Is the goal to become a Christian or to become Christlike?
Short answer: Become Christlike.
Long answer: See below.
Some people think that only Christians can become Christlike. Therefore, they see becoming a Christian as a preliminary step to becoming Christlike. However, in the wake of the coming of the kingdom of God, a human being seeking to belong to Christ is like the state of Missouri seeking to become part of the Louisiana Purchase. It was being part of the Louisiana territory that was purchased by the United States from France in 1803 that enabled Missouri to become a state in 1821. Jesus paid for you with His blood so that He’d have the right to make you more like Himself. You cannot become more accepted by Christ than you already are – but you can become more acceptable.
It’s obvious, moreover, that there are in this world some non-Christians who are more Christlike than some Christians. Becoming a Christian, therefore, cannot be a prerequisite to becoming more Christlike. Otherwise, no non-Christian could ever be more like Christ than the worst-behaving Christian. Being a Christian, therefore, must not be a prerequisite to becoming more like Christ.
The terms “Christian” and “non-Christian” are just a social labels – categories into which we slot others and ourselves. Yet God is not limited by the “name tags” we pin on others and ourselves. He sees human hearts…and He does not need or use our social labels.
Jesus Christ bought and paid for the whole world long before you and I were born. Therefore, we are wasting time trying to get Him to regard us as His. What we should be spending our time doing instead is letting Him instruct us on how to live. If we did this, we’d become more Christlike – which would bless His heart and honor His name. People might then call us “Christian,” but it would be because we reminded them of Him – not because we self-identified as Christian with insufficient corroborating evidence.