You were created to become like Christ:
Ephesians 4:11-24

The Purpose Driven Life #3


When you were young, who were your heroes? Who did you want to become like? Who did you pretend to be? Whose posters adorned your bedroom walls?

As a child I can remember playing Cowboys and Indians and pretending to be the Lone Ranger. For some reason none of my friends wanted to be Tonto. Then it was Scott Tracy of Thunderbirds, then it was David McCullum as the Man from Uncle, then 007, James Bond.  What about pop stars? Who did you idolise? While my mother probably wanted me to grow up to be like Cliff Richard, on a good day I fantasized about being Paul McCartney of the Beatles. On a bad day it was Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. But, strumming a tennis racket and growing my hair long didn’t make me a rock star.

In the 1970’s I graduated to the Beach Boys and even made myself a full sized surfboard at school but it didn’t float… I remember in the 1980’s when Steve Ovette was competing against Sebastian Coe for an Olympic place, I bought myself a tracksuit and went through a jogging phase to try and improve my fitness but it didn’t last more than a fortnight.

In the 1990’s when Tiger Wood was winning every golf tournament, I went and bought myself a new cap and putter to try and improve my game but it hasn’t worked, yet... I suspect I am not alone. Aspiring to be like someone else is natural. Whether it’s a positive or negative role model seems to depend on whether you are a  parent or a child… Did your parents ever encourage you to want to be like Jesus Christ? 

The amazing truth is that you were created for nothing less than to become like Jesus Christ. “From the very beginning, God's plan has been to make you like his Son, Jesus. This is your destiny and the third purpose of your life. [ God’s first purpose is that discover we were planned for God’s pleasure. Second - that we were formed for God’s family, and third - that we were created to become like Christ.  We are going to focus on this through June and July.  God announced this intention at creation: "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness'" (Genesis 1:26 TNIV).

In all of creation, only human beings are made "in God's image." This is a great privilege and gives us dignity. We don't know all this phrase covers, but we do know some of the aspects it includes: Like God, we are spiritual beings -- our spirits are immortal and will outlast our earthly bodies; we are intellectual -- we can think, reason and solve problems; like God, we are relational -- we can give and receive real love; and we have a moral consciousness -- we can discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God.

The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God; that is why murder and abortion are wrong. But the image is incomplete and has been damaged and distorted by sin. So God sent Jesus on a mission to restore the full image we had lost. What does the full "image and likeness" of God look like? It looks like Jesus Christ!

People often use the phrase "like father, like son" to refer to family resemblance. When people see my likeness in my children, it pleases me. God wants [us who are] his children to bear his image and likeness, too.

Let me be absolutely clear: [We] … will never become God, or even a god. That prideful lie is Satan's oldest temptation. Satan promised Adam and Eve that if they followed his advice, "you shall be as gods." Many religions and New Age philosophies still promote this old lie that we are divine or can become gods.

This desire to be a ‘god’ shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future and people around us. But as creatures, we will never be the Creator. God doesn't want you to become a god; he wants you to become godly -- taking on his values, attitudes and character. We are meant to:

"take on an entirely new way of life -- a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you" (Ephesians 4:22 Message).

God's ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn't want to destroy it. Christ-likeness is all about transforming your character, not your personality.

God wants you to develop the kind of character described in the beatitudes of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle Paul's great chapter on love... Every time you forget that character is one of God's purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You'll wonder, "Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?"

One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It's what enables us to grow. [Motivates us to mature]. Many Christians misinterpret Jesus' promise of the "abundant life" to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. In a word, they expect the Christian life to be easy. They expect heaven on earth.

This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment. But God is not your servant, and if you fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, either you will become severely disillusioned or you will live in denial of reality.

Never forget that life is not about you. You exist for God's purposes, not vice versa. Why would God provide heaven on earth when he's planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.”[1]

Ephesians 4:24 says, “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” How do we become like God? Please turn with me to Ephesians 4 and let’s find out from the preceding verses.

  1. Recognise what we shall be - our future (4:12-16)
  2. Repudiate what we once were - our past (4:17-19)
  3. Reckon what we are becoming - our present (4:20-24)

1. Recognise what we shall be - our future (4:11-16)
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:12-16)


Paul starts with the vision of the Body of Christ. “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” This is God’s intention. God’s initiative. God’s plan. To become like Christ, we need to know God’s plan which is “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13). Knowing God’s will for our life we can have peace that he knows what he is doing, building the Body of Christ of which we are apart. Notice Paul uses here words like “infants” “grow up” “mature” and interestingly the word “work” twice (4:12, 16).

Lets explore that. What has that got to do with growing up? With moving from infancy to maturity? If you have had teenagers you will know that maturity finally comes only when they get out to work.

