John, in writing about the New Jerusalem from his lonely exile on the Island of Patmos, said that “There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27). The word defiled in the Greek language means profane, unclean, dirty, unwashed, sometimes translated common; in other words, taking something that is holy and making it for everyday use. We know from this text that there is a requirement for entering the Holy City and a careful study of this text will reveal that requirement.
In a very simple way, Ellen White writes of the one requirement to have eternal life: “No unlikeness to Christ will be permitted in the holy city.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 171.
We can see by the strong language used in Revelation 21:27 that there are no exceptions to this. In English, a double negative is not used, but in the Greek language when you want to emphasize something that is not going to happen, a double negative is used, which means it will in no case happen; it will absolutely not happen. There it is; that is all you need to know. There are many other statements along the same line. The prerequisite or requirement needed to be in heaven is to have a Christlike character.
“God can only be honored when we who profess to believe in Him are conformed to His image. We are to represent to the world the beauty of holiness, and we shall never enter the gates of the city of God until we perfect a Christlike character. If we, with trust in God, strive for sanctification, we shall receive it. Then as witnesses for Christ, we are to make known what the grace of God has wrought in us.” The Upward Look, 99.
If all who are saved have a Christlike character, then we need to find out what it is like and aim to be like Him. Salvation has never been something you can earn; it is something that those who are like Christ receive as a free gift. The door will be wide open for them to enter through the pearly gate. Jesus has already paid the price for them to enter and all they have to do is follow Him.
When we start to study this subject, we begin to understand what Jesus said to the people while He was here on earth. He would say, “Follow Me.” Just before He left the earth the disciples said to Him, “Show us the Father.” But Jesus said, “Have I been so long with you and you don’t know who I am? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father.” They said to Him, “Show us the way to heaven. We don’t know how to get there.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (See John 14.)
Continuing in Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 171: “The process of gaining perfection of character is to be carried on in this life, that we may be prepared for the future immortal life. It is God’s purpose that His church on earth shall reach perfection.”
I have discovered during my years in ministry that there are many people who think it impossible for them to be perfect. They defend their belief using the parable of the wheat and the tares, but remember, part of that parable indicates that all the tares will be burned up. This statement says that God has a purpose for His church and His purpose is that His church is to reach perfection. To the human eye this seems impossible, but when God purposes something, He can make it happen. The devil is determined that it will not happen, and he is busy working in every family and every church to keep this from happening.
“It is essential that His [God’s] directions be strictly obeyed. The members are to help and strengthen one another. No self-exaltation or accusing or harshness are to be shown in our dealings with one another. We must purify our souls through love and obedience to the truth. … We must act like saints toward one another, preparing ourselves, drilling ourselves, to be without fault in character, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” Ibid.
Every defect of character will be overcome. There are many places in the New Testament that we could read that would confirm this need. We could read from almost any one of the apostles, or from James, Peter or Paul (see Ephesians 5; Philippians 1; 1 Corinthians 1), and in the book of Revelation; in fact, all the authors of the New Testament say the same.
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things [2 Peter 3:10–13], be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless [without blemish]” (verse 14). There is only one prerequisite to having the gift of eternal life given to you and that is to have a Christlike character.
In the magazine The Southern Watchman, April 16, 1903, Ellen White made this statement: “It is not money or lands or position, but the possession of a Christlike character, that will open to us the gates of Paradise. It is not dignity, it is not intellectual attainments, that will win for us the crown of immortality. Only the meek and lowly ones, who have made God their efficiency, will receive this gift.”
Jesus said, “Follow Me.” We must walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). The people who are ready for His return will be like Him (1 John 3:1, 2). “Nothing should divert the mind from the main object in life, which is to have Christ in the soul, melting and subduing the heart.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 278.
To become like Jesus, surely that ought to be our main goal in life and to be ready when He comes.
Two big questions are then raised.
