Bill Hull’s Christlike: The Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience is a thoughtful book offering insightful and practical advice on understanding and living the Christian life. In a world of lopsided gospels and false teachings, Hull wants Christians to understand that the Gospel is for both salvation and transformation to Christlikeness. Here are some key lessons:
1. The purpose of spiritual transformation is Christlike character. Real transformation always shows. Spiritual formation is never merely inward change, but results in outward witness through the demonstration of spiritual fruit.
2. This journey is lifelong and requires hard work daily. We will regress spiritually if we become lazy or complacent. Our fallen nature never improves, even as we progress spiritually. We therefore never lose our need for spiritual growth, discipline and accountability in community.
3. Christlikeness is submitting to God’s will in humility, obedience, and self-sacrifice. One starting point is recognising that all our gifts, talents, opportunities and accomplishments are from God. By abandoning our pride and desire for control, we learn to submit and obey. Christ’s sacrifice for us sets us free to do the same for others.
4. Obedience involves rising above the vicissitudes of our own emotions. A common but mistaken belief is that obedience is deficient unless done wholeheartedly. But it is in learning to act as Christ would, especially in difficult situations, that Christlike attitude and character is forged.
5. A holy life is surrender, not negotiation. If we want to remain in control of our life, we will be constantly negotiating with God over who’s in charge. We can’t have it both ways. Real faith is manifested in obedience; not merely hearing the word.
6. Maturing disciples increasingly desire to please God, not the flesh. The reality is that we face competing desires daily – whether to please God, or the flesh. Small things matter, because these repeated actions create habits that eventually make our character.
7. Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning. We are saved and loved through Christ’s completed work at the cross alone. This grace gives us the comfort that God’s love for us does not diminish when we fail, and enables us to persevere and give our best even when we fall.
8. Spiritual disciplines are a means to Christlikeness, not an end in themselves. Jesus did not practice spiritual disciplines in a legalistic or uptight way. They flowed out of his natural life and love for the Father.
9. Community is essential in the Christian journey. The church is the main body for discipleship because spiritual disciplines are best developed in community. It is in community that we learn to persevere in showing love and grace to one another, even in correction too.
In sum, while we are encouraged to intentionally pursue spiritual formation through spiritual disciplines, what we truly need is a living relationship with Christ to transform us from the inside out.