God Wills for His People to be Christlike

by Mike Ratliff

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 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 Corinthians 3:12-18 ESV)

When I wrote Walking the Walk by Faith in late 2004 and early 2005 I had a panel of advisors help me with the manuscript. We met at least once a week to go over what I had written and edited based upon our discussion. I was very new at writing, especially at that level. I struggled with how to express what my heart wanted to say. However, I had some people on that panel that helped me a great deal with the words I was straining to express. We were discussing a chapter I had written about Christlikeness and the methods God used to accomplish this in His people. I was not sure how to phrase one of the main sentences when one of my friends on that panel suggested that what we were really discussing was God reshaping our character. That was like a window or door being opened for me. I could now see what God had been doing in my own heart and in the hearts of those helping me write that book. God has His people involved in a process of character change.

The Holy Spirit and Christ actually indwell each genuine believer. They work within their hearts to transform them into Christ’s likeness. What is involved in this? Christ and His Spirit empower Christians to put to death sinful habits replacing them with Christlike behavior patterns that Paul described as the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-26) None of us are capable of walking perfectly this way…not in this fleshly body, but godly patterns of behavior will become more and more predominant flowing from our maturing character. The fact that our Lord does this for us is momentous. Genuine Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), however, it also takes the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to turn us into different people from what we were before God saved us.What is our part? We are to live out what God has wrought in us by expressing in our actions the new life in Christ. This “new life” is made up of a new vision, motivation, devotion, and a sense of direction that conforms unto our Lord’s character. We can do this because His character is actually becoming more and more manifest in those who live a life worthy of their calling they have received.

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

All in Christ are in union with Him. This union is the product of a creative act by God. If we meditate on this we must come away seeing that this is a mystery. Why? We were dead in our trespasses and sins yet those of us in Christ are now alive in Him. The power to make this so is the same as that which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Our Lord is raised from the dead and we no longer behold Him. The same can be said for the union Christians enjoy with Him. We cannot observe this or inspect it. It is mysterious, but it is real. We see the evidence of it in our transformation from fleshly people to Christlike disciples.

Our union with Christ makes us partakers of His death, first, so that our guilt is gone and second, that our former life in bondage to sin is gone replaced by our new life of fellowship with Him that began at our new birth. We are also resurrected with Christ. That means that we have been effectively delivered from slavery to sin unto a new life in the Spirit. This new life progressively conforms us unto Christ’s character. As this process moves forward we will become more and more of the same mind and heart, attitude and outlook as our Lord. By His Spirit, our Lord is not merely with us, but also in us.

1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

God’s ways are not our ways. The world and our old nature say that the essence of freedom is to be free from external pressures such as poverty, race prejudice, economic exploitation, and political injustice. However, that view is only the exoskeleton of freedom. It is not the essence of true freedom. We find that in being free for what is imperative. What is that? What is most important for believers in this life? Isn’t it to become one with God and to partake of His godliness? In this we delight in Him and find true peace and joy. We then see how God’s grace has transformed us and is still doing so. We see that He has given us true freedom in becoming our Lord’s disciples, His bondservants, who live for His glory alone. Only our Lord Jesus Christ can do this for us.

External pressures are constantly upon God’s people to be conformed to this world. Our enemy is very sly though. He is satisfied when Christians become simply focused on self rather than God’s glory. He also loves nothing better than to influence Christians to be part of idolatrous forms of religion that appear “Christian.” A self-righteous “Christian” is powerless. The only way we can avoid any of this is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in all things. We must cooperate with our Lord in His character rebuilding within our hearts. Our Lord is coming back soon. We must forsake the ways of the world and our flesh to be conformed unto Christlikeness according to the will of God. Soli Deo Gloria!

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14 thoughts on “God Wills for His People to be Christlike

  1. Thanks, Mike. Since last week, I have had on my heart, “What does the Lord require of us?” What does He want to do in us and with us? I have had a desire to get back to basics – to the simplicity that is in Christ.

    This, I believe, will be the focus of the small bible study that I have in my home with a couple of other sisters in Christ. We all attend a local assembly, which teaches line by line through books of the bible, but it hasn’t been enough. The small studies and fellowship that we have together is so rich! The Lord shows us a lot when we dig into His Word.

    I will share with them the two last posts you have made, because the teachings are so necessary and have blessed me sincerely. It is that we must draw closer to Him and BE in Him, not work, work, work all the time doing “religious” things. As we are in Him, the works will follow as they are evidence of our faith. He will show us where He wants us to be and to do. First and foremost, though, is our relationship with our Father.

