This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.
1. While we can’t become God, we can become like him by imitating his communicable attributes.
God is holy, loving, just, good, merciful, gracious, faithful, truthful, patient, and wise. When we talk about being “conformed to the image of Christ,” this is the list we are describing. These things show us how to reflect who God is as Christ did. The more gracious I become, for example, the more I reflect Christ, who perfectly images God.
2. Our human perceptions of love can dilute our understanding of God’s love.
Of all his attributes, the love of God is perhaps the hardest to conceive apart from the lesser, human versions of love that shape our understanding. Human love, even in its finest moments, can only whisper of the pure and holy love of God. And though we may appreciate love between friends or between family members, we tend to reserve the highest value for romantic love. Our worship of romance has begun to reshape the way we speak of people or things. It has begun to offer alternatives to the bland uniformity of the verb love. We have even, at times, invited our worship of romance to invade our worship of God.
God in his sovereignty extends grace to us before we can even contemplate its possibility or its worth.
3. God gives good gifts to teach us how to give to others.
As those who are the recipients of the good and perfect gifts of God, goodness toward others means generosity. It means we recognize that God gives us good things not so that they might terminate on us, but so that we might steward them on behalf of others. God gives good things to us generously, risking no loss in doing so. We, too, should give good things to others generously, recognizing that we, too, risk no loss in doing so. We can be generous with our possessions, our talents, and our time on behalf of others because we see these good gifts as a means to bring glory to their Giver instead of to us.
4. God’s will is that we do justice.
When we cease self-justifying, we begin to have eyes for the needs of our neighbors with ever-increasing clarity. We turn our energies toward securing justice for the weak and the oppressed. God refers to himself as a “father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (Ps. 68:4–5). As his children, we ought to carry this family identity into the spheres of influence he gives us. Those of us who have any form of advantage must seek to use it to benefit our neighbors. Those of us who have more than our daily bread each day must have open eyes and open hands for those who are still awaiting theirs.
5. Mercy means forgiving as we have been forgiven.
In view of God’s mercy, we sacrifice our bitterness and grudge-bearing for the sake of extending forgiveness. We also sacrifice our legitimate hurts—the pain of unfair rejection or the sorrow of a wound unjustly received. We entrust them to God, remembering that Christ endured the same from us and for us, and to a much greater degree. Withholding mercy from others reveals that we do not recognize what we ourselves have received. The vast mercy of God has fallen from our view. We must obey the will of God for our lives to “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
6. We contaminate grace by thinking we’re entitled to it.
Initially, grace is unasked for and undesired. God in his sovereignty extends grace to us before we can even contemplate its possibility or its worth. Eternally, grace is unearned and undeserved. We grow to recognize it for what it is, and we even become increasingly bold to ask for it in greater measure. But the moment we begin to ask out of a sense of entitlement, we contaminate grace. To demand it is to defile it. In doing so, we take on the role of the prodigal’s older brother, grown so accustomed to abundance that he believes it is his by right rather than by gift.
7. Our lives can remind others that God is faithful.
The Bible is our great Ebenezer, a memorial stone to the faithfulness of God, carefully recorded and preserved for his children. When we grow forgetful of God, or when we question whether God has forgotten us, we can turn there to gaze on his steadfast love to all generations. Unlike generations before us, we have unprecedented access to this priceless reminder. Bibles by the billions, literally. And every copy, from the dog-eared to the disregarded, is whispering, “Remember.” Remember the God who remembers you.
When we spend time in the Bible, our lives begin to bear witness to its faithful message. We ourselves become stones of remembrance for those around us, giving faithful testimony that God is worthy of our trust, no matter what.
8. God’s timing is different than ours.
Amazon gets the package here the same day we order it. If we are not careful, we may begin to resent God’s lack of concern to offer goods and services according to our timetable. We may even question his goodness. We may overlook the possibility that the waiting itself could be the good and perfect gift, delivered right to our doorstep.
9. Truth allows for us to be in right relationship with God and others.
God’s truth is communal, given not merely so that the individual can live in right relationship to God, but so that the individual can live in right relationship with others. The Christian faith holds no room for individualism.
To “live my truth” is to live in what feels normal to me, to walk in the way that seems right unto man (Prov. 14:12). The problem with living my truth is that, above all else, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). It creates a false reality for me based on my natural preferences, a reality in which my preferences and desires tend to take precedence over those of others. Living my truth will inevitably prevent someone else from living theirs if our preferences are at odds with one another. Living my truth destroys my ability to live in community as I was intended, a community predicated not on actualizing all of my personal preferences, but on laying them down for the good of others.
10. Seeking to imitate God is an act of gratitude.
There is a difference between self-help and sanctification, and that difference is the motive of the heart. We seek to be holy as God is holy as a joyful act of gratitude. We never seek holiness as a means to earn God’s favor or to avoid his displeasure. We have his favor, and his pleasure rests upon us. The motive of sanctification is joy. Joy is both our motive and our reward.