Learning To Be Christ-like

Learning to be Christ-like

One of the definitions I recently found for Christian is someone who exhibits a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; or Christ-like.

I wanted to share a quote that I came across by Daniel Wallace related to this topic. He said: “When I was a young man, I desperately wanted to be Christ-like. I was told that this was the primary objective of the Christian life. The more I worked at it, however, the more I began to see my failings. Every time I needed to ask forgiveness from someone, I considered myself a failure at the prime objective. Every time someone corrected me or pointed out some blind-spot in my life, I realized that I was treading backwards. It started to unnerve me. As the years rolled on, these constant failings became too much. Slowly, imperceptibly at first, I recoiled at the notion that I was still a depraved sinner. After all, I had been a believer for many years—shouldn’t I be reaching perfection by now?”

Learning to be Christ-like can be very challenging at times and we as Christians will experience many difficulties as we continue to grow stronger in our faith. Every time we take a new step closer to being Christ-like the easier it will become for us to overcome those difficulties because they will make us stronger and better Christians.

The scriptures are full of passages that instruct us to be Christ-like:

In 1st Corinthians 11:1 – Paul says: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Further instructions from Paul in 1st Corinthians 4:16-17 says: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord.  He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

2nd Corinthians 3:18 says: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

In Philipians 2: 1 – 5, we receive additional instruction from Paul about imitating Christ.  He says: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility considers 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.”

1st John 2:6 tells us: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

1st Peter 2:21says: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

In Ephesians 4: 11-13, we are told: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

One thing we must always try to remember on our journey to heaven is what Paul said in,

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Anytime we feel like giving up on growing more Christ-like we need to remind ourselves that we have made commitment to serve God for what He has done for us through His Son and that our life belongs to him and it is our duty to live our life for Christ and be a shinning lamp for Him in this dark world of sin, but this is easier said than done.

In addition to the instructions we receive through scripture, I think it is helpful and encouraging for us to look at Jesus’ disciples and how they struggled with becoming more Christ-like as they grew stronger in their faith. As we do this we will see that we have struggled with some of the same things they struggled with.

Now at first many of those that followed Jesus did so because He simply invited them to come follow Him and so many left their jobs to do that very thing. These men didn’t have any idea the impact that decision would end up having on their lives and how important they would become in influencing others to follow Jesus as well. As Jesus started gathering more disciples they had the privilege to see the master at work as He healed people and showed great love and compassion for the poor and the down trodden but it didn’t take long for his disciples faith to be tested as we read in,

Read: Matthew Ch 8 verses 23 - 27

Now several of these disciples that were with him were experienced fishermen and they knew how dangerous the water could be and they were scared. I can imagine what was going through their mind when they saw the Jesus was sleeping through all this. They didn’t waste any time waking him up because of their fear and they looked to him to be saved. Then Jesus points out how weak their faith is at this point and then he calms the storm and his disciples are truly amazed.

This same thing happens to many Christians today. Things will happen in our lives that will cause us to have great fear because we have not learned to have enough trust in God.

When we face fear, we need to keep in mind what Paul tells us in,

Romans 8:28 – He says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

God can take any situation that may arise and make good come from it in one way or another and when we see God working in our life and the results that come from it we to will stand in awe just like Jesus disciples did as He calmed the storm in their life that was causing them to fear.

Another difficulty that we as Christians face is staying committed to God when times are tough or we don’t fully understand God’s Word. We see this happening in John 6 where Jesus began telling those following him that he was the bread of life that came from heaven.

Read John Ch 6, verses 51 – 66

This situation happens to Christians who have not counted the cost of discipleship. They like the concept of having a God that loves and offers them salvation but if they can’t wrap their minds around what God reveals for us to do then many times Christians will fall away and follow Jesus no more just like these people who didn’t take the time to try and understand what Jesus was teaching here. One or two things will happen when we face situations like this, we will either try to understand and grow from this experience or we will simply throw our hands up in the air and give up on God. Times like these in a Christian’s life separates the pretenders from those who truly are trying to be Christ-like.

