For the Christian, heaven is not a goal; it is a destination. The goal is that "Christ be formed in you," to use the words of the apostle Paul (Gal. 4:19; all passages quoted are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted). To the Romans, he declares, "Those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son" (8:29). And to the Corinthians, he says, "All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image" (2 Cor. 3:18; emphasis added in all three). Thus the daring goal of the Christian life could be summarized as our being formed, conformed, and transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. And the wonder in all this is that Jesus Christ has come among his people as our everliving Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend.
He who is the Way shows us the way to live so that we increasingly come to share his love, hope, feelings, and habits. He agrees to be yoked to us, as we are yoked to him, and to train us in how to live our lives as he would live them if he were in our place.
Now, we must insist that this way of life is reliably sustained in the context of a like-minded fellowship. Essential to our growth in grace is a community life where there is loving, nurturing accountability. Christlikeness is not merely the work of the individual; rather, it grows out of the matrix of a loving fellowship. We are the body of Christ together, called to watch over one another in love. Unfortunately, in our day there is an abysmal ignorance of how we as individuals and as a community of faith actually move forward into Christlikeness.
We today lack a theology of growth. And so we need to learn how we "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord ...1