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. . . put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and . . . put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24) 


In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul revealed several landmarks in life’s spiritual Journey to Be Like Jesus, which is, by the bye, our aim.  We begin as the Old Man, then progress through three stages: Putting Off, Renewal, and the New man.

Theologians refer to the Old Man as the Pre-Purgative Way and the stages of the journey as the Purgative Way (purging, cleansing, purifying), the Illuminative Way (enlightening), and the Unitive way (becoming one with God).  God’s plan is much bigger than getting us saved and allowing us to live in heaven after we die.  It is to make us indistinguishable from Him.



We can get a clearer picture of this path if we step back a bit and look at the whole Bible.

In Genesis, we discover that we were created like God and in intimate relationship with God.  In short, we began our journey at our destination.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)

The reason we exist has always been to be like God.  And we continue to exist, despite the Fall, to become like Him again.  John put it this way:

 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.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:2-3)

God originally created humanity for perfect, unblemished intimacy.  Then sin entered; we embraced it and became the Old Man.  But the moment finally came when we began to seek God.

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.”  And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh.  Then men began to call on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:24-26)

Through Moses, God gave us His law, convicting us of our sins and providing a temporary way to purge them through daily Levitical sacrifices.  Finally, He gave us His Son, who paid for our sins, once for all and always. 

The incarnation of Jesus also directed our attention inward, beyond our behavior to our heart. 

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

We began to change our motives as well as our modus operandi – repenting, thinking differently, being renewed in the spirit of our minds.  Jesus also brought with Him a new Kingdom, with new realities and new rules.

Over time and through many battles, we are being led back to oneness with God, because the more clearly we see Jesus, John declares, the more we become like Him.  And so the purification process goes round and round in ever-diminishing loops toward the Center.

And our end is like our beginning, except that Revelation is more like Jesus than even Genesis was.  We are not doubling back to Eden; we are steadily advancing to unity with God.  In His priestly prayer, Jesus prayed to the Father,

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)

The journey can be compared to a spiral.

 A long-term friend, Kaye Briscoe King, had a wonderful vision of the journey as a spiral.  Each loop of our spiral becomes smaller, more intimate, and more challenging.  We become more and more like Jesus, more refined, another layer closer to the Center . . . until we are thoroughly

changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  (I Corinthians 15:51-53). 

As soon as we pass through the Cross gate, we begin the process of change, growth, and maturity. 

A little more, a little deeper each time.  We are called to keep moving, keep growing, and keep conforming more closely to Christ.

Whether or not we feel His presence, He is always with us.  In season and out of season, we continue to grow—sometimes imperceptibly like a plant, other times by leaps and bounds.  And we must continue our Journey to Be Like Jesus, even when we can see only one step ahead—or, like Indiana Jones on his last crusade, when we have no option but to step off the mountain into what appears to be empty air and a 3,000-foot plunge into raging, rocky river.

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© 2005, 2012 Bill Atwood