As we continue on this chapter we will see that Jesus’ apostles did not allow this situation to fall away.

Verses 67 – 69 says:

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  68 But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  69 "Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 

These are words spoken by someone who truly understands that Jesus had the word of eternal life and He was willing to follow after Jesus all the way to the best of his ability. We, as Christians today, must do the same and realize that even when we don’t understand why God has set up things a certain way we must trust in His infinite wisdom and conform to his teachings found in the Bible. And when we find scriptures that we don’t fully understand we should not allow it to make us falter in our faith but instead, it should challenge us to try and figure out what it is saying. This will lead us to praying for wisdom and having deeper hunger for God’s Word.

Now as more time went on Peter, James and John were eye witnesses of Jesus’ transfiguration upon the mountain where they saw Elijah and Moses but while they were gone Jesus’ other disciples had another problem with their weak faith as we read in Luke Chapter 9.

Luke Ch 9, verses 37 – 42 (Read)

Once again we have instance where Jesus’ disciples faith was weak and they were not able to accomplish what they wanted to do which was casting the demon of this child. Now while demon possession doesn’t occur today we can still see how this relates to us today in the fact that sometimes there are things we want to accomplish in the name of the Lord but because of our weak faith we don’t have the drive to follow through and so we give up before we really tried very hard. But the stronger we become in our faith the more drive we will have and we can and will accomplish what we set out to do knowing that we can draw strength from God to help us with our goal.

Another thing some battle with as we grow as Christians is pride and we can see this with Jesus’ disciples as we continue in Luke Chapter 9.

Luke Ch 9, verses 46 – 48 tells us:

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.”

At this point Jesus’ disciples were viewing their discipleship as a contest to see who was the greatest. This is wrong attitude to have as a Christian. We should never be in some competition to see who is the greatest Christian. Some Christians do this by comparing themselves with other Christians. They may do this so that they can try to make themselves feel better about how much better they are than someone else. Christians who do this remind us of the story Jesus tells his disciples in Luke Chapter 18.

Read Luke Ch 18, verses 10 - 14

If we are not careful we can get caught up in this game of seeing who is the greatest by comparing ourselves but we must learn to get beyond this way of thinking and realize that we are all servants of God and that we should not worry about how much or little someone else is doing but instead we should focus in on what we are doing and if we are doing enough based upon our individual abilities. We should spend more time on encouraging others to do more for the lord instead of comparing what they do with what we do. We saw this in the scripture we read earlier in Philippians Chapter 2, verses 1 – 5.

So learning to be Christ-like certainly includes learning to become humble and to think more than just about ourselves.

Another thing we struggle with as we learn to be Christ-like is to have mercy upon the wicked and we can see that Jesus’ disciples struggled with this as we read in Luke Chapter 9.

Read Luke Ch 9, verses 51 - 56

In this instance the Samaritans didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus, and James and John wanted to go straight for the jugular vein and cast fire down upon them but Jesus lets them know that this should not be their attitude because he came to save people’s soul not to put them to death at the initial rejection. Jesus understood that these people could possible follow after later on and they would never have that chance if they were destroyed right now.

Sometimes we as Christians have this mentality. We want people to listen about Jesus and learn to love him but we get impatient when they turn us down and we start thinking bad thoughts about that person and we might even start hoping that something bad happens to them since they have rejected to hear the good news.

We should not have this type of attitude instead we should realize that at some point in that person’s life they may have a change of heart and then they will listen to the life saving message of Jesus and it may because of us that they have that opportunity. This means we should not give up on that person totally and we should pray for them that their heart will be opened to the truth because God wants all people to come to understanding of this truth so that they will repent and turn to him. We need to realize as we grow that all God has asked us to do is to plant his seed and water it and He will take care of the rest.

We are never called upon to force someone to become a Christian or take vengeance on that person for not listening because vengeance and judgment belongs to the Lord.

