I was sitting in a Sunday school class one day (a really good class with an excellent teacher, I might add) when I heard a man say something that struck me as very sad. We were talking about being disciples of Jesus Christ, and an older man in the class spoke up. He said, "Of course, we would be wrong if we think we can make any progress while we're here on this earth. We'll never be anything more than horribly sinful creatures, and not until we get to heaven will we see any real change."
Really? We'll never make any progress in becoming Christlike? Is that true?
His comment was ironic, because he is actually a very godly man. He's walked with the Lord for a long time, and even a casual onlooker can see evidence of that. I believe he was thinking about the truth that all people are sinful and are completely reliant on God's grace to save us. That is certainly a fact.
But it IS possible to make progress. It IS possible to become more like Christ. It's possible only--repeat, ONLY--by the grace of God. Our transformation into Christlikeness is the work of God in us. But it can happen, and it's something that God wants to do for us. He invites us to live in His grace and to allow the transformation of our character to take place. By making ourselves apprentices to Jesus, we can become more like Him.
Some people might worry that if we make progress in the spiritual life we might then feel very proud of how much we've advanced. Certainly, becoming prideful is something against which we want to stand. But actually becoming more like Jesus includes being humble, doesn't it?
Will we reach perfection? Absolutely not. If we tried very hard, could we save ourselves? Most definitely not. But can we become more like Jesus? Yes, we can.
That simple fact is important. In order to change, people first must have a vision that change is possible.
I challenge you to let this idea percolate in your brain for awhile today.
"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen" (II Peter 3:18).