We are commanded to be like Christ. We must imitate him and be conformed to his image; we must “put on” Christ. These are New Testament directives. But we will never really become exactly like him. So what is the goal?
I use artificial sweetener in my tea. It’s not the same as sugar, but I have tried and failed to drink unsweetened tea. Diet pop, Mrs. Dash and Smart Balance butter-flavored whatever that is are all examples of products made to imitate the real thing. While we endeavor to become like Christ, we will never do so perfectly. But it’s a progression; we’re on a journey. The real goal is to keep getting closer. Paul said has not achieved it yet but he continued to press on toward the mark and the prize.
Christian believers are justified at the moment of salvation. When a new believer confesses Christ as their savior they become a new creation. The slate is wiped clean and the sin debt is paid. It’s “just if I’d” never sinned. The process of sanctification, however, just begins at the moment. Sanctification is a lifelong journey that we will never get perfectly right. It involves repenting, or turning away from our former sinful ways. Some days an individual may do better at it than others. Our spirit is renewed in Christ, but the desires of the flesh must be crucified daily. Paul the Super Apostle felt like a failure too when it came to this. He said the things he wanted to do he did not and the things he did not want to do he did. He considered himself chief among sinners. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. The further we get in the journey, the more likely we are to make a big deal out the tiniest little things. That’s actually a good sign; it means you’re on the right track.
Christ gave us many examples to follow. If we love him we will obey his commands. Paul told his followers to imitate him as he imitated Christ. We will never do so perfectly, but the longer we spend on the journey the farther down the road we should be getting. Christians are meant to grow. Maturing as Christians should mean eating spiritual meat, so to speak (Paul again) and not stay stuck on spiritual milk. After decades of scripture reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers, teaching, sharing the gospel, tithing and serving in the local church we should be so Christlike the resemblance is uncanny. Such a person will probably, however, be too humble to notice.
On our own we cannot become like Christ. By the grace of God we can become increasing more Christlike. That’s the challenge and the blessing.