Jesus also sent out his disciples to teach the people about how the kingdom was on its way and Jesus has also commanded all Christians to go out and teach the gospel to the world but again to be able to teach others is learning processes and it takes time. The Bible describes the word of God as sword and it also describes us as soldiers of Christ. When we first become Christians we are green behind the ears and many times we first pull out that sword we may scream real loud and close our eyes and just come swinging that sword in every direction.

We can only learn how to use our sword properly by practicing all the time and learning from the mistakes that we make. In doing this we will learn to be more Christ-like.

Jesus’ disciples went through many difficulties and learning experiences and this caused them to grow to become faithful followers of Christ. Once they had grown their faith stronger, it gave them courage and the ability to face their adversaries with confidence. In Acts 4 Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and the Sanhedrin council wanted to punish them but they could not disprove the miracle they had just done that made a man walk that had not walked for over 40 years so they threatened them and told them not speak about Jesus. But watch their response based upon their strong faith in Jesus in,

Acts 4:19 – 20  But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."       

Then as we move into Acts 5 we see the apostles preaching Jesus and once again they get arrested but this time an angel frees them from prison and because of their strong faith they go right back and preach Jesus again and are seized one more time. And this time they are beaten and told not to preach Jesus anymore but watch what happens as result of this.

Acts 5:vs 41 & 42  So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.  42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Because of their strong faith in the Lord they rejoiced in suffering for the cause of Christ and this motivated them to preach even more. This is how strong our faith in the Lord can become as we continue to learn to be more Christ-like. Now, it doesn’t matter how much you grow in your faith to the Lord because there is always more room to grow. We can certainly see this with the faithful apostle Peter as we read in Galatians Chapter 2.

Galatians Ch 2 verses 11- 13 says:  When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

Not only was Peter an apostle he was a elder at a congregation and he had grown leaps and bounds in his faithfulness to the Lord but in this instance he fell short and he sinned as he played the hypocrite against the gentiles. But, I guarantee you he learned from this and grew more in his faith and became more Christ-like and that is exactly what we must do as Christians. Never stop growing in your faith, continue to press on to learn to be more Christ-like. The final scripture I would like to share with you before we summarize and close are the words of Peter where he teaches us what we must do as Christians to learn to be Christ-like.

Read 2nd Peter Ch 1, verses 5 - 12

Through the scriptures we have reviewed this morning, we were reminded of several examples from the early disciples of Jesus. We noted that:

  • Their faith was tested of they were weak in faith
  • They struggled with a lack of trust in God
  • Some had trouble staying committed to Jesus
  • They had problems with pride and learning humility
  • They were challenged in having mercy on others and being patient

But most importantly, we see that the difficulties and challenges they faced, caused them to grow in their faith in the Lord. We know that we, as Christians today, face similar challenges on a daily basis.  We should seek daily to continuously improve our service to the Lord through the guidance of the scriptures and following the ultimate example provided to us by Jesus Christ.

As I typically do, I would like to close our lesson today with some practical tips to consider as we strive to be more Christ-like:

  • We can become more like Christ by studying the life of Christ. The scriptures we looked at this morning are just a sampling of the instructions and lessons we find in God’s word. It is critical to our Christian walk that we regularly study God’s word.
  • After studying and knowing his word, we can become more Christ-like by applying His teachings.  James 1:22 commands, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."  We ask God for the ability to be more like Christ, learn more about Christ, and then apply what we learn in serving others. In fact, Matthew 25:40 teaches, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." The way we treat the "least of these" is an indication of how we treat Christ.

To be more Christ-like, we will treat the lowliest and most left out people with much love.

  • We can also become more Christ-like by following the Christian example of others. As we read earlier from Paul in 1st Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ". When we find a person who lives for Christ, we can learn much about becoming more Christ-like by learning from that person. While no human is perfect, a godly person can offer help through modeling Christian principles in practical ways.
  • We can continue to be more Christ-like through the encouragement of other Christians. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." When we encourage one another in our Christian faith, it can help us better live like Christ.

I hope that this lesson has been helpful to each of you this morning.  As we leave here today, let’s focus on what we can do every day to be more Christ-like.

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