CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Called to Conform
By Denise M. Kohlmeyer
Called to Conform
An in-depth series on the practical outworkings of Christ-like Conformity
A Messianic Mindset
A Heart Like Jesus
The Obedience of Christ
A Life Poured Out
Conflict and Suffering
Thanks be to Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which Thou hast given us; for all the pains and insults which Thou hast borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, may we know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly; for Thine own sake.This prayer says it all! May we make it our own in our pursuit of Christlikeness.
Richard, Bishop of Chichester (1197-1253)
"To Know Thee More Clearly"
Several times in his letters, the apostle Paul exhorted the believes to "know" Christ. Conformity, if you remember, begins with the mind: knowing, understanding, thinking, meditating.
• "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him." (Ephesians 1:17)
• "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." (Philippians 1:9-10)
• "We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." (Colossians 1:9-10)
We learned at the beginning of this series that knowing, ginóskó, means "to come to know, become aware, comprehend, recognize, perceive," both intellectually, with our minds through the reading of God's Word and prayer, and experientially, in our daily lives through personal circumstances and situations in which Jesus reveals Himself intimately to us.
Breaking it down by way of reminder, though, it looks like this:
First, we come to know His salvation, which comes only through recognizing and acknowledging your sin and His work on the Cross for your sin, then appropriating the free gift of grace through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Second, we come to know His sanctification, which comes from our own desire and decision, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, of course; of straining forward and pressing on towards transformation (Philippians 3:12-14); of pursuing the things that will make us more Christ-like: more loving, peaceable, joyful, forgiving, compassionate, gracious, kind, gentle, humble, prayerful.
Third, we come to know His servant's heart, which comes from regularly reading about and observing how He poured out His life in the sacrificial service of helping and healing those He came into contact with on a daily basis. Then following those examples as best as we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, we come to know His suffering, which comes from following and obeying closely, and uncompromisingly the ways of God, of enduring the same forms (if not to the same degree) of persecutions He did: mockings, beatings, insults, betrayals, abandonment, rejections, death.
To know Christ is to know — both intellectually and experientially — the fullness of who He is, why and what He did what He did, how He did it.
Says Pastor Steven J. Cole:
Christianity is definitely not a religion of rules and rituals that we must work at keeping in order to climb the ladder to heaven. Rather, it is a personal, growing relationship with the risen, living Lord Jesus Christ that results in our growing conformity to Him. Our goal is to know Him and to become like Him. ("Knowing Christ and Being Like Him")Is that your goal, dear friends? I hope and pray so!
For more on knowing Christ, please see "What does it mean to know Jesus?"
"To Love Thee More Dearly"
God Himself tells us that the greatest of all commandments is that "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is so important, in fact, that it's repeated again in Matthew 22:37.
In essence, we are to love God, and no other, with our whole being. Notice the repetitive word in this verse: "all." The emphasis is on the totality of something, not just parts of it, but the whole. All your heart (leb, "inner man, will, affections"), with allour soul (nephesh, "living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion"), with all our might (toqeph, "power, strength, energy").
Loving God and Jesus — they being one and same — involves every single part of our selves (our lifestyles, careers, ministries and interests), our will (our everyday choices), our emotions (our responses to others), with power and energy (fortitude and inner drive).
Why? How could we give any less to the One who did not spare His only Son for our sins and our salvation. It is the only proper response, really.
How does this all-encompassing love practically flesh itself out, though? Professor Jason DeRouchie tells us:
"There needs to be an authentic love for God that starts with God-oriented affections, desires, and thoughts, that permeates our speaking and behavior, and then influences the way we spend our money and how we dress, and drive, and our forms of entertainment. Whether we're eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, love for Yahweh — the one true triune God — is to be in action and seen. ("Love God with Your Everything")Do we love God perfectly? No, we cannot, given our sin nature. The only One who ever did was Jesus. But let it be our prayer, our aim, our desire, our goal. God deserves nothing less. After all, God loves us — you and me! — with ALL His heart, ALL His soul, ALL His strength!
For more on this topic, please see "What does it mean to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?"
"To Follow Thee More Nearly"
Bishop Richard made it his life's ministry to serving the poor, the widows, the orphans and the sick, preaching the gospel to fishermen and farmers, and pointing out the abuses of the church. He fully embodied his own prayer to "follow Thee more nearly." He took to heart Christ's instructions in Matthew 16:24, that in order to be a disciple, he was to "take up [his] cross daily and follow Me."
Following "more nearly" to Jesus for us today requires no less; we, too, are to take up our cross, die to ourselves daily so that we live as He lived (humbly, compassionately, lovingly) and do what He did (sacrifice His time and energy to meet the needs of others, both physically, emotionally and spiritually).
For more on this topic, please see "What does it mean to truly follow Christ?"
Our conformity, dear friends, depends upon us knowing Jesus more fully, loving Him more dearly and following Him more nearly...to the point where we aren't recognizable anymore, but Jesus in us is!
Through this seven-week series, I hope and pray that you have been awakened to a renewed desire to become more like Jesus Christ. Let it be your prayer and desire to let God work in your life from this day forward to conform you into the image of His precious Son.
Image Credit: Giuseppe Milo; "Dad!"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Jesus-Christ
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Published on 6-1-17