The Secret of Christlikeness

My last attempt to grow some vegetables was not a successful one. I planted some tomato plants and did some weeding and watering when I “got around to it.” When harvest time came, I had nothing to show for my healf-hearted gesture at veggie-growing. I heard about another fellow who is tomato-challenged. He confessed, “I’m not much of a gardener. Once I took a seed catalog and started out the door. ‘Where are you going with that?’ my wife asked. ‘I’m going to show it to my tomatoes…’.” His quip reminds me of this principle: to grow successfully, we need more than an ideal to imitate.
Many disciples of Jesus are trying to follow His perfect example, yet find little fruit of Christlikeness in their experience.
I John 2:6 shows us that the problem is not with our Lord’s example; His pattern is perfect. “He who says he abides in Him (Christ) ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” How can this be done? We abide in Him by believing in our union with Him and by cooperating with His purpose to live through us. A. J.Gordon observed,
“It is not by any painful reproducing of another’s spiritual history that (the believer) is to acquire the true comfort of spirit which he longs for. Outward imitation, though it be of the perfect Example Himself (Christ), has little place in the order of spiritual growth — little because of its impossibility. ‘For without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). To abide in Christ is the only secret of Christlikeness… “[1]
Jesus Christ’s example of perfect submission to the Father and dependence on the Holy Spirit points to four vital principles for our discipleship.
1. We cannot live the Christian life. Only Christ can live it through us.
“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24). Ian Thomas noted,
“The One who calls you to a life of righteousness is the One who by your consent lives that life of righteousness through you! … This is the genius that saves a man from the futility of self-effort … If it were not for this divine provision, the call to Christ would be a source of utter frustration, presenting the sorry spectacle of a sincere idealist, constantly thwarted by his own inadequacy.”[2]
2. As true believers, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16, See 6:19). A writer during the era of the Welch Revival affirmed,
“Just so far as the Eternal Spirit has room in us, so far we are ‘in the Spirit’. God’s purpose is that the Spirit should possess us wholly, so that we may not only live by the Spirit, but walk each day step by step in the Spirit, not fulfilling the desires of the flesh.” [3]
3. We are to yield to God’s will continually.
“Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’ ” (Luke 9:23; See Rom. 12:1,2). British pastor, F.B. Meyer makes this appeal:
“At this moment I would summon you to stand beneath the Cross and to see there One who entirely yielded up His own will. More than that, I want you to see your self-life nailed there, and to turn from it to God in adoration, saying that you are prepared to be weak and helpless so far as your own energies are concerned, that He may put forth in your life the mighty energy of that power which raised Christ from the dead.”[4]
4. We are to depend upon Christ for His enablement and guidance.
Paul testified, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God…” ( 2 Cor. 3:4,5; See Gal. 2:20). Ian Thomas observed further,
“It is for you to BE — it is for Him to DO! Restfully available to the Saving Life of Christ, enjoying ‘the richest measure of the divine presence, a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself’, instantly obedient to the heavenly impulse — this is your vocation, and this is your victory![5]
Fruitfulness comes by grace, not by law.
So, the secret of Christlikeness is Christ’s example of being in order to do. For us, this is more than imitation; it’s participation.

Our Father, we gain new hope when You show us that Christ indwelling us is more than adequate for all the challenges that we face in this life. We yield ourselves to Your perfect, wise will, and depend upon Your grace and power to flow through us daily. In Christ we pray, amen.

[1] In Christ p.19.

[2] The Saving Life of Christ p.15.

[3] Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Cross – the Touchstone of Faith p. 29.

[4] F.B. Meyer,Our Daily Walk p. 93.

[5] Thomas, p.151.

Copyright 2012 by John B. Woodward. Revised from 1998 edition. Permission is granted to reproduce this article for non-commercial, ministry use when credit is given.