By Peter Amsterdam
August 23, 2016
As touched on in the last two articles, In God’s Likeness parts one and two, becoming more like Jesus calls for a renewal of our inner being—our heart, will, emotions, mind (conscious and subconscious), soul, and spirit—which then causes our actions to reflect our renewed inner self. If we wish to be Christlike, we must start with a changed spirit. (I am continuing to use the word “spirit” to represent the heart, mind, soul, and spirit—our inner self or inner being.) Salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us brings transformation to our spirit; it breaks the power of sin over us, which enables the process of spiritual growth that changes our fundamental inner nature.
The process toward having our thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes reflect Christ isn’t something that happens on its own; it calls for conscious inner transformation. The apostle Paul expressed it by saying put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and … be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and … put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.1 So what do we do to be renewed in the spirit of our mind, to put on our new self?
One key factor in becoming more like Jesus is believing what Jesus believed, meaning that we believe what Scripture teaches. The type of belief that results in ongoing transformation isn’t one we give mere intellectual assent or acknowledgment to. Rather, it is a belief that becomes a foundation for how we live. It’s one thing to believe that God exists; it’s something quite different to live with the Creator as the center of our lives, so that our decisions and actions are based on our relationship with Him. Belief in this context means conviction and commitment to live by what we believe. Following are some key beliefs which play a major role in becoming Christlike.
Scripture teaches that God exists; He created the world (the universe) and everything in it out of nothing;2 He is personal;3 He is triune (one God in three persons);4 He is actively involved with the created world,5 although He is not part of the created world;6 He loves and cares about the world and those in it;7 He loves and cares for us, His children,8 and is involved in our daily lives;9 He is good,10 and we experience His goodness in our lives;11 and even though everything in our life isn’t good and we don’t always understand why some things happen, we put our trust in Him12 as His ways are higher than ours.13
Our Creator wishes for us to enter a loving relationship with Him. However, sin and the cares of this life compete for our affections and desires. There are many distractions which pull our loyalty, focus, and desires away from God. We are often faced with a choice of whether to attach ourselves to and worship God, or turn to things which pull us away from Him and make them the object of our worship. Knowing that God wants us to resist evil, we look to Him for the grace and power to do so, and we do our part to resist and overcome sin in our lives.
We trust God because we believe that He is loving, personal, all-powerful, and that His ways are higher than ours. We embrace Him, knowing that He has our best interests at heart. He knows about us, cares for us, understands our weaknesses, and forgives us; so we trust Him, follow Him, and seek His guidance in our lives.
Because of His love for humanity, our loving God made a way to restore us to fellowship with Him. Though we were sinners, in rebellion to Him, He made a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled. By accepting Christ as our Savior, we become children of God. Through God’s goodness, love, and kindness we have eternal life.14
Through salvation we are “in Christ.”
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.15 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.16 Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.18 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.19
Being in Christ means that you are a member of the body of Christ,20 a child of God and heir to His kingdom,21 a temple of God’s dwelling,22 a new creation,23 and a citizen of heaven.24 Knowing this brings confidence that we are part of God’s family; He is our Father, Jesus is our Savior, and the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We are forgiven human beings who are loved by God Almighty. Because we are in Christ, we can express who we are in Him without having to prove who we are.
Author Randy Frazee explains it this way:
One of my favorite movies is the 1981 Academy Award-winning film Chariots of Fire, which tells the true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams … The movie depicts how they both ran and won gold medals. The difference? Harold Abrahams ran to prove who he was, while Eric Liddell ran to express who he knew he was in Christ … There is a scene in which Liddell’s sister is deeply concerned because she senses that his running is pulling him away from their commitment to go to China as missionaries. He looks deep into his sister’s eyes and says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” … One of the most mystical, yet amazing ways we know we are truly expressing who we are in Christ is by using the gifts He gives us and tapping into the heart of God to “feel His pleasure.”25
Knowing that we are “in Christ” sets us free to follow His leading in our lives so that we can use the gifts and talents God has given us for His glory. We understand that however and wherever He leads at each stage of our lives, we can be joyful, content, and grateful to be living within His will. It also tells us that even though we aren’t perfect, we are forgiven, loved, and accepted by the Lord.
Possessing eternal life means we will live forever. Scripture reveals that when we die, our bodies return to the earth but our spirits live on. It teaches that there will be judgment, but those who have received Christ have been forgiven for their sins and will be seen by God as guiltless on the judgment day.26
It’s from reading, believing, and living according to the Bible—God’s Word—that we learn the truths it reveals. Within its pages, God has given us knowledge of Himself, His plan of salvation, and instruction on how to live our lives in alignment with His will. The Bible establishes our beliefs and guides our actions. It possesses authority in that it gives God’s instruction on how to be in relationship with Him, what is right and wrong, what is pleasing in His sight and what isn’t. As God’s truth is revealed to us, it’s meant to be the lens through which we view our world: a means of guiding us to make godly choices, have right attitudes, and live in alliance with God.
