Romans 8: 28&29-
(We) are called according to His (God’s) purpose…To be conformed to the image of His Son (Jesus) that He might be the first-born among many brethren.
Matthew Henry says:
Holiness consists in our conformity to the image of Christ. This takes in the whole of sanctification, of which Christ is the great pattern and sampler. To be Spirited as Christ was, to walk and live as Christ did, and to bear our sufferings patiently as Christ did. Christ is the express image of the Father, and the saints are conformed to the image of Christ.
I believe this to be our goal in life; to be molded into what God desires, which is the image of Christ.
Behold, as the clay is in the potters’ hand, so are ye in Mine hand.
When we contemplate God molding us as a lump of clay, it seems like such a gentle process. God’s gentle and loving hands molding our soft pliable hearts into the image of His Son; and though God begins that at salvation and many times even before our enlightenment, He can only get so far. We, as God’s people, are hardened to many of God’s principles, and refuse to change into the image of many of Christs’ way of acting; a hardness of heart and a stubborn resolve. God understands, that the only way for us to ever become truly close to Him, and become a “good and faithful servant” is if we stop fighting God and give into this process of shaping us into Christ and therefore fulfill our destiny. So, we begin to go through trials.
1 Peter 4:12-
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.
Trials are not necessarily the enemy trying to stop us, although that could be the attempt of many of them; But we read here that they are the common way for God to try us, and reveal to Him & us of our true state, and our need to change. Many of us as believers have a wrong assessment of ourselves; we conclude that we are strong believers because we are good at leading Bible studies, winning souls to the Kingdom, or understand true theology; while at the same time we are constantly beset by habitual sin, often get mad at God or others, or are reluctant to change some of our ungodly lifestyle. It is not what we do or know that makes us a strong believer, but it is becoming Christ-like. Simply put, we are as spiritually strong as we are like Christ. It is through fiery trials, the heating up of our lives, that helps to shape us and prove us. This is God’s design.
Allowing God to actually shape our lives into the true image of Christ is more like forging steel than it is shaping soft pliable clay. We are actually being forged in the fire. If you’ve ever watched a blacksmith forging steel into an image, you can begin to understand God’s process of shaping us. They heat up the steel until it is red hot, and begin banging & hitting it with a big steel hammer, and then dip it in water to cool it down. They repeat that process until the desired affect is completed. Tempering steel beams can seem similar, where they heat it up and cool it down which enables the steel to become much stronger. Builders can’t use regular steel in big heavy structures because it will collapse from the stress put on it; they must use tempered steel. God is tempering us to become stronger so we won’t crumble under the weight of fulfilling His purpose, so our lives heat up and cool down continually. God has our best interest at heart.
The Apostle Paul went through unbelievable trials, but became stronger through them. He knew this process was God’s design, constantly strengthening his faith & character so he wouldn’t collapse under the weight of ministry as we read here:
1 Corinthians 9:27-
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: least that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Paul had learned through his trials, that God was making him stronger in faith and obedience, to save him from utter ruin and ending in hell (Castaway). So much for “once saved, always saved”. If the Apostle Paul through disobedience could end up a castaway, who are we to think otherwise, right?
We can’t just give a little effort; It takes everything that we’ve got, 24-7 to accomplish this. We are not almost there. Being a Christian for 50 years means nothing if we are not constantly allowing God to forge us into Christs’ image. Sparks should be flying all the time, like when we come together:
Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Also like when we are alone:
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
We need to remember that it is God who is working in us to will and do what He desires; To desire these changes and then accomplish them (which is truly God accomplishing them through our obedience). Things are not just OK with us; we might still get to Heaven, but we will never become what God designed us to be while we were still in our mother’s womb.
We need to ask ourselves some penetrating questions:
Who are we becoming?
Who are you?
Who are we?
