Christ Formed in Us

All success--business, personal, and spiritual--comes only after a person has first set a goal. Earl Nightingale said, "People with goals succeed because they know where they're going. If we fail to set goals, then, we do not have direction in our lives; and we do not have a basis for measuring our level of achievement. The question we must answer, therefore, is "What should be our goal as Christians?"

The Christian 's goal: become Christ-like

Paul describes the Christian's goal to the Galatian church in this way: "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you" (Galatians 4:19). Paul explains that his work was to help Christ to be "formed" within the Galatian Christians so that Christ could live "in" them (Galatians 2:20), i.e., they would be more Christ-like. Our desire, then, is to be like Christ, to make decisions in the way He made them, to be dedicated fully to Pleasing our Father in Heaven as Christ was (John 6:38). We are to "... reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13, NIV). What a noble aspiration! But how could we hope to reach such a lofty goal?

Although we can never fully become like Christ, we must strive to do so. This challenge should not exasperate us, but rather we should "... run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB). As we persist, we mature and find ourselves"... being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV).

How to become more Christ-like

This process of becoming more Christ-like does not happen by accident, nor does it happen by force. God does not take away our free will and force us to change; rather, we must turn toward Him and seek the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). Our God-given spiritual disciplines are designed to help us in this pursuit. Through prayer, study, worship, and service, we constantly reevaluate our choices with regard to our priorities.

One of the most essential elements in being more like Christ is knowledge. Paul writes in Colossians 3:9- 10, "You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (NIV). He gives similar instructions in Ephesians 4:22-24: "Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (NIV). Finally, Paul tells us to"be transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2). In other words, our minds are to be focused on emulating the spiritual character of Christ, not on how to conform to this world (2 Corinthians 3:18). Through knowledge, we consciously put off ungodly ways and replace them with the ways of Christ.

As we study the inspired word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), our minds are renewed in the knowledge of Christ (Colossians 3: 10) because it is through the scriptures that we learn the manner in which He lived His life. He left us an example so that we could follow His steps (I Peter 2:2 1). Our goal is a complete spiritual transformation, allowing ourselves to be shaped into what He wants us to be, using the abilities He has given us to do the work He has set out for us, serving as "instruments of righteousness" (Romans 6:13) as we submit our lives to Him. This is the lifelong Christian occupation. Our life must become centered on Jesus, who not only shows us the Father (John 14:8-9), but also shows us daily how amazing, beautiful, and meaningful a life can be when we follow Him.

A Christ-like mission

As Christ-like people, we have a Christ-like mission. Jesus told His disciples, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to teach the things He taught, to do the things He commanded, and to believe the things He said. This is our assigned task, our occupation, our life.

Our work begins on a personal level where we learn what Jesus taught and begin to obey Him in our homes. Most of us will carry out our spiritual work around our homes, with our families and friends in our neighborhoods. Although it is not possible for every Christian to go into the entire world and preach the gospel, we must each share the "good news" with everyone in "our" world. We are not to restrict our work to specific ethnic groups, social classes, or genders (Galatians 3:28).

Next, we need to teach new believers what Jesus taught, not just in words, but also through our actions. We need to imitate Christ through our compassion, worship, and service. We need to "be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us..." (Ephesians 5:1-2, NASB; note also I John 3:16-18). A Christ-like person is the salt of the earth, the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-15), ready to give an answer (I Peter 3:15), ready to make disciples. A Christlike person teaches and obeys Jesus'commands, loves others, prays for others, helps others, and in so doing, is living proof that he follows Jesus Christ (John 13:34-35). We will, through single-minded devotion (James 4:8), become like our Master teacher. Luke records, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). When we are "fully trained" in the ways of Christ, we will be like Him.

A Christ-like ordeal

Beware! When we become Christ-like, trials will also come (John 15:18-20), some of them hidden in the seemingly random circumstances of daily life and others caused by persecutors. Still others will be allowed by God Himself, who chastens every child He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Since Jesus had to endure difficulties, we should not be surprised when we find our commitment challenged through difficult circumstances. At least we can be confident that God will turn it all for good (Romans 8:28). Our trials will inevitably produce the "peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11).

A Christ-like challenge

Let Christ be formed in you, and labor so He may be formed in the whole church. Let us be up and about our Father's business, seeking His will in every aspect of our lives. Let His image transform us for His purpose, and our glory will be His glory. Let there be no discrepancy between His image and ours, for we wear His name.