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Welcome back, I’m excited to jump into our material today, so be sure to visit CelebrationOfGod.com for today’s free episode notes, transcript, and life resources, because what we’re going to talk about today is desperately important this very moment and every moment that follows until Christ comes back or we shuffle off this mortal coil.
Two episodes ago we contemplated the significance of the fact that we serve of Living God.
Last episode we meditated on the various facets of our eternal life, and one of those facets was life in sanctification.
Today’s episode is going to broaden and expand on that point, and then after our final episode in this series that will post next week, we’re going to start another series for the Season of Life called “The Evidence of Spiritual Life” where we will take 9 episodes to get a better understanding of the purpose of the life God has given us at this stage of our existence.
It will be both a call to those who have the life of God, but it will also be an evaluative tool for those who are unsure.
So, let’s start by reviewing last week’s point concerning . . .
As was mentioned before, sanctification is the process whereby we are conformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another—slowly transformed by the Holy Spirit so that we through His power will sin less and less as we glorify God more and more.
Also, as I mentioned last time, it’s important to remind ourselves that we don’t do good works in order to earn eternal life, and we don’t do good works in order to keep eternal life. We do good works because we have eternal life.
I should also add that we don’t do good works in order to make God love us more or give us things or make life easier. We do good works because He deserves for us to obey Him.
And I really love Ephesians 2:10, “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [He] made us alive together with Christ, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Sanctification is the process of God working in and on us so that we would walk in the good works in which He created us to walk.
And that is the facet of life on which we want to focus in this episode. What does the life of God look like in the life of a believer?
My goal is to simplify this discussion as much as possible today so that we can build on it more in the following series. However, I also want to present the material in a way that will cause us to view the process in a more biblical way.
I don’t know about you, but it’s really easy for me to consider the phrase “conformed into the image of Christ” in a very vague, non-specific way. It’s seems more like a feeling or nebulous state of being than anything else. But the reality is that conformity to Christ is a concrete idea.
Have you ever considered the fact that one of the many reasons Jesus became a man was to set a physical example for us to follow? We have a chronicle of His words and deeds. We see His personhood in practical action.
To say that sanctification transforms us into the image of God the Father—Who is a pure Spirit—is more difficult to apply. It’s not impossible for God has revealed His character, and He’s always working in the world, but the physical example of Christ is much easier to imitate.
I’ve likely mentioned before that I’ve had the chance to present Christ on stage. I know there’s a lot of controversy these days about whether or not a man should represent Jesus in a theatrical way, and I’m not hear to argue one way or another. I simply want to point out that as I did my homework in order to present Him as accurately as I could, I had to give close attention to many things. What did He say and do? How did He say it and do it? Why did He say and do it? I had to extrapolate from His character, words, deeds, commands, and teachings how He interacted with people, His facial expressions, His voice, and so on.
And—of course—I got it all wrong. I recognize that portraying Christ is impossible not simply because of the chronological distance between us or the fact that there are no video or audio recordings; it’s impossible because He’s God and I’m a created being.
But it’s the study and the practical application on which I want to focus. That process of studying the Word so that I could emulate the Lord on stage is exactly what each of us should be doing in our daily lives. And no, I’m not saying we need to try to figure out how He walked and talked and gestured, but we do need to talk like Him and act like Him and love like Him.
So, the spiritual life that God gives us is intended to be used to pursue . . .
2. Conformity to the Character of Christ
If we’re not as holy and righteous and loving and joyful and forgiving and passionate and gracious and merciful and patient and obedient as Jesus was, then we still have a lot of growing to do. And, yes, we still have a lot of growing to do.
I challenge you to read the New Testament asking the question, “What does this verse teach me about the character of Jesus?” Write the answer down. Journal it if you need to.
But then you need to ask the second question, “What does this verse reveal about me?” Generally speaking, the lessoned learned is that my character is not nearly as much like Jesus’ as it needs to be.
