Is there a more daunting word in the Christian vocabulary than Christlikeness? Can you imagine a more ambitious goal? Think about it—at a young boy’s first peewee basketball practice, the coach doesn’t hand him a ball and say, “Let’s see some Jordan-likeness.” The first time a young girl steps onto a tennis court, the instructor doesn’t hand her a racket and say, “From now on, when people look at you, they should see Serena Williams.”
Yet what happens when we put our faith in Christ? Jesus is the only Son of God. He came to earth to do what we could not do for ourselves. He lived a sinless life. He never once gave in to temptation. He dedicated Himself completely to God’s will, used Scripture to drive away Satan, and demonstrated sacrificial love like never seen before or since. He was the most important life in human history. Oh, and by the way, when people look at you, they should see Him.
Christlikeness relates to our relationship with God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the way we view the world. We’ll also discover that Christlikeness is not as far beyond our reach as it may seem. In fact, with God’s help, it’s well within our grasp.
1. The Purpose of Sanctification (Romans 8:28-29)
Definition: Sanctification is the process by which God molds our actions, attitudes, and affections to resemble Jesus Christ.
- The Promise (Romans 8:28)
Let’s start with verse 28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good.” Those 13 words are an optimist’s delight. They seem to imply that no matter how horrible something happens in your life, somewhere, there’s something good. And if you look hard enough or wait long enough, you’ll see the silver lining in the cloud.
The Promise Is NOT Claiming That …
- All things are good.
- We can see good in all things.
- The Promise of a Purpose (Romans 8:29)
- God has a purpose for your life.
- God’s purpose includes all things.
- God is in control of all that happens to you.
The process by which God conforms us to the image of His Son is known as sanctification, and it’s a lifetime project. Someone has said, “Justification is the work of the moment; sanctification is the work of a lifetime.”
Justification happens the moment we trust in Christ as our Savior. We are no more justified 20 years after we are saved than the moment we are saved.
Sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and progresses until God calls us home. Hopefully, every day we are more sanctified than the day before.
“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
Look at this verse. You are the one who must lay aside your old nature. You are the one who must lay aside anger, malice, and wrath. You are the one who’s responsible for walking in the Spirit. You are the one who’s responsible for putting on the new self. In other words, don’t wait for God to do these things for you.
- God’s Responsibility (Philippians 1:6)
Other people embrace the “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me” approach to sanctification. This is the pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-spiritual-bootstraps mindset that says if you just read your Bible and pray enough, you’ll eventually become like Jesus Christ. But that approach won’t work either. Jesus, Himself said so in John 15:5: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
That leaves only the middle ground. Sanctification, the process of becoming like Jesus, is a cooperative effort between God and us. God supplies the power; we supply the effort. Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.
3. The Product Of Sanctification (Colossians 3:1-14)
When Christ was raised from the dead, he didn’t take his grave clothes He had been wrapped in with him out of the tomb—He left them behind. When we become Christian, we need to leave behind our old, stinking behaviors that characterize our old life and put on new behavior and attitudes that reflect those of the risen Lord.
And then, beginning in verse 12, Paul lists six characteristics we are to put on if we want to look like Jesus Christ.
Christlikeness is a tall order. There’s no denying that. But it’s never beyond our grasp—not even after we’ve failed spectacularly. Our Christlikeness doesn’t come down to one make-or-break moment in our lives. It comes down to the dozens of decisions we make every day.
Every interaction we have, every temptation we face, and every decision we make about what we will or will not do in a given situation is a new opportunity to let others see Christ in us.
God has told us His will—to be conformed to the image of Christ. God has equipped us to accomplish His will with the power of the Holy Spirit. As amazing as it sounds, we DO have the power to be like Christ.
The late Dallas Willard wrote, “The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.”
By cooperating with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can become like Jesus Christ. That’s what every Christians should know about Christlikeness.
Full Passage: Romans 8:28-29