This week, as we continue thinking about the five purposes for which God created us, let’s briefly examine the third purpose . . . you were created to become like Christ. Romans 8:29 as expressed in “The Message,” a paraphrase of the Scriptures, gives us the biblical basis for this purpose:
“God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son . . . We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him.”
The first chapter of Genesis tells us that God created mankind in His image (v.26) which means we are spiritual beings like Him, and we were given the ability to reason, relate, and make moral judgements in a manner like Him. Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they marred that image created in mankind. That is why we all have the nature and inclination to sin, and why we need the Savior . . . Jesus Christ.
An important fact is this: we were not created to become gods, we were created to become godly. There is a big difference in the two. We cannot become a god like our Heavenly Father. He is truly holy which means He is totally unique, unlike any other. We are to become godly, however, and that means to take on the values, attitudes, and character of God. Unlike what some Christians think, it isn’t God’s intention to make your life comfortable. Instead, His desire is to develop your character. Rick Warren makes a great while discussing this fact – “Every time you forget that character is one of God’s purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances.”
Why doesn’t God simply give us heaven on earth? It’s because we would never grow in our faith and in our character if life never had any troubles. The very reason God allows difficulties to come our way is that they enable us to grow and be better prepared for heaven. When a Christian faces life’s difficulties, we should do so with thanksgiving, knowing that our trials build our character. There have been a number of things which have happened in my life that I can’t really say I want to occur again – I’ve have deep sorrows, experienced life threatening injuries, and been hurt by the people I loved, but at the same time I cannot say I regret any of these things because I know they have resulted in my becoming a stronger, more committed follower of Christ. They have also helped me to be a better minister to others. Paul understood this truth when he proclaimed, “I now rejoice in my suffering for You (Christ)” (Colossians 1:24, NKJV).
The key to Christlikeness is to have Christ living at the very center of your life. We cannot successfully “act” like Christ. We will always fail in our imitation. To be more like Christ you must choose to allow Jesus to control your life . . . to live in and through you. This isn’t something you will ever do perfectly, and it take a lifetime for our character to develop. This process is called discipleship. Discipleship is a choice, a commitment to do whatever God requires of you, to go wherever He leads you to go, and to think in a way consistent with the way He thinks. Realize, though, that this commitment, no matter how strong-willed you may be, is never going to be strong enough on its own. You need help, and help comes in the form of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. God recognizes that we are weak, and He delights in showing His own strength when we acknowledge our own weakness. In II Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul spoke of a “thorn in his flesh.” We don’t know what that thorn was, but it was something that He pleaded with God to remove from his life. God declined. Instead, God chose to demonstrate His own power through Paul’s weakness. Paul tells us that God’s reply to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (v.9). Paul was later able to say that because God received glory from overcoming his weakness, he was glad to be weak, glad to be sick, persecuted, and distressed. Why? “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (v.10).
Let God transform your life and begin the process of growing you in the likeness of Christ. It will make sense of the troubles you experience, and it will prepare you for the eternal life which follows this very short time we spend in this life.