Becoming Like Christ
I once heard the famous American radio talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, asked: “If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one man from the history of the world, who would it be?” And he answered, “Jesus Christ.” Good choice, although Rush may have been mostly thinking of the walking on water thing. Limbaugh is a professed Christian, but even the secular world, perhaps unknowingly, daily acknowledges the profound historical impact of the only begotten Son of God. How? Well, actually every time they date a document, with the unspoken “A.D.” understood to follow. Others acknowledge him on the other end of the historical scale when they read the comic strip, “B.C.” And of course, a number of people even invoke his name regularly, albeit some of those when they hit their thumb with a hammer.
Jesus Christ is the most famous man who ever lived, and, given the quality of his life, would no doubt be considered by even some non-Christians as the person they would most want to emulate. Sad to say that even many Christians, those who profess him as their Lord and Savior, doubt that they could ever really be like him. Part of the “Good News” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that every believer, every member of the Body of Christ, can be like the Lord. In fact, he gave us the example of his life primarily to inspire us to “…walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6 – NKJV). That would be a fantasy were it not for the truth that he also filled us with his spirit to enable us to be like he was and do what he did (John 14:12).
By definition, the word “becoming” indicates growth and change, a “getting from here to there,” if you will. From where I am to where he is, and that involves a path. If “I am the way” just came to your mind, bravo! The word “way” means a path or road, and we know from that verse (John 14:6) that Jesus Christ is the only way to everlasting salvation. He is also the only way to maximizing the benefits of our salvation in this twisted world. Because he blazed a trail of faith to the heart of God, he can and will walk (and run) beside you and me step by step on our individual paths of righteousness. He knows the way to wholeness because he is The Way.
(1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, [the examples of those believers set forth in Hebrews 11] let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
(2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The Greek word translated “author” in verse 2 above is archegos, and it means “the first one in line in a column or file.” Jesus Christ is the first and only human being who walked a path of complete trust (faith) in his heavenly Father, and by so doing made it possible for us to do likewise. The same word appears in Acts 3:15 (KJV), which calls Jesus “the Prince [archegos] of life.” Jesus Christ is the first and only person who ever lived life to the fullest, and now you and I, energized by his spirit within us, can follow suit and “…have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). And in Hebrews 2:10 (KJV), Jesus is referred to as “…the captain [archegos] of their [our] salvation….” He is the only man who could have cleared and paved the way to everlasting life. Now that path is clearly “marked out” for us, so let us follow in his steps.
As Hebrews 12:2 exhorts, we are to “fix our eyes” on Jesus as we run the race, keeping his sterling example vividly in mind. Our very personal Lord has a personal curriculum of growth for each of us, and he is always right there with us, beckoning us ever forward into greater intimacy with him.
(28) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
(29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
(30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I don’t know about you (actually, I do—see Rom. 7:14-25), but there is something in me that, if I allow it to, works against my desire to get close to Jesus. You guessed it—it is the deceitful and disgusting “sin living in me” (Rom. 7:17), and it tries to get me to believe a lot of lies, both about Jesus and about myself. Consider the record in Luke 5:1–9, the first part of which I will summarize as follows:
One day Jesus was preaching the Word on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and the crowd grew too big to hear him well. He saw a boat and asked the owner, Simon Peter, if he could use it, requesting that he shove out a ways to take advantage of the acoustic benefits of the water carrying his voice. Peter didn’t realize that Jesus intended to rent the boat (“the workman is worthy of his hire”), but after he finished preaching, Jesus told Pete to go into deeper waters, cast out his nets, and he would get some fish. Now Peter may have been thinking, “Well, actually, you’re a carpenter and I’m the fisherman, and we just spent the whole night out there and didn’t catch a thing. But hey, for you I’ll go through the motions.” “Holy mackerels!” They had so many fish in the net that they had to get the other boat to come over and help haul them in.
And then Peter, still on the boat with Jesus, said the logical, obvious thing: “Wow! Thanks so much for the tip. Take some fish home to the family.” Nope. He said: “Jesus, would you please get off the boat?” Why, because Jesus was a sinful man? No, Peter said: Because “…I am a sinful man!” Like Peter, when I get close to the Lord Jesus, I can clearly see the gap between what he is like and what I am like, and I am tempted to separate myself from him so as to lessen the frustration in seeing how far I have to go to close the gap. Sure, because if, as in Peter’s situation, Jesus went far enough away, he’d be almost indistinguishable, and Peter could deny reality and say that he looked a lot like Jesus. No, we must “fix our eyes” on Jesus, that is, fine tune our perspective of him so there is no distortion in our perceptions of his grace, his mercy, and his love. When we do, we will run toward him as the only source of deliverance from our sinful nature, and he will help us throw off the sin that so easily entangles us. Amen. [For further study read our article: “Getting in Touch with Jesus.”]
OK, so how do you fix your eyes on Jesus? You could go to a different motel each night and read their Bibles, but it would be much cheaper to buy your own Bible, study it continually, and act in obedience to God’s directives therein. Jesus embedded the written Word of God so deeply into his heart that he flawlessly represented his Father in word and deed. Thoughts are the seeds of our words and deeds, and the Son of God always fixed his mind on the Word of God. No matter what the situation or what the temptation; Jesus based his choices of thought, word, and deed squarely on the revealed Word of God. To the degree that we do the same, we will become like him.
