HOW TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST
“But we all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the
same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”--2 COR. iii. 18 (Revised Version).
I suppose there is almost no one who would deny, if it were put to him, that
the greatest possible attainment a man can make in this world is likeness to
The Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly no one would deny that there is nothing
but character that we can carry out of life with us, and that our prospect of
good in any future life will certainly vary with the resemblance of our
character to that of Jesus Christ, which is to rule the whole future. We all
admit that; but almost every one of us offers to himself some apology for not
being like Christ, and has scarcely any clear reality of aim of becoming like
Why, we say to ourselves, or we say in our practice, it is really impossible in
a world such as ours is to become perfectly holy. One or two men in a
century may become great saints; given a certain natural disposition and
given exceptionally favouring circumstances, men may become saintly; but surely
the ordinary run of men, men such as we know
ourselves to be, with secular disposition and with many strong, vigorous
passions—surely we can really not be expected to become like Christ,
or, if it is expected of us, we know that it is impossible.
On the contrary, Paul says, “We all,” “we all.” Every Christian has that for a
destiny: to be changed into the image of his Lord. And he not only says so,
but in this one verse he reveals to us the mode of becoming like Christ, and a
mode, as we shall find, so simple and so infallible in its working that a man
cannot understand it without renewing his hope that even he may one day
become like Christ.
In order to understand this simplest mode of sanctification we must look
back at the incident that we read in the Book of Exodus (xxxiv. 29-35.).
Paul had been reading how when Moses came down from the mount where
he had been speaking with God his face shone, so as to dazzle and alarm
those who were near him.
They at once recognised that that was the glory of God reflected from him;
and just as it is almost as difficult for us to look at the sun reflected from a
mirror as to look directly at the sun, so these men felt it almost as difficult to
look straight at the face of Moses as to look straight at the face of God. But
Moses was a wise man, and he showed his wisdom in this instance as well
as elsewhere. He knew that that glory was only on the skin of his face, and
that of course it would pass away. It was a superficial shining.
And accordingly he put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel might
not see it dying out from minute to minute and from hour to hour, because
he knew these Israelites thoroughly, and he knew that when they saw the
glory dying out they would say, “God has forsaken Moses. We need not
attend to him any more.
His authority is gone, and the glory of God's presence has passed from him.”
So Moses wore the veil that they might not see the glory dying out. But
whenever he was called back to the presence of God he took off the veil and
received a new access of glory on his face, and thus went “from glory to
“That,” says Paul, “is precisely the process through which we Christian men
become like Christ.” We go back to the presence of Christ with unveiled
face; and as often as we stand in His presence, as often as we deal in our
spirit with the living Christ, so often do we take on a little of His glory. The
glory of Christ is His character; and as often as we stand before Christ, and
think of Him, and realise what He was, our heart goes out and reflects some
of His character. And that reflection, that glory, is not any longer merely on
the skin of the face; as Paul wishes us to recognise, it is a spiritual glory, it is
wrought by the spirit of Christ upon our spirit, and it is we ourselves that
are changed from glory to glory into the very image of the Lord.
Now obviously this mode of sanctification has extraordinary
recommendations. In the first place, it is absolutely simple. If you go to some
priest or spiritual director, or minister of the Gospel, or friend, and ask what
you are to do if you wish to become a holy man, why, even the best of them
will almost certainly tell you to read certain books, to spend so much time
in prayer and reading your Bible, to go regularly to church, to engage in this
and that good work.
If you had applied to a spiritual director of the middle ages of this world's
history and of the history of Christianity, he would have told you that you
must retire from the world altogether in order to become holy. Paul says,
“Away with all that nonsense!” We are living in a real world; Christ lived in
a real world: Christ did not retire from men. And He says all that you have
to do in order to be like Christ is to carry His image with you in your heart.
That is all.
To be with Him, to let Him stand before you and command your love, that
will infallibly change you into His image. I do not know that we sufficiently
recognise the simplicity of Christian methods. We do not understand what
Paul meant by proclaiming it as the religion of the spirit, as a religion
superior to everything mechanical and external. Think of the deliverance it
was for him who had grown up under a religion which commanded him to
go a journey three times a year, to take the best of his goods and offer them
in the Temple , to comply with a multitude of oppressive observances and
Think of the emancipation when he found a spiritual religion. Why, in those
times a man must have despaired of becoming a holy man; But now Paul
says you will infallibly become holy if you learn this easy lesson of carrying
the Lord Jesus with you in your heart.
Another recommendation of this method is that it is so obviously grounded
on our own nature. No sooner are we told by Paul that we must act as
mirrors of Christ than we recognise that nature has made us to be mirrors,
that we cannot but reflect what is passing before us. You are walking along
the street, and, a little child runs before a carriage; you shrink back as if you
were in danger.
