Deep within every true Christian is a longing to be more like Christ. We are not content as we are; we want to be changed. This longing comes from the Holy Spirit, who not only gives the new birth (John 3:5–8), but fills regenerated people with a zeal to glorify God (Rom. 8:1–5).
The question is, How can we become more like Christ? The biblical answer to this may be surprising to us pragmatic modern folks. We tend to look for methods, strategies, and action points. But the Bible teaches that we become like Jesus as we worship Jesus.
To understand why this is true, we need to understand how human beings are made. God designed us to be His image bearers:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Greg Beale observes: “God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else. . . . We either reflect the Creator or something in creation.” In other words, it’s in our nature to bear the image of something. If not God, then idols. If not the Creator, then the creation.
And this is exactly what we see in the story of humanity. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people repeatedly turn to idols—and the biblical writers show them becoming like those idols. When Israel bows down to the golden calf at Mount Sinai, God calls them “stiff-necked” (Ex. 32:9), like a stubborn cow. In Isaiah 6:10, God curses His people with a sensory dullness that mirrors their idols: “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes.” Second Kings 17:15 explains the exile by saying of Israel, “They went after false idols and became false.”
When we worship false gods, we become like them. Our worship of money makes us greedy and stingy. Our worship of power makes us harsh and demanding. Our worship of approval makes us anxious and fearful. Our worship of success makes us busy and restless. The more we avert our gaze from the true God and chase these idols, the more ungodly we become. Do you see this in your own life? What false gods do you find yourself chasing? How do you see yourself becoming like them instead of like Christ?