Many of you will remember a movement that occurred in the 1990s called WWJD or What Would Jesus Do? It was very popular for a while and fostered many items to help us ask ourselves this question in each situation we encountered. A WWJD bracelet was produced that became a big favorite.
The thought and phrase initially occurred many, many years ago. Perhaps the first published book on the subject was Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ) written by Thomas à Kempis in the early 1,400s. Charles Spurgeon mentions the book and uses the phrase, what would Jesus do, in a sermon of his from 1891.
Perhaps the most well-known book written on this subject is Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps subtitled “What Would Jesus Do?” Sheldon’s book, written in 1896, grew out of a series of sermons he preached at his church in Topeka, Kansas. Sheldon’s book took a different application than previous teachings. He used the term in Christian Socialism as more simply what Jesus would have done in everyday activities and situations in people’s lives versus a more theological application. The book has challenged many Christians and non-Christians to put their beliefs into practical application by helping people in practical ways.
The thought and movement were resurrected in the 1990s by Janie Tinklenberg, a youth minister in Holland, Michigan. She was looking for a way to motivate her youth to live daily and constantly for Christ.
Thus, the phrase, thought, and practice has been around for a very long time. However, that doesn’t diminish the truth contained in the question. What would Jesus do is a valid question each one of us can and should ask ourselves as we face the many challenges in our lives and in the attempt to help others.
Lately, a corollary has come to my mind. It is What Does Jesus Want? I don’t mean to assign any profundity to my thinking. The thought has grown out of realizing I need to develop the mind of Christ as Paul says in Philippians 2:5. “Let this mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus.” (KJV)
While we live by faith in Christ alone, God did endow us with a beautiful, powerful mind. We have a great capacity for thought and those thoughts guide us. Again, while we live by faith we should use our mind to gain knowledge of God and gain understanding of His way designed for us. The author of the wisdom literature in the book of Proverbs penned in Proverbs 23:7a, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” The Apostle Paul enjoined us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2. Jesus taught us to “lay up treasures in heaven” or have a heavenly mindset.
As we seek to serve Jesus, we can do that best when we know what He wants. Once we know what Christ wants, we can align our desires with His desires.
I been married to my wife for 47 years. While I won’t state that I know everything she is thinking, in mundane, daily decisions like eating out, I have learned what she likes. When we go to a restaurant, I can order for her. That’s not a statement of masculine chauvinism it is a fact and an ability that can help. When we’re choosing a place to go have a meal, I can choose a place she’ll enjoy because I know her mind about eating.
Our walk with Christ should be that natural and automatic. In common, daily occurrences I should be so in tune with the mind of Christ, that is knowing what He wants, that I don’t have to ask Him what to do, I don’t have to think about what I should do, I just do because what I do is in sync with Him on an ongoing basis. I’m walking in His way, living by His Spirit.
As a church we need to think about our mission in this way. It is easy to get distracted with programs and ministries that may be very good. However, in their pursuit we can lose sight of Christ’s desires and miss His leading because we are obsessed with our work. We miss the great because of the good we are doing. Too often the effect is that of the “tale wagging the dog.” Rather than us utilizing a method or program to achieve the goal of Christ, the program has ballooned to entrap us, eventually causing us to fail in accomplishing the mission of Jesus Christ.
One way we can keep us in the center of God’s will is to regularly ask ourselves, and measure our actions by the question, “What does Christ want? If we measure our actions against the standard of what Christ wants, we can determine if our actions are appropriate. The more we go through this process the more natural it is to know the mind of Christ. The mature Christian will find every action they take in Christ’s will from beginning to the end.
Does Christ want me to invite my neighbor to church? Yes! Does Christ want me to tell my neighbor about the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Yes! Does Christ want me to go out drinking and carousing with my friend? No! Does Christ want me to help my friend financially? Maybe, maybe not! That takes a specific inquiry.
If we are serious about knowing and doing God’s will for me, we will make this process a constant attitude of our heart. If we are serious about knowing and doing the will of God for our church, we will do this process!