They grow up when they get to work. The same is true in the church. God’s intention is that we discover our role in the Body of Christ. In the RSV it says the role of the evangelists, the pastors and teachers is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”. 

Notice who does the ministry - the works of service.

The role of the pastor teachers is to..? Equip the saints for the work. When we advertise opportunities for service in the Church don’t think like the adolescent in terms of - “what do I get out of this?” “how much pocket money will I get”? - volunteerism is an important dimension but think more career than hobby. Serving in the Body of Christ is not a hobby. I’d go as far as to suggest, from the perspective of eternity, what you do in the Body of Christ is infinitely more significant than what you might do for your secular employer.


This is how Bill Hybel’s put it in his book “The Volunteer Revolution” under the heading “This what I was made for”. “Some years ago a new staff member of our church asked me how I had the gall to ask people who are already busy at work or in the home to get involved as volunteers at church. "I mean, don't you feel a little guilty doing this?" he asked. "Isn't it hard to heap such a burden on people?" He had a point. But I knew of a bigger point:


"During the next few months you're going to meet people who stand at drill presses, ten hours a day, five or six days a week. When they go home at night, few of them sense the pleasure, meaning, and purpose of life they've heard advertised in commercials for beer or computer systems. They're godly, conscientious people, and they feel thankful for their jobs. But they don't find satisfaction for their souls at the drill press. And you're going to meet fine, hardworking people in real estate who show thirty homes a week. If they're lucky, one buyer will make an offer, but they're not lucky every week.

Many are extroverts who love showing property and helping families find the right home, but even then they probably don't arrive home at night filled with deep inner joy because of their latest showing. You'll meet insurance salespeople who have been selling policies for twenty years. While they feel grateful that the insurance business puts food on their table and sends their kids to college, the thought of selling one more policy likely doesn't float their emotional boat. You're going to meet car dealers and stockbrokers and bricklayers and police officers and plumbers who, despite their commitment to their careers and jobs, are honest enough to admit that their secular vocation does not offer enough meaning to satisfy the deeper needs that stir in their souls. Some of them love their jobs; they feel stimulated and energized by their work. Some of them even leave their workplace each day knowing that they have honored God by their work and their love for people. But few of them would say: This is what life is all about."


I looked directly into the eyes of my young friend. "You and I get to invite these people to be used by God in ways they never imagined. We have the opportunity to empower them to develop gifts they didn't know they had. We can cheer them on as they courageously assume new levels of Kingdom responsibility that fill their hearts to overflowing. And we get to see the look on their faces when they realize God has used them to touch another human being. "No," I said, "I never really feel guilty inviting people to become volunteers in our church. Never." [2]

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)


How do we become like God? First, by recognising what we were created for - growing up and getting to work.  Recognise what we shall be - our future (4:12-16)


2. Repudiate what we once were - our past (4:17-19)

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Ephesians 4:17-19)


Remember what life was like before you trusted in Christ? Before you received Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? You may not want to put it in such stark terms but the Bible does. And if you don’t yet regard yourself as a Christian - maybe you don’t think you need Jesus that bad yet, then I have to say, this is how the Bible describes you. Notice the words Paul uses to describe the state of the unbeliever. “futility” “darkened” “separated” “ignorance” “hardening” “lost all sensitivity” “sensuality” “indulgence” “impurity” “lust”. I don’t know how to break it more gently. You may see yourself as a good person. I won’t argue with that. God’s image is in everyone of us and his creation is good. God is not saying I’m as bad as I could be, just that I’m not as good as I should be. I’ve yet to meet someone who disagreed with that.

Paul says “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do.”  Secular society of 1st Century Ephesus was little different to 21st Century Britain. See what happens when you substitute “British” for “Gentiles”  “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the British do.” 

“We busy ourselves and entertain ourselves so that we do not have to think. Diversions such as drugs, alcohol, entertainment and work keep us from reflecting on life… Probably the most obvious evidence of futility and sensuality is found in the entertainment media, which offers itself as the mirror of ourselves. [“Big brother” and its derivations is just the latest example]  Most of what is offered in films and on TV is inane, time consuming weirdness. To buy our time we are offered insipid humour, bizarre talk shows, and endless titillation. Little is instructive in a positive way… “you must no longer live as the British do.”

Most people going to the cinema are aged 12-24, a crucial age when they are being shaped morally and spiritually. They are presented with far too much overt sex, promiscuity, sexual deviancy and violence, especially to women. Modernity - as one person put it - is rationalised sexual misbehaviour…“you must no longer live as the British do.”   

