God intends for us to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). He made us a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) which means we no longer walk in our old sin nature but rather become more and more like Him. God’s Word clearly shows us that Christ-likeness goes beyond our conduct to the very core of our being, our character.
What Standard of Measurement Can We Use for Christ-likeness in Character?
In terms of character, we could look various traits listed in Scripture.
1) When we walk in the Spirit we will “not gratify the desires of the flesh” but rather will exhibit “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:16-22). Since the Holy Spirit’s role is to testify about Christ and bring glory to Him (Jn. 15:26; 16:13-14), certainly these traits would be fruit of Christ-likeness.
2) By His divine power we are able to escape “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” and instead “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Pet. 1:3-9)
3) When we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us” (Eph. 5:2) the traits of divine love (agape) will be found in us. — “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7a)
Important Considerations When Assessing Christ-like Character in Ourselves
Of all the qualities, love is the most important. Jesus identified love for God and people as the greatest commandments on which all else rests (Matt. 22:37-40). We begin and end with love. And, all our benevolent deeds and other ministry efforts mean nothing without love (1 Cor. 13:1-3). — “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best …” (Phil. 1:9-10)
It’s easier to measure outward activity than inward realities. We can be deceived into thinking we’re okay because we’re doing all the right things, yet inwardly be missing the mark. Such was the case with the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2. They persevered in doing all the right stuff, even enduring hardship. Nonetheless the Lord said, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4).
We do not self-generate Christ-like character within ourselves. We must take great care not to use character assessments in a way that suggests we can make ourselves like Him. Notice in the lists of traits that we are looking at the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), godliness due to His divine power (2 Pet. 1:3), and divine (agape), not human, love. Hence, the results of assessing Christ-like character should lead us to praise Him and/or fall back more and more in recognition of our need for His work in our lives.