    True communion with the Father and with each other.

    Thanks for sharing what the Lord gives to you…

  2. Hi Mike, Great article. Where would we be without the Lords sanctification process? We wouldn’t make it. We are so glad He grows us up in Him. He does it everyday and in a way sometimes that we don’t even notice it………until you see something or hear something that 6 months ago you didn’t ponder, but 6 months later (or so) you see it for what it really is. Then you wonder, hhmm, why didn’t that effect me 6 months ago like it is now? He grows us up when we don’t even know it. It is ALL Him. I’m just using the 6 month thing as an example :) It could be more or less, but the point is, He does it when we don’t even know it! What a mighty God we have for our Father!!

  3. Amen, Mike!
    My pastor described our part in pursuing Christ-likeness in this way: you have a swimmer who is swimming for the shore and putting much effort into getting to that shore….that isn’t us. We don’t do the work. We are more like the surfer who is still going toward the shore but is going there by the power of the ocean wave. We get to perfection by the power of the Holy Spirit working within us and we will see the effects of His work along the way. That is why we will get there and all the glory will be His!

  4. Mike,

    Amen!

    How you referred to having a panel of advisors to help express yourself…well, this is how I feel about your writings – they help express my thoughts! You express what is on my heart so beautiful!

    I am truly blessed through you.

    In His Love,
    Sherry

  5. Amen Paul. I see that too, just this week in fact! I thank the Lord he continues to open my eyes and grow me up.

    Your Sister in Christ,
    Rachel

  6. Mike,
    I find it amazing that the Holy Spirit is speaking like this around the world. For many years the teaching of “going on to perfection” and maturity has been taught in our church. The very scriptures that you have taught here are the ones that we read and have sung on many Sunday’s.

    My own testimony is this-:
    I was brought up a Christian. I was Baptized and filled with his Spirit when I was 8. I went to Bible School when I was 18 for two years. I have done missionary work in Indonesia. I have been actively involved in my Church for many years (I am 38 now). But all of these things I now count as loss that I may gain Christ and the high calling that he has for me.

    I discovered, to my shame, that sin still reigned in me. A particular sin that I could not shake. I excused myself and condemned myself many times. I lightly confessed my sin to accountable ones in the church, hoping that this would deal with the sin. Surely to be forgiven sin that sin is enough? But I still was bound in that sin. I was left hopelessly in Romans 7…Oh wretched man, who can deliver me from this sin?
    But I did not read the next thing from Romans 8.

    I finally brought my life wholeheartedly to the elders in our church. We sat down, and worked through the issues for 12 months. My life was an open book before them, and as we fellowshipped, God began to show me how to repent. This was not a light repentance of confessing sin and it is all gone, for there is not true power in that to change a life. I had done that for years and there was no change.

    I began to see, just as the Corinthians did, how the process of repentance causes us to have Godly sorrow, to mourn, to be fiercely angry at the sin in our lives, to persevere against the sin and to be finally free from the sin. That sin, I can humbly say, by the grace of God, has gone and is finished in my life.

    God showed me that his plan for my life was for me to be like him, I was to be love. And as LOVE I was not to fear, not to be insecure, not to want everyone to look at me, BUT JUST TO BE LOVE. Love my family first, then love my Brethren, and then love the unbeliever.

    I can say my character has changed. It was not accidental. It was not hit and miss. It was by hearing a word from God and responding to that in a fully accountable way. I can truly say specifically what has changed.

    I have been through a process of repentance that has shown me how my sin has affected my family. That sin that I did in secret, where I thought nobody knew about it, no one but God…that sin affected my family. My children were insecure. My wife was in depression and this was directly because of me, and yet she didn’t know why. As I have brought my life to the light, I have seen dramatic change in my family. As I have been accountable for my sin, and made restitution in my family, I have seen my family change dramatically. My children are so much more secure. My wife is no longer plagued by depression, and instead she is ministering the life of God to others, and fulfilling who she is in Christ. She has just been so freed up to be who she is. She is even now running a small business in photography.
    Praise the Lord, he changes lives. He has worked a miracle in our family. That sin, which so easily snared me is gone forever. It has been gone for 18 months now, and I have no desire for it anymore.

  7. Roland, thank you for sharing your personal story. What an uplifting one, with lots to consider (the ramifications of sin…even to members of our families). Thank you.

    Mike, great article. :-)

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