As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world (1 John 4:17; NLT).
The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT).
Christians are people who believe in Jesus, try to live like him, and who want to become more like him. This process of personal growth and transformation continues until the day we die.
Using willpower alone, this task would be impossible. However, with the help of his Holy Spirit, who lives within us all, we can make progress.
The motivational force underpinning all Christ’s behaviour is love, so in order to become like him we need to grow more loving in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).
Many of us struggle with a constant stream of negative thoughts about others. Allowing ourselves to indulge such thoughts unchecked prepares the way for hurtful words and actions. Changing the way we think is therefore the key to becoming more like Christ. This might sound like an overwhelming task, but it becomes manageable when we tackle our thoughts one at a time.
In order to change our thoughts, we need to recognise them whilst they are occurring. This degree of self-awareness is most readily developed during the ideal conditions of contemplation. If you would like to read more about this process, you might want to check out my articles on prayer and contemplation.
As we learn to register each thought, we can habitually ask ourselves: Is this thought loving? If it is not, we immediately say: Sorry, Lord, then consciously replace it with a much more caring intention, by silently praying for those concerned.
The habit of recognising, stopping, and changing our negative thoughts about others takes a lifetime to acquire. However, it gradually becomes easier with practice, and will repeatedly save us from speaking or acting unkindly.
We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
Living like Jesus means learning to speak the truth in love, just as he did. Even when he was angry, afraid, or in great pain, Jesus always spoke the truth; and even when his words sounded harsh, he was always motivated by love.
Thus, we need to become keenly aware of what we are saying, constantly asking ourselves: Are my words true; and are they loving?
Whenever we realise we are straying from the truth, we need to correct ourselves immediately. Whenever we realise we are speaking without love, we need to apologise straight away to the person concerned, and ask their forgiveness.
In the early stages of learning, the realisation that we have spoken untruthfully, or without love, often comes after the conversation has ended, rather than whilst it is ongoing. However, we can still get in touch to explain and apologise. With practice we will become more quickly aware of what we are saying, giving us time to put things right before the conversation comes to an end.
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).
Living like Jesus means being constantly aware of our actions, whilst asking ourselves: Is this deed loving? If it is not, we need to stop what we are doing, and put right what we have done. If we are with other people, we can apologise. If alone, we can tell God how sorry we are for each thoughtless action.
We will be like him (1 John 3:2; NLT).
In time, by asking the Holy Spirit to help us, and constantly working to develop greater self-awareness, we can grow more like Christ in thought, word, and deed. This transformational process takes a lifetime, until we can say, with Saint Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20; NLT).