Talking about good habits that will help you prosper legitimately sounds difficult to some people, yet James urges people to get closer to God. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts…”
1. Always Give thanks.
Gratitude opens our eyes to all that God is doing around us. It helps us cultivate a heart that is satisfied and trusts God rather than complaining about our circumstances and groaning against Him.
Jesus continually gave thanks to God. Before Jesus fed over 5,000 with 2 fish and 5 loaves, he “took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish,” John 6:11. Later, John records that, just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he “looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me,’” John 11:41. Even on the night Jesus was arrested, he still gave God thanks. 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 says that “the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’”
2. Practice humility.
Biblical humility is giving up our own selfish and vain desires so we can do the will of God. Jesus humbled himself to obey the Father, even though he was the Son of God.
Philippians 2:5-8 says: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
3. Study the Word.
We can’t become like Christ if we don’t know him. Jesus is revealed in the Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments. But the Bible isn’t just a book to learn about God. The Bible is alive and active, and God uses our time reading it to convict us, to guide us, to point us to truth, to answer prayer and to transform our thinking.
Paul knew the value of studying the Bible and encouraged Timothy, his young charge, to continue studying the Scriptures which he’d done since his youth. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:16.
4. Serve others.
One of the ways we can grow more like Christ is to look for ways to serve others. We should ask God to help us to see people as he sees them, see their need, and then be willing to stop and serve them.
Jesus modeled this service just before going to the cross. In the upper room, Jesus got up from the table, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a bowl and washed his disciples’ feet. How could Jesus, who was Lord and Master, stoop to wash their feet? Jesus was teaching by example. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you,” John 13:14-15.
5. Prioritize prayer.
Jesus prayed often, and he made it a priority to get away by himself for regular prayer. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed,” Luke 5:16. He spent whole nights in prayer and prayed deeply before and after crucial events. Before calling the 12 apostles, Jesus spent the night in prayer. Before Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, he spent time in intense prayer. And after feeding the 5,000, Jesus went up to a mountain alone to pray.
Jesus’ prayer life must have caught his apostles’ attention because the only thing they ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Luke 11:1. Jesus never let busyness or pressing need keep him from prayer, an example for us if we want to become like him.
6. Die to self.
If we want to grow more like Christ, we need to die daily to ourselves – our comfort, agenda, ambitions, cravings, and sin. The call to follow Christ is the call to lay down our lives and take up the cross. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me,” Galatians 2:20.
It’s a daily death. Each time we allow God to interrupt our plans or turn from a temptation or obey God even when it costs, we die to self. “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it,’” Luke 9:23-24.
7. Love one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:34. Believers are told to “be devoted to brotherly love,” Romans 12:10.
Loving others helps us become more like Christ as we learn what real love is and how to love. We learn to put others’ needs before our own, to forgive an offense, to encourage rather than envy, and to compassionately bear each other’s burdens. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us,” Ephesians 5:1-2.
[written by Lisa Appelo]