The ultimate goal of every Christian is to look like Jesus. What I mean by “look like Jesus” is not in physical appearance, but to follow Jesus in both the big and small areas of their lives, in order to be the blessing that He was on earth, and to receive the blessings of obedience to and pursuit of God.
This is what we all want, but so few of us feel we are progressing at the pace we’d prefer.
One the biggest challenges in striving to look like Jesus is starting with the wrong picture of what it means to look like Jesus.
For many years, I personally thought that being “radical” for God meant being really intense with myself and others, praying for exhausting amounts of time, sacrificing as much as possible simply for the sake of denying myself as much as possible, and other self-inflicting practices that would ultimately lead to looking more like Jesus. To me, back then, “zeal” was the epitomy of what it meant to look like Jesus.
I thought this because of role models I held in Bible college, many of whom I now see were clearly poor examples of Christlikeness. I remember reading passages in the Bible back then about the importance of a Christian having compassion, love, kindness, and scratching my head wondering why I was not seeing these in my role models or myself. It was starting to dawn on me that God had a different picture of Himself than I had of Him.
Larry Osborne in Sticky Teams shares a similar sentiment: “Spiritual maturity is a life that consistently exhibits the character of Jesus Christ. This means character—not giftedness, not biblical knowledge, not zeal. And that shouldn’t surprise us, since some of the most divisive and self-centered people in our churches are those who are highly gifted, know the Bible inside and out, and exhibit a zeal that puts the rest of us to shame. They just happen to also be jerks.”
I can’t stop thinking about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 lately. God has given us a clear filter of what it means to look like Jesus in all areas of our lives: in our thoughts, actions, words and relationships.
Is what we are saying or doing filled with a whole lot of love, whole lot of joy, whole lot of peace, whole lot of patience, whole lot of kindness, whole lot of gentleness? If not, it’s probably not of the Spirit. Scripture tells us that “when the Holy Spirit controls our lives,” we will show these things in increasing measure.
The fruit of the Spirit in your own life is what helps you be fruitful in the world.
God didn’t just give us this clear picture of what it means for us to look like His Son, and empower us by His Spirit to do so, so that we would be a bland personality in the world. The fruits of the Spirit are not simple cardboard cutouts that we learned about in Sunday School, but powerful life traits that have the ability to transform every aspect of our lives and relationships, and give us success wherever we go.
These are the aspects of Jesus that we need to hold up as a standard for our own life. These are the characteristics that we need to rejoice in when we see them in our gospel-centered communities and role models. As we allow the Lord to transform our hearts, we pray that we will grow in these traits and see them more and more active in how we act and react to those on our daily path.