Jesus: Our Model of Personal Development

You long to experience the fullness of divine life and to share this with others. But you may not have a clear picture of what this looks like and how to become a fully alive person. I find that even most Christians don’t very well understand the stages of spiritual and psychological development.

To become like Jesus is the most important goal of our lives!  We need a map to guide our journey. The life of Jesus is our map — he shows us God in human flesh. He fulfilled all righteousness and is the perfect human being. Everything that we would rightly hope to experience and become is seen in Jesus. He is completely holy and healthy as a person. He is our example.

What a wonderful adventure and spiritual pilgrimage our life becomes as we follow in the steps of Jesus Christ!

Luke Shows Us Jesus’ Personal Development

To better understand what the fullness of God looks like in a human being I did a Bible study in the Gospel of Luke. Luke is the Gospel writer that puts the most focus on Jesus’ development, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Doctor Luke tells us key stories from Jesus’ birth and childhood and helps us to see Jesus as a human being during his public ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. He specifically points out personal ways that “Jesus grew” (Luke 2:40, 52).

Studying the life of Jesus as Luke reveals it in his Gospel, we see that Jesus experienced and grew through each stage of spiritual and psychological development  that is possible for us. Based on clinical research, we’ve identified these stages by the acronym: “LIFE in CHRIST.” The LIFE stages are especially important as four psychological needs that infants and children have and they’re needs that are important all through life. The CHRIST stages mark the developmental journey of growing in faith and grace. We tend to cycle through these stages and may or may not experience the later ones.

(LIFE in CHRIST is the theme of one of four TLC Retreats/Trainings in Soul Shepherding’s two-year certificate program in Christian Spiritual Formation and Soul Care.)

LIFE in CHRIST: The Developmental Stages that Jesus Models

Here is an outline with some examples of how Jesus experienced each of the developmental stages and set the model for us:

Love (bonding in caring relationships)
  • The virgin Mary became Jesus’ mother by divine miracle and she sang about him in the womb, showing that she wanted him and delighted in him. (Luke 1:46-55)
  • Mary held him and nurtured him. (Luke 2:7)
  • Mary “treasured and pondered” his life and surely shared with him all the miracle stories surrounding his birth and early childhood. (Luke 2:19 and 51)
  • As an adult he received hospitality from friends. (Luke 4:38-39; 10:38-42)
Identity (self-awareness and esteem; clear and strong boundaries)
  • He was named Jesus, “the one who saves people from sin.” (Luke 2:21)
  • His parents dedicated him to God. (Luke 2:22-24)
  • Simeon prophesied that he would be known as the Savior, the light of the world, and a revealer of hearts. (Luke 2:29-35)
  • His parents “marveled” over him. (Luke 2:33)
  • At 30 years old he proclaimed his life mission from the Scriptures. (Luke 4:17-21)
  • He refused to let the Jews force him to be king of Israel. (4:29-30)
  • Through prayer he knew when to leave one city to go to another, even though people wanted him to stay. (Luke 4:42-43)
Favor (divine generosity and grace; also forgiveness of sin which everyone but Jesus needs)
  • Jesus grew in strength, wisdom, and grace/favor with God and people. (Luke 2:40, 52)
  • At 30 years old he asked to be baptized by John and was blessed by the Father: “You are my beloved son and in you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)
  • He was so full of grace that gracious words constantly fell from his lips like honey from the comb. (Luke 4:22)
Enthusiasm (full of divine life and joy and blessing others)
  • As a child he enjoyed celebrating religious festivals with his family (Luke 2:41)
  • At twelve years old he thrilled to be in his Father’s house and to share his wisdom with religious leaders. (Luke 2:42-47)
  • When he launched his public ministry at age 30 he was “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 4:1)
  • Alone and fasting in the wilderness for forty days, with no physical or circumstantial comfort, he relied on his Father in the spiritual world for his LIFE needs and was so well-sustained that he resisted Satan’s temptations for worldly pleasures and advancements. (Luke 4:2-13)
  • He taught with the confident authority of someone who knew from experience the goodness and effectiveness of his teachings. (Luke 4:32)
  • He was “full of joy.” (Luke 10:21)
Conversion (being born from above with divine life; Jesus had life in himself)
  • The angel announced the incarnation of Christ to Mary, which for us enables and represents the new birth. (Luke 1:26-38)
  • As an adult Jesus received John’s baptism of cleansing from sin and public display of new life, not because he needed it, but as our example. (Luke 3:21-22)
Help in Discipleship (growing in grace and godliness)
  • As a boy Jesus was taught to worship God, read the Scriptures, and pray at the  temple in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:41-52)
  • He practiced solitude and silence, fasting, meditation on Scripture, and prayer. (Luke 4:1)
  • He had a custom as a boy and throughout his adult life of going to the local synagogue to worship God and discuss the Scriptures in community. (Luke 4:16)
  • He practiced early morning prayer and used particular places to pray. (Luke 4:42; 11:1; 22:39-44)
  • He enjoyed spiritual community with friends. (Luke 22:15)
Responsibilities in Ministry (serving others)
  • As a young man he worked as a carpenter, serving as unto the Lord. (Luke 4:22)
  • In his public ministry Jesus offered people deliverance, healing, teaching, and discipleship. (Luke 4:31 and following)
Inward Journey (understanding emotions and needs,  overcoming temptations and trials)
  • At age 30 Jesus spent forty days praying to his Father, reflecting on his feelings and God’s call for his life, resisting Satan’s temptations, and strengthening his resolve to carry out God’s call. (Luke 4:2-13)
  • Jesus often withdrew from the crowds that clamored for his attention and went to lonely places to pray. (Luke 5:16)
  • He prepared for going to the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane, wrestling with his emotions, overcoming Satan, and submitting his will entirely to his Father. (Luke 22:39-44)
Spirit-Led Ministry (serving others, not by self-effort, but by God’s power)
  • Jesus didn’t rely on his own gifts or power to heal, but on the power of the Lord. (Luke 5:17)
  • When crowds kept after Jesus he withdrew into solitude and listened for God’s direction on what to do next. (Luke 5:42-44)
  • He prayed on a mountain in an all night prayer vigil to discern from God who to choose as his Apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)
  • By relying on God’s peace and power, he calmed a storm with a word. (Luke 8:22-25)
  • God’s power came out through his body — even his clothes! — to heal the sick. (Luke 8:42-48)
  • He drove out demons “by the finger of God.” (Luke 11:20)
Transforming Union (intimacy with God and revealing God to others, even in trials)
  • Jesus was transfigured and his body radiated with God’s light and glory. (Luke 9:28-36)
  • With love he gave himself to suffer and die on the cross to reconcile people to God, submitting himself entirely to God as he prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:26-47)
  • By God’s power he rose from the dead and appeared to his followers, showing them that he conquered sin, death, and hell. (Luke 24:1-49)
  • He ascended back into the heavenly realms all around us and from here he continues to love and guide us into the Kingdom of God. (Luke 24:50-53)


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