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Faithlife

Created To Become Like Christ

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Today we look at the third purpose that God put you on this planet for, and we find it in Romans 8:29 and many other verses.  Look there on your outline,

“For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to Him – and He knew who would – should become like His Son”. 

 

Now God’s plan has always been to make you like Jesus Christ.  His plan from the very beginning has been to make human beings like Himself.  God doesn’t want you to become a god – there are religions that believe this; He wants you to become godly.  He wants you to develop His character, the way He thinks, the way He acts, the way He feels, His values, His moral character.  God wants to make you like Himself, and that’s God’s third plan for putting you on this planet, to make you like Jesus.

Look at the next verse, Ephesians 4:15. Read it with me aloud:

“God wants us to grow up…like Christ in everything”. 

 

Now what does it mean to grow up?  It means to be like Christ.  God’s will for you is that you grow up.  You know, babies are cute, but if babies stay babies, it’s tragic.  God wants us to mature and develop, and what does spiritual maturity look like?  Just take a long look at Jesus Christ.  Now unfortunately, a lot of people grow older but never grow up. 

My third purpose in life is to become like Christ

God put you on this planet to become like Jesus.  He gave us a model of what He wants us to grow up like. 

Colossians 1:15 in the Message says,

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.[1]

When we look at the life of Christ we see the model, the example for us to emulate.

The process of being made over is called “discipleship”, and it takes an entire lifetime.  It is a job that God is committed to bringing to completion but it will take a lifetime on planet earth and more.  We will never be completely like Christ until we see Him face to face.

So what is involved in the process of discipleship?  There are some things that are given.  The Word of God is indispensable in the process as are the people of God.  The Word is “powerful” in the life of the Christian. It cuts through pretense and speaks to the deeper parts of our being.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12-13, NIV) [2]

And God uses people.  Some we love and some we work to love.  All are a part of the process.

There are things that God uses that we would never imagine and we are going to look at three of those today.

Look at Romans 8:28 with me.

“In most things, God works for the good.” Oh, I read it wrong.

“In all things God works for the good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes.” 

 

There is nothing that life can throw at you that He cannot use to create the likeness of Christ in you.  And life has some difficult things to throw at us by times.  Often, the very things that are most difficult carry the greatest potential of transformation if we will receive them as a part of the process.

This morning we want to consider three unlikely tools that God uses to shape us and they are all there in the life of Christ.

ð     He had trouble in the garden.

ð     He had temptation in the desert

ð     He had trespasses on the cross.

Like Christ we will encounter these same sorts of situations.  They don’t automatically produce the likeness of Christ in us.  Our hearts must be open and ready to receive God’s “working” in us.

1.   God uses trouble to teach us to trust Him

God uses trouble to teach us to trust Him.  Now in the Bible this word “trouble” is often called “trials”, and “trials” are situations designed by God to draw us closer to Him. 

This is a difficult concept for us to accept.  There are those who just can’t imagine that God would not protect us from adversity.  They would imagine that God would step in to prevent anything unpleasant from occurring in our lives.

They’re not designed to hurt us; they’re designed to help us. 

It seems as though Christlikeness is developed within us in an atmosphere that is opposed to it’s development.  Almost an opposite, hostile environment.  It is not without its risks.  The very environment that can raise the Spirit of Christ to prominence within us can also bring discouragement.  Every negative consequence carries the potential of the blessing.

Why is it so difficult for the character of Christ to be produced in us?

Because it is absolutely unnatural.  The Bible speaks of the “natural man”.

"These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:13-14, NKJV) [3]

So it takes natural means to produce an unnatural response.  God wants to build character in you.  How does He do it?  Look at the first verse, Romans 5:3-4

“…trouble produces patience, and patience produces character, and character produces hope”. 

Now get this, God is far more interested in your life, in what you are, than in what you do.  God is always more interested in what you are, your character, than He is in what you do, your career.  Why?  He is first and foremost more interested in doing something “in you” than he is in doing something “through you”.

Of all the difficult situations that Jesus faced there is one that stands apart because we can see the heart of Christ deeply disturbed and troubled.

Following the Last Supper, he took his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, a garden . . . actually a grove of olive trees, and under the stress of carrying the weight of the world, He asked His disciples to stay with Him while He prayed.  And notice what it says there.

“They came to a garden called Gethsemane and Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray’.” (Mark 14:32). 

