If you are a Christian who is hungry to grow, I created this resource for me and for you.
Let me explain.
Growing up, I inherited a faith formation with a heavy emphasis on justification, but a little too thin on sanctification.
These words from author Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung describe my experience in evangelical churches. Perhaps you can relate to them, too.
While I am thankful for the teaching I’ve received on how to become right with God, I do have an increasing sense that I need more help in the ‘how’ of becoming more like God.
It might sound radically ambitious to want to become more like God, but this is precisely the process that kicks off when God’s Spirit breathes life into our cold, hostile souls. From this moment, we are able to put off the old self and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
But how exactly does this happen?
Here are four convictions that shape what More Like Jesus is all about.
Conviction #1 - No one coasts into Christlikeness
Firstly, while the power to change comes from God, there is effort required of us. Effort isn’t optional and without effort we will actually find ourselves becoming less like Jesus. As Donald Whitney observes:
No one coasts into Christlikeness. Any progress in godliness requires Spirit-filled effort and purpose. But the Christian spiritual disciplines, rightly practiced, can bring some simplicity and order to the process of becoming more like Jesus. Where do you need to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”?
We aren’t just to make an effort but make every effort. This is affirmed throughout Scripture.
Make every effort:
To enter through the narrow door (Luke 13:24)
To confirm your calling and election (2 Peter 1:10)
To enter God’s rest (Hebrews 4:11)
To live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Hebrews 12:14)
Even so, some people are concerned that ‘effort’ and ‘grace’ cannot coexist. But as Dallas Willard points out:
Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.
We don’t exert ourselves in order to earn God’s approval. We have God’s approval and now we make every effort to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9).
More Like Jesus exists to serve Christians who by God’s grace are hungry to make every effort to grow into His likeness.
Conviction #2 - More knowledge isn’t the answer
John Piper asks the question:
“Why is it that people with PhDs in theology commit adultery?” His answer? They don’t know God.” There is a colossal difference between knowing about God and knowing God. The devil has knowledge of God – but he hates God!
Oswald Chambers puts it like this:
It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus. The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus. …Have I a personal history with Jesus Christ? The one sign of discipleship is intimate connection with Him, a knowledge of Jesus Christ nothing can shake.
This must warn us of the danger of accumulating knowledge that doesn’t transform. Hypocrisy lurks dangerously close to each of us. As Jesus observed of the Pharisees: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Matthew 5:18
Jesus wants our hearts, and our hearts must change. Of course, knowledge is essential – we cannot change apart from exposure to truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures.
Jonathan Edwards wrote: “While God wants to reach the heart with truth, he does not bypass the mind.” Accordingly, John Piper emphasises that a “conscious consideration of truth” is essential for transformation.
But the heart should not be ignored in the process. After all, Jesus didn’t command us to love him with our minds alone, but with our hearts and souls also (Matthew 22:37). Truth must make its way to our hearts or we will never change. Jonathan Edwards warns of the danger of seeking first after ‘affection’ (heart), but equally he asserts:
He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.
There is a tendency in some theological traditions to emphasise the head at the expense of the heart. That the reason we don’t live as we should is because we don’t know God’s word well enough. This stems from a belief or at least communicates a belief that “if only we knew more we would be more like Jesus.”
But we aren’t only or even mostly ‘thinking’ or ‘intellectual’ beings. We don’t sin because we don’t know enough (the Devil is very knowledgable about God). We are lovers propelled by our affections. This is why, as James K.A. Smith explains, Jesus needs to be enthroned in our hearts and not just our heads:
Jesus is a teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.
More Like Jesus d will not compromise on sound doctrine but will be shaped by an acknowledgement that we need our hearts changed, not just our minds.
Conviction #3 - We must cultivate our inner lives
Throughout history, Christians have engaged in disciplines that “cultivate the ground” (as Richard J. Foster puts it), creating the conditions for God to do His work in us. Examples of these include:
Rule of Life.
Silence and Solitude.
Adopting these these practices doesn’t make us like Jesus – anymore than attending church or reading the Bible automatically achieves this transformation. As Foster explains, “Disciplines are not the answer; they only lead us to the Answer.” He continues:
"God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.”
But in some parts of the church, some or all of these spiritual disciplines are either ignored or regarded with skepticism. The risk of slipping into legalism is a common objection, but this needn’t be an inevitable consequence. Donald Whitney reminds us:
"Not even the most rigorous practice of the spiritual disciplines is legalistic when the motives of our spirituality are what they should be, namely to do all to the glory of God and to pursue Christlikeness."
And besides, the Apostle Paul spoke strongly of the need to exercise personal discipline as a means of finishing the race:
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27
My Time With God will share quality resources on the rich and varied spiritual disciplines that have helped Christians cultivate the inner life throughout history.
Conviction #4 - We benefit from the example of others
Learning from the example of others is powerful. Author and theologian Don Carson asks the question:
Do you ever say to a young Christian, ‘Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!’
You don’t say “read a book” to someone who wants to learn how to change a tyre or make a latte or play tennis. You invite them to watch you and learn. To imitate you.
Imitating others or being an example that others can imitate is a repeated New Testament theme. On multiple occasions Paul urged his brothers and sisters to imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, Philippians 4:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9, 2 Timothy 3:10-11).
He also encouraged Christian leaders to set an example to be followed (1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:7-8).
And yet, in our increasingly individualistic and isolated culture, we don’t get to do much “watching.” We hear encouragements to “read the Bible” and “pray” but stumble around in the dark trying to understand how.
We can learn so much from others as they open their lives to us – not as experts but as fellow travellers willing to share their experiences for the benefit of others.
People of diverse backgrounds, experiences and life situations. Men and women. New parents. Missionaries. Homemakers. Entrepreneurs.
More Like Jesus will therefore seek to serve Christians by sharing personal and practical examples of how other Christians seek to be transformed into His likeness.