To follow Jesus is to become like Jesus. When Jesus called Peter, he was ambitious, yet timid. After years of following Jesus, Peter became humble and bold. When Jesus called Paul, he was violent and self-righteous. After years of following Jesus, he became gentle and self-denying. As you follow Jesus, hear his Word, speak to him, and obey him, you will become more and more like him.

Christlikeness is at the core of God’s eternal purpose for you: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son …” (Romans 8:29). Titus 2:14 tells us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Because Jesus is full of grace, he will take you in as you are. Because Jesus is full of power, he will not leave you there. Jesus’ followers become more like him as they pursue him, leaving behind sin and reflecting his character.

Growth in Christlikeness is also a key sign that you’re really following Jesus. John tells us, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). Although we never reach perfect Christlikeness on this earth, we ought to grow more and more into his image as we follow him. We call this “sanctification,” the process of progressively conforming into Christlikeness. Those who are truly justified (made righteous through faith) will increasingly be sanctified (walking in righteousness throughout their life). Paul says that Jesus has taught us to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life … and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

True Christlikeness is always rooted in the gospel. You can only become like Jesus in your character when you have first seen how Jesus became like you on the cross. Because Jesus took on your sin on the cross and gave you his perfect righteousness as a gift, you are empowered by the Spirit to take on his character. The gospel tells us that the pursuit of Christlikeness is simply the pursuit of who you already are in Christ. Because you are a holy child of God, God calls you to walk in holiness (Colossians 3:12-13). Because you have been filled with the Spirit, God calls you to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). Because you have been re-created in the likeness of Christ, God calls you to walk in Christlikeness (Ephesians 4:24).

What is involved in Christlikeness? Paul lists out nine “fruit of the Spirit,” or evidences of God’s work within us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). As you follow Jesus, this fruit will characterize your life more and more. We can summarize the three components of Christlikeness as love, joy, and holiness.

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