Last month we began a new series of articles called “Reflections of His Image,” based on my new book (same title), which is due out this month. I am so very excited about this little book because it really clarifies many of the Christian terms and phrases that we so cavalierly banter around but truly don’t uderstand.
For example: The purpose of our lives as Christians is to be conformed into Christ’s image so that we may glorify Him in all we do. However, we can’t really glorify Him unless we understand how to abide in His presence. And we can’t really abide in His presence unless we know how to worship Him. But we can’t really worship Him unless we understand how to get clean. And we can’t really get cleaned unless we know how to make faith choices. But we can’t make faith choices unless we have the Spirit of God in us. And we won’t have the Spirit of God in us unless we have been born again by Christ.
This little book puts all the pieces of this puzzle together for us. My heart’s desire has always been to take these kinds of Biblical principles and make them simple. It’s not enough to just know them in our heads; we must be able to walk them out in our lives.
As Pastor David Wilkerson says: If I am not becoming noticeably more like Christ, then I have totally missed God’s purpose for my life...Christ-likeness isn’t about what I do for the Lord, but about how I’m being transformed into His likeness.1
We were created for God and His purposes, thus, our fulfillment in life will only come when we align ourselves with His design and His intentions.
The Holy Spirit Transforms Us
In order to help us with the transformation into His image, Christ gave us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is our comforter, counselor, helper, supporter, advisor, advocate and ally. (Ephesians 1:3-13; 2:18; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14) When we become believers, God’s Spirit comes to indwell us as a pledge, a seal or a mark of ownership, indicating that we now belong to God. (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14)
This Spirit, then, is the One that sets about conforming us into Christ’s image. (2 Corinthians 3:18) His job is to first make Christ’s presence known to us, and then through us to others.
J. I. Packer in his wonderful book, Keep in Step with the Spirit, says, “On the night of His betrayal Jesus said of the Spirit: ‘He will glorify Me...’ (John 16:14) That is, He shall make Me glorious in people’s eyes by making them aware of the Father’s glory in Me. That basic definition of what the Spirit was sent to do gives us a comprehensive directional frame of reference within which the whole of the Spirit’s new covenant ministry should be seen, and apart from which no feature of that ministry can be adequately understood.”
An Example: A Withering Useless Branch
The Bible tells us that no matter what difficulties or what circumstances we face, we are to bear Christ’s likeness. We are to edify and encourage one another just as Jesus did, not tear each other down. God doesn’t want us to just have a revelation of Christ, He wants us to be a reflection of Christ.
This hits close to home because I recently heard about an incident that happened to a very dear friend of mine. For the last several years, my friend has had serious life-threatening heart problems. A few months ago, she was again confined to the hospital with heart pains. One of the pastors at her church heard about her illness and came to the hospital to see her with the pretext of ministering to her. However, his real motive for coming was to confront her over some issues at church. The stress of this encounter precipitated a mild heart attack three days later.
Where is the fruit of Christ-likeness here? Where is the compassion, the edification and the encouragement that Jesus would have ministered?
If for some reason a confrontation is needed, then we not only must be sensitive to the Lord’s timing in which to do it, but also the Christ-like character that it is given in. No matter what the circumstances were, I know Jesus would never have confronted and argued with someone who was recovering from a recent heart attack. Another time and another place could easily have been set up to discuss whatever issues remained.
Unfortunately, this story is all too common among Christians these days. The hurt, devastation and feeling of betrayal left after an incident like this is crippling. What’s going on here? Aren’t we supposed to be lifting each other up? Aren’t we supposed to be praying for one another and sharing one another’s burdens?
That’s what Jesus would do. Scripture tells us that we are to reflect Him in all circumstances, no matter what the difficulties are.
Our Purpose as Christians
The Bible tells us that our purpose is to be conformed into the image of Christ so that we can glorify Him in all we do. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29)
We are to comfort, encourage, edify and strengthen one another as Jesus would do. Yes, there will be times when we must confront one another in love and stand firm, but certainly not be so insensitive as to pick a fight in a hospital room! 1 John 4:17 confirms: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world.”
Being conformed into Christ’s image is the goal of the Chris-tian life. In other words, simply being born in the spirit at our new birth is not enough. We need to learn how to walk in the Spirit, how to show forth His Love2 and how to live His Life. We need to put in our actions what we already possess in our heart.
This is the purpose of our existence as Christians. We are to be changed from the “inside out” and begin to reflect His likeness and His image. (Galatians 4:19; Romans 8:29)
We are to love with His Love; share from His wisdom; walk in His power; extend His peace, patience and joy; and be His arms and legs to one another. In the above hospital example and the thousands of other ungodly incidents I hear about, where is God’s Love? Where is His wisdom? Where is His compassion?
Again, we are made for God and our fulfillment in this life lies only in allowing Him to mold and sculpt us into His image. “Glorifying God” simply means reflecting His likeness in all we do. It means unlearning all our old ways of thinking and doing, and allowing Him to show forth, manifest and express His characteristics through us.
It means removing every hindrance, every obstacle and every blockage in our life that quenches His Spirit, so that He may be clearly seen through us, just as the Father was perfectly seen through Jesus. As Hebrews 1:3 says, Jesus, who was “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.”
Jesus even goes further and says in John 5:31, “If I bear witness of Myself, my witness is not true.” Wow! If Jesus says this of Himself, oh my goodness, how much more must it be true for us! We are to bear witness of God’s image, not our own.
In order to evaluate your own progress towards this end, ask yourself these three simple questions: Does being a Christian make a difference in my life? Does Christ’s character flow forth from me? Do others see the Love of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit in me?
Learning the practical application of these precepts is what this little book is all about.
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To be continued next month: What’s God’s Plan? This article has been excerpted in part from Nan’s new book Reflections of His Image: God’s Purpose for Your Life.