We were made to be like Jesus — but how’s that different from trying to be like Confucius or Buddha? How is Christianity distinct from other religions that tell people to imitate a highly respected role model? It’s different in many ways.
First, most religions teach some form of work as the path of salvation — saying the right prayers, doing the right things, hoping that it will be enough. They assume that people will be good enough if they try hard enough.
But Christianity teaches us that we all need grace, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot be good enough. The point of grace, and the sacrifice of Jesus, is that no amount of good works or religious deeds can ever save anyone. If such a way could help us earn salvation, God would have done it and not send His Son to die for us. The Christian faith explains that no one can earn salvation, yet it is available to all because Jesus gives it to us.
Second, most religions encourage us to change our behavior, and they expect us to make all the effort. Christianity preaches that God himself is going to supply the power we need to change our lives. We humans have got ourselves into this mess, and we can’t save ourselves. The power to live above sin has to come from God.
We’re not trying to transform ourselves into the image of Christ — we want to let God do it in us. The Bible defined this as the Holy Spirit living in us, God living in us, or Christ living in us. The power to change our ways come from God, not from us. It’s his work, not anything that we can take credit for.
Third, most religions motivate people with the desire for rewards and fear. Christianity motivates us with grace and love. We follow God not out of fear but out of love and gratitude for what he has done. And we are assured that he has given us the best possible advice on how to live.
Christianity asserts that we were created for a purpose, and that purpose is eternal happiness living with the supremely loving God. Jesus Christ is not just an example of how we should live — he is also an example of what salvation means. He lives in eternal glory, and he says that if we trust him, we can join him in that glory.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same
image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
When this verse in the Second Corinthians says that we are transformed into the “same image,” it refers to the image of Jesus Christ. To be transformed into His likeness is the ambition, the goal, of every true believer. But how are you going to be more like Jesus?
WAYS SOME PEOPLE TRY TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS.
Many people try ways that may sound good, but they won’t help you to become more like Jesus.
You will not become like Jesus by elimination. You can’t just take things out of your life. Some people want to be like Jesus, so they make a list of sins and try to eliminate them. They become proud of what they do not do, but they aren’t one bit more like Jesus. A telephone pole does not smoke, drink, or tell lies, but it’s not like Jesus. Elimination doesn’t deal with the root just like pruning a tree doesn’t change its nature.
Also, you will not be Jesus by imitation. You can’t just try to be like the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, there is a specific sense in which Jesus is our leader; but if all you do is imitate Him, you have become a cheap little imitation. Have you ever seen fake, synthetic flowers before? Well, there are many plastic Christians around attempting to emulate the Lord Jesus Christ, but they will never, be like Him.
Finally, you will not be more like Jesus by determination. You might think, ‘I’m going to be like Jesus if it kills me.’ But you don’t have what it takes in you. If you were drowning, you could not reach up to pull your hair and lift yourself out of the water to save yourself. You can’t do that. No matter how determined you are, you can never be more like the Lord Jesus Christ by mere determination.
Over the ages, Christians have found a variety of ways to let God do his work in their lives. God does not force us to love him — by definition; love must be willingly given; it cannot be programmed into us or forced out of us. We have to choose it. God will work in us if we submit to Him. “for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).
How are we going to invite God to do his work in our lives? How do we become more like Jesus Christ? In many ways:
RECEIVING, RETAINING, AND REFLECTING
Now, having said how you can’t try to make a change, let me tell you how you’re going to become more like Jesus. You have to become a spiritual mirror. Once you understand that you are a mirror, you can understand how to be transformed into the Lord Jesus Christ’s likeness, reflecting or beholding the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, let me give you three transformation laws that deal with a mirror.
First, you will obtain the portrait of Jesus Christ as a mirror. A mirror does not produce a picture; it only receives an image. Jesus Christ is the portrait, and you are the mirror. You must receive Jesus Christ; you must accept His picture.
TO RECEIVE, THE MIRROR MUST BE…
– Clean and uncovered – A soiled or draped mirror cannot receive an image. There are several people with a blinded mind, which just put a veil over their hearts. You must be willing and open to receive Christ.
– Pointed in the right direction – the mirror will receive whatever it is pointed at. The secret to being like Jesus is to obtain the image of Jesus by continuously seeing Jesus.
– In the light – A mirror cannot reflect anything in the darkness. You must stay in His light and keep focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only do you have to obtain the image of Jesus, but you also have to retain the image of Jesus. If you keep your heart fixed on Jesus, the image will not vanish. And when you’re transformed, your inner nature comes to the surface, and you are changed. You will continue to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ because you are a mirror that receives His image. And then, by continuing to behold the Lord Jesus, you will retain His image.
