Dear Friends,

Last month I shared with you three vital spiritual disciplines: solitude, community
and ministry, to help us grow in our walk with God. This month I want to share
with you how each of these work together to change us more and more into the
image of Jesus – reflecting His character. For ultimately Christlikeness is
the goal of God’s purpose for our lives. "And we know that in all
things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according
to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed
to the likeness of his Son
, that he (Jesus) might be the firstborn among
many brothers." (Romans 8:28-29) The more we grow into the image of Christ,
the more we reflect God’s glory. "The Son is the radiance of God’s
glory and the exact representation of his being." (Hebrews 1:3) God’s
glory is the revelation and the manifestation of all that He has and is (His
eternal power and Divine nature – Romans 1:20) and Jesus revealed and manifested
God’s power and nature as a Man (yet fully God) like no other human being
ever has. He was all that humanity was meant to be yet "all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Through God’s
love and mercy at the cross, God brought forgiveness and salvation, and at the
resurrection He brought redemption and new life to redeem and restore mankind
person by person from the catastrophic effects of the Fall.

Jesus spoke of the cross as His crowning work in bringing glory to God. "Now
my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?
(the cross) No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify
your name!" (John 12:27-28) Why would the horror and humiliation of the
cross bring glory to God? At the cross the Father and the Son revealed the intense
desire God has to be in an eternal love relationship with His people –
you and me. And it also revealed God’s perfect righteousness, holiness
and justice that required Him to pour out His wrath on sin. God doesn’t
forgive sin. He forgives sinners. Sin has to be paid for and punished by a Holy
God. Jesus voluntarily agreed with the Father to take the wrath due us. At the
cross, God revealed His love and mercy, His holiness and justice, and at the
resurrection He revealed His power to raise us to new life in Christ and begin
the process of conforming us to the image of Jesus.

How do we grow in Christlikeness and reflect the glory of God to others? We
must fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) the Man as the Model of humanity.
We must regularly behold Him in times of solitude by looking at Him
through God’s Word and the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit. "And
we, who with unveiled faces all reflect (reflect on, contemplate, behold) the
Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing
, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians
3:18) This is the mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit. As we behold Jesus,
God changes us from the inside out for we become like what we think about, desire
and focus on.

Ephesians 4:11-16 "It was he (Jesus) 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
… Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things
grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole
body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds
itself up in love
, as each part does its work." Christian community
is one of God’s primary means to grow us into the image of Christ. We
cannot grow from glory to glory without the gifts and graces of fellow members
of the body of Christ and the love and truth they speak into our lives.

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have
seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full
of grace and truth." Jesus came among us with love and mercy, grace and
truth and in the power of the Holy Spirit to save and change us by giving His
life away. Ministry is being among people with love and mercy, grace
and truth in the power of the Holy Spirit giving our lives away for their salvation
and conformity to Christ. Christ alone can atone for sins and it’s His
life in us that has the salt and light to change others. John 15:5 "I am
the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will
bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." Galatians 2:20 "I
have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
and gave himself for me." It is the exchanged life of Christ in us that
we give away to others in ministry. We have to die to self (the flesh –
our natural ability) day by day and be filled with the Holy Spirit (ruled, controlled,
energized by God’s Spirit within us) to manifest God’s nature and
power to others. John 12:24 "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat
(our natural life apart from Christ) falls to the ground and dies, (dies to
the flesh life) it remains only a single seed (remains self-centered, self-focused
and self-sufficient). But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (Brings
salvation and life-change to many others.) Matthew 16:24-27 "Then Jesus
said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must
deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save
his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What
good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going
to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each
person according to what he has done." Jesus spoke this to His disciples
and it applies to Christians who can choose to give their lives away for God’s
glory or selfishly keep it (“save his live”) for temporal, selfish
benefit. Whatever we selfishly keep for ourselves in this life – time,
spiritual gifts, money, or God’s truth, we lose (eternal rewards) for
all eternity at the judgment seat of Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) And it
is in the acts of giving ourselves away to others that we realize how desperately
we need Jesus’ life, His self-giving life, that dwells within us in order
to sacrifice ourselves for God’s purposes and God’s glory. Even
unbelievers can love and give to those who love them. Luke 6:32-36 "If
you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love
those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit
is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you
expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’
expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and
lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be
great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful
and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

God has called us to be conformed to the image of His Son to the glory of His
Name. Through solitude, community and ministry we are shaped and fashioned by
God’s Word and Spirit to look more and more like our Savior. Let’s
meditate on the words of the great apostle Paul, who longed to be like Jesus
and longed for others to reflect His character to the glory of God: "Do
nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others
better than yourselves. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ
: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of
a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a
man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is
above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven
and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ
is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:3, 5-11)

Until He comes, Len and Kristen

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