I Want to Be Like Jesus


“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed” (Acts 10:38)

     INTRO.:  A song which encourages us to follow the example of Jesus who went about doing good is “I Want to Be Like Jesus” (#600 in Hymns for Worship Revised).  The text was written by Thomas Obadiah Chisholm (1866-1960).  A Methodist minister who wrote over 1200 poems, he was the author of a number of well-known gospel songs, including “Bring Christ Your Broken Life,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Living For Jesus,” “O to Be Like Thee,” “Only In Thee,” “The Only Way,” and “There Is a Place of Refuge.”  The tune for “I Want to Be Like Jesus” was composed by David Livingston Ives, who was born in 1921 on the island of Barbados in the West Indies, where his parents were Wesleyan Methodist missionaries to.  David was converted at a young age and also gave early evidence of musical talent.  He was thirteen years old when he wrote his first song. After graduating from the Reading, PA, high school, he attended Fort Wayne Bible Institute, and Goshen College, both Indiana schools.

     While Ives was at Fort Wayne Bible, one of his fellow students was Richard E. Gerig.  One day Gerig was playing a new tune on his organ when Ives stopped by.  David related that it said, “On the cross of Calvary,” to him. That evening he produced the first stanza. Four years later he and Richard were putting together a song book for men’s quartets. At that time David completed the second stanza.  The song first appeared in the 1943 collection Inspirational Choruses.  After getting his degrees he established Ives Music Press in Archbold, OH. “I Want to Be Like Jesus” was copyrighted in 1945.  Ives was song director at his local church. He and three other businessmen formed a quartet called the Gospel Messengers in which he sang bass. 

     Unfortunately, David Ives’s musical creativity was cut short in the 1950s when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The disease was not well-researched in those days. Treatment was minimal and ineffective. As a result, he spent the last thirty years of his life in and out of hospitals and institutions. Sadly, he was never able to create music again.  Lillenas Publishing bought his company and all copyrights, including these two songs, and “I Want to Be Like Jesus” was renewed by them in 1973. He was 66 years old when died in 1987.  Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appears only in Hymns for Worship to my knowledge.

     The song expresses the supreme desire to be like Jesus in different areas of our lives.

I. Stanza 1 talks about having His likeness to shine forth in our hearts

I have one deep, supreme desire, That I may be like Jesus.

To this, I fervently aspire, That I may be like Jesus.

I want my heart His throne to be, So that a watching world may see

His likeness shining forth in me.  I want to be like Jesus.

 A. Each of us has one thing which we desire above all others: Ps. 27:4

 B. Our main desire should be to have Christ  dwelling on the throne of our hearts: Eph. 3:17

 C. When He does so, His likeness will be shining forth in us: Rom. 5:5

II. Stanza 2 talks about serving Him by serving others

He spent His life in doing good; I want to be like Jesus.

In lowly paths of service trod, I want to be like Jesus.

He sympathized with hearts distressed, He spoke the words that cheered and blessed,

He welcomed sinners to His breast. I want to be like Jesus.

 A. He trod in lowly paths of service: Matt. 20:28

 B. He sympathized with hearts distressed, and as we do likewise we serve Him: Matt. 25:35-40

 C. He welcomed sinners to His breast, and we should follow Him in seeking and saving the lost: Lk. 19:10

III. Stanza 3 talks about looking to Him and His life for guidance

O, perfect life of Christ, my Lord! I want to be like Jesus.

My recompense and my reward, That I may be like Jesus.

His Spirit fill my hungering soul, His power all my life control;

My deepest prayer, my highest goal, That I may be like Jesus.”

 A. We must look go the perfect life of Christ for our example: 1 Pet. 2:21

 B. Only in this way can we hope to have His recompense and reward: 2 Jn. v. 8

 C. When we do this, the influence of His Spirit will fill our hungering souls: Eph. 5:18

     CONCL.:  This is not an extremely well known song among churches of Christ.  Although it has been in Hymns for Worship since 1987, I don’t recall ever being in an assembly where it has been sung.  However, Chisholm wrote many other excellent hymns, and this one also has a good message.  As a Christian, a follower of Christ who died to save me from my sins, it should always be my aim that “I Want to Be Like Jesus.”

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