FIVE STEPS TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST
Copyright © 2013 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica. Used by permission.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Many years ago I noticed that going to Heaven is not emphasized in the Bible. I wrote a book at that time titled, "The Land of Promise."
Since then I have perceived how profoundly the concept that we are saved to go to Heaven affects our doctrine, our view of the Gospel, and how we live our Christian life. Instead of pressing forward in the program of redemption we are waiting to go to Heaven when we die.
There is no scriptural basis of which I am aware that teaches we are saved so we can go to Paradise in the spirit world and abide there forever. If you know of such a passage, please let me know.
If eternal residence in Heaven is not the goal of salvation, what then is our goal?
Paul wrote that our goal, that to which we have been predestined, is that we might be conformed to the image of Christ.
Conformed to the image of Christ! Changed into the image of Christ!
Instead of our goal being going to live forever in Heaven, our goal is to be changed into the image of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever heard anyone preach or teach that our goal is to be changed into the image of Christ.
We are not to be changed into the image of Christ in order that we may go to Heaven. We are to be changed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ that we might be His brother (or sister, according to the NIV).
Are you and I significantly different from the time we first received Christ? If not, why not? Is it because we think we were saved in order to go to Heaven when we die?
If such is the case, we do not understand that we are to be pressing forward every day of our discipleship, taking advantage of the present aspect of redemption.
The program of redemption is offered in several stages, each stage is presented by the Spirit of God in its season. Right now the stage includes the coming of the Lord Jesus to His saints to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, the war of Christ against His enemies.
We have been reconciled to God legally through the blood of Christ. Now it is time to confess our worldliness, the lusts of our flesh and spirit, and our self-will, and, as the Spirit guides and enables us, turn away from all that is not in the image of Christ.
When we follow the Spirit in putting these spirits to death, we will be reconciled to God in actuality, not just legally.
We always must keep in mind that our goal is to be changed into the image of Christ. God will accomplish this change in our personality if we faithfully obey the Spirit of God each day.
During each day of our discipleship we are to be reminding the Lord Jesus continually that we are yielding our life to Him that it may be replaced by His Life. We desire to think as Christ is thinking; to speak as Christ is speaking; to act as Christ is acting.
God desires that we make this transition, but He will not do it unless we continually express that this is our desire also.
Many deeper life teachers in the past have emphasized what they sometimes referred to as the "death route." The stress was on "dying to self." Such an attitude is beneficial and scriptural. The Apostle Paul commanded us to count ourselves as dead.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
If I am not mistaken, the Spirit today is emphasizing living by the Life of Christ. As we do this, by God's power, our former life is supplanted by that which is new. So instead of emphasizing our death we are emphasizing our new life, the Life of Christ.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8)
You know, it is as though God desires to fill the universe with Christ. When we are thinking, speaking, and acting along with Christ, it is as though Christ Himself is present where we are at that time. This is something God has to do. We cannot bring such a transformation about by our own religious striving.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)
I think John is saying here that the Lord Jesus thinks as the Father is thinking; speaks as the Father is speaking; and acts as the Father is acting. Christ lives by the Life of the Father. That is just as true today as it was two thousand years ago.
Christ can say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." Christ can say this because He is the express image of the Father.
In like manner, we are to be the express image of Christ. This change in us is not going to happen overnight, but it surely is going to take place in its fullness because it is to this end that God has predestined us.
We may consider our own frailties and think, "This change cannot take place in me, to any great extent." But we need to consider who has spoken concerning this. It is He who stretched the heavens and all of its inhabitants.
Astronomers dedicate their lives to describing the marvels of our universe. And then we say, "God cannot accomplish what He has declared!"
It is not by any works of righteousness that our change will be accomplished, but by the grace and power of God. What God has spoken He certainly shall do. And not any halfway measures either! When God is finished with us, though it require ten thousand years to complete the change, it shall be done!
God said it. We believe it. That finishes it.
It seems not a day goes by without our determination to press forward in Christ being challenged in one way or another. We often are tempted with the lusts of the flesh, as Satan seeks to deceive us.
Sometimes our personal ambition acts to prevent our simply abiding and resting in Christ.
It is not unusual for Christian believers to huddle in fear, being afraid to step forth into what they think God may be wanting them to do.
There are so many voices in the land encouraging presumption: "Step out in faith! Command the Holy Spirit! Command the angels! Give me a thousand dollars and God will give you ten thousand! Name it and claim it."
Then we have the teaching that we can commit sin and the blood of Jesus will cover our behavior because God sees us through Jesus.
We often are weary, frightened, frustrated, attacked, our good is evil spoken of. There are long periods of time when we are being drawn on the Lord's bow. There is no obvious fruit, and we are tempted to kindle our own fire and walk by the light of it.
We have a very wise, sophisticated, experienced foe. He does not have the power to force us to do anything, so he seeks to deceive us. He examines our personality profile to see where we are weak. He may wait many years, biding his time. Meanwhile he sets his traps.
If we do not pray and read our Bible each day, have fellowship with fervent saints if we can find any, and carry our personal cross patiently, we may find ourselves in one of the snares set by the enemy.
However, we can emerge victorious over all of these efforts to hinder our pursuit of Christ if we will keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus and obey Him promptly in every aspect of our life.
