There once was a fisherman who was a master at his craft, and he decided to take on two young men from his village as apprentices. The weather on their first day working with him could not have been more ideal. The sea was calm, the sky blue, and a gentle salty breeze was blowing in from the east. The young men were eager to get out in the water and make their families proud. They waited restlessly at the pier for the fisherman. Finally, he arrived, rowing a small boat with another in tow. Only two could fit in a boat at the same time, so one of the young men would have to take a boat alone.
The oldest, and most prideful, of the apprentices insisted that he row a boat alone, and the fisherman agreed - as long as he stayed close enough to receive instruction as they fished. The apprentices clambered into the small vessels, the younger with the fisherman and the older by himself. Then with a great deal of splashing from their clumsy oars, they set out into the bright bay.
The younger apprentice immediately realized how challenging the task at hand was and how much skill the fisherman displayed as he prepared the nets and equipment. First, the fisherman taught the young apprentice how to row gently. Then the apprentice watched closely as the fisherman unfolded the nets with skilled fingers, stood steadily, and cast the net. Over and over again the fisherman repeated his simple actions, and the young apprentice copied him movement for movement. Hours passed, and his fingers were aching, but the young apprentice noticed his motions beginning to mirror more closely those of the master fisherman.
In the other boat, however, there was quite a different scene unfolding. The older prideful apprentice had drifted away from the fisherman's boat, scoffing at the old man's teaching. "I can figure this out on my own," he thought to himself as he rowed noisily further and further away from the fisherman.
He rowed to a spot that seemed perfect to him and grabbed the nets in a couple of fistfuls. He stood, a little too fast, and almost fell out of the boat. Laughing at his mistake, he tossed out the nets. Instead of unfolding uniformly in the air and landing gently in a wide spread, his tangled ball of a net plopped into the water like a rock. Quickly he snatched it out of the water before the weights could drag it under. He fussed at the tangles with his fingers for a while before giving up and taking his knife to the net. After a few minutes it was untangled, and he threw it out again, this time more carefully and neatly. It spread out wide, and he smiled. But as it sank, all the fish that would have been caught escaped through the wide gashes his knife had made.
The hours passed and as the sun began to set both boats rowed home. The fisherman beamed at his younger apprentice, who had studied his movements carefully and modeled his own after them and caught many fish as a result. The older apprentice, who had scorned the pattern of the fisherman, rowed in sullenly, his clothes soaked, his nets slashed, and his boat empty.
Just as the apprentices were seeking to become like their master, the whole world is seeking to become like God in one way or another. The goal of the lost and unrepentant is to usurp the right of God to rule over them and remake themselves on their terms. "Follow your heart" seems to be the mantra of our lost world, and they do follow their hearts - to eternal death. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).
For the Christian, the goal in this life is plain: we are to become like Jesus. "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).
Like the younger apprentice, we are to be watching Jesus closely, seeking to understand His character and to copy Him movement for movement. But what exactly is the image of Jesus Christ that we are to be conformed to?
To answer this we must look at how Jesus is revealed in the Word of God. We have a firsthand account of His earthly life in every situation - joy, sorrow, health, suffering, temptation, and worship. Every account given is a lesson - something we should look closely at and seek to imitate.
The Pattern of Jesus
There are many aspects of Jesus’ life that Christians should seek to conform to, but one of the most challenging is the obedience of Jesus.
Jesus was obedient to proper human authority. In Luke 2:41-52, we see Him as a young boy separated from His parents as He listens to the teaching in the temple courts. When they find Him they explain that they had feared for Him. He returns home with them, and the account explicitly states that He willingly put Himself under their authority and obeyed them. Again in Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus teaches His disciples that it is appropriate to submit to the governing authorities and to demonstrate this He pays the temple tax with a coin His disciples find in the mouth of a fish.
It should astonish us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through Whom all things were created, the Prince of heaven and King of Kings would deign to submit to any human authority. But this is a lesson for the Christian. If the God-Man did not disobey proper human authority, we have no excuse.
Jesus was also obedient to God. That might seem obvious to us, but let's look at that in context. In Matthew 26:39-43, we see Jesus on the cusp of the greatest suffering any human has ever endured. He was about to take on the sins of an entire race and bear the terrible wrath of God poured out upon Him alone. He had forever enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship with His Father, but now it was to be severed because God cannot even look upon sin. So in the garden of Gethsemene, we find Jesus submitting to God in the ultimate act of obedience. "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8).
Christian, we must conform ourselves to the obedience of Jesus. We must conform to the humility of Jesus. We must conform to the grace, the mercy, the love, the peace, the righteousness, and the faith of Jesus. Look at His life as He walked in human form on earth, and follow in His footsteps. See His character outlined in the epistles, and adopt it as your standard. Listen to His voice from Genesis to Revelation, and pack them tightly in your heart, living on them every day until you look in the mirror and see Him living through you.