We are reminded of the greatness of Christ, his mercy, and desire to do good in our lives. We are reminded that we can trust Him and count on Him, just as Jesus did.
We accept that we depend on God and ask Him for the support we need — needs like food, guidance, and spiritual change. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6).
IN THE STUDY OF THE BIBLE
We think and read about the acts and words of Christ. Jesus studied Scripture and used its words to help him overcome temptations (Matthew 4:1-11). He said that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Verse 4)
Spiritual life has to be nurtured spiritually.
IN THE CHURCH
We communicate with others in the same Christ-focused training program. We learn from our interactions on how to express love, and we grow in appreciation for people who have different abilities and talents separate from ours. Jesus established the church not only to preach the Gospel but to help us develop because it is also part of his work and purpose.
In helping others, we behave the way Jesus would. We know from experience that service gives us more life satisfaction than selfishness does. Getting interested in God’s work is the most rewarding feeling of all, for it will be of everlasting value. We can’t take material things with us when we die, but we can make impacts on people’s life here on earth.
You have to reflect the image of Jesus Christ. Like I have already said, being like Jesus is done not by imitation, but by reflection. Imitation is both mechanical and occasional. Many times, you will not even be aware that you are reflecting Jesus because it just becomes second nature.
Now, you see, it’s better than you figured to be like Jesus. He’s going to do it. Just rely on Him.
TOIL AND TROUBLE
In our daily life experiences, we have the opportunities to learn to be like Jesus, to choose to be considerate, to be patient, to support others, to pray. Christ has something to say about what we do at work and in our homes.
What about the difficulties and trials of life? We wish they would go away, but Jesus never promised it. Instead, he promised us problems: “In the world, ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
God is using our challenges as an opportunity for us to learn. Jesus, too, had to encounter troubles. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Because even Jesus had to learn from pain, we should expect that to be part of our training program as well.
We’re going to face problems in life, whether or not we follow Jesus. Our choice is not whether to have problems, but whether to learn from those problems. Will we respond to them in the way that Jesus would, or do we become bitter and seek vengeance? We learn more about love when we love people who are hard to love; we learn more about forgiveness when people sin against us. Our character is built more like Jesus, not in good times, but in tough times.
We don’t really understand why God allows people to suffer. We cannot see any value in it, or any lessons to learn from it. But the Bible reminds us that “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). We may not know how — but we just have to trust him.
Whatever the trial, we can at least be confident of this: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Verse 18).We should be assured, even in our challenges, that God has a wonderful plan for us. Our challenges are only temporary, but the glory will last forever!
ENEMIES FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
The Bible tells us that many things will stifle the work that God is doing in our lives. We can fight those enemies, but it’s going to take some effort.
Jesus told a story about seeds through various soil types. In his story, the seed was the word of God (Luke 8:11). Many people embrace the word of the Gospel with joy. “They believe for a while, but they fall away at the time of testing” (Luke 8:13). They expected Christianity to be like a bed of roses, but that’s not what Jesus promised. “… for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” (Matthew 13:21)
Another group of people is like the seeds that fall among the weeds. While the word of Jesus had begun to grow in their lives, it was finally choked out by weeds. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:14).
Many people are so overwhelmed by the things of this world that they don’t think about eternal life. The Gospel has little impact on their lives because they disregard it — they are too busy to give eternity any moment of thought. It is either they are amusing themselves with wealth, or they are frustrated by trying to get wealth. Either way, they do not give God any time. They choose mortal life over everlasting life.
However, some people react well to the message: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15). Perseverance enables us to grow and produce fruit. Our decisions make a difference in what the Gospel is doing in our lives.
We need to value the everlasting life that Jesus offers us — and we need to act like it is more precious than the temporary benefits of this mortal life. We should love God more than we love pleasures, money, or the success of this world. All these things are temporary, and we need to keep our eyes on the goal of eternal life, eternal significance, and eternal pleasures.
We’ve got a choice. If we want a satisfying life, a meaningful life, an enjoyable life, then we need to look to Jesus as our model, and as the power that can change our lives.
God wants us to live forever in joy and love, and we must trust Him to do the work that He has already started. He created us to be “in his image”; he is the one who sent Jesus to guarantee it to us; we can be confident that he will finish His good work in our lives. Trust him, and open your heart to Him!
The greatest prayer warrior of all times was Jesus, so to be like Jesus, we must be consistent in prayer. We must see how important humility is; we must abide in His Word so that His Word can abide in us, and we can be in Christ and He in us. We mustn’t be surprised by suffering for His name’s sake, but rather be surprised if we never suffer persecution, for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” If you do not live in humility before others; if you do not read His Word, the Bible; and if you are not suffering persecution in your trust in Christ, then you may be in danger for hearing some very serious words from Jesus someday because “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33).