And then ask, “What does all of that mean for me today?” Compare your character to Jesus’, choose one attribute or trait and dedicate to maturing in that area. Now, please understand that you will never perfect that attribute or character trait this side of glorification, so don’t avoid everything else as you focus merely on one concept.
However, take some time to study it through the Scriptures, meditate on it, apply the truths to your own life, get accountability, and change the way you live.
If you’ve been with us for any length of time at all, then you know that our Season by Season focus on God’s mercy, grace, life, and power is just that. This series and the next to come is a three month study and application of what it means to live the life of Christ.
So, learn about the character of Jesus, and strive to be conformed to His character.
Now, I started with this point because the last two points are completely vain and worthless if they are not firmly rooted in this point.
We humans are so incredibly superficial. We’re all like impersonators who are really good at putting on an external show, a facade of righteousness, superficial obedience, and freckle-deep morality. But mere outward pretense is not the product of true spiritual life.
Three times in the Gospels we read Jesus’ Parable of the Soils. I plan to take some time in the future to work through that parable and apply it to our lives, but—for now—one of the soils is called the Rocky Soil.
The Rocky Soil represents an intellectual, outward conformity to a system. Jesus described it as a plant that fell on shallow ground, well-watered ground, but because there was nowhere to put down any real roots, all the plant’s energy was invested in upward growth. Such plants often grow taller and bushier faster than all the others who are developing solid root systems.
But then Jesus said that when the drought because of the Word comes into their lives, they are the quickest to wither and die because the ground dried up and they didn’t have a root system deep into the moisture rich soil.
They never produce fruit of repentance, and the superficial rocks of intellectual assent and theoretical acquiescence leave them spiritually dead regardless of how they look on the outside.
Therefore, no matter what I say in the next few points, even if you were the best actor on the planet and you could play-act all the right words and deeds, you would still be spiritually dead. You’d be just like the pharisees—beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones. Your obedience would be hypocritical and empty.
This is why in Luke 11, while condemning the Pharisees, Jesus said, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”
Was it right to tithe their herbs? Yes. In Leviticus 27:30 we read, “Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.” The passage even goes on to say, “If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it.” What I’m trying to say is that the measurements mattered.
However, they fulfilled the outward requirements without possessing any spiritual life. They didn’t do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons. They lacked justice and the love of God. Jesus commanded them to do the internal things and the external things. He said, “but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”
When Samuel told Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams,” he wasn’t implying that offering sacrifices wasn’t required to obey. In fact it very much was at the time. But he was teaching Saul that true obedience isn’t merely external. If you haven’t heard our series, Celebrate God with Your Obedience, I strongly encourage it. I’ll link it for you in the description of today’s episode. True obedience demands inward spiritual life and motivation.
So, if you’re not maturing in the character of Christ, it doesn’t really matter what outward show is put on, and I’ll be reminding us of this point as we consider the final two.
The spiritual life God gives us is intended to be used to pursue . . .
3. Conformity to the Words of Christ
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Ephesians 4:5 command us to speak the truth in love. We are not only expected to speak that which is true regardless of whether or not we have recorded evidence that Jesus said it, but we’re also to make the entirety of the Scriptures part of our interactions with people.
We should be speaking the Word into as many conversations as possible. It may be evangelistically, it may be in discipleship, it may be answering a question or simply encouraging someone, but if we’re never quoting the Bible, I believe there’s a problem.
We quote movies, song lyrics, and authors all the time. We talk about what’s important to us. So, why don’t we quote the Scriptures more often?
The point is, if we’re maturing in the character of Christ, how could we not also talk about what is important to Him?
Now, what I’m about to say can sound controversial. So, listen carefully, and then let me explain. Here goes: Before Jesus did anything, He spoke.
Sure, it can be easily argued that God actually did by speaking, but the point I’m trying to make is that the most important thing Jesus came to do was to speak. All of the miracles, all of the travels, all of the serving and sacrifice wouldn’t have meant anything if He’d never told people Who He was and why He was doing what He was doing.
