"God saved us and called us to live a holy life." 2 Tim. 1:9
I want to ask you a life-changing question:
Does God save people for them to become like Jesus or does He save people for them to be like Jesus?
Your answer to this question will determine your Christian life! Before we can address the difference between "becoming like Jesus" and "being like Jesus," we must have a clear understanding of what it means to be saved.
Mankind was created in God's image to live in close relationship with God, to reflect the very nature of God and do His will on earth. As God's offspring, we were created to be like God (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:8). Because of man's disobedience he separated himself from God's will and consequently God's presence and nature. Having become ungodly (no longer like God) mankind became God's enemy as he continued to walk independently of God and in rebellion to God's will. The apostle Paul describes man's separation from God like this,
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Eph. 2:1-3
God's image that was to be revealed through mankind, became distorted. Consequently, mankind is ungodly by nature.
The last Adam
In order for God to restore man to His original nature and purpose, God sent Jesus to both reveal man in his original image of God as well as to restore man to his original godliness. Jesus came to rescue, restore, reconcile or save man from ungodliness and separation from God. Paul writes,
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Rom. 5:6
So we see that God made a way for man to be restored to Himself so that man would be in close relationship to God, reflect His nature and do His will.
Saved to become or saved to be?
Understanding God's purpose for creating man and for giving us His Son, it should be clear that we are not saved to become like Jesus but to be like Him. That is why we read in Scripture:
"Be holy, for I am holy" 1 Peter 1:16
"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6
"Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" Matt. 5:48
"Be imitators of God" Eph. 5:1
Created for what?
Let me ask you: What was God's purpose for creating Adam? Was it so that he would become like God? Was the whole purpose of the creation of man an experiment to see how he would develop in God-likeness? Clearly not!
The problem with thinking that our purpose in life is to become like Jesus is that it paralyses the believer and causes him to be introspective and ineffective in "reigning in life" (Rom.5:17).
Preoccupation with self-improvement and responding to the accusations of the enemy keep the believer caught in a satanic trap that stops him from fulfilling God's purpose for his life!
After explaining to the believers in Ephesus that their previous nature and behaviour separated them from God, Paul shares the amazing truth that because of His great love for man, God has provided a way for us to be restored to Him and therefore restored to fellowship with God and to godliness. The restoration to godliness cannot be accomplished by man's own effort (works) but is retored by faith in Christ! Grace restores man to God and to the Creator's original purpose for mankind.
Having described God's gift to mankind, Paul says,
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do." Eph. 2:10
God restores us to Himself and to our original godliness so that we will do God's will and fulfill His purpose for us.
The believer is not created in Christ to become like Jesus but to be like Jesus, doing the Father's will in the Father's image out of fellowship with the Father!
That is exactly how Christ lived on earth (see John 14:8-14).
The problem of sin
I believe that God hates sin. He hates rebellion and disobedience to His perfect will. However, let me ask you this question:
If there weren't such a thing as sin, how would you live your Christian life?
The answer to this question will reveal whether you are preoccupied with self-improvement or whether you are set free to pursue the "good works, which God has prepared in advance" for you to do. Let me repeat what I said earlier: Preoccupation with self-improvement and responding to the accusations of the enemy keep the believer caught in a satanic trap that stops him from fulfilling God's purpose for his life!
Grace is risky
God took a risk when He gave us the gift of grace. He knew that we could either ignore it by still trying to become godly in our own effort (see Gal. 3:1-4; 5:4) or misuse it by continuing to live in sin. However, regardless of the ignorance of grace and the misuse of grace do you realise that grace empowers? Paul writes,
"You then my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." 2 Tim. 2:1
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himslef for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:11-14
God saves us to be like Jesus. Having received this indescribable gift of grace, will you ignore it or misuse it or will you walk in it to be like Jesus, enjoying intimacy with the Father, revealing the Father's nature and doing the Father's will?