I once heard the following story and found it very interesting. A man asks the LORD, “What’s a million years to you?” The LORD answers, “A second.” The man then asks a follow-up question, “So then, what’s a million dollars to You?” To which the LORD responded, “A penny.” With a big smile on his face the man came back with a third question, “LORD, could You please give me a penny?” The LORD responded “Wait a second!”
Of course, this is not a true story but it’s a good story (as many of my Scottish friends like to say). It serves the point. Often, we want certain things in life and we want them now. Seldom are we willing to “wait a second” to get what we really want. Spiritually, we all want to become like Christ, but we want it done our way, based on our timing and with the minimal amount of pain and effort (if any) on our part. But that’s not exactly how the Lord wants to grow us into Christlikeness. If we really want to become like Christ, we will do well to consider some potential hindrances as follows:
We All Want to Be Like Christ, But We Don’t Like the Process: Many Christians would admit that they want to be like Christ. But what they mean is that they want that to happen now and without any effort (work) on their part. Of course, that is wishful thinking because it doesn’t work that way (at least not according to the Bible). The Scriptures tell us that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in us both to do and to will for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). Yes, while it is true that it is God who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure, it is equally true that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. And that dear friends requires discipline. Which means that we must persevere and be willing to work even when the desired results are slow in coming. Part of our particular challenge is that we live in the age of the instant. Instant messaging, instant coffee, instant gratification, etc. God loves process especially when it comes to our sanctification. The Bible knows nothing of “instant” sanctification. A cursory look at the Bible and the LORD’s dealings with His children points us in a different direction. Not only do we see process, but that often is often long and hard when it comes to the sanctification of the LORD’s children (just think of the children of Israel in the Old Testament, or the Apostles Peter and Paul in the New Testament just to cite a few examples).
We All Want to Be Like Christ, But We Don’t Want to Pay the Price: The Lord Jesus Christ said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Several times in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ challenges those who would follow Him to count the cost (see Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 14:25-33; etc). Christ calls us to abandon all attachments to the world. To put it in Pauline language, Christ’s call upon our lives demands that the world be crucified to us and us to the world (see Galatians 6:14). Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes poignantly on this point in his book, The Cost of Discipleship,
The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christian suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death – we give over our lives to death. Thus, it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise godfearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time – death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life. The call to discipleship, the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life (p. 89-90).
This is in essence what the Apostle Paul had in view when he wrote , “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).
Because Christ is precious above all, we must be willing to abandon all for Him, our Infinite Treasure. We must be like the merchant in search of fine pearls described in Matthew 13:45-46 who on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had so that he could buy it. We must therefore be willing to die to sin; to die through suffering; and to die to self as the Lord shall please if we are to become like Christ.
We All Want to Be Like Christ, But We Don’t Value the Prospects as We Should: The LORD God promises us eternal life in Christ. If we will walk with Him and pursue holiness (without which no one will see the LORD – Hebrews 12:14), we can be assured that we shall see God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). What better motivation for pursuing Christlikeness (holiness) could there be?
In Psalm 73:25-26, the Psalmist writes, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” While we Christians in general want to be like Christ, we do not fully appreciate (as did the Psalmist) what that means in terms of future prospects as rooted, defined and guaranteed in the promises of God in His Word and through Jesus Christ. As a result, we give God halfhearted obedience. We like having one foot in God’s Kingdom, but we also very much like keeping the other foot in the world (the kingdom of the Devil, to put it bluntly). In the end, we miss out on the richness of the abundant life that Christ came to give us, the life which He purchased for us by His death on the cross of Calvary.
C.S. Lewis writes in his book, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses,
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased (pages 1-2).
How true and convicting that is! Our desires are often too small. We are far too easily pleased by the temporal (instant) pleasures of sin. Have you ever thought of the fact that no one is forced to sin? That we sin because we want to? Or to put it in other words, we sin because we love sin and self more than we love God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Each time we are tempted to sin, we are at the same time being given an opportunity to declare our love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ by resisting the temptation with His grace and power which has already been made available to us (1 Corinthians 10:13).
May the Lord help us to say and believe with the Psalmist that indeed we have no good but God; that God alone is our chosen portion; and that in His Presence, there is fullness of joy and at His right hand, pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:2, 5, 11). May He give us the grace to pursue Him above all; may He help us to persevere in the process of sanctification; and may He grant us the willingness to pay whatever the cost attached to following and becoming like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ to His glory!
Lord, You are more precious than silver;
Lord, You are more costly than gold;
Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds;
And nothing I desire compares with You.