In His Steps

Bible Book: 1 Peter  2 : 21-25
Subject: Jesus, The Real; Jesus, Lord; Obedience

In His Steps: “What Would Jesus Do?” (1897) by Dr. Charles M. Sheldon (1857-1946) sold more than 30 million copies. From a biographical website we read Dr. Charles Monroe Sheldon “was an American minister in the Congregational churches and leader of the Social Gospel movement. His novel, In His Steps, introduced the principle of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ which articulated an approach to Christian theology that became popular at the turn of the 20th Century and had a revival almost one hundred years later.

Sheldon was a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover (Class of 1879). He became an advocate of the late nineteenth century school of thought known as Christian Socialism. His theological outlook focused on the practicalities of the moral life, with much less emphasis on the doctrinal traditions of personal redemption from sin in Christ. In the winter of 1896 Sheldon developed a sermon story that he read as a weekly series from the pulpit of Central Congregational Church in Topeka, Kansas. The unifying theme of these sermons was based on posing the question, ‘what would Jesus do?’ when facing moral decisions. He viewed this question as traditional within Christianity and likely drew some inspiration from William T. Stead’s (1849-1912) If Christ came to Chicago! (1893) and other earlier sources.”[1]

It is interesting to note that William T. Stead, the son of a Congregational minister, became a practitioner and promoter of spiritualism, a practice clearly forbidden in Scripture (Leviticus 19:31 and 20:27). We read in Isaiah 8:19-20, “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

William T. Stead was the founder and editor of a spiritualist quarterly titled Borderland. This purveyor of spiritualism perished in the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912.

Dr. John P. Ferré, professor of communications at the University of Louisville, confirms the interaction between Charles M. Sheldon and William T. Stead in chapter two of his book titled A Social Gospel for Millions: The Religious Bestsellers of Charles Sheldon, Charles Gordon and Harold Bell Wright.[2]

In his bestselling book titled Mere Christianity, Dr. Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) writes of Jesus: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.”

Dr. Lewis concludes, “You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us."[3]

You must be certain you are following the right Jesus. Many today follow a mystic Jesus or a Gnostic Jesus. Jesus Christ is not an angel who became man or a “spirit-guide” activated by imagination or visualization. Beware of the Jesus of the cults and even the Jesus of major world religions. Any Jesus who is not fully God and fully man is not the real Jesus. The apostle Paul warns in Colossians 2:8-10, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

Have you heard about In His Steps before In His Steps? I refer to In His Steps: For Those Beginning the Christian Life by Dr. J. R. Miller (1885). Dr. Miller wrote his book at least a decade before Dr. Sheldon wrote his. Dr. Miller is not proposing a philosophy as Charles M. Sheldon, but a pattern of obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

From 1 Peter 2:18-25 we read, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, / Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Instead of trying to figure out “What Would Jesus Do?” we must ask “What Did Jesus Do?” Our purpose is to gain a deeper understanding of the unbelievable response to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ our Lord and what that means to us as believers.

I. First, we see Jesus Christ maliciously analyzed.

His detractors watched His every move and noted His every word. They went over Him with a fine tooth comb. They analyzed Jesus with malice aforethought. They were not looking for diamonds they were looking for dirt. They were looking for a chink in His armor. They maliciously analyzed Him for just one peccadillo or fault. Only Jesus could say, “Which one of you convicts Me of sin” (John 8:46). Jesus Christ is the guiltless and guileless Son of God. We read in John 8:12-20, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’ The Pharisees therefore said to Him, ‘You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’
Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.’ These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.”

From John 15:18-25 we read that Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” When you find yourself maliciously analyzed remember, “A servant is not greater than his master” (John 13:16; 15:20).

II. Furthermore, we see Jesus Christ mischievously criticized.

The carping criticism against Jesus was mischievous. While there is legitimate constructive criticism there is illegitimate destructive criticism. Interestingly, the critics of Jesus Christ were not qualified to make their judgments against Him. For example, some called Jesus “a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). In addition, we read in Luke 15:1-2, “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Their hurtful and hateful words were detrimental to His reputation. This is the judging that Jesus condemns in Matthew 7:1-6, where we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ‘Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.’” The judging that Jesus condemns is hypocritical and hypercritical judging. Ironically, men misjudge “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25b).

