One of the greatest purposes that God has for every Christian is that they would reflect his son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:39). Becoming more Christlike is a life-long process that every Christian should commit to without reservation (Eph. 4:15). It must be the duty, priority, and passion of every follower of Jesus to become more and more like their Savior and Lord.
The Bible is clear that people become Christians by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 6:23). Yet, growing in Christlikeness is cooperative. God’s grace enables it (2 Pet. 3:18) and people’s effort complements the work of the Holy Spirit to achieve it (2 Cor. 3:18). Below, readers will find seven ways to become more Christlike.
Also see What Is A Disciple of Christ? to learn more.
1. Love what Jesus loves
Jesus said the greatest commandment was “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the great and first commandment” (Matt. 22:37).
The God Jesus loves is a Trinity (Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19-20). He is good (Luke 18:19), loving (John 3:16), and kind (Exod. 34:6). The Father is also unchanging (James 1:17), eternal (2 Pet. 3:8), and holy (Isa. 6:3).
Jesus said the second greatest commandment is “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Jesus loves God the Father and the people he created. He commands that those who follow him do likewise. A person can’t be Christlike if they don’t love God and other people.
“Inordinate attention to self is the exact opposite of God’s commandments to love Him and others. A self-focus also prohibits the development of a Christlike servant attitude in you.” – John Broger
2. Hate what Jesus hates
Jesus didn’t hate people. He loved all people, even those who struggled with sins like pride, greed, lust, anger, and other forms of immorality. If Jesus hated sinners, he would hate everyone because all people sin (Rom. 3:23). However, Jesus loved sinners (John 3:16) but hated their sin.
For example, Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery, but hated her sin. Jesus protected the woman, taught her, yet told her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Loving God as Jesus did (see above) produces hatred of evil. Proverbs 8:13 teaches this biblical truth: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” The Psalmist commands this application: “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psa. 97:10a).
Jesus hated the sin that imprisoned people and kept them from maturing in their faith (Heb. 5:12-14), experiencing the freedom he earned for them on the cross (John 8:31-32), and growing in Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29).
Also see What Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? to learn more.
3. Make what Jesus made
Jesus made disciples. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave instructions to his followers, saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This included teaching them to obey God (Matt. 28:20).
People who love God and other people, and as a result hate sin, need to help others do the same (cf. Mark 1:17). Spouses need to help each other do this. Parents need to help their children do this. Grandparents need to help their grandchildren do this. Pastors and ministers need to help their congregations do this (e.g. 2 Tim. 2:2).
Making disciples is a Bible-centered, Spirit-empowered endeavor. Paul, who was a disciple-maker himself, wrote that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Similarly, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
4. Pray as Jesus prayed
Jesus was a man of prayer. He didn’t just pray when he was experiencing a trial or in an emergency. Prayer was part of the rhythm of his life. Luke records that Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). Like breathing, prayer was Jesus’ constant source of life that gave him strength, wisdom, and perseverance.
Jesus prayed in the morning (Mark 1:35) and in the evening (Matt. 14:23). He took breaks from people, even his loved ones, to pray (Mark 6:46). Jesus prayed in alignment with the Bible (John 17:17). He prayed when his heart was full of gratitude (John 11:41-42) and when his heart felt alone (Matt. 27:46).
These are just a few examples from Jesus’ life that illustrate that Jesus prayed no matter what time it was, what emotions he had, or what his circumstances were.
“[Christians] press towards [Christlikeness], if they do not reach it. They may not attain to it, but they always aim at it. It is what they strive and labor to be, if it is not what they are.” – J.C. Ryle
Also see Who Is the Bride of Christ? to learn more.
5. Study Scripture as Jesus studied Scripture
Jesus knew the power of the Spirit-inspired Scripture. The Bible wasn’t dry history or doctrine to Jesus, but a living (Heb. 4:12), breathing (2 Tim. 3:16), transforming (John 17:17) book. Jesus was passionate about the Word and taught the apostles to preach it, live it out, and pass down its content from generation to generation.
Jesus knew Scripture thoroughly and could summarize its message in just a few sentences (Matt. 22:40). While the Old Testament includes topics like creation, sin, and the Law, Jesus taught that it was ultimately a revelation of himself.
After he rose from the dead, he gave his followers a Bible study: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Growing in Christlikeness doesn’t happen apart from the complete saturation of Scripture.
“If you want to be Christlike you need to have communion with Christ, and if you want communion with Christ you need to do it on His terms with the channels of grace He’s provided [prayer, Bible reading, church fellowship, Lord’s table].” – Kevin DeYoung
Also see How Many Lashes Did Jesus Get? to learn more.
6. Prioritize what Jesus prioritizes
Jesus didn’t prioritize owning physical goods, acquiring money, or luxurious living. At a time when wealth was measured in large part by material possessions, Jesus taught his followers not to hoard earthly goods.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” he said, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).
- 1 John 3:17, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
- Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
“Material possessions tend to focus one’s thoughts and interests on the world only. Wealth gradually enslaves those who are attached to it and perverts their values. The more we have, the easier it is to be possessed by our possessions, comforts, and recreations.” – Kent Hughes
7. See the world as Jesus sees it
Jesus believed that the origin of the universe was the result of a supernatural act (e.g. Mark 10:6; 13:19).
Moreover, Paul teaches that Jesus was the primary agent of creation, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16; cf. John 1:3).
The existence of the world isn’t the result of randomness according to Jesus. Seeing the creation of the world as an intentional, purposeful, meaningful event that informs all that happens within it.
8. Adopt the morals that Jesus has
Morality is based on the character of God (1 Pet. 1:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) as well as loving Him and other people (Matt. 22:37-40). Growing in Christlikeness requires abandoning the world’s definitions of good, just, and righteous, and adopting the Bible’s viewpoint on those topics. The world has one system of morality and Jesus has a different one. A person can’t hold both simultaneously.
1 John 2:15-17 reads, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Also see How Many Years Has It Been Since Jesus Died? to learn more.
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