After Jesus’ birth, the first thing we see in Matthew is Jesus telling John the Baptist why John needed to baptize Him.
In Luke 2, the youth Jesus is seen speaking with the religious authorities and explaining something to His parents. The next significant interaction we have with Jesus is in chapter 4 where, yes, He went into the wilderness to fast. Yes, He was doing something, but the first interaction He had with another person, He spoke.
In Mark 1, after being baptized, verses 14 and 15 read, “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” Jesus came to call people to repentance. In fact He says just that in Luke 5:32.
And in John 1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is identified as the Word, and that Word became flesh, and from then on we hear Jesus speaking to hundreds and thousands of people—drawing people to Him, preaching, convicting, reproving, and training.
You’ve probably heard it said, “Preach the Gospel, and—when necessary—use words.” Hopefully you’ve heard me rail against such drivel before.
Romans 10:13-14, “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
Jesus sent His disciples into the world to make disciples. And how were they to do that, they needed to tell people about Jesus and teach them to observe all that Jesus had commanded.
This is why God gave us His Word—the Bible. We know that people can learn about God from His creation, but they can’t learn enough. In order to have a relationship with Him, they need the special revelation found in the Scriptures.
God in all of His infinite wisdom ordained that human beings would communicate via language. We don’t read each others’ minds, we don’t turn colors, we utilize language. It may be verbal, it may be written, it may be in sign or signal, but it’s language. My friends, we absolutely must speak, we must communicate, and that communication must conform to the communication of Jesus.
Do not believe the lie that you can just waft through life being a decent person and others will somehow come to know the Lord because of it. You must speak of God, and you must speak as God would have you speak.
And that leads us to . . .
4. Conformity to the Deeds of Christ
Only when we conform to the character of Christ and speak the words of Christ can we be certain that our actions will also be in conformity to Christ.
But so many people are preaching the exact opposite. They’re preaching the sermon of the Pharisees. They demand that we do certain things without the necessary foundation, and though our actions may look godly, may appear biblical, they’re not pleasing to the Lord.
Let’s allow Matthew 7:22-23 speak for itself, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.’”
Doing isn’t good enough. The doing must be motivated by God, and that only comes as we are genuinely conformed to the character of Jesus.
Now, let’s be clear right off the bat. This is not a suggestion that Christians need to participate in the supernatural deeds of Christ. This is not a call to perform miracles. This is a call to serve, minister, help, lead, obey the Father, and sacrifice the way Jesus did.
Do you serve others? Are you hospitable? Do you go out of your way to help people? Do you sacrifice? Do you do the will of your Father Who’s in heaven? Is your life characterized by giving? Would the people who know you best say that you prefer others above yourself and outdo others in showing honor?
If we are truly growing in the character of Christ, we will serve as He served, we will love as He loved.
After washing the disciple’s feet in John 13, Jesus said in verses 12-16, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”
If you have the life of Christ, you have been created for good works. The life God gives you is for one purpose and one purpose only . . . to invest in following Him. As you strive to know the Savior and emulate His character, you will also see others the way He sees them. You will be moved with compassion for them. You will be zealous to do the will of the Father. You will spend and be spent. You will speak God’s truth in love to them, and you will act God’s truth in love to them.
That, my friends is why you have spiritual life (if you’ve been born again). Here and now, God expects you to use the life with which He’s graciously gifted you to know Him, understand Him, believe Him, and therefore speak and act accordingly.
And I’m looking forward to our upcoming 9-part series called The Evidence of Spiritual Life where we will get into even more detail about what it is to conform to the character, words, and deeds of our Savior, Lord, King, and Creator, Jesus Christ.
Please share this series on your favorite social media outlets so that other followers of Christ can be reminded and taught about the purpose of their life here on earth.
And write to us at Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com if you would like personalized help in your discipleship.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing how to celebrate the life of God.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
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AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.