1 What does it mean to be Christlike?
2 How do I become Christlike?
Simply knowing what it is to be Christlike will not do any good unless that knowledge is used to change the person. The devil knows well what Christlikeness is, but it does him no good because he has chosen the different path. Consider these 13 main points about what is involved in acquiring a Christlike character.
- Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden [weighted down], and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek, humble] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy [kind] and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Being gentle and lowly in heart was one of the main reasons Jesus was rejected and crucified. This characteristic is not a natural tendency. In fact, most people are just the opposite. However, if you surrender your heart and your life to Jesus and begin to learn from Him, copy Him, the Holy Spirit will work a change inside so that your nature will become gentle.
In the book of Numbers is recorded that Moses was the meekest of all men who lived on the earth. We know that did not happen when he was in Egypt; it happened during the 40 years while he was herding sheep. You would not generally send a person who had the equivalent of a Ph.D, a doctor’s degree, been trained as a military general, someone who was in line to rule a kingdom, out to herd sheep, but that’s exactly what God did to Moses because He had something more to teach him.
Maybe some terrible experience you may be going through in your life is just plain unexplainable. You may wonder how so many bad things could happen to one person. I can’t explain, but I know one thing, if out of all the trouble you may be going through you end up becoming gentle and lowly in heart, it will be worth it because you will then be fit to live in the presence of holy beings. In heaven, gentleness will be the trait of all. This is hard to imagine, a place without anybody who is rough, coarse, overbearing, proud, or haughty. We must examine ourselves to see if we would be a good fit there!
- Many people around us are gloomy and despondent, who in the midst of this gloominess eventually get to complaining. In The Adventist Home, 431, Ellen White wrote, “Do you ever see me gloomy, desponding, complaining? I have a faith which forbids this. It is a misconception of the true ideal of Christian character and Christian service that leads to these conclusions. It is the want of genuine religion that produces gloom, despondency, and sadness. Earnest Christians seek to imitate Jesus, for to be Christians is to be Christlike. It will be really essential to have correct conceptions of Christ’s life, Christ’s habits, that His principles may be reproduced in us who would be Christlike.”
Oh friend, do you know of any time when Jesus was gloomy? There wasn’t any time. When Jesus went to the cross, He went not only willingly, but without a murmuring thought, in order to save mankind.
We read in the book of Numbers how the children of Israel continually fell into complaining and despondency. In most English translations it says the people became impatient. In the Hebrew language it talks about their temper and says it got short. In their discouragement they accused Moses of promising them a good land of vineyards, olive orchards and fig trees, but just led them out into a desert. Who was leading them? Was Moses really the one leading them?
- In John 15:10, Jesus said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” If we become Christlike, we will be obedient to God’s commandments.
- Jesus was always courteous (Luke 7). Can we say the same? The Bible says that the man that never says anything offensive with his tongue is perfect (James 3:2). In heaven, everyone will always be courteous – the angels and the saved.
- In John the 13th and 14th chapters, Jesus told His disciples to love others the way that He loved them. It’s unfortunate that men at times bang their wives over the head with their words, claiming Ephesians 5 where Paul says the wife is to submit to her husband. But look at the context of that statement. It says that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (verse 25). This text is hard on men. I’ve read that text and said, Lord, that’s impossible. I’ll never be able to love any human being the way Christ loved the church. How can this ever be? Christ loved the church so much that He eagerly pressed His way toward Jerusalem in 31 A.D. so that He could be crucified for it. He was eager to do that without one murmuring thought.
A husband who struggles with his wife should go to the Lord and ask that He work a miracle in his heart so that he could love his wife just as Christ loves the church and see if anything happens.
- Jesus was pure. It says in 1 John 3:3, “Everyone who has this hope [of eternal life] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Purity is a subject that needs careful study because we live in a world that is impure and the worldly ideal of purity is far from the ideal of Christian purity.
Some believe you can think whatever you want as long as you don’t do it. However, purity involves the mind, heart, and feelings.