These basic beliefs (along with many others taught within the pages of Scripture) become the foundation stones upon which we base our decisions and actions; they shape our worldview, and thus direct how we live. They are a road map which guides us in the right direction. Over time, the way we think, feel, and act will be increasingly transformed into Christlikeness. The root cause of this transformation is based on what God Himself has revealed to us in Scripture. We are changed because we believe what God, through Scripture, has told us, and we act upon it.
When we truly believe in a loving, personal, all-powerful God, we trust Him and have confidence that He can, and will, do what He has promised. He will guide us, and if we follow His directions and live in accordance with the principles found within His Word, we will have confidence that we are operating within His will and will receive the benefits of doing so, both in this life and for eternity. Such belief changes how we think and live.
When we believe that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we recognize that God, within Himself, is a perfect loving community. Understanding that we are made in God’s image and likeness, we recognize that as human beings we are to operate in love and harmony in community. Our family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, other believers, and people in our town, country, and the world are all members of communities to which we belong. We are called to love others as we love ourselves and treat them as we want to be treated.
When we believe God loves each human being as a person created in His image, we understand that everyone has value. This leads to both self-respect and respect of others, no matter their religion, race, economic status, politics, or any other difference.
When we understand that God is holy and that nothing unholy can come into His presence, we live in gratitude toward Him for redeeming us. Had He not made the way of salvation available to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we would have no personal relationship with Him, no salvation, no indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We would receive the wages of sin, which is death, instead of the gift of God, which is eternal life.27 However, because of His gift to us, we can live lives of joy, knowing that we are in relationship with God and that our sins are forgiven. In gratefulness we want to please Him, live for Him, and reflect Him and His love to others, to share the good news of salvation with them. Having been forgiven for our sins, we forgive others for their sins against us.
Being in Christ gives us self-worth, not based on what we accomplish but on our value to God. We don’t need to prove anything or put others down to bolster our ego or standing. Frazee wrote:
We will be set free to use our words for building bridges, not burning them. To use our hands to hug, not hurt. To use our feet to bring, not take away. To use our hearts to inspire, not conspire. To raise the level of any room we are in.28
Knowing that we have eternal life changes the way we live in the present. We are accountable for our decisions, for the kind of person we become. Understanding our accountability should cause us to put priority on using the gifts and talents God has given us for His glory. Our focus should not be on worldly success, but on living lives which glorify the Lord. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have worldly success—we might—but our focus is on glorifying God and being guided by Him, because we have made it our priority to seek Him for direction and follow what He has shown us. Knowing that we will live with God for eternity should cause us to live with hope, even in trying times. No matter how difficult our lives may be, we know that this present time is only a moment compared to eternity.
The key component to becoming more like Jesus is belief in Scripture—not just head belief, but heart belief. If we truly believe what the Bible teaches and we make the effort to apply those truths to our lives, we experience ongoing transformation. If we truly believe the teachings of the Bible and align our inner self, heart, mind, soul, and spirit with those beliefs, then our thoughts, desires, feelings, decisions, and outward actions reflect those beliefs.
At the same time, the Holy Spirit will also use these truths to speak to our hearts about our shortcomings and sins with the goal of helping us to change. If we are open to the Spirit’s guidance and we desire to become more like Jesus, we acknowledge our sins and work to overcome them through the help of the Holy Spirit. This is part of our transformation, of putting off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and [being] renewed in the spirit of your minds, and [putting] on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.29
Our starting place for Christlikeness is belief in God’s Word. When we believe Scripture, we build our lives on a rock-solid foundation, and we have the conviction to live by those beliefs. It is in living those beliefs that we become more like Jesus.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Ephesians 4:22–24.
2 In the future I hope to write about the various Christian theories of Creation which are considered to be in alignment with what Genesis teaches.
4 The Father addresses the Son as You (Mark 1:11); the Son refers to the Father as He (John 5:20); the Son differentiates Himself from the Father and from the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). For a fuller explanation of the Trinity, click here.
5 Colossians 1:17; Acts 17:28.
6 Acts 17:24; 1 Kings 8:27.
7 John 3:16.
8 1 John 3:1.
9 Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20; Joshua 1:9.
10 Psalm 119:68, 145:9.
11 Psalm 31:19, 68:10; Isaiah 63:7; Jeremiah 31:12.
12 Romans 8:28; Psalm 84:11.
13 Isaiah 55:9.
15 1 Corinthians 15:22.
16 Galatians 3:26.
17 1 Corinthians 1:30.
18 2 Corinthians 5:17.
19 Ephesians 1:3.
20 1 Corinthians 12:27.
21 Romans 8:17.
22 1 Corinthians 3:16.
23 2 Corinthians 5:17.
24 Philippians 3:20.
25 Randy Frazee, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 62–63.
26 1 Corinthians 1:4–8; Colossians 1:12–14.
27 Romans 6:23.
28 Frazee, Think, Act, Be Like Jesus, 63.
29 Ephesians 4:22–24.