"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14
     God's promise for all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ for salvation is eternal life with Him in Heaven.  Heaven is our eternal hope and our supreme confidence.  Many people believe that the goal of a Christian is to get to Heaven.  As Christians, Heaven is no longer our goal since, once we are saved, we are assured of our salvation.  "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:12-13. Throughout the Bible, our salvation, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, is described as something we have RIGHT NOW, not something we "might get" or "could get in the future."  We can trust in the words of Jesus Christ himself,  "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24.
     The ultimate goal of a Christian is to become as Christ-like as possible in every aspect of our personal walk with the Lord.  To follow Jesus requires self-denial, complete dedication and willing obedience.  Jesus said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15.  It has always been God's plan for all those that know Him to become like His Son Jesus Christ.  "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Romans 8:29.  The Bible teaches that all those who turn to Jesus Christ are being transformed by the Holy Spirit.  "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18.  We become Christ-like by following the example given to us by Christ.  We follow His example in the way we relate to our Heavenly Father and each other.  We also follow Biblical guidance as we govern our own thoughts and emotions.
     How do we achieve a Christ-like relationship with our Heavenly Father and each other?  Jesus provided the answer in Mark 12:29-31.  when He was asked to identify the greatest commandment.  "The most important one," Jesus answered, "is this:  'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  The second is this:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  There is no commandment greater than these."  We are to follow Christ's example of love for our Heavenly Father and each other.  We should extend the love of Christ to everyone. "My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism." James 2:1.  The Bible teaches us what true love is, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, 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 Corinthians 13:4-8.  The love of Christ is clearly evident to everyone.  As we strive to become more Christ-like, the love of Christ should be clearly visible through us.  In fact, Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by our love. "A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35.
    It's good to know that as Christians, we do not depend on our own ability to grow in the Lord.  The Holy Spirit is an active participant and a source of power in our daily efforts to become more Christ-like. "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19.
    We must humble ourselves before our Heavenly Father in order to prepare our  minds to serve Him.  "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  'Be holy, because I am holy'." 1 Peter 1:13-16. The Bible teaches that our very minds will be renewed.  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but 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.  We are also given guidance on the type of thoughts that should occupy our minds.  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praise-worthy - think about such things." Philippians 4:8.  We cannot have "The mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16 if we allow sinful things to occupy our thoughts.  The Bible is basically saying:  garbage in, garbage out.  Every word from our mouths should be evidence of He that is in us.  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29.  We cannot be Christ-like without the ability to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us.  "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32.
     As Christians, we will face difficulties because of our faith in Jesus Christ.  This should never deter us from sharing the gospel of our Lord and Savior.  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord" 2 Timothy 1:7-8.  If you have Christ in your heart, you can be sure that, "The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."  1 John 4:4. We should never be ashamed of suffering for Christ.  "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." 1 Peter 4:16.  Insults have no power over us!  "If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you." 1 Peter 4:14.  When we strive to be Christ-like we should love and pray for our enemies.  Jesus said, "But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:44-45.  He showed us this could be done as He hung on the cross in our place and prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34.
     Our ultimate hope, our ultimate joy, our ultimate glory comes from the things above, regardless of our situation in this world.  "Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  We can be confident, whether in good times or bad, that our Heavenly Father is working His righteous plan for our lives. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28.
    To be Christ-like is to follow His example of obedience to the will of our Heavenly Father.  "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." 1 Peter 4:1-2.  To be like Chirst is not about trying to find out what God can do for us.  It's about discovering what God wants to do through us.  This does not mean that we do not have goals, but our first goal as Christians is to desire and seek His will for our lives.  We can hold to the promise of Christ, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." John 15:7.  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.   And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." 1 John 5:14-15.  Christ's greatest example of His obedience was demonstrated in a place called Gethsemane when Jesus knew the time for His suffering and death was near.  He prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42. It's an expression of your faith in our Heavenly Father when you surrender your will to Him, and He will bless you more than you could ever imagine! "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33.
     The Christian walk is about dying to your old way of living on a daily basis and living for Christ and allowing Him to live through you. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23.  "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:27. It is not about treating people in a certain manner in order to get the desired response.  We show the love of Christ to everyone, regardless of how they treat us!  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" Philippians 2:3-5. The positive attitude we as Christians should have is not a result of "positive thinking", which relies on the efforts of our own mind, but rather the result of the power of Christ living through us.  "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.  It's not about trying to control every aspect of your circumstances in order to find happiness.  Being Christ-like in your Christian walk is about having the joy of Christ in your heart so that the peace that passes all understanding will be with you always, regardless of your circumstances"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7.
     Our walk with the Lord is a process that will last our entire lives.  The apostle Paul described it as running a race.  "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.  Christ was completely dedicated to the will of God.  Let us pray for Christ-like  dedication.  His love for the Heavenly Father and all of mankind is a shining example for all of us.  Let us pray that everyone may see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ living in us by the love expressed in everything we say and do.  "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:12-17.
     "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1.    

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