If there’s one thing I would want, it would not be greatness, might, power, wealth, fame, popularity or achievement, it would be simply this: becoming more conformed to the image – the person, the character , the likeness of Jesus Christ. This is certainly something that every one of us who claim to be children of God should strive towards. This is an ongoing process which is part of sanctification and Christian holiness.
Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
One cannot expect results overnight. A farmer does not expect instant results when he sows his seeds. It’s constant work and toil to ensure that the crop is growing healthily. It’s the same with sanctification. It’s slow, painful growth however that growth has to be going the right direction otherwise it’s no growth, it’s regression. Why’s it difficult? Because as fallen and depraved human beings, our natural inclination is to follow hard after our carnal desires and when we go against those desires they clash and we have a war between two different persons. The part of me that wants to please God (the new man) and the other part of me that would much rather satisfy the desires of the flesh (the old man).
Following Christ means that we cut off our carnal thoughts, desires and actions and throw them behind us continually. It’s about dying to self daily and striving to be more Christlike in everything we do, say and think. It means that we have to be willing to put real effort into sanctification. Yes it is a fact that God will transform us into Christlikeness but that certainly doesn’t mean we can sit back and be carried to heaven “on flow’ry beds of ease” (as one hymn laughably puts it). This really throws the prosperity Gospel out the window because we need sanctification as well as justification and though the latter is completely the work of God (we do not need to do anything in order to purchase our salvation) the former demands man’s willing and voluntary co-operation with the Holy Spirit. So in other words sanctification requires both divine power and the fulfillment of human responsibility. Sanctification is a commandment from Christ. He said “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Also read Matthew 7 which talks of the narrow way which we must walk. So I’m sorry to burst your bubble if you think that the Christian life is all smooth-sailing and easy. That version of the Gospel you heard is not the true Gospel. You’ve simply bought into the lies of mainstream Australian churchianity fed to you by some pastor (aka wolf in sheep skin) who does not know his Bible nor the heart of God.
So if I could quickly summarise in bullet points how to be more Christ-like it would be these:
- We cannot be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ if we do not surrender all to Him. When He called His disciples He said “follow me” (Matt 9:9) and the disciples dropped everything and followed Him. Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. John the Baptist said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30), so we focus more and more on Jesus Christ and His glory, losing ourselves in His will.
- Follow Christ’s example: His obedience to the Father, sacrificial love and patience in suffering.
- Becoming more Christlike is the result of spiritual growth. When we are first saved, we are immature in wisdom and knowledge and inexperienced in grace and love. But then we grow. In each of these things, our charge is to become stronger—and more Christlike. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
Friend, don’t be discouraged if you look in the mirror of God’s Word today and see yourself failing miserably even though you try your hardest. It’s the effort that counts and you will be rewarded according to your effort. Even the most pious and earnest of Christians will be susceptible to failure all the days of their lives. If you’ve only begun on the spiritual road, the bad news is that you’ve got a long way to go but the good news is that God is always faithful and will help you every step of the way through this earthly journey. Yes it’s a journey and through the grace of God, you’ll learn a lot on that journey through falling down often and rising again.
I’ll give you another analogy. Faith is like a plant. Water it and it will grow, nourish it and it will be strong. Fail to do both and you end up with a wilted plant which is not what we want to happen. Keep yourself in the love of God and keep growing in the grace and knowlege of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!