We are looking to be comfortable.
God is looking for us to be conformed.
The world around us is perpetually committed to comfort. This includes our home, cars, work environment, hobbies, leisure activities and various personal items of use. All advertisements seem to focus on those products that make our lives easier. The slang expression “take it easy” characterizes our culture. We, as followers of Christ, are exposed to this as well. The world around us is constantly seeking to press us into its mold. (Romans 12:2) This culture which looks to be comfortable may influence our spiritual life as well. Do we select churches, speakers and literature largely based on the premise that we will be comforted by what we hear and read? Are commitments that require effort and discipline largely avoided? Is comfort preferred over sacrifice? Do we desire the benefits of discipleship without its cost? Do we rejoice in His provisions which bring comfort and shirk from the cost which is necessary for us to conform? Our generation is not alone in seeking to be comfortable rather than to be conformed. Simon Peter demonstrates this as well when he joyfully exclaims on the mountain “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4) One week earlier his statement was “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22) Glory? Yes! The Cross? No! Comfort? Yes! Conformed? No!
God’s desire that we be conformed is clearly stated in Romans 8:29. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” It is also stated a little differently in Ephesians 4:11-13. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul describes this as “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) This conformity of which Paul speaks is dependent upon a process.
Ray Stedman once remarked that to pray in God’s will meant that we were asking for what He wants, dependent upon Him to do what we asked, and dependent upon His process. He related that this process was often the cross. We need to be planted with Him in His death before we participate in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:5) Denial of self and taking up our cross come before “follow me.” (Luke 9:23) The Holy Spirit is the One who accomplishes this transformation in our lives. “But 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. (II Corinthians 3:18) KJV His tools include the word of God, prayer, individuals, the body of Christ and circumstances in our lives. Through Him and by Him, we learn to depend increasingly upon the risen Christ as our “righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (I Corinthians 1:30) As Paul describes in II Corinthians 10:5, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This process, however long and arduous it may seem, is God’s chosen method to accomplish His glorious purpose for our lives.
In His Grace, God revealed His purpose before creation. His plan from all eternity was to bring mankind into a relationship with Him in Christ. Our rebellion as a race, our hatred of Him when he came could not stop the flow of infinite love extended to us in His Son. When we nailed Him to the cross, He was still on the throne overwhelming our sin and making it not to be. His resurrected life is now at our disposal and in Him we become one with God and He becomes one with us. In His great love, God knows that only one thing will ultimately satisfy the creature He has formed, and that is to have intimate fellowship with God by sharing the likeness of His Son. The Psalmist states the following in Psalm 17:15. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (KJV) God, in His great Love, is not satisfied until His creature is satisfied. His Grace, His Holiness, and His Love will not permit Him to fall short of perfecting that which He has created. Being conformed to Christ is ultimately the work of God, not that of ourselves. It is His process and His purpose. What, then, is our responsibility? Someone has defined this as “Our response to His ability.” What should our response be? If we desire conformity, if we seek it in our lives, if we pray that His will be accomplished, then we can rest in His ability. We can rest in His promise given to us in Philippians 1:6. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
This likeness of His Son, expressed in the body of Christ, that is, the Church, will be to His everlasting Glory! “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21) KJV It is my prayer that conformity to Christ in your life will be to the ever increasing glory of the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In Christ, Richard Spann