We have talked a lot in these blogs about the fact God has ‘decided’ to make us like Jesus. He has ‘predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers’. This is good because we also know that ‘God is for us…..and will along with Christ freely give us all things.’ Romans 8:29 – 31. It is also the cause of much of our thanksgiving because this plan God has, to make us like Jesus, is linked to those promises that ‘in all things God works for our good’, and that ‘nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Romans 8:39.
When Mark was at school they had a certain master who would frequently tell the boys, “You must conform”, by way of keeping control. So the first thing that comes to mind today, with regards to thanksgiving, is that God does not demand ‘conformity’ as He transforms me into the image of His Son. He has created us all as totally unique and wonderful beings. His plan is that through each of us – individuals that we are – the Glory of His person and His character would shine. Hence our dwelling on the fruit of the Spirit, which is really the manifestation of the Christ life in each one of us.
The other day we were watching the news coverage of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of China, and observing the incredible precision and uniformity of all the participants, even to the fixed smiles and movements of the dancers. It was uniformity and conformity in the extreme. Quite chilling in what it portrayed of the power of the regime, and there at the front stood the supreme leader, rigid and straight faced, in grey, and surrounded by his security guards. I couldn’t help but contrast that, in my mind’s eye, with the picture I have of heaven and the beauty, and spontaneity of the angelic worship, and the immense variety of people we will see worshipping God, when we get there. So many, many different ones but all will reflect, in their own way, the glory of the King. So firstly let us thank the Lord that our transformation into His likeness is not being imposed upon us by threats or external force, but by something truly amazing – the power of the Holy Spirit working in and with our spirit.
The second thing that I am so, so grateful about today, is that you and I have not joined a ‘self improvement’ society. It’s not about me pulling myself up by my bootstraps, it is all about grace and the work of our beautiful helper the Holy Spirit as, ‘We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ 2 Corinthians 3:18. As we look at Jesus, it’s like looking in a glass showing us the future ‘us’. Incredible as it seems, that is what we are going to look like when He returns and we see Him face to face, 1 John 3:2, and although we are of course totally part of this transformation process, thankfully it is not down to my will power, or pure self effort, to change.
I am just so thankful that not only is there no autocratic force compelling me to behave ‘clone like’ in exactly the same way as all other Christians, but there is also no heavy duty laid upon me that I must modify my behavior until I reach the right standard. Instead, while we are still on earth the encouragement to us is not to conform to the patterns that we see all around us but to be ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind’. Romans 12:2.
This is not the mind control, said to be in operation, among the Uyghurs in China, but the enlightenment and revelation that the Holy Spirit brings, by i) telling us who we now are in Christ – children of our loving heavenly Father, 1 John 3:1, ii) showing us how much we are loved, Ephesians 3:17-19, and iii) correcting us and leading us into paths of righteousness, ‘for His names sake’. Psalm 23: 3. The Holy Spirit is our wonderful alongside Helper on this journey of transformation, and there is no coercion only love.
If we aren’t truly amazed by all this grace, we are missing something. We are saved by grace and we are being transformed by His grace. The Holy Spirit is helping us day by day to live out our lives from our new man in Christ, like the apostle Paul describes in Galatians 3:20. He is helping us to choose to live from our spirit and to put off the old man and his/her ways, ‘that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.’ Ephesians 4:22-24 NASB.
As we grasp again, the immensity of this salvation, our thanksgiving can only help to speed our transformation, as we say ‘O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.’ Isaiah 64:8.