge out of all failure and struggle, and, seeing Jesus as He is—we shall be fully transformed into His blessed image!

Such is the aim of the Christian life. "We shall be like Him!"—that is the final destiny of every redeemed life. This should be inspiration enough, to arouse in the dullest Christian, every sluggish hope and every slumbering energy—and to impel to the highest effort and the most heroic struggle.