None of this took Jesus by surprise. He predicted in Luke 9:22, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” We read in Hebrews 12:3, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” In Matthew 5:11-12 we read that Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” When you find yourself mischievously criticized rejoice and remember, “A servant is not greater than his master.”

III. Finally, we see Jesus Christ murderously demonized.

According to the dictionary murderous means “as if wanting to commit murder; extremely angrily.” We read in John 8:37-59, where Jesus said, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.’ They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.’ Then they said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.’ Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

We read in Matthew 5:21-26 that Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”

From Luke 6:27-36 we read, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. ‘But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

The Pharisees were extremely angry with Jesus without a proper cause and they accused Him of being in league with His arch enemy, Satan. How utterly ridiculous! They wanted Him dead. They went to great lengths to see to it. We read in Matthew 9:32-38, “As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, ‘It was never seen like this in Israel!’ But the Pharisees said, ‘He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.’ Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”

When they said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons”, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:30), which is the unpardonable sin. Quite literally, they “demonized” Jesus. When you find yourself murderously demonized remember, “A servant is not greater than his master.”


The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were “good men” doing “good things” without God. Jesus warned them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). They found themselves accepted by man but rejected by God. In Luke 18:10-14 Jesus shares the following parable, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus warns, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees maliciously analyzed, mischievously criticized, and murderously demonized our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Although those Pharisees are dead, the Pharisaic spirit is very much alive today.

Paul the apostle writes in Romans 8:18-30, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Paul instructs Timothy, his son in the ministry in 2 Timothy 3:10-17, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Paul writes in Philippians 3:2-11, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Remember, Paul was formerly a Pharisee. Therefore, there is hope for you, if you are one too. Paul learned how to suffer as a Christian. He did not feel that he was a victim of the vicious attacks that came against him for no reason. He understood men attacked him simply because he was a godly man doing the will of God. He gained the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. We can too!

Governor William Penn wrote a book titled NO CROSS, NO CROWN. A DISCOURSE, SHOWING THE NATURE AND DISCIPLINE OF THE HOLY CROSS OF CHRIST: AND THAT THE DENIAL OF SELF, AND DAILY BEARING OF CHRIST'S CROSS, IS THE ALONE WAY TO THE REST AND KINGDOM OF GOD. TO WHICH ARE ADDED, THE LIVING AND DYING TESTIMONIES OF MANY PERSONS OF FAME AND LEARNING, BOTH OF ANCIENT AND MODERN TIMES, IN FAVOUR OF THIS TREATISE. Governor Penn cites the following on the title page, "And Jesus said unto his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke, iv. 23--I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, &c. 2 Tim. iv. 7."[4]

In the words of a preacher’s wife named, Mary B. Slade (1826-1882), “Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling, Come, follow Me! And we see where Thy footprints falling / Lead us to Thee. Footprints of Jesus, / That make the pathway glow; / We will follow the steps of Jesus / Where'er they go.”[5]

John Bunyan’s (1628-1688) character in The Pilgrim’s Progress- Book Two, Mr. Standfast said, “Wherever I have seen the print of His shoe in the earth there have I coveted to set my foot too.”[6]

May we receive the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, moment by moment, to walk in His steps.


[1]Charles Sheldon, Available from: Accessed: 09/26/11

[2]John P. Ferré, A Social Gospel for Millions: The Religious Bestsellers of Charles Sheldon, Charles Gordon and Harold Bell Wright "Charles Sheldon's Moral Formula" Chapter 2 (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988), pp. 15-42

[3]C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (London: Collins, 1952), pp. 54-56


[5]Mary B. Slade, “Footprints of Jesus”, (1871)

[6]John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress-Book Two, (1684)

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210
© December 11, 2011 All Rights Reserved