The Imitation of Christ
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1).- Ephesians 5:1
We spent some time yesterday examining the need for us to set aside the vices of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander if we are believers in Christ (1 Peter 2:1). Such things hinder our spiritual growth, and if they are consistently practiced, may demonstrate that we cannot stand firm in this hope because it was never possessed in the first place. In order that we might better understand spiritual growth and learn about those virtues evidenced by those who stand firm in their faith, we will spend the next two weeks examining the fruits of true faith with the help of the teaching series Developing Christian Character by Dr. R.C. Sproul.
The opening chapter of the Bible tells us that humanity is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). While theologians have debated the implications of this teaching, all agree that to be in the image of God is to reflect His glory and holy character.
However, the intrusion of sin into God’s good creation has marred His image in all human beings. Though human beings retain dignity after the Fall, the presence of sin guarantees that we cannot fulfill the call to mirror the character of God. We may still finitely display some of His characteristics — such as reason and love — but we cannot live after the pattern of His righteousness.
We cannot do this, that is, until after we have been redeemed by Christ. When we profess faith and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit we are progressively enabled to fulfill the call to mirror God’s holiness and glory. We begin to live righteously if we have truly been saved.
Although we receive the ability to do this, the presence of sin in us until our glorification means that we need a pattern to follow if our lives are going to be conformed to the character of God. God Himself, especially as He has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, is our pattern. We must look to Him and His commands to understand the righteous way in which we must live. The righteous acts and traits that we must display will not justify us, but they do demonstrate that we have been truly set apart as God’s holy children, and they are necessary if we are to reflect His image.
God has given us the spiritual disciplines so that we might fulfill the call to imitate His holiness and righteousness. Therefore we must endeavor to study His Word, pray, fellowship, and evangelize, always remembering that if we do such things without having our character conformed to Christ, then we have not done them rightly. As you study Scripture with us this year, pray that God would use your study to conform you to His image.
Passages for Further Study