- A favorite characteristic of Jesus to meditate on is His mercy. When you begin to recognize your own great need of mercy you become compassionate to others and treat them with more mercy. The person who is not merciful is not going to receive mercy. (See Matthew 6; James 2:13.) Mercy forgives somebody when they have made a mistake. What if they make more than one? The disciples wanted to be sure they got liberal on this so Peter said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times” (Matthew 18:21)? Then Jesus said, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (verse 22). That is mercy.
- Jesus could endure contradiction without becoming angry or upset or impatient. “To be a Christian is to be Christlike, to possess humility and a meek and quiet spirit that will bear contradiction without being enraged or becoming insane.” Testimonies, vol, 2. 573.
- Jesus had a pitying tenderness for sinners. How do you feel about sinners, especially when they have done something against you? Forget about the sinners that have done something against somebody else. How do you feel about the sinners that have done something against you? There are so many instances in the scriptures where Jesus had a tender pity for them. Remember the woman brought to Him who had been taken in adultery. After Jesus arranged to have her accusers leave, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you” (John 8:10)? She expected to be stoned. “She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ ” (verse 11).
Jesus had tender pity for people who were caught in the bondage of sin. Sin is like a net or a spider’s web. When an insect gets caught in there, a battle goes on. While the insect is trying to get out, the spider waits until it gets weak enough and then comes in for the kill. Sin is like that. There are people all around us that are caught in the spider web of sin and unless Divine power sets them free, they will never get free. Our condemnation will never help them. We need to have tender pity for those who are caught in the web of sin, praying that the Lord will set them free.
- Jesus had a spirit of forgiveness. When He was nailed to the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). The verb used in the Greek New Testament in this verse has a continuous meaning. It wasn’t just something that He thought for a moment; it was something that was going through His mind. In fact, some scholars believe that this is something that He said over and over again. It’s recorded only once in the Scripture.
- Jesus was self-denying and self-sacrificing. Repeating it many times to His disciples, He said, “If any man will come after Me, let Him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 KJV). In Luke 9:23, the word “daily” is added. “Take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Nobody will be in the kingdom of heaven that has not learned the lesson of self-sacrifice and self-denial. That is an integral part of the character of Christ.
- Jesus was kind, so kind that the children loved to climb up and sit in His lap. Children don’t usually like to climb up and sit in the lap of a person who is unkind; they are afraid of them.
- If we are Christlike, we will have unity among us. “Christ in one worker will acknowledge Christ in a brother worker. Those who are exacting, who are faultfinding, who think evil of others, are advancing the work of the enemy, tearing down that which God would have built up. All these discordant elements represent the powers of darkness, and show that Christ, the hope of glory, is not found within.” Testimonies to Southern Africa, 26, 27.
Those who are exacting, faultfinding, and think evil of others are doing the work of the enemy and demonstrate that Christ is not formed within their hearts. This one touches us all.
This evil surmising of others is going on all over the world and it is not Christlike. Pray that the Lord will help us overcome the temptation to think and speak evil of others. Ask that the Holy Spirit will help you to determine to become Christlike. We can never do it unless God works a miracle. But the Bible says that the God we serve is faithful and that He will do it; He will sanctify us totally (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24). Do you want that miracle to happen in your life?
“He who has given his life to God in ministry to His children is linked with Him who has all the resources of the universe at His command. His life is bound up by the golden chain of the immutable promises with the life of God. The Lord will not fail him in the hour of suffering and need. ‘My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19). And in the hour of final need the merciful shall find refuge in the mercy of the compassionate Saviour and shall be received into everlasting habitations.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 24.
God’s promise to complete the work He began in us are “leaves from that tree which is ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2). Received, assimilated, they are to be the strength of the character, the inspiration and sustenance of the life.” The Ministry of Healing, 122.
We need that promised complete change of character. Determine to make whatever sacrifice you need to make to be Christlike. Ask the Lord to help you to have each one of these characteristics.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.