Sometimes I am concerned about the modern Christian’s low view of God. I am changing but sometimes I still fall into the same trap.
I was reading a book about small groups in the church when I came across the word “Christ-likeness.” This is a fine English word. It means simply being like Christ. It was used in the following context:
“Knowledge and application leads to steady growth toward Christ-likeness and relational harmony.”
In order to not be overly critical, I will refrain from talking about “knowledge and application.” My question is, “Is Christ-like enough? Is it reaching high enough?”
I’m not really arguing against the purpose or concept of sanctification, if we must give it a term. Our self should look more like Christ’s life. I think that what I have an issue with is the method or road to getting there. As I grow into further maturity, I find that how much I look like Christ has less and less to do with any steps that I’m taking and more and more with the changes that he is making in my heart through the seemingly benign efforts of prayer and listening.
I agree that gaining and applying knowledge will make someone look like something; just like gaining and applying engineering knowledge will make one look like an engineer. What concerns me most is the easy formula for becoming like Christ; becoming like the very incarnation of the infinite, all-powerful God of the universe.
“But, it’s not as easy as that!” Maybe this is your response. It’s hard work to fight against the flesh to pray and spend time with God. Then to have to try and remember to apply all of those things being learned in real-time. It’s not always pleasant or clean. Getting rid of sinful ways to look like Jesus is really hard because…well, we’re sinful.
I agree. Which is why Christ desires to do it for you.
Knowledge and application can make you look like Christ. But is that our highest goal? As a believer you are in Christ. We are not a people who have been allowed access to the mountain and now must ascend to the top to please God or reach a state of Christ-likeness. No, we are in him now. We have been given what we could not do, namely, have access to God at the top of the mountain.
If you have accepted his gift of justification (salvation) then you have been made like Christ.
Through his sacrifice and defeat of death in the resurrection, Christ has created a place for you to join him and be like him. No knowledge has gotten you there. No application will get you there. Only the work of Christ on the cross can make a man like him; only his grace and forgiveness can bring true holiness.
All of this is to say two things.
First, let us not settle for, or even believe, that Christ-likeness is the goal and purpose of our lives. Our purpose and goal is to draw near to God. As we draw near to him, he will change our hearts. Our lives and actions will then begin to look like Christ’s more and more. As God’s power forms and shapes us, so will it flow in and through us. Not only will we look like Christ but we will also walk in the power of God. This is just not possible in the knowledge/application method. His work in the one who gives himself over to God’s power has an accelerated effect. What God desires is not our good-faith efforts, but our willing hearts.
Second, the work of the believer is not something that can be attained. As difficult as it can be to work one’s way through the knowledge/application method, it is essentially something that can be done. For examples, see the Pharisees and Saducees of Christ’s day to find out where this road leads. They were the most knowledgeable and capable yet they completely missed the point of their knowledge and application. This was a continual temptation in previous Jewish generations and remains a trap for us today.
Lest one think that the more difficult road is being left behind, consider the difficulty of submitting oneself in humility before God. It is at the heart of our hostility with him when we are trapped in Sin. We must spend time with him in prayer and meditation, confronting the things that lie at the very heart of our anger, frustration, resentment, disappointment, and fear. We must allow him to freely change our hearts and lives in directions and ways that we cannot control or anticipate. All along the way we allow God to humiliate us before our colleagues, friends, and even families for the sake of his glory and kingdom and not our own.
There is a reason that this is not on the spiritual growth posters of most churches and denominations! But it is the difficult “work” of the believer. Knowledge and application would be a welcome reprieve from such a life because it is a distant method lacking in personal difficulties and discomfort.
God desires those who desire him, not those who desire to look like him. Let us get down on our knees and draw near to him. He has revealed himself and stands to reveal more, if only we would seek him with our hearts. This is the deficiency of desiring Christ-likeness over Christ himself.