At other points he stole away by himself but this final evening he asked his disciples to wait for him while he prayed.

At other times he admonished his disciples,

" “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." (John 14:1, NIV) [4]

This time he was troubled and he reached out for his disciples just as he encouraged his disciples to reach out for him.

Who would you call in the pinch, in the crisis?  Everyone ought to have a small group of Christian friends to lean on in these times. That’s what fellowship is all about.  Nobody is supposed to go through the troubles of life alone.  Even Jesus needed friends.  He says, “If you guys would just hang out with me while I go pray here.”  The stress and anguish came over Him, and He said,

“The worry in My heart is so great that it almost crushes Me.” (Mark 14:34). 

Some people are given to “catastrophising”.  It doesn’t matter what happens, it is either a catastrophe or it’s headed in that direction.  This wasn’t the case with Christ but can you imagine what his state of mind must have been doing to the disciples?

 

“Father,” He said, “everything is possible for You.  Please take this cup of suffering away from me.  Yet, I want Your will, not Mine!” (Mark 14:36). 

God never asks us to like what we are facing, but He does ask us to accept it as something that He can use for His purposes and your ultimate good.

And he asks us to trust Him in the process.

It would be wonderful if God could find a less painful way to teach us to trust.  It would be wonderful if we could learn after one lesson.  It is our experience that teaches us that God is faithful and trustworthy.

Here are a couple of recommendations that will help us to benefit from our experience.

ð     Keep a spiritual journal.  God told Moses to do this when they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness.  In Numbers 33:2 it says,

“At the Lord’s direction, Moses kept a written record of their progress”. 

I spent an hour yesterday going back through a journal that I kept in my last year of H.S.  There were stories there of some of my peers being saved and stories of an inter-denominational youth group that I led.  I read about the first sermon that I ever preached as a teenager and a time when I prayed for my grandmother who was having a growth removed from her neck.  I was encouraged all over again.  I read accounts of my struggles with my parent’s failing marriage.  Often, journaling is one of the very best ways that a person can measure their spiritual progress.

Most of us don’t realize how much we’ve changed, and we forget what we used to be like.  And when you go back and have a journal, and you can go back and appreciate your progress.

ð     Remember  the reward.  In eternity God is going to reward your character development.  The Bible says this

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2Cor. 4:17). 

This is merely an admonition to put things in perspective.  There is nothing permanent in this world.  Everything is passing away because it is time constrained.

I was driving along in my Neon yesterday.  Please remember that I hate cars – I have an inner resentment that I have to deal with.  The car was dirty inside and out.  I said to Jeff.  If this car was 6 months old, it would look the same as the Neon does today – in and out.  I admire those of you who are committed and able to keep your vehicles so immaculately in the winter but I give up and I feel so much better about a dirty old car then I would about a dirty new car.

But they don’t last forever and neither do we.  Nor do our problems and our difficulties.

What we’re going through isn’t going to last, and even if it lasted a lifetime, that’s nothing compared to the number of years you’re going to spend in eternity.”  He says, “What we’re going through now is light and temporary, but we’re going to be rewarded for our character in heaven”.  I love this verse in the Message paraphrase.  It says this,

“These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times and the lavish celebration prepared for us.” 

2.   God uses our temptations to teach us to obey Him. 

Temptations are situations designed by Satan and they’re intended to harm us.  God never tempts us to do evil.  They are designed by Satan, intended to hurt us. 

God is able to use Satan’s temptations for good in our lives because temptation always provides a choice.  Every time I choose obedience over temptation I grow in my relationship with Christ. 

And choices are needed to develop character in our lives. 

Jesus faced temptations.  He never sinned, but He faced temptations.  Right after He was baptized at the very beginning of his public ministry at the age of 30, He went through an intense 40-day period of temptation out in the desert.  Look at what the Bible has to say in Matthew 4:1.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil”. 

 

As Jesus was tempted, so will we be tempted.  Here are some things to remember about temptation.

Number one, remember that it is not a sin to be tempted.  Jesus never sinned, yet He was tempted.  It’s not a sin to be tempted.  Martin Luther used to say, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair,” if you have enough hair for them to build a nest in, that is.  It’s not a sin to be tempted. 

