We can’t make ourselves more like Christ. Oh sure, we can be diligent to practice the Spiritual disciplines. We read and meditate on Scripture. We pray, often and with fervent hope. We spend time in fellowship with other believers, encouraging them and being encouraged. But, no matter how much effort we put out, we will never become more like Christ on our own.
Besides these disciplines, what does it take for us to become like Christ? In order to answer this question, I think we first have to talk about Christ. What he’s like, and who he is. What do you think of when you think of Christ? Take a moment and ponder this question before you read on.
When I think of Christ, I think of a compassionate, patient, loving sufferer. He loved people. All people. He loved prostitutes, tax collectors, and fishermen. He loved in an unfailing, untiring way. He did not give up on his friends, even when they publicly betrayed him. (Think of Peter.) Jesus was a good friend.
He didn’t wait for people to come to him. He went to them. He went to Samaria, and found the woman at the well, thirsting for living water. He went to the temple to preach and found the woman with the issue of blood, who believed that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she would be well. He went to the wilderness, knowing he would be hungry and tempted. Jesus was a willing preacher, healer, and sufferer.
He knew everything. He knew the hearts of men. He knew what this world held for him, but he came anyway because he loved us, and could not let evil win. He knew we would be stubborn and self-willed and prideful and unloving. But he also knew we would be lost without him, so he came anyway. Jesus was an all-knowing and sacrificial shepherd.
Friend, sufferer, preacher, healer, shepherd. Jesus was all these things and infinitely more when he was here on earth. But what is he now? I propose to you that he is the same now as he was then. He is my best friend, always present with me, even (especially) in my darkest and loneliest hours. He is a willing sufferer, weeping with me when I weep, and grieving over my pain and my sin. He is my all-knowing Shepherd, guiding me when I don’t know what to do, and placing me in the midst of brothers and sisters who can help me. Jesus is all these things, and so much more. I long to be more like him.
So, now we are back to our question: How do we become more like him? Well, I believe that making us more like him is pretty much his job. He puts us in situations (pain, loss, fear, grief, loneliness) where we will desperately need an example of godly suffering; an all-knowing shepherd; a good friend. And there he is, reaching down to lift us up. We welcome his embrace, bask in His loving, merciful grace, and receive His strength. In doing this, we become more like him.
Paul Tripp says that God will always take you where you don’t want to be, so that you can do something that you could never have done on your own, to make you more like Himself in a way you could never have achieved otherwise. He calls this God’s “uncomfortable grace.” (Here’s 5 minutes well-spent.)
Are you experiencing God’s uncomfortable grace today, my dear friend? Are you in a place you would never have chosen to be? Are you experiencing things you would never have chosen for yourself? You will either become more like him, or you will become angry, disappointed, and bitter. This is the part that is up to you.
How will you respond to God’s uncomfortable grace? Will you insist on trying to control your circumstances, your pain, your trial? Will you go on complaining, nursing regret, and feeding sorrow? Or will you submit to the loving and gracious hand of your friend, fellow sufferer, and shepherd, Jesus Christ? Your choice today will determine how much you look like Christ tomorrow.