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224 pages
Aug 2003
Integrity Publishers

Think Like Jesus: Make the Right Decision Every Time

by George Barna

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

What's the Big Deal?

There were three of us still hanging around in the church foyer after a full day of teaching. Of the three hundred or so pastors who had attended the seminar I'd been leading in Charlotte, North Carolina, these last two were talking through discipleship strategies with me when I popped the question.

"So, what do you guys do to help your people get a biblical worldview?"

The taller of the two, balding and with twenty-plus years' experience in the pastorate, wasted no time answering.

"We have missionaries speak in our services several times a year. Every Sunday school class has time set aside to read a brief report and pray about faith-related events happening in other parts of the world. And we have a summer missions trip for families that always fills up quickly," he proclaimed. "We work hard to make sure that they realize the American Church is not the total sum of God's work in the world. Our people get it."

His colleague, a decade his junior and relatively new to the pastorate, took up the baton without missing a beat.

"What we do is preach through the entire Bible every five years. We have all of our teaching venues—the service, the Sunday school classes, the youth groups, even the cell groups—focus on the same passages covered in the sermon that week, ensuring that we give all the key scriptural principles adequate consideration. By the time we're through the cycle, they've been exposed to all of the basic principles of Christianity and will have a biblical worldview."

The two beamed; clearly pleased they were on track. After complimenting each other they turned to me, waiting for words of praise and encouragement. As the seconds ticked by and I continued to gaze at them without responding, their smiles began to fade and curiosity set in. The younger pastor finally asked, "That's what you meant, isn't it?"

Global Perspective or Worldview?
I had a disappointing sense of deja vu. I have heard similar replies countless times in the different areas of the United States where I go to teach pastors and to learn from them. Not wanting to offend or discourage them, I tried to ease into my reply.

"Well, those are very helpful activities, for sure. It would be beneficial if more churches helped their people, as you have, to develop a global perspective on God's work and to have regular teaching related to the totality of His Word." I paused, searching for what I hoped would be clear but not disheartening words. "But a biblical worldview is more than that."

I continued with what I prayed would be a persuasive description.

"A biblical worldview is thinking like Jesus. It is a way of making our faith practical to every situation we face each day. A biblical worldview is a way of dealing with the world such that we act like Jesus twenty-four hours a day because we think like Jesus."

I offered an analogy: "It's like having a pair of special eyeglasses we wear that enables us to see things differently, to see things from God's point of view, and to respond to those perceptions in the way He would prescribe if He were to provide us with direct and personal revelation."

As we continued talking, these two pastors raised questions about a biblical worldview similar to those of other pastors and church leaders with whom I have had such discussions in the past several years. It was clear that even though believers in this nation are in desperate need of a biblical life lens, implementing such a developmental process in churches, schools, homes, and ministries around the country was not going to happen overnight. A lot of foundations need to be put in place first.

What is the "Biblical Worldview" Thing?
For years I was scared off by the term "biblical worldview." It had connotations of breadth and depth that were overwhelming. But the more I realized that my own Christian life was a haphazard series of disjointed choices only marginally and inconsistently influenced by my faith, the more determined I became to get serious about worldview development.

We All Have Worldviews
Once involved in the process, I soon learned that there is no reason to be frightened about the concept of worldview development. Instead I ought to be more worried by the fact that I already had a fully developed and operational worldview that I wasn't even aware of!

While most people never think about their worldview on a conscious level, everyone has one. Our moment-to-moment decisions are shaped by the worldview we have adopted and adapted over the course of time, often without realizing that we are dependent upon such a framework for decision making.

Whenever we make a decision, we unconsciously run it through a mental and emotional filter that allows us to make choices consistent with what we believe to be true, significant, and appropriate. That filter is the result of how we have organized information to make sense of the world in which we live.

