What is the Image of Christ?
As Christians, we are called to grow into the image of Christ. But what is the image of Christ? How do we know that we are growing into the image of Christ? Is there a way to evaluate our progress month after month? It’s hard to hit a target that is not well defined. How do we know to specifically pray so that God can help us grow into the image of Christ? Spiritual growth is not something that happens spontaneously or automatically. We need vision, intentionality, and a method to attain spiritual maturity. The Bible gives us our vision—picture of a desirable future, what we can become as disciples. Everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40 ESV). Our vision is the image of Christ in the kingdom of Christ.
Growing into the image of Christ is all about character development, not changing your personality or physical traits. Developing the image of Christ is developing a Christ-like character that gives us the heart, motivations, thoughts, words, and the deeds that are commensurate with who Christ is. Having the character or attributes of Christ is what the Bible means when it talks about growing into the image of Christ. The heart of discipleship, therefore, is character training because Christlikeness is having Christ’s character or attributes. This character development is built on right believing and is proven by right deeds. “Right believing leads to right living” when right believing leads to the development of the right character. As such, inward growth leads to outward fruits; inward transformation leads to outward transformation.
“God is concerned about your character. Character determines assignment.” – Henry Blackaby
Above is a list of 21 essential attributes of Christ that I believe serve as a representation of the image of Christ—something tangible that can help us on our journey toward developing Christ-like character. More than that, these attributes allow us to measure our growth. For example, we can ask ourselves: How are we doing in our prayer lives? Love for Christ? Accountability? Innovation? Servanthood? We can go through all the twenty-one essential attributes and check ourselves to see how we are doing. Are we growing in each one of them month after month? Is our prayer life today better than it was last month? Are we being led by the Holy Spirit now more than we were six months ago? Because the acrostic is so easy to remember, we can easily and quickly go through these essential attributes in our minds, examine ourselves, test our faith to see that it is alive and growing.
Some important things to note:
First, it’s all about love. True Christianity is all about love.
Second, we cannot achieve any of these attributes by strong willpower and effort. The flesh cannot achieve anything that is spiritual. We must rely utterly on the Holy Spirit and through faith in him (and none in ourselves) allow Him to work these fruits and gifts in us.
Thirdly, we are helpless without the Holy Spirit when it comes to doing anything good; developing the character of Christ cannot be done by us. We must depend on the Holy Spirit to form that character in us.