Because he always said and did what God wanted him to, Jesus was “the living Word,” and that is how he reached deep into the hearts of those who truly wanted truth. The Word in his mind was manifest in his behavior. What about you and me? The reason we must renew our minds with the Word is because, as ambassadors for Christ, we are to be living epistles, known and read by all men. Clearly you are an epistle of Christ “…written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2 and 3 – NKJV). For us, the point of The Book is to know The Man, and to become like him.
It is significant that the Old Testament was written primarily for Jesus, as the blueprint of his identity, his mission, and his destiny as the Redeemer of mankind. It was from the Old Testament that he derived “…the joy set before him…,” the motivating truth that if he would walk the full length of the valley of human need, all the way to the Cross, God would raise him from the dead and save all those who believed in him, so that with him they would enjoy everlasting life in Paradise. Whenever we read anything from Genesis to Malachi, we can remember that Jesus read the same thing, and seek to learn what he learned from it.
Why was Jesus such a “Word Warrior”? Not just so he could win arguments on Solomon’s Porch with sour grape Pharisees. It was because he knew that his life depended upon it, as did the lives of all those Old Testament saints who died with the hope of his coming and fulfilling his mission as the Messiah so they would live again. Personally, it is scintillating to think of how real Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, and all the other Old Testament heroes were to Jesus as he pored over the record of their lives in Scripture. I think it is fair to say that throughout the torture he suffered, and when the nails were being pounded into his hands and feet, a large part of what kept him going was the anticipation of meeting those men and women (some of whom were also tortured) face to face and rewarding them for their faith.
One verse Jesus read was Psalm 119:11(NKJV): “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” He not only read it, he lived it, as evidenced by the record of his temptations by Satan in the wilderness just prior to beginning his earthly ministry. Each time the Devil pierced Jesus with a “fiery dart,” he bled Bible: “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.” Satan even (mis)quoted Psalm 91 in an attempt to get Jesus to foolishly jump off the Temple, but the Son of God had so mastered “every jot and tittle” of the Word (Matt. 5:18 – KJV) that he instantly recognized the deception and rebuffed it with the appropriate truth from the Word. The revealed Word of God was his only rule of faith and practice.
It was in the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus found, and locked in on, who he was. It was his unshakeable sense of his identity that anchored him to the mission set before him. For Jesus, the bottom line was that he knew who he was, and it was that sense of being that engendered his precise and effectual doing the will of God throughout his life. And at critical junctures in his life—the start of his earthly ministry and on the Mount of Transfiguration as he entered the “home stretch” to the Cross—his heavenly Father affirmed his identity to him: “…This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus’ unflagging strength and his unwavering courage were born of his assurance of his identity as the Son of God and his confidence that his Father would always honor his obedience by fulfilling His promises to him. God is our Father too, and He will do no less for you and me.
(16) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
(17) The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
(18) “The Spirit [spirit] of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
(19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
As members of the Body of Christ, you and I find our identity in the Church Epistles, which the Lord Jesus gave the Apostle Paul. It is Romans through Thessalonians that shows us who we are in Christ, and that we are righteous, sanctified, justified, and filled with his very nature. That gift of holy spirit is our inseparable connection with him as well as our power base to manifest his healing love to a dying world.
The written Word of God was Christ’s basis for an intimate and personal relationship with his God and Father, and it is what convinced him that God always had his best interests at heart. That was the bedrock of his faith, and why he never failed to look to God for everything. As he walked out his earthly ministry all the way to the Cross, Jesus continually entrusted himself to God, and he knows how to help us do likewise.
1 Peter 2:21–23
(21) To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
(22) “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
(23) When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
In contrast to the First Adam, who disobeyed God and took matters into his own hands in order to meet his supposed “needs,” Jesus Christ (the “Last Adam”) always obeyed God, trusting Him to meet his needs, which is just what entrusting oneself to God looks like. In stark contrast to Adam, who could have written a song, “He Did It His Way,” Jesus said to his Father, “…not my will, but yours be done.” Reality now testifies to the same stark contrast in the fruit of each man’s actions. May we grow into the same kind of trust that Jesus had in God, one godly thought at a time.
If we are to follow in his steps, we also need to die to our self-will and thus give God the opportunity to resurrect us to newness of life in each particular situation. Even as He raised His Son, He will never fail to do the same for us.
Luke 9:23 and 24
(23) Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
(24) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
To take up our cross may well mean short-term pain as we “die” to our self-centeredness. This is what it often feels like to turn away from what we want and turn to what God wants for us. To do so on a consistent basis, and be like Christ, we must think similar thoughts to those that he held in his mind.
Philippians 2:1–5 (NKJV)
(1) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,
(2) fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
(3) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
(4) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
(5) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,
The mind that was in Christ was a mind filled with the Word of God to the end that he personified the very heart of God in all that he said and did. Jesus was the epitome of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control. If you and I are to become like Christ, we too must saturate our hearts with the only standard for truly living, the Word of God. That will require a deliberate decision and a concerted effort on our part, but however we need to structure our time to do so will be well worth it, both now, and forever. We must then practice it faithfully, entrusting ourselves to our Father just as Jesus did. As we do, the fruit of our lives will be evident to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they too can know the Lord we love, and also become like him.