Without a worldview, we'd be incapable of arriving at many of the hundreds of decisions we make each day because every option would seem just as appealing as every other. To make even minor choices we rely upon our sense of right and wrong, good and bad, useful and useless, appropriate and inappropriate, to produce what we believe are the wisest choices. From our earliest days out of the womb we have been creating this understanding of how life works and the best options to pursue.
A biblical worldview is a means of experiencing, interpreting, and responding to reality in light of biblical perspective. This life lens provides a personal understanding of every idea, opportunity, and experience based on the identification and application of relevant biblical principles so that every choice we make may be consistent with God's principles and commands. At the risk of seeming simplistic, it is asking the question, "What would Jesus do if He were in my shoes right now?" and applying the answer without compromising because of how we anticipate the world reacting.

How Did Jesus Think Like Jesus?
Jesus was able to model a biblical worldview because He is God and thus knows and embodies truth and rightness. Yet, the fact that He was human during His time of physical presence on earth suggests that He also had to work at maintaining a godly view of everything He encountered. His process was neither accidental nor hidden: His exhortation to His disciples was "Let me teach you." What can we learn from His approach to decision making?

The narrative of Jesus' life gives us a sense that there were four elements working together that facilitated His woridview.

First, He had a foundation that was clear, reliable, and accessible. Second, He maintained a laser-beam focus on God's will. Third, He evaluated all information and experiences through a filter that produced appropriate choices. Fourth, He acted in faith.

Jesus' Foundation
What was the implacable foundation of Jesus' thoughts and actions? The holy Word of God as recorded in the Scriptures. Jesus was not content to simply have the Scriptures available at the nearest temple: He memorized key passages in order to gain the guidance and assurance He needed in pivotal moments. Even when He was instructing the disciples He would anchor His teaching to core scriptural principles. When He scolded the religious leaders of the day for their inappropriate decisions, He would challenge their knowledge and interpretation of Scripture.
Jesus' Focus
Jesus in one sense was the definition of narrow-minded: His focus was solely on knowing and fulfilling the will of God. He sought to convey that theme to His followers, informing them, "I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want." His great knowledge of the Scriptures would have provided Him with the content of His focus, but how was He able to avoid the distractions and lock on to God's will?

Jesus spent time alone with God, seeking solitude to hear the voice of His Father in Heaven. He fasted in order to remind Himself to focus on God. He identified and promoted His God-given mission, seeing that purpose as the priority of His life. He prayed constantly for guidance. The message to us is that when we passionately desire to focus on God, and invest in doing so, God will foster the connection.

Jesus' Filter
Jesus made very different decisions than the norm because He filtered information through a different mental, emotional, and spiritual grid. His filter eliminated assumptions and expectations in favor of a stringent analysis of facts and scriptural principles. A stellar example of that outside-the-box thinking was provided in the Sermon on the Mount. He challenged people's ideas by reminding them, "You have heard... " before shredding those erroneous views with a revolutionary "but I say..." Some of His statements reflected simple but profound wisdom drawn from a deep well of discernment, understanding of humanity, and basic biblical perspective."
Jesus' Faith
Jesus' thinking would have been intriguing from a scholarly perspective but powerless without the faith to act upon His views. This insight lost upon many Christians who know what's right but fail to do they know. Jesus demonstrates that a genuine biblical woridview be backed up by action. Such action demands complete faith doing what honors God, rather than men, is the only yardstick of success.

Jesus' faith was multifaceted. Notice, for instance, that He was realistic, knowing that His efforts to do the will of God would cause Him hardship and suffering. That realization did not deter Him because He had weighed the alternative-self-directed activity in disobedience to God-and recognized the futility and stupidity of fighting God. He could therefore take what we perceive to be courageous action, but which He perceived to be the only sensible path. He had no anxiety about the consequences because He knew that as long as He honored God and allowed the Holy Spirit to work through Him, His perspective choices were appropriate.

Is learning to think like Jesus beyond our grasp? Not at all! God provided us with all the tools-the foundation, the skills needed to focus and filter, and the means of faith-that enable us to follow Jesus' example.