Conformity to Christ

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 11
It is in proportion as we truly appreciate and admire any one that we desire conformity to them, and imitate them and their ways. It is even so in the things of this life with man and man.
Now, God has given to every child of His that which alone is capable of enjoying Himself. Formerly in our old connection, as descendants of the first Adam, we had no desires towards God, nor seeking after that which was according to His mind. On the contrary, we followed the bent of our own evil propensities-a desire to be like that which is of God, never surely could originate from beneath, or from the carnal mind which is ever at enmity to Him. But such a wish is one of the blessed signs of the new life, which life is implanted in us by God Himself.
If our hearts are indeed set on the Lord Jesus Christ to appreciate Him in such a measure, even as the Father does, (and this we shall do, only as we know more and more of His intrinsic worth and excellency); we must then of necessity long to be like Him. The very properties of the divine life dwelling in us, create this heavenly desire. And what can give us such joy, as for the Blessed Spirit of God to make known to us the prospect which is before us of being like Christ. That there is a moment to which it is our right and privilege to look forward, when this mortal shall put on immortality, and when this corruptible shall put on incorruption:—and the body of humiliation be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body. For all this we wait in happy expectancy!
Meanwhile as we wait for the consummation of all our hopes, the mind is sure to be occupied with something, for the heart of man is so constituted. Either our mind will be engaged with our own thoughts of ourselves, or else we shall rise in heart to God’s thoughts of Christ, and of ourselves as associated with Him, and His purposes and plans concerning us. May the Lord give us grace and spiritual intelligence to enter into, and to appreciate His thoughts, and to be less taken up with our own preconceived notions and ideas.
In considering any truth of God, as I purpose doing that of our conformity to the image of Christ, it is important to the right understanding of it, that we should begin by looking at the summit of the truth, that we may get a true idea of the scope of the whole. This is God’s undeniable and uncontrovertible purpose, to which none can say, “Nay,” for He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. ‘We find this in Rom. 8:2929For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29), “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” We must remember that it is neither by watching the working of grace in ourselves or in others, that we can justly arrive at the truth of God’s purpose. This is only to be known as He has been pleased to reveal it in His Word. And it is here we find it.
Is it not happy at times to cast the eye back to a period before this world was founded, as the Holy Spirit tells us in Eph. 1, and to find that it was no sudden hasty thought with God to make us His children, but, ages ago, in the calm serenity of His own being, when He alone existed, before ever the morning stars sang together—then we were in His thoughts—yea, more—then He predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son—and as with worshipping spirits we wonder and adore such grace, let us remember that this surely was the highest thing for which He could predestine us. His Son was the One who ever dwelt in His bosom, in the very place of the Father’s affection, for He was the Son of His love—and blessed be God, it is nothing short of conformity to the image of this One that God has in past ages predestined us. The fact that we have been chosen to be holy and without blame before God in love is rather included in the high truth which treats of our predestination to conformity to Christ’s image, than being independent of it. It is not merely that we are elected to be saved from hell, the truth here goes beyond that, for in Rom. 8:2929For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29), we find, that those whom God foreknew would be saved, them He also did predestinate.
If it is asked, “What is the cause or reason of such poor hell-deserving sinners being elected to such heights of glory?” the only answer is, that He who has thus planned and determined concerning us, has done it to the praise and glory of His own most holy Name-His own glory’s sake, must ever be the secret of His acting; and here the reason is stated to be “that He (Christ) might be the first-born among many brethren.” Now, if there had not been other sons, it is plain there could not have been a first-born-so Christ Jesus could not have been the first-born, unless He has brethren—even us, according to Heb. 2:1111For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11). We are to be conformed to the image of His Son, the first-born; as He is holy and without blame before Him in love, so we are to be. This then is God’s purpose, which we shall soon see accomplished, and oh! what endless joy then. And now as we wait for that blessed moment, having at heart the will of Him who has thus planned for us in divine wisdom, shall we not seek that even down here in our measure that will may be carried into effect. For the practical truth of this, we might refer to 2 Cor. 3:1818But 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), which speaks of the conforming power of the gospel of the glory of Christ.
