What is Christlikeness??
What is Christlikeness??
How many times have we all heard the term “Christlike”? A million right? If you have been a believer trying to pursue spiritual growth, it is likely you have as well, but what does this term actually mean? What does being “like Christ” look like practically speaking? Is this characteristic even possible? Are we to pursue something that is actually not attainable to mere humans? After all, the attributes of Christ are powerful, sinless, humble, righteous, perfect, loving, and holy. I don’t know a single person who, even if they tried relentlessly could achieve this. So why would the Bible tell us to strive for something that can never actually be realized? Does it? This has been a question that the Lord has been dealing with me heavily on.
My pastor touched on this message tonight, and I loved it. Although, he would be the first to admit that this subject is far too exhaustive for one message. How can we discuss the idea of Christlikeness in one night? You can’t, but in all of my years of sitting under pretty amazing pastors, I’ve learned that the best messages are not those that pretend to give you all the answers. The best messages are those that leave you with a lot of questions; questions that you HAVE to go and wrestle with God to have answered.
I recently had someone I love very deeply warn me about the tendency I have to make my life revolve around the cerebral, particularly in my faith. He said it led to his “not really feeling anything, but doing things because he knew he should, not because he wanted to”. I tend to see things very black and white. I lead with my head and don’t understand those that feel things very deeply. In my immaturity, I looked down on the spiritual health of people who experience God differently than I do. God has wrecked me of that. I make decisions with pros and cons lists, with logic, and with a tendency toward arrogance. What killed me about this friend was that I understood this warning. I appreciated it because I know that in my flesh my faith can become all about right and wrong. It can become all about what I should DO instead of who I should BECOME. This loved one said that his life was so much better now that he is not bound by the “rigidity that comes with our faith”. The problem is, this is part of our faith. Absolutely it is.
God gave us the law in Exodus, and Jesus upheld it in His life. More than that he said,
So what is the first step to being Christlike? I believe, Scripture supports that it is obedience…and not just lawful doing what God says to do and not doing what He says not to do, but a submission to God’s authority. That means even if we disagree or don’t understand. Even if it makes absolutely no sense….like leaving the comfort of friends, family, an amazing church and going to someplace hard… obey…submit.
I recently did a post on David and what it means to be a man after God’s own heart. David understood this concept of obedience better than most. This is why he was given such an austere title that we all try to emulate thousands of years later.
But what about those times when we obey and we don’t get what we wanted or what we think we should? We all know the right answer….it’s all in God’s hands. But it sucks when it actually happens and often that answer is just painful when we’re in the middle of it. How do we deal with the disappointment? The best example of this is Jesus.
Remember the prayer in the Garden? Jesus prayed that God would take this cup from Him… and God didn’t. Jesus prayed for an outcome that didn’t come to pass, and that had to be disappointing, but the end of His prayer is paramount…” not my will, but thine be done”…OBEDIENCE- a submission to God’s authority; even if it’s painful…even if it costs us something. Something like comfort, position, entitlement, sex, authority, ministry, or a relationship.“ A submission to God’s authority” is the beginning to a life of Christ-likeness.
What happens when we show that kind of obedience? Go back to John 14:21
So when we obey God, He manifests Himself to us. What do we get when we obey through disappointment or pain or denial of self? We get intimacy with God. We cannot know God without understanding the HUMILITY of obedience.
But, there is something else we must strive for before we can say we are living lives striving for Christlikeness. “The greatest of these is love”. Christians have such a hard time with this. While straddling the line of grace and righteousness, some believers take a foot off of one or the other and lose their stability altogether. We MUST remain with feet planted firmly on BOTH. You do not have to relinquish your stance on righteousness to be full of grace, and you do not have to be full of judgment to be holy.
(Somewhat of a side note, but I feel it’s an important note: Obedience leads us to encounter God, and scripture teaches us that we CANNOT ENCOUNTER THE LIVING GOD AND REMAIN UNCHANGED (James 1:23). Anytime, someone has a genuine encounter with God, there is life change. If there is no change, there was no encounter. But this is a
charge FOR BELIEVERS.)
Christians often use this as a club with which to bludgeon non-believers into moral and biblical obedience. It’s not going to work. Grace upon grace upon grace for those that have not yet encountered God. My mom used to say it this way, “you’ve got to expect lost people to act like lost people”, and we’ve got to stop being surprised when people who don’t believe in Jesus don’t act like Jesus… THAT’S WHAT WE’RE FOR. And crucifying them for their perceived immorality ain’t gonna do anything to advance the Kingdom. God is not surprised by the degradation. Jesus, after all, raised holy hell on those in the temple and showed mercy to the tax collectors and prostitutes. Judgement here on Earth is for believers to keep each other accountable in love. Grace, church, grace.
That’s the love piece, but we are to never forget the “righteous” piece…that’s the head part.
The law is still in effect. It is still important and still applicable. The law was the physical embodiment of God’s call to righteousness and humility for His people. He wanted them to strive for morality and to recognize that they could never attain perfection. It is because of this that we have Christ- the embodiment of the complete gospel; righteousness and love.
We cannot have just one or the other, or we do not have the faith. We can struggle with one or the other but show me a judgmental pharisee and I will show you an idolatrous pagan who worships the tool of the Bible more than the God of the Bible.
Show me a spineless, compromising heretic and I will show you someone who worships the creation of God more than the being of God. You must understand the need for both- righteousness and grace. This, sadly, is what my friend didn’t quite understand. If you miss one, you miss God.
So what is it? What is the special formula to becoming Christlike? I believe that scripture supports the idea that to be like Christ, you must have a practicing life of obedience that leads to encountering God. This encounter compels us to a life of loving His children. “For those who love Christ, keep His commands”…and “the greatest of these is love”.
Would love your thoughts. Leave a comment.