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XXXIX. CONFORMITY TO JESUS
‘Foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son.’ -- Rom. 8:29
‘I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.’ -- John 13:15
The Bible speaks of a twofold conformity, a twofold likeness that we bear. We may be conformed to the world or to Jesus. The one excludes and drives out the other. Conformity to Jesus, where it is sought, will be secretly prevented by conformity to the world more than anything else. And conformity to the world can be overcome by nothing but conformity to Jesus.
Young Christian, the new life of which you have become partaker is the life of God in heaven. In Christ that life is revealed and made visible. What the workings and fruits of eternal life were in Jesus, they shall also be in you: in His life you get to see what eternal life will work in you. It cannot be otherwise: if for this end you surrender yourself unreservedly to Jesus and the dominion of eternal life, it will bring forth in you a walk of wonderful conformity to that of Jesus. (Matt. 20:27,28; Luke 6:40; John 6:57; 1 John 2:6; 4:17)
To the true imitation of Jesus in His example and growth in inward conformity to Him, two things especially are necessary. These are a clear insight that I am really called to this, and a firm trust that it is possible for me.
One of the greatest hindrances in the spiritual life is that we do not know, that we do not see, what God desires that we should be. (Matt. 22:19; Luke 24:16; 1 Cor. 3:1,2; Heb. 5:11,12) Our understanding is still so little enlightened, we have still so many of our own human thoughts and imaginations about the true service of God, we know so little of waiting for the Spirit who alone can teach us. We do not acknowledge that even the clearest words of God do not have for us the meaning and power that God desires. And so long as we do not spiritually discern what likeness to Jesus is, and how utterly we are called to live like Him, there can be but little said of true conformity. Would that we could only conceive our need of a special heavenly instruction on this point. (1 Cor. 2:12,13; Eph. 1:17,18)
Let us for this end earnestly examine the Scriptures in order to know what God says and desires about our conformity to Christ. (John 13:15; 15:10,12; 27:18; Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:5; Col. 3:18) Let us unceasingly ponder such words of Scripture, and keep our heart in contact with them. Let it remain fixed with us that we have given ourselves wholly to the Lord, to be all that He desires. And let us trustfully pray that the Holy Spirit would inwardly enlighten us and bring us to a full view of the life of Jesus so far as that can be seen in a believer. (1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Cor. 3:18) The Spirit will convince us that we, no less than Jesus, are absolutely called to live only for the will and glory of the Father: to be in the world even as He is.
The other thing that we have need of is the belief that it is really possible for us with some measure of exactness to bear the image of our Lord. Unbelief is the cause of impotence. We put this matter otherwise. Because we are powerless, we think we dare not believe that we can be conformed to our Lord. This thought is in conflict with the word of God. We do not have it in our own power to carry ourselves after the image of Jesus. No: He is our head and our life. He dwells in us, and will have His life work from within, outwards, with divine power, through the Holy Spirit. (John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:3; Eph. 3:17,18)
Yet this cannot be apart from our faith. Faith is the consent of the heart, the surrender to Him to work, the reception of His working. ‘Be it unto you according to your faith,’ is one of the fundamental laws of the kingdom of God. (Zech. 8:6; Matt 8:29; Luke 1:37,45; 28:27; Gal. 2:20) It is something incredible what a power unbelief has to hinder the working and the blessing of the Almighty God. The Christian who would be partaker of conformity to Christ must specially cherish the firm trust that this blessing is within his reach, is entirely within the range of possibility. He must learn to look to Jesus as Him to whom he by the grace of God Almighty can, in his measure, be really conformable. He must believe that the same Spirit that was in Jesus is also in him; that the same Father that led and strengthened Jesus also watches over him; that the same Jesus that lived on earth now lives in him. He must cherish the strong assurance that this Three-One God is at work in changing him into the image of the Son. (John 14:19; 17:19; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 1:19,10)
He that believes this shall receive it. It will not be without much prayer: it will require especially converse, ceaseless intercourse with God and Jesus. Yet he that desires it and is willing to give time and sacrifice to it, certainly receives it.
Son of God, Effulgence of the glory of God, the very image of His substance, I must be changed into Thine image. In Thee I see the image and the likeness of God in which we are created, in which we are by Thee created anew. Lord Jesus, let conformity to Thee be the one desire, the one hope of my soul. Amen.
1. Conformity to Jesus: we think that we understand the word: but how little do we comprehend that God really expects we should live even as Jesus. It requires much time with Him, in prayer and pondering of His example, at all rightly to conceive it. The writer of these precepts has written a book on this theme, has often spoken of it, and yet he sometimes feels as if he must cry out: Is it really true? Has God indeed called us to live even as Jesus?
2. ‘Like Jesus: Thoughts on the image of the Son of God and our conformity to Him,’ is the title of a book in which the various features of the image of Jesus and the sure way of receiving them are set forth.
3. Conformity to the world is strengthened especially by intercourse with it: It is in intercourse with Jesus that we shall adopt His mode of thinking, His disposition, His manners.
4. The chief feature of the life of Jesus is this: He surrendered Himself wholly to the Father in behalf of men. This is the chief feature of conformity to Him: the offering up of ourselves to God for the redemption and blessing of the lost.
5. The chief feature His inner disposition was -- childlikeness: absolute dependence on the Father, great willingness to be taught, cheerful preparedness to do the will of the Father. Be specially like Him in this.
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