Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)
What kind of person do you want to become? This is an important Christian question. This is a question all Christians need to contemplate. Becoming a Christian is the beginning of a life changing journey. It is a transformation into the image of Jesus. If the kind of person we want to become does not look like Jesus, then we have the wrong model.
To become like Jesus is not some flowery language we use while never expecting anything to happen. To become like Jesus is not something that happens after we die. To become like Jesus is something that is real, practical, and concrete. We have been given four accounts of the life of Jesus. We know what kind of person he was. We know the things he said and did. The writers of the New Testament believed the life of Jesus could be lived out in our own lives.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
If we are going to get serious about becoming like Jesus, then we need to ask ourselves some practical questions. We need to be open and honest. We need to examine our lives so we know what we need to work on. This self-examination needs to be combined with prayer and Scripture meditation.
Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start.
How are we like Jesus in the conversations we have? Is the focus of our conversations more on ourselves or others? Do we listen to the people we are conversing with or are we simply waiting for our turn to speak? Are we an encouragement to others or do we just like to complain? Do we only have conversations with people we like or do we seek to engage people on the margins?
How are we like Jesus in how we treat others? Do we put the needs of others before our own? Do we value some human beings over others? Do we notice people who often get overlooked? Do we show compassion to people who are suffering?
How are we like Jesus as a parent and a spouse? Is the love we have for our spouse like the love Jesus had for the church (Eph. 5:25)? Do we make time to spend with our spouse and our children? Do we exemplify the life of Jesus to our family? Do we act one way around our family and another way in public?
We cannot be transformed into the image of Jesus on our own. We need help. We need people in our lives whom we trust, people we can share things with and who will pray for us. We need to be connected to mature Christians who are able to mentor us, but this is not all. Most importantly we need to be connected to God. In 2 Cor. 3:17-18 Paul informs us that our transformation into the image of Jesus is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we are struggling with something in our life, the first place we should turn is to God. God uses our weaknesses to his glory. God is able to do what we cannot do on our own. We cannot expect to change if we do not have a healthy prayer life.
We must set aside time for daily prayer. We must get in a prayer rhythm so it becomes natural and a part of our lives. This can be difficult and many people struggle with prayer. If you are having a hard time praying you are not alone. If you cannot find the words to pray, then use a prayer book. Pray the prayers of others until you are able to pray on your own. Some people find it helpful to record their prayers in a prayer journal. Whatever struggles you may have be encouraged to press on. We need prayer. Prayer is able to change lives.
How we approach Scripture is important to whether or not we are going to be transformed by it. It is possible to know lots of Scripture and even be able to quote it but not be transformed by it. In order to be transformed by God’s holy word, we need to spend time regularly meditating on the word. Meditating is different from reading or study. When we meditate we open ourselves up to transformation. Meditation involves choosing a smaller portion of Scripture and reading it several times, praying over it, and seeking ways to apply it to our life. We can be changed by any passage within the Bible, but there are several passages which speak directly to the transformation we seek. Here are a few.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippian 2:3-8)
This is a good meditation to return to often. We naturally think of ourselves more than others and we need to be reminded that the Christian life involves sacrifice. The life of Jesus was a life concerned with the other. Jesus lived for others and he died for others. To have the mind of Jesus is to humble ourselves and look to the interests of others.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
Conflict is a part of life and when we experience conflict we often want to seek revenge. This is not the way of Jesus. Meditating on this passage from Romans will help us deal with difficult situations. Through prayer we will learn to be a calming presence, instead of a person who only adds fuel to the fire. Our mission as Christians is not to seek revenge, but to do good deeds to all and share the love of Jesus with others.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
There is much in these four verses to dwell on. To be like Jesus means we are to have “compassionate hearts” and act in “kindness.” It means we must be patient while we are “bearing with one another.” It means we must forgive. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of what forgiveness looks like. From the cross he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgives! He does not wait for the murderers to come to them. He does not wait until they feel sorry for their actions or admit any wrong. He forgives and this is what we are to do as well. When we are wronged we must forgive as quickly as we can. This is not an easy thing to do, but if we are going to be like Jesus we must practice it.
What kind of person do you want to become? To wear the name Christ means that we seek to be like him. This is not something that happens overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a month or a year. It is a journey that will take us a lifetime. To become like Jesus will take discipline, patience, and endurance. In a culture that wants everything right now, we are not always accustomed to things that take time. The life of a Christian is abundant and rewarding, but we must not get in a hurry or we might become frustrated. To become the kind of person we want to become involves us committing to a life of examination, prayer, and meditation. If we trust ourselves to God, then God will make something beautiful out of our flawed and imperfect life.