Number two; remember that everyone is tempted in the same ways.  The Bible says we’re all tempted in the same common ways.  One of the ways that Satan tricks us is he makes us feel like our temptation is better than anyone else’s, like “I’m really bad, I’ve got this great temptation, I’ve thought of this thing, this temptation, nobody in all of human history has ever thought of.”  No you haven’t.  Your temptation is just like everyone else’s.  And if you’re feeling like “Wow, I’m really a bad person”, we’re sort of like the toddler who thinks they’re the first one to come up with the idea of sticking a green bean up their nose.  And the truth is, every one of us faces the same temptation.  We’re all alike.  And if you’re scared by the temptation that you’re facing, feeling like no one else has ever faced this, we’ve all faced the same thing.  And God is able to help us through these temptations. 

It’s important to remember that you’ll never outgrow temptation.  You never get to a point in your life where you become so spiritual or so old, that you’re not tempted anymore.  We all are tempted throughout all of our lives.  But it’s also important to remember that Jesus teaches us in His experience that every temptation is an opportunity to do good, to make the right choice.  It’s a stepping stone toward being more like Jesus Christ.  Notice what Jesus did when he was tempted in Matthew 4:10. Jesus said,

“Get out of here, Satan. The scriptures say, worship only the Lord God.  Obey only Him’”. 

He confronted the temptation. 

Temptation always tests whether you love God more than the temptation.  Your response will reveal the greter love of your heart.

Here are two helps with temptation.

ð     If you want to make it through the temptations of life we all face, keep focused on good thoughts.  The Bible talks about this in Phil. 4:8 when it says,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right”. 

 

Temptation always starts with getting your attention, and when it gets your attention, it gets you.  There are times when we obsess on the temptation that we are trying to overcome and this very mistake assures our defeat.  It’s like the  food obsession to the dieter.

Let me give you just a tip about temptation.  When you’re tempted, don’t resist it.  Because as you’re resisting it, guess what you’re doing?  You’re just thinking about the temptation!  You’re getting into a spiritual tug-of-war with Satan, and he always wins!  You don’t resist it, you just drop the rope and you walk a different direction and you think about something different.  This is a verse that I’ve used literally hundreds and hundreds of times in my life, “Whatever’s good, whatever’s right, whatever’s true”.  When I’m tempted, it’s my favorite verse to use to turn my thoughts from what’s wrong to what’s right, so I’ve memorized it very well, because I’ve been tempted a lot.  If you’ll take a verse like this and let it turn your mind from what’s wrong to what’s right, you’ll find that the temptation starts to drop away.  You refocus on something else.  You keep focused on good thoughts. 

ð     The second tip is, get a spiritual partner.  I know none of us like to talk about our temptations, but one of the ways to defeat them is to be open about them, to bring them out into the light.  Get a spiritual partner, someone who can help you.  The Bible tells us in Eccl. 4:9-10,

“You’re better off to have a friend than to be all alone…If you fall, your friend can help you up”

One of the devil’s most effective lies is to make us believe that we can sort things out by ourselves.  James encourages us to confess to one another and to pray for one another to find healing.  I think that there is a principle here that reinforces the notion that while our relationship with Christ is intended to be intensely personal, it is never designed to be a private matter.  The way that you relate to God impacts the body of Christ at large.  You are either an exclamation point or a question mark relative to spiritual truth and reality.

3.   God uses trespasses to teach us to forgive. 

Now what in the world are trespasses?  If trials are situations designed by God to draw us closer to Him and temptations are situations designed by the devil to draw us away from Him, from God, then trespasses are situations designed by other people designed to hurt us

Believe it or not, there are mean-spirited people in life who want to hurt you intentionally.

That’s why the prayer that Christ gave his disciples, the Lord’s Prayer contains the request, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”  Now this is the tough one.  It’s one thing to handle trouble and it’s another thing to handle temptation.  This may be the single most difficult tool of all that God uses in our lives to make us like Christ is this one. 

Bearing the hurt of other people without retaliation is, without a doubt, the most important and the most difficult step in becoming like Jesus Christ, because it often involves being misunderstood, being criticized, being judged, being hurt physically or emotionally or verbally, it may involve abuse. 

Now let me be real clear. These are not good things.  These are evil things, and God is not the author of evil.  God does not cause these things.  God hates sin.  But He didn’t even protect His own Son from these things.  Even His own Son was misunderstood and hurt and judged and abused. What makes you think you’re going to be let off the hook?  You see, on the cross Jesus Christ not only carried our sins, He also endured enormous abuse from the people who were right there.  Notice this first verse, Matthew 27:39-44. It says,

“The people passing by (looking at Jesus on the cross) shook their heads and hurled insults at Jesus…and the elders made fun of Him…Even the bandits who had been crucified with Him insulted him in the same way.”    

