How do we become like Jesus? The Christian life is filled with spiritual blessings that are both available in this life and in the next life. Some of those spiritual blessings manifest either through joy, resilience, wisdom, understanding, tenderness towards others, and more. But despite the blessings, the Christian life is also filled with certain confusions either because of bad teaching, bad preaching, or bad experience. Regardless of the cause, Christians fall prey to the line Christian leaders give out: “Christianity is all about _______” only to hear another leader say otherwise.
Instead of looking on to people for answers about the ultimate goal of the Christian life, it is best to turn our eyes to what God says in His Word. An important question to ask is: What is God’s Ultimate Goal for the Christian?
What is God’s Ultimate Goal for the Christian?
Every Christian has their own faith journey. This is not to say that there are many paths leading to God because there is only one and that is Jesus. But what this means is that every believer’s journey may look differently than others. For some, they got to know Jesus at a young age. While for others, they gave their lives to Jesus in their mid-life. Some grew up in a Christian home. While others became the first Christian in their homes. Regardless of how every believer’s journey looks like, they all have one path to take and one end goal: To be like Christ.
It is true that Jesus himself said that the most important commandments are loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then, loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). God also said that we are to be “Holy for He is holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). So which one is it? The answer is both of it and more but in a word, this is called: Christlikeness.
What is Christlikeness?
Christlikeness is the condition by which a believer’s life is conformed to Christ and His holy desires through the purpose of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christlikeness is living and being like Christ in all aspects of a believer’s life. This means that all the spiritual disciplines, teachings, preachings, trials, and tribulations are geared toward His people becoming like His son to the highest degree.
Christlikeness starts in this life but it cannot be fully achieved in this life. We graciously strive to be like Christ because it is God’s Will for us but we also wait until we become fully like Him because it is also God’s Will for us. This is what separates Christianity for all other religions. In essence, the religions of the world teach their followers that they are to be a perfect person or a better human being with the help of their laws and practices. While their idea of perfection has various descriptions that cannot be summed up in one word, Christianity’s idea of perfection is summed up in one word: Christlikeness.
God’s goal for the Christian is not merely to be a better person or a better individual but to be like His only Son, an endeavor that is humanly impossible but divinely certain. Now that we know God’s highest and most noble goal for the Christian, how does He do it?
How can I be like Christ?
How can I be like Christ? The question is simple and clear but can become really complicated when it comes to looking for the most accurate and practical answer. This question can be answered in various ways like being loving, being sacrificial, being a servant, etc. But is there an overarching guide to be like Christ? A guide that is general enough to help believers have a clear grasp of God’s work in their lives but specific enough to be applied in their personal lives.
Thankfully, there is: Sanctification, Mortification, and Vivification.
Sanctification is the gracious and supernatural partnership with the Holy Spirit as the believer journeys in this life. It is the divine process of becoming holy or conforming to the life of Christ. There are many biblical references to the idea of sanctification but one of the clearest ones is found in 1 Corinthians 6:11:
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Sanctification is the removal of indwelling sins through the God-given means of spiritual disciplines and divinely ordained circumstances. You can think of it this way: If Christlikeness is the goal then sanctification is the path by which you walk towards it. This is the reason why it is a partnership. The goal is clear and the path laid out but Jesus cannot walk on it on our behalf. We have to do our part of responding to the nudges of the Holy Spirit. The encouragement we get in sanctification is that we do not walk alone because the Holy Spirit will be with us every step of the way.
Mortification and Vivification
Mortification and vivification are biblical concepts that describe the details of sanctification. If sanctification is the scissors that cuts off our sinful nature, mortification and vivification are the sharp blades that make up the scissors.
Mortification is the act of killing sin in us. This word is used in the King James Version and you can find it in Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5. While there are differences in modern translations, it still has the same idea and concept: Mortification is the act of killing sin.
Vivification was first used by John Calvin and it cannot be found in the Bible. However, its concept is definitely in it. To vivify means to give or add life to something, a concept that John Calvin used to describe what it means to “put on Christ” as found in Romans 13:!4 which says:
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Ultimately, emulating Jesus is an impossible goal for any person unless God works in and through Him powerfully. Ever since the fall, embodying the values of the Godhead has been an elusive dream but because of the gracious and redemptive plan of God manifested in the death and resurrection of Christ, those who pursue to be like Jesus will surely be like Him.
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. — Philippians 1:6
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