It is often striking how alike members of the same family can be. They may share particular characteristics over several generations, including traits of character. The family likeness can be quite obvious. In the family of God, his children are to share God’s likeness, particularly Christ’s likeness. So in our check-up we come to 3. Do you long to be like Jesus?
1. The pattern
Those who are saved by grace (see Ephesians 2:8) are to be – and will be – transformed. Note:
(i) Jesus the perfect man. The church must be careful to assert the full humanity of Jesus. He still has a body and soul like ours, with the single exception of sin. Thus in order to save us, ‘he had to be made like his brothers in every way’ (Hebrews 2:16), including temptation (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus is everything that humanity was created to be, and so he is the perfect pattern to which we are to be conformed.
(ii) Jesus our example. The redemptive work of Jesus is unique, but in all other respects his life is the perfect example of loving conformity to God’s law (1 Peter 1:19). The desire of all God’s children is to be like their elder brother, Jesus. Note 1 John 2:6 ‘Whoever claims to live like him must walk as Jesus walked’. He is our ‘example’ (1 Peter 2:21). This is clear in his command in John 15:12 ‘Love each other as I have loved you’.
2. The progress
Central to Christian living is the command of 1 Peter 1:15 ‘just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do’. Holiness is to be understood in terms of likeness to Christ. This is Paul’s theme in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – progressive sanctification as the Holy Spirit reproduces in us the likeness of the Saviour. Ultimately this is God’s work: ‘it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose’ (Philippians 2:13). Galatians 5:22-23 on ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, describes for us the character of Jesus which is to be increasingly evident in us. The Lord’s chief concern is with the heart – the centre of our being, including our thoughts, motives and feelings (see e.g. Proverbs 4:23). God is concerned first with our being and then with the doing that flows from it. What kind of heart do you have? We must not fail to see that we have a duty to be active in this transformation, by the Spirit’s enabling. We must use the means of grace that the Lord provides, including feeding on the Word.
3. The perfection
In our battle with sin, we have the encouragement that the Lord will complete his work:
(i) In the present. Romans 6:14 ‘sin shall not be your master’. Christ is our Lord and he will remake us in his likeness. We are not doomed to perpetual defeat.
(ii) In the future. Our souls are perfected at death – ‘spirits of righteous men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23) and at the Lord’s return ‘we shall be like him’ (1 John 3:2-3), body and soul.