Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren has encouraged Christians striving to be like Christ to not become discouraged along the way, as spiritual maturity is a "gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life."
In a recent devotional, the 62-year-old pastor and author reminded Christians that becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth - it's not instant or automatic.
"You are a work in progress," he said. "Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won't be completed here on Earth. It will only be finished when you get to Heaven or when Jesus returns."
The Bible is clear that we will not become perfectly like Jesus until we see Him face-to-face in Heaven: 1 John 3:2 reads, "We are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is."
Warren also encouraged believers to remember that much confusion in the Christian life stems from ignoring the fact that God is far more interested in building our character than He is anything else.
"We worry when God seems silent on specific issues such as 'What career should I choose?'", the pastor said. "The truth is, there are many different careers that could be in God's will for your life. What God cares about most is that whatever you do, you do in a Christlike manner. God is far more interested in who you are than in what you do."
As we strive to become more and more like Christ, we must remember that God is much more concerned about our character than our career: "You will take your character into eternity, not your career," Warren said.
Ultimately, God's purpose is to make us like Him before He takes us to Heaven: "This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny," Warren concluded.
In an earlier devotional, the "The Purpose Driven Life" author explained that it's important to remember that, from the beginning, God's plan has been to make His children like his Son, Jesus - and that is the destiny of every believer. However, that does not mean that we will become divine, despite what many new-age religions and false teachers promote.
"God doesn't want you to become a god; he wants you to become godly-taking on his values, attitudes, and character," Warren said. "We are meant to "take on an entirely new way of life-a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you." (Ephesians 4:22)
He added that God's ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development.
"He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ," he said. "Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn't want to destroy it."