CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF CHRIST
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
As long as we view going to Heaven to live forever as the goal of our salvation, believing that Heaven is our eternal home, it is impossible to describe accurately the plan of redemption. Various unscriptural teachings have been advanced recently, such as “we automatically have acquired all the endowments of the fully mature Christian by accepting Christ,” and “Jesus has done it all,” as today’s “prophets” like to declare. Such teachings assume that our goal is to go to Heaven. If you remove residence in Heaven as being our goal, these unscriptural teachings lose their foundation.
There are at least two major goals of redemption. At first glance they may seem unrelated. One is found in the Book of Romans:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28,29)
God’s goal for us is that we might be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ so that Christ is the firstborn among many brothers.
The second major goal I would like to mention is found in Philippians chapter 3:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
“To attain to the resurrection from the dead.” I used to stress that Paul was seeking to have a place in the first resurrection, the resurrection when Jesus next appears. However, as I consider the first goal, that of being conformed to the likeness of Christ, I wonder whether both of these goals are the same.
To be conformed to the likeness of God’s Son is to attain to the resurrection. By this I mean, we continue pressing forward in Christ until every element of our personality is a part of the Life of Christ. Every part of us is made new in Christ.
Notice how both of these goals are contained in the following:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
The two goals are:
- Change into the image of Christ.
- Attaining to the resurrection.
Both of these goals are included in the above verse.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” Paul has been crucified. Paul no longer lives. What does it mean to live? To live is to think, to speak, and to act. When Paul no longer is living, it means Paul no longer thinks; Paul no longer speaks; and Paul no longer acts.
“Christ lives in me.” What does that mean? Christ is thinking in me. Christ is speaking in me. Christ is acting in me. Wouldn’t this mean that Paul was being conformed to the likeness of Christ? Wouldn’t it mean also that Paul was living in resurrection life?
Notice that living in the image of Christ and in resurrection life has nothing to do with going to Heaven to live. Rather, it is a state of being that is as true on the earth as in Heaven. Also, being changed is not a requirement for entering and living in Heaven. Living in the resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus Christ concerns our relationship to God and Christ, not with where we are.
“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” My thinking, my speaking, and my acting are now conducted by faith in the Son of God. This means that as I go about my daily business, my thinking, speaking, and acting are performed as I look to Jesus. I do all in His Presence, having faith that He has taken charge of me and is directing me to eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
If Christ offered Himself on the cross for us, He certainly can be trusted to guide our thinking, speaking, and acting so that we continually are moving toward righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
So we see that conformation to the likeness of Christ and attainment to the resurrection from the dead are God’s goals for us. But our own goals are eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace. Attaining to God’s goals are the means of attaining to our goals.
Now let us consider the drift of today’s Gospel. Today’s Gospel, that stresses Jesus has done it all and all we are to do is to identify ourselves with Him, is good news for the natural man. It is not good news for God, however, in that God wants sons in the image of His greater Son that God’s will may be accomplished throughout the creation.
We can see at once that the idea we are to do nothing because Jesus has done it all for us is based on the belief that Jesus is bringing us to Heaven. If we abandon residence in Heaven as the goal of redemption, and replace it with attaining to the likeness and Life of the Lord Jesus, then the idea that Jesus has done it all is seen to be a masterful deception.
If we live our whole Christian life under the delusion that Jesus has done all the work for us, and all we are to do is to wait to die and join Jesus in Heaven, we are going to be dismayed when we die. Instead of being welcomed by Jesus, we will be rebuked sternly because we did not use the resources God has given us to help build His Kingdom.
Let’s think about what we must do, that Jesus has not already done for us.
- Learning to live by the Life of Jesus means we practice the Presence of Christ at all times. We continually, throughout the day and night, are looking to the Lord for His advice. We speak to Him all the time, giving thanks, asking for wisdom, strength, healing whatever we need. We pray without ceasing, as it were.
- In addition, we must spend some time in prayer each day if at all possible. There must be a time that we set aside so we can hear what God saying to us.
- Also, there must be a time each day to read the Bible, if a Bible is available.
If we are so busy there is no time for prayer or Bible reading, then we need to ask Jesus to give us the time. To try to go through life without daily prayer and Bible reading may prevent our being conformed to the image of Christ and in our attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Sometimes it is said that if Christ is in us, we do not need to pray and read our Bible each day, especially if we do not feel like it. This sort of lack of discipline is common among American people, including Christians, and it will prevent us from coming to the full stature of Christ. God does not enjoy lazy people.
Beware of individuals who say, “If we make any attempt to serve the Lord, we are trying to improve on God’s sovereign salvation.” This thought is coming from Satan. The truth is, when we attempt to live by the Life of the Lord, we are responding to God’s sovereign salvation.
Who was it Who said, “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Who was it Who said if we do what He has commanded, we are building our house on a rock and the storms of life cannot wash it away? So we see clearly that those who teach that we are to do nothing and Christ has done it all, are leading us to destruction.
