It was Christ Jesus who declares emphatically that “I will build my church…”

Matthew 16:18. The church is His and if so, He must be the Lord over everything in our churches. We must surrender to His Lordship in every area. That means, He must be given preeminence in all things. We must seek to run and do our churches in ways that honour and obey His Lordship. It means we must copy and model His lifestyles. It means everyone, from Pastor, bishop, apostle to every member in the church must focus and imbibe the peculiar priorities of Christ life.

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, when He challenged the disciples to “follow me,” He took His disciples to a wedding party up in Galilee and performed His first miracle (John 2:1–11). Making the journey to Galilee, attending the wedding and then traveling to Capernaum for a “few days” with Jesus’ mother and brothers meant that He and His disciples were together for several days (John 2:12).

No doubt this was a time of teaching, relationship building, answering basic questions and deepening friendship. From there Jesus went up to the Passover and met with Nicodemus (John 2–3). “After this,” John tells us in summary, “Jesus and his disciples [followers] went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized” (John 3:22).

Jesus took the time to get to know His followers, and they got to know Him. Relationships take time and growth takes time. Jesus knew there was no effective way to speed up this process. He spent up to 18 months just developing His disciples through this first stage.1

For Jesus and the initial followers, this was a critical stage of development. He was modeling life to them, modeling what it meant to walk as He walked, which He later commanded them to do (1 John 2:6). He knew that in this first phase of life, much like in the early phases of child rearing, more is caught than taught. Children learn more by watching and participating than by taking notes. So He invested relationally in His young followers.

In these early months, Jesus modeled six foundational priorities for His new followers.2

  1. Jesus modeled full dependence upon the Holy Spirit.The Scriptures are clear—every aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry was saturated with the Spirit of God. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35), anointed by the Spirit (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38; Isaiah 61:1), filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14; John 3:34), sealed by the Spirit (John 6:27), led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1), rejoiced in the Spirit (Luke 10:21), gave commands by the Spirit (Acts 1:2), performed miracles by the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:14–15, 18), was resurrected by the Spirit (Romans 8:11) and through the Spirit presented Himself fully obedient (Hebrews 9:14).
  1. Jesus modeled the centrality of prayer in His life and ministry.His ministry began in prayer (Luke 3:21) and ended in prayer (Luke 23:46). Shortly after His baptism the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 4:1), where He launched His ministry with 40 days of fasting and prayer.

The busier He became, the more He slipped away to pray (Mark 6:31). Before every major decision He makes, you find Him coming out of prayer (Luke 6:12). Over 45 passages in the Gospels record how Jesus often slipped away to pray (Luke 5:16).

  1. Jesus modeled the importance of obedience to His Father’s will.Early in Jesus’ life, when He was 12 years old, He was obedient to His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51). For His entire life He was obedient to His Heavenly Father. Obedience wasn’t easy. He suffered for His obedience, and He learned obedience through what He suffered (Hebrews 2:18; 5:8). Jesus himself said, “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30) and that His will was to do what the Father desired, “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Later Jesus turned to His disciples and told them to “go and make disciples … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). He knew that obedience was His Father’s love language.

  1. God’s Word was central in Christ’s life and ministry.He modeled its use in every situation. He knew the Word and used it as He encountered the everyday issues of life. He referred to the Old Testament more than 80 times, quoting from over 70 different chapters. Scripture was on His lips during His entire ministry, from the hour of His temptation to the moment of His death. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that He had not come to set aside the Scriptures but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

The Pharisees grieved Jesus because they didn’t study the Word diligently. He often said, “Have you never read what David did?” (Luke 6:3) or “Have you never read in the Law?” He rebuked the Sadducees for not studying the Word: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures?” (Mark 12:24). Jesus recognized Scripture as His guide for knowing the Father’s will and understanding His own role in the world (John 13:1; 19:28).

  1. Christ consistently modeled the pattern of exalting His Father in every area of life.This was evident early in His ministry, as He stated: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:21). Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus still acknowledged that everything He had came from the Father: “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you” (John 17:7).

Again and again, Jesus claimed, “I do nothing on my own…. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 8:28; 14:10). Every part of His life exalted the Father and His union with His Father. In the same way, we are to exalt the Father in all that we do, following the example set for us by Jesus.

  1. Jesus modeled intentional relationships of love and integrity throughout His life.The very essence of the incarnation underscores this truth. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Early in His ministry, Jesus prioritized building relationships with a broad base of people. From these relationships Jesus later identified a few with whom He went deeper. Not only was Jesus proactive with the lost but also intentionally pursued the initial disciples.

Love was the basis of Jesus’ relational life and He challenged the disciples to have the same love in their relationships. “As I have loved you,” He commanded, “so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).

These six priorities were foundational to the way Jesus lived His earthly life. When Jesus told His disciples to walk as He had walked, it was these priorities He wanted them to embody (1 John 2:6). It is these values new believers must see modeled by more mature believers as they start their Christian journey.

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