A crucial question anyone considering Christ as well as those who have received Him as Lord and Savior ought to ask is this: What does it look like to be a disciple of Christ? Much has been written on this topic. There are some great insights we can glean from many places to help answer this question. However, I would suggest the words of Christ Himself are an excellent place to start. The Gospels record that during Jesus’ earthly ministry He described nine distinguishable marks of His disciples. One such mark is that His disciples will desire to become like Him, to be Christlike.
Jesus declared, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). To be “fully trained” means being equipped to be like Jesus. In other words, the ultimate goal of a disciple is to be like his or her teacher. Becoming more like Jesus ought to be the desire of every believer, and it is encouraging that this is God’s desire for us. In fact, we read in Romans: “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29). We also read in Scripture that God will see it to the end. Paul writes to the believers in Philippi: “I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).
We need to be careful that our understanding of God transforming us into the likeness of Christ is not allowed to wrongly create in us a feeling that we can simply sit back and wait to be carried off to heaven. Just because we have a ticket to ride the bus doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter what we do while we are waiting. Our becoming like Christ requires God’s divine power and our active partnership with Him.
There are at least three essential steps to becoming like Christ. First, to become like Christ we must surrender to Him.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).
Surrendering one’s self to Christ means receiving Him as Lord and Savior. It means surrendering control of our lives to Him. It is impossible to retain control of our life and flourish in Christ. To become like Christ, I must surrender to God.
Secondly, to become like Christ we must walk in His freedom. We can’t talk about freedom without discussing sin. Sin is an act of wrongdoing and an alienation from God. Although sin brings spiritual death, there is a remedy to this fatal situation. Through turning away from sin and toward Christ, receiving Him as our Lord and Savior, we receive the gift of freedom – eternal life. Paul writes: “For the wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). Jesus has promised for us the forgiveness of our sins. He has made us right with God. He has also set us free. Sin is no longer our master; we are more clearly identified through Christ. Jesus invites us to follow Him, and we have His example of obedience as well as the power of the Spirit to live in freedom. In Christ, I am not condemned but have been set free. To become like Christ, I must walk in His freedom.
Lastly, to become like Christ we must choose Christian growth. Peter encourages us: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Paul encourages us: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thess 3:12). We grow in Christ as we follow Christ in faith with each step He leads us on. We are called to know Him and make Him known. Therefore, we want to engage in spiritual disciplines (i.e., studying and applying scripture, prayer, and sharing the love and message of Christ with others).
Christ said that His followers will desire to be like Him. Let me encourage you that in this endeavor it is helpful to just focus on the next right step the Spirit is leading you to take. Prayerfully determine your next step in your journey with Christ and take it. Don’t get overwhelmed with how far the gap is between you and Christlikeness, but be encouraged that our Lord invites you to take the next step with Him to make you more like Christ.
It is an honor to serve alongside each of you. Let’s encourage each other on our journey of becoming more like Christ. Be encouraged that God invites us to join Him in doing the work in us today to make us like Jesus (2: Cor 3:18). Be assured that in the future the process will be complete (1 John 3:2). Be motivated to, with the Help of God, partner with Him to become more like Christ as His disciple (1 John 3:3). Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!