You were created to become like Christ. Like God, we are spiritual beings – our spirits are immortal and will outlast our earthly bodies; we are intellectual – we can think, reason, and solve problems; like God, we are relational – we can give and receive real love; and we have a moral consciousness – we can discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God.
The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God. But the image is incomplete and has been damaged and distorted by sin. So God sent Jesus on a mission to restore the full image that we have lost. The Bible says, “You were created to be like God, truly righteous and holy” (Eph. 4:24).
Many religions and New Age philosophies still promote the old lie of Satan that we are divine or can become gods. This desire to be a god shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and people around us. God doesn’t want us to become a god; he wants you to become godly – taking on His values, attitudes, and character (see Eph. 4:22).
God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Every time you forget that character is one of God’s purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You’ll wonder, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?” One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven!
Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the “abundant life” to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. They expect heaven on earth. This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment.
Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God’s purposes, not vice versa. God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to produce Christ-like character in you (see 2 Cor. 3:18b). You cannot reproduce the character of Jesus on your own strength. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God wants to make in our lives (see Phil. 2:13). Most of the time the Holy Spirit’s power is released in your life in quiet, unassuming ways that you aren’t even aware of or can’t feel. He often nudges us with “a gentle whisper.”
We must allow Christ to live through us. How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do it. Since God’s Spirit lives inside of us, these things are always available for the asking.
We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment you take a step of faith. Obedience unlocks God’s power. God waits for you to act first. Don’t wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of you fears and feelings. This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit. While effort has nothing to do with your salvation, it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus. You don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen.
According to Ephesians 4:22-24 we have three responsibilities in becoming like Christ. First, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting. Second, we must change the way we think. The Bible says we are “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). We must allow God to direct our thoughts. We are changed from the inside out. Third, we must “put on” the character of Christ by developing new, godly habits.
Many people assume all that is needed for spiritual growth is Bible study and prayer. But some issues in life will never be changed by Bible study or prayer alone. God uses people. He usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, so that we will depend on each other for fellowship. He wants us to grow together.
Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.
Much confusion in the Christian life comes from ignoring the simple truth that God is far more interested in building your character than He is anything else. God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do.
Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like Himself before He takes us to heaven.