Throughout this third chapter of second Corinthians, the Holy Spirit unfolds to us the ministration of righteousness, bringing it out in striking contrast to the ministration of condemnation. The one giveth life, the other killeth Both ministrations were glorious, but that of the law was to be done away; and in order that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look to the end of that which is now abolished, Moses put a veil on his face. Thus they could not see the fading away of the glory which lit up his face, which glory represented the glory of the law. This vail still remains on the heart of Israel nationally, so that as yet they know not that the glory of the former dispensation has been done away. In blessed contrast to this, we, with open (or unvailed) face, behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror. All that was opposed to God’s righteousness has been clean swept out of the way by the cross of Christ, not only our sins and our sin, but ourselves as to our standing in the first Adam. The flesh being utterly corrupt beyond all remedy, God has judged it in the cross. This must be known ere the Christian can abide in God’s holy presence at perfect peace. All that was contrary to that holiness is gone, and he now seen as alive in Christ in resurrection.
And now it is for each one to ask himself, what is to be the effect as desired by God upon me, when I see and know Christ in glory? It is that I may be changed into the scone image! Every truth God is pleased to give us, and whatever He may tell us of Himself, should have this result, it should conform us to itself. It is not given us that our heads may be stocked with knowledge, but that we may carry into effect every truth, which, by the Spirit’s teaching, is made ours. The law was graven in tables of stone, but the gospel of a glorified Christ only finds its place in the fleshly tables of the heart. This is to be formed to the same image, which is “Christ, the image of God”—the brightness of glory, the express image of His person. It is only by gazing that we become like Him, and as we behold we are changed.
He who effects this, is the Spirit of the Lord. He has come to the Lord’s own people, consequent upon Christ’s ascension and glorification at the right hand of God. (John 15:26;1626But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26)
26At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: (John 16:26)
. 7) He comes to us from the glory, bringing to our hearts the glad tidings of Christ in glory, and conducts us on to glory. The glad tidings which comes to us from thence do not stop short of glory, the effect of the message would be incomplete if it did. The whole scene and sphere is one of glory, and nothing else. The blessed Spirit of God takes us right on to glory—from glory to glory. It is thus that we behold the glory of the Lord Christ displayed, as in a glass or mirror. The glad tidings of the ascended Christ’s glory, is what is spoken of in these third and fourth chapters.
When a man beholdeth his natural face in a mirror he goeth his way and forgetteth what manner of man he is, but blessed be God when we behold this glory of the Lord, we not only desire to be like Him, but we are changed by its formative power into the same image. I don’t think that this means a progressive work of being a little bit more like Christ down here to-day than we were yesterday; for the one before us is Christ—not attainment or profession—also to-day, I am not to think about yesterday, and how far or near I was from being like Him. But I am to take a whole and living, glorified Christ before me as my patron, and to fashion my ways, words, thoughts, and actions, according to that model, being transformed by the renewing of our mind. It is not that I got so far yesterday, and now to-day go on from where I stopped, but I begin to-day, as if never before to study Christ, and copy Him-yea, to be changed into the same image. And now as we journey onwards, ever with Christ as the object before us, pressing forward toward the mark of the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, let us keep the eye of faith on the coming Saviour, the moment when He shall descend, and we ascend to meet in heavenly glory, and so forever be with Him. The sleeping saints shall then be “raised in glory,” and we who are alive shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and this very body of humiliation which we carry about with us shall then be fashioned like into Christ’s glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself. Then, too, shall be fulfilled the word of truth spoken in 1 John 3:22Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2), “When we see Him as He is, we shall be like Him.” This truly will be the full and eternal consummation of all our joy. That which now we look forward to with happy expectation will no longer then be our hope. It will then be blessedly realized, and we,
“Undazzled by the glorious light,
Of that beloved brow,
Behold, without a single cloud,
Behold our Saviour now!”
Perhaps the next greatest joy to that of seeing Jesus face to face, and being forever with Him, will be that of being like Him—perfectly like Him—the carnal mind which now would ever rise at enmity to that of God no more to trouble us, and we ourselves beyond the possibility of sinning against, or grieving the one whom we love. No wanderings then from that side which was riven for us—no stranger thoughts or departing in heart from Him—no unsanctified desires—no evil propensities or lusts—or ever active flesh, requiring the Spirit’s power to keep it in check. Oh! no, but then all His energy shall be concentrated in praising as we should, Him who loves us, and died for us, and washed us in His own blood. Then indeed the end for which God in the past predestinated us and the present longing of the true-hearted soul, will both be perfectly accomplished, when we see Him as He is, for then we shall be LIKE Him.
H. W. T.