How does God grow us to become more like Jesus?
God can do anything. He loves to do the impossible; walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out evil and feeding twenty to thirty thousand people at once. He could do the impossible of instantly transforming us into the image of Jesus. But, He has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus was deliberate in developing His disciples; serving them, calling them, doing ministry with them, doing life with them, explaining things to them, correcting them and so much more. In a similar manner, we can see God walk slowly and patiently with the Israelites as they walked through the desert for 40 years.
We can see God seeks to grow us one step at a time so, "throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Eph 4:22-24.
Why does it take so long to change and grow up?
There are several reasons:
1. We have a lot to unlearn. One of Jesus' teaching style was designed to address this need to unlearn. "You have heard it was said about adultery... but I tell you this about adultery...." (Sermon on the Mount). Since most of our problems and all of our bad habits didn’t develop overnight, it’s unrealistic to expect them go away immediately. It has taken us years to develop these negative thinking and behaving patterns. There is no pill, prayer, or principle that will instantly undo the damage of many years. It requires the hard work of removal and replacement. The Bible calls it “taking off the old self” and “putting on the new self."Eph 4:22-24
2. Another reason, we are slow learners. We are quick learners for other people to change. But, for most of us, we often have to relearn a lesson dozens and dozens and maybe a few more dozen times to really get it. The problems keep recurring, and we think, “Not again! I’ve already learned that!” How often did Jesus say to His disciples, "Oh you of little faith?" The disciples and the history of Israel illustrates how quickly we forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert to our old patterns of behavior. We need repeated exposure.
3. A third reason, growth is often painful and scary. Think about the Rich Young Ruler, after Jesus pointed out the growth plan for him, he walked away grieving. There is no growth without change, there is no change without fear or loss, and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind. We fear these losses, even if our old ways were self-defeating, because, like a worn-out pair of shoes, they were at least comfortable and familiar.
4. Good habits take time to develop. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Rom 12:2 Remember that your character is the sum total of the repeated things that you do, your habits. You can’t claim to be honest unless you are habitually honest. You can’t claim to be an encourager unless you habitually encourage. You can’t claim to have a positive and inclusive attitude unless you habitually have a positive and inclusive attitude. Your habits create your character.
There is only one way to become like Christ, you must practice to be like Jesus. This takes time! There are no instant habits. Paul urged Timothy, "be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress." 1 Tim 4:15
Is there a character quality that God is seeking to change in you?
Is there a bad habit He is trying to change?
What one thing do you need to practice doing every day so that you are growing to be more like Jesus?
Praying to grow one step at a time together,
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.