One day, after wasting paint for a week or so, I tried to paint a bird, and it looked like … a bird!

I was shocked!

I had looked closely at a simple, mass-produced bird painting we have on our wall, and thought, “I can do that.” It was probably the first time I’d ever looked at someone else’s work and tried to copy it. What a great learning experience and confidence boost!

I didn’t like the background I had painted for the bird, so I dove into the world of YouTube instructional videos and worked to make a new one. A week later, I cut the bird out and stuck him in his new home.

I was still shocked by the achievement, but I was starting to understand that becoming an artist isn’t as much about raw talent but about imitation, instruction, and practice. Until you train your hands to do what you want, it helps to watch someone else’s hands do the right things.

And do it again. And again.

Isn’t that true for discipleship as well? When we accept Christ as our savior, often we expect to be instantly transformed. And in one, very important sense we are. We are justified at the moment of accepting Christ; we are pardoned of our sins through faith and are set free.

But we also need sanctification: the renewing of our minds to become like Jesus … the practice of growing closer to Christ and therefore, more like him. Jesus says, “follow me.” Do as I do. Live as I live. Copy me until I’ve completed my work in you.

Just like an artist, we need to practice. We can have grace poured out for us or innate natural artistic talent, but if we don’t practice love or creating, prayer or sketching, reading scripture or stretching our artistic skills, we can’t bear fruit. Both are a process of becoming. But when it comes to our walk with Christ, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit!

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24