Our first problem is worldliness. We are to ask Jesus to remove from us trust and over-involvement in the antichrist world spirit. This is difficult in America because we are so materialistic. Satan always is enticing us with interesting aspects of our culture.
The development of electronic devices is increasing at a breathtaking rate. The result of such devices is to bring people together. The end result will be a one-world government ruled by people who do not know the Lord.
People have a desire to come together and to throw off any attempt to govern them. The one-world government that is on the horizon will be careful to listen to the demands of people. The leaders will understand that, as in America today, any government that will attempt to instill the values that are important to Christian people will be rejected by the masses. The governments of the one-world will not rule in the fear of the Lord.
So our first task is to interact with the world spirit as little as possible. This is difficult for young people growing up. But at some point in their lives, they must recognize that whoever is a friend of the world makes himself or herself the enemy of God. We do not escape the bondages of the world spirit merely by identifying ourselves with the Lord Jesus. We must pray every day and do whatever else is necessary to escape being molded by worldly values.
Our second task is to follow the Spirit of God closely at all times because one of the Spirit’s main responsibilities is to point out to us the lusts and passions of our flesh and spirit. As the sin in us is pointed out to us, it must be confessed specifically, and then we are resolve in the Lord Jesus that never again will that action be part of our personality. Christ will help us with our resolution, forgiving us and strengthening us until we are totally free from the dark areas of sin.
As we confess and renounce our sins, turning away from them with determination, the body and blood of the Lord are fed to us in the spirit realm. The body and blood of Christ are our resurrection Life. As they increase in us, we are more able to live by the Life of Jesus.
When Jesus returns, the slain Lamb in the sky, He will look for those who are living by His body and blood. He will call them up to Himself. Where the slain Lamb is in the sky, there will the eagles, those who live by His Life, will gather together.
First, withdrawing from too much involvement in the world spirit. Second confessing and turning away from our sins, with the help of Jesus.
The third step we must take if we are to be conformed to the image of Christ and attain to His resurrection Life is to serve patiently in the prison in which we are placed.
We cannot remove our self-will by means of our own self-will. God must do it. God crucifies our self-will by placing us in situations we do not enjoy, and by deferring our most fervent desires. For how long? Many years, if necessary.
Christ commands us to place our treasures in Heaven. This we must do if we are to live by His Life. Everything that will bring us righteousness, love, joy, and peace, will be restored to us eventually.
We go through Job-like experiences. We mourn because we were born, like Jeremiah. God may ask for Isaac, so to speak.
Our self-will is a horrible monster that dwells in the deepest caves of our personality. It is not that God wants to remove our will, because a sharp, incisive will is necessary if we are to attain to the Life of Jesus.
But that will must become so much a part of the Life of Christ that the two wills cannot be separated. What Christ wants for us, we want. If we do not actually want what Christ wants, we say we want it. We keep placing ourselves on God’s side, knowing that His will for us is bringing us to the peace and love we desire. We do not complain and grumble, but patiently possess our souls.
God says that if we will choose to delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. Since we do not really know what the desires of our heart are, it is best to look to God to give us what it is we truly desire. We are wise when we ask God to give us true, lasting desires, not the temporary, fleeting desires that are based in our ignorance of what it is we actually desire.
Obviously, if we take the attitude we are to do nothing, that Christ has done it all, we are not going to make an effort to remove ourselves from the antichrist world spirit. We are not going to diligently confess and turn away from our sins. We are not going to serve Christ patiently during the many years we are in God’s prison. We see, then, how utterly destructive is the current doctrine that Christ has done it all and there is nothing we are to do.
The new covenant is made with every member of the Body of Christ. Our part of the covenant is to obey the commands of Christ and His Apostles. God’s part of the covenant is to write His eternal moral laws in our mind and in our heart.
God’s eternal moral law is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God made flesh. As we live by eating His flesh and drinking His blood, the Divine Seed that has been conceived in us is nourished and grows. The end result of Christ coming to maturity in us is a son of God in the image of Christ who lives by the Life of Christ.
Thus we become a room in the Father’s House, which is Christ Himself. The larger we grow, the more people there are who can find rest in us, just as we find rest in Christ.
All the creation is summed up in Christ. He has promised to share the spoil with the strong. The spoil of the war against evil is people. The only worthwhile inheritance is God and people. All the rest is environment.
There will be numerous wonderful roles and tasks for us in the Kingdom of God, if we have been diligent with what Christ has entrusted us.
Let us then flee for our life from those who are teaching that there is nothing we are to do because Christ has done it all. They are deceivers. They do not know the Lord.
But you and I will continue to press into Christ, straining every nerve as Paul says to keep Christ before us, and yet resting securely on the everlasting Arms.
If we do not quit until the day we die (no retirement from God is contemplated), we indeed shall receive (1) the promised inheritance, which is the full image of Christ, internally and externally; (2) rest in the center of God’s Person and will; and (3) life lived in the fullness of eternal resurrection life.
(“Conformed to the Image of Christ”, 4066-1, proofed 20210909)