Becoming Like Jesus

Becoming like Jesus is God’s will for our lives (1 Thess. 4:3). Growing in Christ would not even be possible if God had not, “Qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1: 12-14).

The growth process is like a spiral that is ever reaching toward heaven. The apostle Paul explains this cycle of growth in Col. 1:9-11. First, it begins with a knowledge of God’s will, which we find in His word. Second, His truth must enter our hearts for us to understand how it applies to life in all wisdom and understanding. Third, we choose to live according to what we have chosen to believe. We exercise our will when we choose to walk by faith and submit to God through humble obedience. When we step out in faith we grow in the knowledge of God. Fourth, we will receive greater knowledge when we act upon what we already know to be true, and the cycle comes full circle. The spin-offs of this growth cycle are increasing spiritual strength, endurance, patience, joy, and thankfulness, which become increasingly evident in our character.

The process of growth can be blocked by ourselves at any one of four points. We can stop the growth process at the first stage by reading the Bible as an academic exercise and never seek to apply it to our lives. We have intellectual knowledge, but no spiritual wisdom nor any personal understanding of how God’s Word applies to our lives when we harden our hearts. At stage two, we have allowed God’s Word to penetrate our hearts and consequently convict us of sin and giving us discernment and direction for life. But the growth process would again be stymied if we never actually repented, acted upon our discernment, or stepped out in faith.

At the third stage, we grow and bear fruit because we are living by faith according to what God says is true in the power of the Holy Spirit. Maturity gained through living causes us to understand the Word of God in a way that we didn’t before. If we fail to live by faith, however, we will not bear fruit.

Finally, we can stop the process of growth at stage four by failing to come back to His Word for greater knowledge. One of the dangers of successfully bearing fruit or experiencing victory is to rest on our laurels thinking that we have arrived. That is why Paul’s words in Phil. 3:12-14 are so helpful: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Dr. Neil

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