Jesus does not want us to be clones, but He does want us to be like Him. After all, that’s why He came to earth. He came to gather a people who would be like Him (1 John 3:2); a people who would worship and adore Him forever. (Revelation 5:14)
As His people, while here on earth, we are to ‘work out our salvation’ (Philippians 2:12). That doesn’t mean we have to earn our salvation. Indeed, we know salvation is by grace through faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
We were sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11) at the time of our conversion, but in our imperfect bodies we are required to soldier on. We are to persevere with our walk of progressive sanctification. Paul said he had not yet achieved perfection; he would only be perfect when Christ transforms his body to be like the resurrected body of Christ (Philippians 3:12).
It is no surprise, therefore, that we find a few references in the New Testament urging Christians to imitate Christ and God. We are implored to be like Him.
Paul twice told the Corinthian church to ‘imitate’ him. First, in 1 Corinthians 4:16: ‘Therefore I urge you to imitate me’, and then 11:1: ‘Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.’ We note that Paul imitated Christ, and this was what he wanted others to do. Although he said “Imitate me,” essentially, he wanted Corinthian church members to be like him in imitating Christ.
Paul was an excellent role model, but he was not Christ. Excellent role models are valuable, and we see many of them mentioned in Hebrews regarding their faith, but the key figure to imitate is Jesus. He is the perfect role model. Jesus had to have faith like no other man. His faith was in His Father who would raise Him (1 Corinthians 6:14) from the dead. On the Mount of Olives before He was taken for His crucifixion He prayed, “Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42-44) Jesus voluntarily relinquished His will to the Father’s. He had complete trust in Him.
Here’s a key text regarding faith and imitating others who had faith. ‘And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Hebrews 6:11, 12). This points to Hebrews 11 which is a discourse on faith and perseverance.
The Old and New Testament saints listed in Hebrews 11 all had faith, like that of Abraham (vs 8-10). They sought ‘a heavenly country’ (vs 13-16). While looking to the promised hope of this country many of them suffered and were martyred (vs 35-38).
In Ephesians, Paul instructs us to be ‘imitators of God’: ‘Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma’ (Ephesians 5:1, 2).
The ultimate objective of imitating Christ and God is to be in His presence in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2) where we shall be like Him: ‘Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’ (1 John 3:2)
The apostle John gives us a sober warning, ‘Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.’ (3 John 1:11)
Let’s take this warning to heart and be imitators of Christ and God.