No matter how much we try to be more Christ-like in our behavior, it is a struggle against who we are if we do not change inwardly. On the other hand, if a believer’s heart is transformed to increasingly reflect the heart of Christ, then being more Christ-like comes naturally. Actually, as someone’s heart is increasingly transformed, he or she can’t help but act more Christ-like!
There are many characteristics of the heart of Christ. Let’s consider forgiveness to illustrate the point. Extending forgiveness toward others is a fundamental requirement of God. When we comply, we have a heart that is more like the heart of Christ. If we refuse to comply, however, we are promised the suffering of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:35. He was turned over by the King to be tortured for his unforgiveness. Jesus concludes this parable by saying that God will bring torment to those who refuse to forgive.
Whenever we suffer torment for opposing God’s will, we have two choices. One is the path to freedom and the other takes us into bondage. We can give in to the urging of the flesh and embrace worldly distractions like food or drugs to medicate our heart angst, or we can go before God on our knees and repent of our unforgiveness. When we repent, we are calling upon God in faith to remove the source of our torment forever. If we choose to temporarily and intermittently crowd out our pain with the world’s solutions, we enter into bondage to an idol. When we are in bondage, we add loss of control of our behavior to our suffering. When behavior is out of control, there is some place in our heart that rejects God’s will.
My personal breakthrough from overeating and other medicating behaviors began when I forgave the abusers of my young life and turned a heart of ministry toward them. As I did so, I began to notice that God had removed tormenting bitterness from my heart. From that point, I was increasingly able to manage everyday temptation instead of giving in to my emotionally driven lust for food. Later, I also repented of having food as an idol which gave me more relief. After forgiveness and repentance, anyone’s heart will more resemble the heart of Christ. And sustained life change follows the new heart.