by Mike Ratliff
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:12-18 ESV)
When I wrote Walking the Walk by Faith in late 2004 and early 2005 I had a panel of advisors help me with the manuscript. We met at least once a week to go over what I had written and edited based upon our discussion. I was very new at writing, especially at that level. I struggled with how to express what my heart wanted to say. However, I had some people on that panel that helped me a great deal with the words I was straining to express. We were discussing a chapter I had written about Christlikeness and the methods God used to accomplish this in His people. I was not sure how to phrase one of the main sentences when one of my friends on that panel suggested that what we were really discussing was God reshaping our character. That was like a window or door being opened for me. I could now see what God had been doing in my own heart and in the hearts of those helping me write that book. God has His people involved in a process of character change.
The Holy Spirit and Christ actually indwell each genuine believer. They work within their hearts to transform them into Christ’s likeness. What is involved in this? Christ and His Spirit empower Christians to put to death sinful habits replacing them with Christlike behavior patterns that Paul described as the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-26) None of us are capable of walking perfectly this way…not in this fleshly body, but godly patterns of behavior will become more and more predominant flowing from our maturing character. The fact that our Lord does this for us is momentous. Genuine Christians are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), however, it also takes the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to turn us into different people from what we were before God saved us.What is our part? We are to live out what God has wrought in us by expressing in our actions the new life in Christ. This “new life” is made up of a new vision, motivation, devotion, and a sense of direction that conforms unto our Lord’s character. We can do this because His character is actually becoming more and more manifest in those who live a life worthy of their calling they have received.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)
All in Christ are in union with Him. This union is the product of a creative act by God. If we meditate on this we must come away seeing that this is a mystery. Why? We were dead in our trespasses and sins yet those of us in Christ are now alive in Him. The power to make this so is the same as that which raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Our Lord is raised from the dead and we no longer behold Him. The same can be said for the union Christians enjoy with Him. We cannot observe this or inspect it. It is mysterious, but it is real. We see the evidence of it in our transformation from fleshly people to Christlike disciples.
Our union with Christ makes us partakers of His death, first, so that our guilt is gone and second, that our former life in bondage to sin is gone replaced by our new life of fellowship with Him that began at our new birth. We are also resurrected with Christ. That means that we have been effectively delivered from slavery to sin unto a new life in the Spirit. This new life progressively conforms us unto Christ’s character. As this process moves forward we will become more and more of the same mind and heart, attitude and outlook as our Lord. By His Spirit, our Lord is not merely with us, but also in us.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)
God’s ways are not our ways. The world and our old nature say that the essence of freedom is to be free from external pressures such as poverty, race prejudice, economic exploitation, and political injustice. However, that view is only the exoskeleton of freedom. It is not the essence of true freedom. We find that in being free for what is imperative. What is that? What is most important for believers in this life? Isn’t it to become one with God and to partake of His godliness? In this we delight in Him and find true peace and joy. We then see how God’s grace has transformed us and is still doing so. We see that He has given us true freedom in becoming our Lord’s disciples, His bondservants, who live for His glory alone. Only our Lord Jesus Christ can do this for us.
External pressures are constantly upon God’s people to be conformed to this world. Our enemy is very sly though. He is satisfied when Christians become simply focused on self rather than God’s glory. He also loves nothing better than to influence Christians to be part of idolatrous forms of religion that appear “Christian.” A self-righteous “Christian” is powerless. The only way we can avoid any of this is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in all things. We must cooperate with our Lord in His character rebuilding within our hearts. Our Lord is coming back soon. We must forsake the ways of the world and our flesh to be conformed unto Christlikeness according to the will of God. Soli Deo Gloria!
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