And what was His response? 

Look at the next verse.

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing’”

In 1 Pet. 2:23 it says this

“They called Him every name in the book and He said nothing back.  He suffered in silence, intent to let God set things right”.   

What did Jesus do?  What was His response to trespasses?  He yielded His right to get even.  He absorbed the hurt.  He put up with the pain.  He responded to evil with good.  That’s what Jesus did. 

Now, if you’re going to grow up spiritually and if you’re going to become like Jesus Christ, you’re going to have to learn the same thing.  The truth is in life you’re going to be hurt.  This is not heaven.  This is a fallen world.  Everybody sins.  You hurt other people.  Other people hurt you.  We hurt each other intentionally and unintentionally.  You’re going to be hurt often in life.  And if you’re going to become like Christ, you have to learn to forgive.  You say, “Well, how do you do that?”  Well, how can you learn to forgive if you’ve never been hurt?  You can’t!  You can’t learn to forgive unless somebody’s hurt you.  And yet forgiveness is one of the primary qualities of God and God wants you to learn to become like Him.  So there are hurts that are allowed in your life in order to make you like Jesus.

Two helps for forgiveness.

ð     Number one, remember that God has forgiven me.  The Bible says

“Forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ” (Eph. 4:32). 

God will never ask you to forgive anybody more than you’ve already been forgiven by Him. 

ð     Number two, remember God is in control.  When you’re being hurt by somebody else, yes, they may mean it for bad, but God will use it for good in your life.  In fact that’s the very thing Joseph said. 

Joseph was betrayed by his own family in the Bible, and his brothers took him out?  They so disliked their younger brother, they sold him into slavery and then lied to their dad and said, “Oh, he was killed by a bear”.  Not exactly, you know this is a dysfunctional family.  And yet God had a plan in it all, and as he was taken to Egypt and went through all kinds of things - falsely accused of rape, thrown into prison…the first 40 years of Joseph’s life went down, down, down.  He had no idea why things were going wrong in his life.  And yet he trusted God the whole time.  He maintained a forgiving spirit.  And God knew exactly where he was and had him exactly where He wanted him to be and over time raised him up to be second in command under Pharaoh.  And it was his plan that saved two nations, Egypt and Israel, from starvation when the famines came.  You read that story.  And later the brothers come to this man, not realizing it was Joseph, and they went to ask for food to take back to their home.  And when Joseph reveals who he is, they are afraid he is going to kill them.  And yet he says this, there on your outline,

“You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done.” (Genesis 50:20). 

There are people who feel justified in reserving forgiveness for a request for forgiveness.  I can’t find that anywhere in the pages of scripture.  Don’t be hard hearted like that.  Learn to forgive reactively rather than to retaliate. 

Your greatest testimony as a believer is how you handle hurt.  How do you respond when other people hurt you?  Do you respond like Jesus did?  The second thing I’m convinced of is that you are most like Christ when you suffer in order to save others.  Who do you need to forgive?  Listen to this.

God’s third purpose for your life is to make you like Jesus Christ.  And if that’s true, then He’s going to take you through everything Jesus went through.  Why would He exempt you?  That means:

ð     He’s going to take you through a Gethsemane, an experience of trouble, where you learn to trust His love.

ð     He’s going to take you through a desert, an experience of temptation, where you learn to obey Him and do the right thing. 

ð     And He’s going to take you to the cross, a time of trespass, where you learn to forgive.  But there is a promise.  Look at these last verses on your outline. 

“We go through exactly what Christ goes through”.

Here’s the good news.

“But if we go through the hard times with Him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with Him.” (Rom. 8:17)

Now, I don’t know what you’re going through these days, I don’t know. There are so many people here today.  I don’t know what you’re going through.  But I do know how God wants you to respond to it, regardless of what you’re going through.  I am confident of how God wants you to respond.  It’s the last verse on your outline.  Let’s read it together.  This is this week’s memory verse.  Read it with me.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”  (Phil. 2:5).

 


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[1]Peterson, E. H. 2003. The Message : The Bible in contemporary language . NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colo.

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[3] The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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