More Like Jesus: Introduction and Background (Part 2)
January 12, 2016
by Peter Amsterdam
More Like Jesus: Introduction and Background (Part 2)
The first part of this introduction to the More Like Jesus series touched on the concept of being godly and Christlike, as expressed in the Old Testament and the Gospels. In this part, the focus will be on Christlikeness as expressed in the Epistles.1
The early church came to understand that the covenant-making God of Israel had acted on behalf of humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God’s plan, spoken of within the Old Testament, was now unfolding. The purpose was to call a people from among all nations who would belong to God, be new-covenant partners, and live in the light of God’s glorious act of salvation.
Through salvation, those who are “in Christ” are transformed:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 As new creations in Christ, one of our goals is to live accordingly, to be Christlike. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.3
The apostle Paul exhorted the churches he planted to imitate him.
Paul taught that we are to have the same attitudes as Christ:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.6
Christlikeness entails exhibiting the character of Christ, which is made possible through the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. We see this fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control7—modeled in the life of Jesus.
Exhibiting the character of Christ doesn’t happen without inner conflict. Salvation doesn’t bring an end to the tendency to sin; it doesn’t automatically curb our sinfulness. Therefore we are told to “put off” some aspects of our lives and to “put on” Christlikeness.
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. … Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.8
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.9
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.10
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.11
Stanley Grenz wrote:
Believers must “put off” one reality and “put on” another: Put off the flesh, and put on the spirit. Put off the old life, and put on the new. Put off the works of the flesh, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Put off the deeds of darkness, and put on the deeds of light. In this vivid manner Paul characterized the Christian ethic as forsaking the old life so as to live in the new manner.12
Of course, putting off and putting on, living in a new manner, doesn’t come naturally; it takes diligence and self-discipline. Paul spoke of it as training:
Train yourself for godliness.13 Being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine.14 Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.15
Christlikeness takes effort and self-discipline. It takes intentional “putting off” and “putting on,” by doing what is necessary to align our inner attitudes with God’s Spirit, Word, and will. It takes commitment to spiritual growth, which results in inward transformation, which makes it possible for us to be more God-centered and Christlike. The willingness to put forth the effort and self-discipline is motivated by our love for Jesus and gratitude for the sacrifice He made for us. We fight the good fight of faith, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, and love because we have dedicated ourselves to God, who has reconciled us in Christ.
Because we are eternally grateful for God’s love and compassion, we desire to live “worthy” lives—worthy of the calling we are given,16 worthy of the God who has called us,17 worthy of the Lord,18 and worthy of the gospel of Christ.19
Of course, we are not capable of living worthy and Christ-centered lives in our own strength; the power to do so comes from the Holy Spirit. Grenz wrote,
The same indwelling Spirit who mediates salvation through the believers’ union with Christ also provides the divine power necessary for Christian living. The indwelling Spirit enables us to live on a new plane of existence.20
The Holy Spirit is the way to being Christ-minded, as those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.21 Through the Holy Spirit we experience moral transformation by being changed into the image of Christ.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.22
The presence of the Holy Spirit within empowers us to live transformed lives. That empowerment, coupled with our gratitude toward and love for God, our desire to emulate Jesus, and the personal commitment to invest in the necessary effort and self-discipline, makes it possible to be more like Jesus.
We’ve seen that the Old Testament, Gospels, and Epistles all speak of living in a manner which reflects God into our world. It’s clear that we are called to be holy, loving, kind, merciful, compassionate, and humble—all of which mirror aspects of God’s nature and character. As evidenced in Scripture, there is an expectation that as the people of God, those who were brought into relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son, we will wish to live in alignment with what He has revealed through His Word about Himself and His wishes.
Reading and studying about living a more godly life has been enlightening for me and has helped me in my effort to live my faith. In this series of articles, I’ll be sharing the things that have helped me, and each article will touch on some element of Christlikeness and Christian character. Some will be in a practical vein, while others will focus more on spiritual concepts. The topics of some articles will flow from one into the next, while other articles will stand on their own. My prayer is that in reading these articles you will gain fresh insight as to how to better reflect Jesus in your lives.
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 This article is a summary of chapter three of Stanley J. Grenz’s book The Moral Quest (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1997).
2 2 Corinthians 5:17.
3 Ephesians 5:1–2.
4 1 Corinthians 11:1.
5 1 Corinthians 4:16–17.
6 Philippians 2:3–7 NIV.
7 Galatians 5:22–23.
8 Romans 13:12,14.
9 Ephesians 4:22–24.
10 Colossians 3:9–10.
11 Colossians 3:12–14.
12 Grenz, The Moral Quest, 122.
13 1 Timothy 4:7.
14 1 Timothy 4:6.
15 1 Timothy 6:11–12.
16 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called (Ephesians 4:1).
17 We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (I Thessalonians 2:12).
18 So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).
19 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
20 Grenz, The Moral Quest, 126.
21 Romans 8:5.
22 2 Corinthians 3:18.