Wilson Mizner reportedly said, “Hollywood is a sewer with service from the Ritz-Carlton.” Forty years ago - when films were relatively innocuous - Christians debated whether they should attend. Now that they are largely objectionable, isn’t it interesting that so few are even asking the question? “you must no longer live as the British do.” 

Materialism is another desire that dominates our culture. While much of the world does not have enough to eat, we want what we do not need. We gauge success by accumulation of money and possessions - positive and useful in themselves, but heavy baggage for life and terrible masters. We never have enough. The more control we give to desires, the more controlling they become.

Desires are not bad in themselves. They are God-given assistants for living, but they need a Lord. Give them one.”[3]you must no longer live as the British do.”  The Bible warns,


"Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out.... Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you" (Romans 12:2 Message).

You must make a counter-culture decision to focus on becoming more like Jesus. Otherwise, other forces like peers, parents, co-workers and culture will try to mould you into their image.

Sadly, a quick review of many popular Christian books reveals that many believers have abandoned living for God's great purposes and settled for personal fulfillment and emotional stability. That is narcissism, not discipleship. If you want to become like God -
First - you need to recognise your future - what we will be, grow up and get to work. Second - you need to repudiate your past - where we have come from - remember what it as like to live without hope, without meaning, without purpose, without Jesus. Third - if you want to become like God,


3. Reckon what we are becoming - our present (4:20-24)

“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life… (Ephesians 4:20-21)

”Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. Referring to this process, Paul said, "This will continue until we are ... mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him" (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

Notice how in these verses the imagery shifts to the school - for that is where we are - in school - and remain in school as long as we live. Twice Paul uses the phrase “were taught” (4:21), “were taught” (4:22). The Church is literally a school - which is why getting involved in one of our bible study groups is so essential if we want to grow to become like Christ. If the focus in these verses is on the school, what is our curriculum? Who is our teacher? How are we taught? The answer to all three questions is Jesus.

1.  Jesus is our curriculumcome to know Christ” (4:20). RSV translates this as “learn Christ”. We become like God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no other way. He is our curriculum.

2.  Jesus is our teacher heard of him” (4:21). This should more accurately simply read “heard him” for there is no preposition. Paul assumes that through the voice of their earthly teachers they literally heard Christ.[4] We come to know him through hearing about him and from him and so trusting in him.


3. Jesus is our modeltaught in him… the truth that is in Jesus” (4:21). Paul change from the title ‘Christ’ to ‘Jesus’ seems deliberate, because the historical Jesus is our model - he embodies the truth he teaches. So Jesus is our curriculum, our teacher and our model. The Bible is clear from complimentary passages that it takes the work of the Holy Spirit within us, using truth, troubles, time and even temptation, to make us like Christ. You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won't be completed here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.

In verses 22-24, Paul summarises our three responsibilities in becoming like Christ.


“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

1. Repent - let go of the old ways (4:22)

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” (Ephesians 4:22)

As we saw in verses 17-19, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting. Eugene Peterson in the Message translates verse 22, “Everything… connected with that old way of life has to go. Its rotten through and through. Get rid of it.” (Ephesians 4:22 Message)

2. Rethink - see things from God’s perspective (4:23)

“to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” (Ephesians 4:23)

The imagery is similar to Romans 12:2 where we are instructed

Romans 12:2 to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2). Repent. Rethink.

3. Renew - put on the character of Christ (4:24)

“and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)


I don’t want to embarrass anyone with a gender sensitive illustration, but how long do you take to choose what you are going to wear in the morning? To put on your clothes? To do your teeth? To do your hair? To put on your make up? There’s the foundation, the anti-wrinkle cream, the mascara, the lip stick, the deodorant, the moisturizer, the perfume (have I missed one?).

Don’t get me wrong, you are worth it. I’m not suggesting you change your lifestyle, just suggesting you think about the amount of time you spend to put on what you’re going to have to take off a few hours later, with the amount of time you give to put on what will last for eternity - the character of Christ - in your devotions, your bible reading, your prayer life, your review of the day. Men and women, lets covenant to take more time to put on the new self - in the conscious decisions we take about what we think, what we do and what we say. Because you’re worth it. God thinks you are worth it. Jesus thought you were worth it so much he was prepared to die to save you.

Repent, Rethink, Renew.

If you want to become like God -

1. Recognise your future - what we will be,

2. Repudiate your past - where we have come from

3. Reckon what we are becoming in and through Jesus

“Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny.”[5]


[1] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002) pp. 171-173.

[2]  Bill Hybel’s The Volunteer Revolution (Zondervan,  2004), pp. 11-12.

[3] Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary, Ephesians, (Zondervan , 1996) pp243-244.

[4] John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (IVP, 1979), pp179-180

[5] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002) pp. 176-178.