Professional Church attenders? Secrete sneaky sinners? Indifferent and unbothered toward one-on-one evangelism to our boss, spouse, kids, friends? God is molding and shaping us, not to be shinney and ornamental, but to be used. I look at it this way; we are a tool being prepared for use. We need to allow God to forge us into His instrument. It’s like that History Channel show: Forged in Fire. They bring out an ancient blade and the competing blacksmiths forge steel into the same likeness. Then these freshly forged blades are tested for strength, sharpness & durability. They forge them, and test them, so they can use them. We are being forged in the Fire- To Be Used!
In the Spiritual Kingdom of God; the forging, hammering and fiery trials simply prepare us to be shaped; they soften our hard-heart, stiff necks and stubborn will and begin to allow God to change us. Like the Apostle Paul’s conversion, we begin to realize that “it’s hard to kick against the pricks”. What God actually uses to shape us is the true theology of the Gospel.
We as Christians are to be formed into the image of Christ, and only a correct understanding of the original Greek/ Latin text will give us a true understanding of this image, according to God’s word; the only true litmus test of what is being conveyed.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God…And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is the word of God, so this is how we are forged into Christs’ image, through the word of God; coming to believe & embrace it, to live it and share it. This is true faith and can be seen by true obedience & trust in it. It’s that easy and yet that difficult. We trust God’s word and we obey it, and over time, with a million failures we become Christ-like. This is what we are being forged into.
The problem that we have is that preaching can mean almost anything today. Ministers & people twist the true meaning of scriptures, either intentionally or by lack of understanding, and by doing so- they create a false image of Christ and people are formed into that. Ministers that did that in Jesus’ day were called false prophets and led many astray; unfortunately, it continues to this very day. The scriptures mean what they mean, period!
2Peter 1: 20-
Knowing this first, that no prophesy of the scriptures is of any private interpretation.
The Apostle Peter is saying that before we start anything, we need a correct interpretation of the scripture, and without that we are not being formed into Christs’ image, we are being formed into something different.
KNOWING THIS FIRST!
George Whitefield, The Wesley brothers, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards and many others sought God to understand the truth of His Word, and many of them read Matthew Henry’s six volume commentary and gleaned from it. They experienced his insights and interpretation of scripture to be true. They simply came to America, unless they were born here, and begin to share it. When we as a nation, began to embraced these truths and biblical understandings and began to obey them, God’s Country was formed; by true Godly principles according to scripture. It’s time to get back to that.
I love what Pastor Chuck Smith said in 1993 at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa:
“We are conservative and fundamental in our beliefs. We really don’t have any place for liberal theology”. It was said of Pastor Smith that his humility was among his most endearing qualities. Anyone can put on false humility and appear to be something they are not; Pastor Chuck Smiths humility was real, and it started with his interpretation of the Word of God. This great Man of God humbled himself and embraced the truth of the Gospel and allowed God to turn him into that; we were just seeing the humility Jesus when we saw his. Pastor Chuck didn’t change the meaning of a scripture to accommodate his desire, but his desire changed to accommodate the truth of God’s word. It is high time that we get back to that! When nothing but Christ is plainly preached, the success must be from Divine Power accompanying the Word! It is God who brings the increase, NOT US! We don’t need new church growth methods; that’s man’s way to get lots of people to come. It’s high time to stop building lukewarm churches man’s way, and start building disciples God’s way!!!
When God gave Moses instruction for building the altar, He talked about using the twelve stones and told Moses not to touch them with instruments to shape them otherwise they defiled God’s alter as we read here:
And if you make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
In God’s eyes, the stones were perfect because He (God) had made them, and once a person changes them, they become defiled, polluted and rejected. It is the same today! Once we add or subtract from the true meaning of the scriptures, we have defiled & polluted God’s Holy Word and become rejected until we get it right.
It’s time to be converted to the truth of God’s Word!
Christianity has never been about joining a group of people that believe a certain way, but it’s always been about individuals who have had an epiphany personally; where they see Christs’ lifestyle and teachings as the right way to live, which they embrace and live out with all the strength, perseverance and faith that it takes. They don’t say a prayer, join a church and embrace a few principles to some extent in their mind; but they are pricked in their hearts realizing that it was their sin that led Christ to the cross; broken & contrite they turn from their old behavior and way of thinking, despising their actions and determined never to return to that lifestyle. Forever grateful and available for whatever God would have for them. Their transformed faith & lifestyle brings them personally into the family of God; They are becoming Christ-like! We don’t join Christianity as we would some other club, we become a Christian by our faith & actions: turning 180 degrees from our previous way of living, like Zacchaeus.