We can overcome the world, Satan, and our own sinful nature if we will keep looking to Jesus and obeying Him.
How do we know when we have overcome? When we can look up to Jesus, and there is nothing between us and Him, when we have obeyed Him in all matters, then at this point we are an overcomer.
This does not mean we have been perfected as yet, only that we have overcome thus far. We overcome one moment at a time. It is a continual battle. But if we would be changed into the image of our Lord, we must not give up at any point but keep pressing forward in the Lord Jesus.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)
The "hidden manna" is the body and blood of Christ.
How is Christ formed in us? Christ is formed in us as we eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Why is this manna hidden? It is hidden to all who are not living a victorious life. It is a reward for overcoming and also the means of overcoming.
In order to create us in His image, Christ has had to take of His own body and His own blood and give them to us to eat and drink so His Substance and Divine Nature may be formed in us.
But when and how are we given to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood?
Every time we make the effort to overcome a temptation, we are given to eat and drink of Christ. Those who overcome are given the hidden manna.
As we partake of His body and blood, of which the Communion elements are a symbol of what takes place in the spirit world as we pursue the life of victory, we have additional wisdom and strength to overcome. Thus it is a continually ascending cycle until we are filled with His Substance and Virtue.
To be in the image of Christ is to be like Him in every manner, including like Him in His Substance and Virtue. As many as receive Him are born of God through the implantation of the Divine Nature.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (II Peter 1:4)
Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53)
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
I wonder how many Christian believers actually walk and talk with the Lord. Those who don't are missing one of the best parts of the Christian discipleship.
The Lord Jesus always is standing at the door of our personality and knocking, asking for entrance.
Sad to say, numerous religious people keep Him standing on the outside. They are so busy with the doctrines and observances of their religion that they do not realize they can have fellowship with their Creator.
I was reading in the Book of Leviticus this morning, and I marveled at the numerous directions the Lord gave concerning the various types of offering. How could the priests remember the many details as they labored in the sun, hearing the cries of the animals who sensed death!
Surely many of the priests talked to the Lord in their heart, asking His help to enable them to perform the sacrifice in the manner pleasing to Him.
So it is with us. We read our New Testament and desire to obey Christ in every particular. This is so difficult, it seems, we give up and trust in the unscriptural application of Paul's teaching of Divine grace.
We do not have to give up, or abandon all efforts to be righteous and trust in an unscriptural application of grace. We can keep inviting Jesus into our heart and ask Him to guide and assist us all through the day and night in every aspect of our thinking, speaking, and doing.
Some are teaching today that the Bible is Jesus; that we cannot speak with Him as did the disciples but must rigorously obey the letter of the New Testament.
This is not the way the new covenant operates. The writings of the New Testament have as their purpose to bring us to the Lord Jesus. We should read the Bible on a daily basis; and every time we do so, look up to Jesus to see what He is saying to us.
If you do not believe Jesus and the Father will have fellowship with us today, speaking to us, advising us, answering our questions, telling us how to apply any passage of the Scriptures, why don't you ask Them if this is the case? I think you will find that they are more anxious to have daily fellowship with you than you are with them.
They will enter you and dine on your love for Them, and you will dine on Their love for you.
I sure would hate to return to a life in which I was without the continual fellowship of the Father and the Son. How anyone can go through this present valley of the shadow of death, which our world is, and not be experiencing the Presence of the Father and the Son, is more than I can understand.
I am never lonely, even when no people are around, because God and Christ are present with me. This can be true of you, if you will but ask.
Fellowship with the Father and the Son are an integral part of being in the image of Christ.
One of the problems of the "Heaven teaching" is that we lose sight of the fact that Christ came to restore bodily immortality to us—that which was lost in the Garden of Eden.
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (I Corinthians 15:53)
But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Timothy 1:10)
Would you rather live forever in a spirit form in Paradise in the spirit world, or would you rather have your mortal body transformed by the power of Jesus Christ so you could go anywhere you wanted to in the universe?
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
Honestly now, which would you prefer?
The problem is, you have to attain to this change in your body, as the Apostle Paul stated. God will never put an all-powerful body like that of our Lord on someone until the person himself or herself is qualified for such life and power.
Does that make sense to you?
Such is the problem with "Heaven thinking." If we are to go to Heaven by grace, then no demands are made upon us. We will just automatically go there when we die; or else fly up to Heaven in an unscriptural "rapture."
But to be qualified to don the outer image of the Lord Jesus requires that first of all the inner image be formed and have fellowship with our Creator.
To put a body like that of Christ on an untransformed personality would be to invite disaster.
If Adam and Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life, which is Christ, they would have gained immortality in their body. How utterly dreadful? They would have become immortal sinners, fit only to be in the Lake of Fire with Satan and his angels.
There you have it—the five stages of being changed into the image of Christ:
Replacing Our Life With Christ's Life.
Overcoming the Enemies of Christ.
The Forming of Christ in Us.
Daily Fellowship With Christ.
Clothed With Christ's Outer Image.
Does this sound like something you would like to have happen to you? Then go for it! Press into it! You will change some each day, although sometimes you may not notice it.
God will receive you and work with you if you will express your desire to Him.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)