We Aspire to Cultivate Christlikeness
Bibianna reflects on the first of eight aspirations for GBC that the elders have shared, and how it is lived out together as a church.
The new year is always marked by a fresh resolve and new goals. I always look forward to starting a new notebook and begin new plans at the start of the year. Perhaps you too, started the year with a list of resolutions and goals.
Recently, the pastors and elders shared some aspirations for the church at our Watchnight service and QCM. As Pastor Oliver wrote last week, in drafting the eight aspirations, the leadership allowed Scripture to inform their considerations as they sought to answer questions like “What does God want us as a church to aspire towards? What do we value as a church?”
Over the next few weeks, we will focus on each aspiration in our articles. The first aspiration is a gospel-centred one, and focuses on Christlikeness. As a church, we “aspire to cultivate Christlikeness through the transforming power of God’s grace in the gospel”.
If asked about our aspirations for the church, it can be tempting to immediately list out things we wish the church would do, or what the church could be like. These are all good goals for churches to have, but having Christlikeness as the first aspiration is not just a catch-all phrase where Jesus is the solution to everything. It grounds us and reminds us that the church is nothing without the person and work of Christ. We are only the church because of the gospel, and we cannot move away from it.
Person of Christ
God in His grace, did not leave us guessing about who He is, what His character is like and what being made into His image looks like. At Christmas, we celebrated the incarnation, and celebrated how God took on the form of man and dwelled among us (Jn 1:14). In His life, he fully obeyed the law, and is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). God did not just leave us the law as a standard for us to strive towards. Instead, He sent Jesus Christv, not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
In Romans, Paul also tells us that we are being made into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). It is also no mystery how this is going to take place—as we behold the glory of the Lord, we are “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18).
I recently did some tie-dye and I struggled with how my expectations differed from the end product obtained. When it comes to our faith, sometimes we forget that the outcome is not a mystery. God has made it clear who we are to look like as those who have been adopted into the family of God. The end goal of sanctification is for us to reflect Christ rightly. This is an important reminder for us both personally and corporately. Our maturity is the reason why the leaders, ministry workers, care group leaders etc labour and toil (Col 1:28-29). All our events, programmes, discipling is for this goal, an eternal goal that extends beyond our time here on earth.
Power of the Gospel
It is a high bar and standard, but it is not impossible if the Spirit is at work within us. In John 13:34, Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another “just as I have loved you”. It certainly refers to His model of love, but it is also written to those who have experienced His love. The experience of His love enables them to love others in return.
The second part of our aspiration recognises that we cannot achieve Christlikeness apart from the transforming power of God’s grace in the gospel! We are not laying out a corporate vision is impossible to achieve. We are fully confident that we can achieve it because of God’s grace made available for us through the gospel. We are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) with a new identity as those who were once in the domain of darkness but have been transferred into the kingdom of light (Col 1:13). At the same time, the Spirit that is at work within us is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11a).
This is an objective truth and is an encouragement to all who have placed their faith in Christ, so take heart!
Practically, what this means
So how does this translate into our life together?
Firstly, we believe that the Bible is God’s revealed word to us, and it shows us Christ. This is why all our services, programmes and care groups are centred around this Word. We strive to be faithful readers and teachers of the Word and wish to equip members to also do so.
It is wonderful that there are many platforms to study the Bible here at GBC. There is probably a formal or informal Bible study taking place every day of the week. If you are not part of one, consider joining one, and write to us to find out more. As a church, we can pray that our leaders and teachers will continue to remain faithful students and teachers of the Word. Individually, let us continue to seek to learn to read the Bible for ourselves, and to seek and savour Christ from His word.
Secondly, we recognise that God gives the growth and He is the one who transforms. Our whole lives here will be one of growing in Christlikeness. Together, let us also be a community that lives out our name and show grace to one another, loving each other as Christ has first loved us.
Certainly in a church of our size and with such a diverse group of people, conflicts will arise as we learn to live with one another. COVID has separated us for a time, and coming together may feel awkward, but God also works through the awkwardness! As we remember who is the head of this Church, and who is at work in His church, let us also remember that each Christian has been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. This is the beauty of a corporate gathering—to see people in the same room who seem different but in reality, is also on a similar journey of being transformed into the image of Christ.
This will be a lifelong journey and this aspiration will probably not be achieved in any of our lifetimes. But we look forward to the day when we behold Him face to face, dwell in His presence, and are presented holy and blameless. There, before the throne, as we worship God together, we will also praise Him for His completed work in each others' lives. Isn't that exciting?