Luke 19: 8&9-
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him four-fold. And Jesus said unto him, this day is salvation come unto this house.
Zacchaeus heard the Gospel and was radically changed; That’s Salvation! That’s becoming a Christian! I guess that he wasn’t such a “wee little man” after all, but a spiritual giant!
This is what preaching is designed to do!
Turn us from our sins!
(Reprove! Rebuke! Exhort! With all long suffering!)
1 Corinthians 1: 17,18 & 21-
Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel! For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us…it is the power of God! It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1 Corinthians 2: 4-
My preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of Power. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the Power of God.
It is time that we begin to understand this! It is time to understand that if we are to get to Heaven, we are going to have to fight our way there. Understanding correct theology and obeying it is one of the ways that we fight this “fight of faith”.
1 Timothy 6:12-
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called.
Matthew Henry writes:
The Apostle Paul is exhorting him to do the part of a soldier: Fight the good fight of faith. Note- Those who will get to Heaven must fight their way thither. There must be a conflict with corruption and temptation, and the opposition to the powers of darkness. Paul exhorts him to lay hold on eternal life. Observe- Eternal life is a crown proposed to us, for our encouragement to war, and to fight the good fight of faith, the good warfare. This we must lay hold on, as those that are afraid of coming short of it and losing it. Lay hold, and take heed of losing your hold! Hold fast, that which thou hast that no man take thy crown, (Revelations 3:11).
We are called to fight, and lay hold on Eternal Life!
2 Timothy 4: 7&8-
I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.
The Apostle Paul was a Christian Hero which could be plainly seen by his actions. Are there any Christian hero’s left today? I love this quote from Admiral Halsey: “There are no great men, only great circumstances that ordinary men (Women) must meet. That’s us! We are just ordinary men & women with great circumstances that we must “rise-up” and meet in the strength of God Almighty, if we are to call ourselves Christ-like. The time has come as professing believers that we put-up or shut-up! Sorry for being so blunt.
James 1: 22-
Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Everything afforded us through the Gospel is contingent on this one thing; Doing what God says to, PERIOD! The scriptures are blatantly clear on this one subject, and if we fail to do those things that we know to do, then we are deceiving ourselves to think we are in good standings with God Almighty! When we refuse over & over to simply do what we know to do, then we are actually sinning and separating ourselves from God, and all that He desires to do for His loving children as we read here:
James 4: 17-
To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
To obey God’s word is the essence of Faith. To disobey God’s word is the essence of Sin. The Lord says: If you love Me, obey Me. I believe that if we continue not to obey God, we are actually showing God that we don’t love Him. I know that it is difficult, and we can fail to obey God all the time; But we have to stop doing it willfully, and without remorse. We must be contrite and turn from an evil heart of disobedience. We have to stop giving in during these fiery trials and runny away to disobedience; It is in the midst of these fiery trials of life that we are either chosen or rejected as we read here:
Isaiah 48: 10 &11-
I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For Mine own sake, even for Mine own sake, will I do it: for how should My Name be polluted?
King Saul continued to disobey through the fiery trials of life; always blaming others for his failures. King David on the other hand, defended his sheep at the risk of his own life, and it was done in total obscurity. Saul was rejected, and God searched for “a man after His own heart”. David was the literal Good Shephard, and you have to believe that Christ was remembering that when He Said: “I am the Good Shephard”. That’s the heart of God! If David failed to do what he knew to do, the bear & lion would have killed those sheep, and David would not have been prepared to Kill Goliath. Our entire destiny in God is contingent on us becoming strong Christians, by fighting against this evil inside us; an evil spirit of unbelief, which is all disobedience really is.
Fight the good fight with more than just words!
Lay Hold on Eternal Life!
Allow God to “Forge you in the Fire” through Obedience!