The Purpose Driven Life 4
You were created to become like Christ: Ephesians 4:11-24


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 anyone 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. 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.  The two things you will take with you into eternity are your character and your influence in the lives of other people. Your character - to know Jesus and your ministry - to make Jesus known. From the perspective of eternity everything else will be evaluated on the basis of these two criteria. Did they help or hinder you from growing more like Jesus Christ and helping others do the same?

That is why our vision document and five year plan is so important - it helps us keep focused on where we believe the Lord is calling to to be and what he wants us to become. How do we become like Jesus? First, by recognising what we were created to become. 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.” 

“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.”    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.”[2]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 Msg).

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.

Second - you need to repudiate your past - where we have come from.  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.[3] We come to know him through hearing about him and from him and so trust in him. He is our curriculum and our teacher.

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)


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. And that’s just us men… 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. As we close let me ask you a question. What are you committed to? Rick Warren says “Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. Your commitments can develop you or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you. Tell me what you are committed to and I’ll tell you what you’ll be in twenty years. We become whatever we are committed to. It is at this point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives.  Many are afraid to commit to anything and just drift through life. Others make half-hearted commitments to competing values, which lead to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and end up disappointed and bitter. Every choice has eternal consequences so you’d better choose wisely. “Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living!” (2 Peter 3:11). Christ-likeness comes from making Christ-like commitments.

You must commit to living the rest of your life for the five purposes God made. You were planned for God’s pleasure: worship. You were formed for God’s family: fellowship. You were created to become like Christ: discipleship. You were shaped for serving God: ministry. You were made for mission: evangelism. That is why membership matters. That is why we invite you to sign our membership covenant for this coming year.
If I want to become like Jesus -

I will seek to spend time in each day with my Lord Jesus Christ, reading God’s Word and praying. 
I will endeavour to meet with God’s people every Sunday. 
I will support our Church in our mission to know Jesus and make Jesus known.

I am committed to growing together with others in the knowledge of and love for Jesus Christ.
I will use the gifts and talents God has given me to serve within the Body of Christ at Christ Church. 
I will faithfully steward the money God has given me, for his glory.

I will follow the example of my Lord Jesus Christ in reaching out in love to others. I will take and create opportunities to share the Good News of how Jesus Christ died on the cross for us.

“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.”[4]

Lets pray.

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

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

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

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