You see a man fall from a scaffolding, crushed; your face takes on an
expression of pain, reflecting what is passing in him. You go and spend an
evening with a man much stronger, much purer, much saner, than yourself,
and you come away knowing yourself a stronger and a better man. Why?
Because you are a mirror, because in your inmost nature you have responded
to and reflected the good that was in him.
Look into any family, and what do you see? You see the boy, not imitating
consciously, but taking on, his father's looks and attitudes and ways; and as
the boy grows up these become his own looks and attitudes and ways. He
has reflected his father from one degree of proficiency unto another, from
one intimacy, from one day's observation of his father to another, until he is
the image of the old man over again.
“Similarly,” says Paul, “live with Christ; learn to carry His image with you,
learn to adore Him, learn to love Him, and infallibly, whether you will or
not, by this simple method you will become, Christ over again; you will
become conformed, as God means you to become conformed, to the image of
This has been tested by the experience of thousands; and it has been found
to be a true method. Every one who spends but two minutes in the morning
in the observation of Christ, every one who will be at the pains to let the
image of Christ rise before him and to remember the purity, the
unworldliness, the heavenliness, the godliness of Jesus Christ, that man is
the better for this exercise.
And how utterly useless is it to offer any other method of sanctification to
thousands of our fellow-citizens. How can many of our fellow-citizens
secrete themselves for prayer? If you ask them to go and pray as you pray in
your comfortable home, if you ask them to read the Bible before they go out
at five or six o'clock in the morning, do you expect that your word will be
Why, the thing is impossible. But ask a man to carry Christ with him in his
mind, that is a thing he can do; and if he does it once, if only once the man
sees Christ before him, realises that this living Person is with him, and
remembers the character of Christ as it is written for us in the Gospels, that
man knows that he has made a step in advance, knows that he is the better
for it, knows that he does reflect, for a little, even though it be but for a
little, the very image of the Lord Jesus Christ; and other people know it also.
Now, if that is so, there are obviously three things that we must do. We
must in the first place, learn to associate with Christ. I say that even one
reflection does something, but we need to reflect Christ constantly,
continually, if we are to become like Him. When you pass away from before
a mirror the reflection also .goes. In the case of Moses the reflection stayed
for a little, and that is perhaps a truer figure of what happens to the
Christian who sets Christ before him and reflects him.
But very often as soon as Christ is not consciously remembered you fall back
to other remembrances and reflect other things. You go out in the morning
with your associates, and they carry you away; you have not as yet
sufficiently impressed upon yourself the image of Christ. Therefore we must
learn to carry Christ with us always, as a constant Companion.
Some one may say that is impossible. No one will say it is impossible who is
living in absence from anyone he loves. What happens when we are living
separated from some one we love? This happens: that his image is
continually in our minds. At the most unexpected times that image rises,
and especially, if we are proposing to ourselves to do what that person
would not approve.
At once his image rises to rebuke us and to hold us back. So that it is not
only possible to carry with us the image of Christ: it is absolutely certain
that we shall carry that image with us if only we give Him that love and
reverence which is due from every human being. Who has done for us what
Christ has done?
Who commands our reverence as He does? If once He gets hold of our
affection, it is impossible that He should not live constantly in our hearts.
And if we say that persons deeply immersed in business cannot carry Christ
with them thus, remember what He Himself says:
“If any man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him,
and we will come unto him.” So that He is most present with the busiest
and with those who strive as best they can to keep His commandments.
But we must not only associate with Christ and make Him our constant
company: we must, in the second place, set ourselves square with Christ.
You know that if you look into a mirror obliquely, if a mirror is not set
square with you, you do not see yourself, but what is at the opposite angle,
something that is pleasant or something that is disagreeable to you; it
matters not—you cannot see yourself. And unless we as mirrors set
ourselves perfectly square with Christ, we do not reflect Him, but perhaps
things that are in His sight monstrous. And, in point of fact, that is what
happens with most of us, because it is here that we are chiefly tried.
All persons brought up within the Christian Church pay some attention to
Christ. We too well understand His excellence and we too well understand
the advantages of being Christian men not to pay some attention to Christ.
But that will not make us conform to His image. In order to be conformed to
the image of Christ we must be wholly His.
Suppose you enter a studio where a sculptor is working, will he hand you his hammer and chisel to
finish the most difficult piece of his work or to do any part of it?
Assuredly not. It is his own idea that he is working out, and none but his
own hand can work it out. So with us who are to be moulded by Christ.
Christ cannot mould us into His image unless we are wholly His. Every
stroke that is made upon us by the chisel and mallet of the world is lost to
His ideal. As often as we reflect what is not purely Christian, so often do we
mar the image of Christ.