Growing as a Christian can feel daunting. We want to become more like Jesus, but we know we’ve got a long way to go and we can often feel like we’re going backwards. So, how can we grow?
The answer is given in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
‘And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’
It’s by seeing and admiring Jesus’ glory that we are transformed to become like Jesus, all through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
During the football World Cup, children across the world were trying to be like their favourite footballer. They copied their tricks and wore replica shirts with their player’s name on. Some even copied their hairstyle to look as much like them as they could! Why did they do this? Because they admire that player so much.
Similarly, the more we see and admire the wonderful glory, beauty and holiness of Jesus, the more we will become like him. Jesus lived a wonderfully attractive life: he lived to please his heavenly Father. As he did that, he loved others more than himself. He sacrificed himself, his own life for us. The love of Jesus is wonderful. The more we see that, the more we will adore him and start to become like him.
Notice, the answer isn’t found in making up all sorts of strict rules about what we can or can’t do. Just trying to keep strict rules won’t truly change us to become like Jesus. In fact, if we only follow rules without getting to know Jesus better, we’re likely to become even colder towards other people.
Rules don’t change hearts, but revelation does – that is, the revelation of Jesus to our hearts. Then our hearts will be changed to become like him, keeping his law.
So, what do we need to do about this?
Firstly, we need to pray. When it comes to seeing and admiring Jesus’ glory, we need help. The problem is a bit like my struggle to appreciate artwork by post-impressionists like Vincent van Gogh. I just don’t see what’s so attractive about their paintings! I certainly wouldn’t choose to have a print on a wall in my home. But if I had someone help me to appreciate their paintings, I would begin to admire them. Similarly, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we will be able to see and admire more of Jesus’ glory.
We can ask confidently for the Holy Spirit’s help because he is so powerful. Just look at how 2 Corinthians 4:6 describes God’s power: ‘God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’ It’s saying that the awesome power of God that brings streaming rays of light to brighten the face of Earth is the same power that is at work in us. So, he is able to shine the glory of Christ into the darkness of our hearts and enable us to cherish Jesus. I find that hugely encouraging whenever I’m struggling to be excited about Jesus.
Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see more of Jesus’ glory.
Then, we need to read God’s Word. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that we see the glory of Christ in the gospel. It’s there that we see his sacrificial love for us sinners. He came as the promised Messiah, he knew what he would go through but came as a man for us anyway. It’s in the gospel that we see his sufferings for us in dying that cruel, excruciating death for us while taking the wrath of God that we deserved – to save you and me. What wonderful love! Also, in God’s law and in Christ’s life, we can look at his perfect character that always stood for what is right. In fact, throughout Scripture, we see different aspects of the glory of Jesus and his gospel displayed in various ways.
So, as we read the Bible, we will see more of Jesus, which is what we need to become like him. With the Holy Spirit’s help we’ll read about Jesus and be able to say, ‘Jesus is wonderful! I want to become like him!’
Conversely, we can expect to become less like him if we are not reading the Bible regularly. That’s because our hearts will become set on other things instead. We mustn’t kid ourselves that we can be a healthy, godly Christian without reading God’s Word each day. Also, to benefit from our daily Bible readings, we need them to be more than just another thing on our ‘to do list’. Otherwise, we’re only going through the motions and not really taking it in. Instead, take time to savour the good news of Jesus.
So, what do you need to rearrange in your diary to give you time in God’s Word? Why not ask your pastor for help in your personal Bible reading so you can dig deeper?
Thirdly, be careful what you treasure and admire. In his book, We become what we worship, Greg Beale highlights a convicting warning that God gave to Israel in the book of Isaiah. God said that Israel had become like the idols they worshipped. They had ears, but were unable to hear; they had eyes, but were unable to see; and so on. Israel had become spiritually lifeless.
The same will happen to us too if we set our hearts on modern-day gods. If we treasure money, we will become spiritually lifeless; if we treasure status, we will become spiritually as shaky as the precarious status we seek; if we treasure comfort, we will become spiritually lazy and unproductive.
That’s why it’s dangerous to treasure anything other than Jesus. Treasuring other things will lead us to become spiritually frail and lifeless. Whereas, treasuring Jesus will renew us in the image of God to live as the people he created us to be (Colossians 3).
Is there anything in your life that has become more precious to you than Jesus? If so, ask for God’s help to see Jesus as greater than that thing, in fact far greater than anything else.
Lastly, take heart that this is an ongoing process. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we are ‘being transformed’. We’re not going to be transformed overnight, so don’t lose heart when you hit a setback or don’t make progress as quickly as you’d like. But be encouraged that God is still changing you, one wonderful step at a time. And one day, when we see him as he is, we will be made perfectly like him (1 John 3:2).