1. How Do We Become Like Jesus?
That word 'transformed' is again 'metamorphosis.' We are being changed as we behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord. You see a reflection of yourself. You see yourself as you really are. We look at Jesus and we see who we are. And as we look at Him and see who we are, we are being transformed into that same image. We become what we behold!
1. How Do We Become Like Jesus?
Much of the New Testament is focused on the transformation of our souls into the image of Jesus Christ. We cannot make it happen; we cannot ourselves become like Jesus. Yet it is God’s intention from the beginning to conform us to the image of His dear Son. But God never forces anyone. In order to see that transformation take place in our lives, we must cooperate with God. In order to cooperate with God, we must know what He is doing.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12: 1-2
This word ‘transformed” is the Greek word metamorphosis. It speaks directly to the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly. A caterpillar crawling along the ground does not appear to be a butterfly – at all. Yet inside that caterpillar crawling along, eating, eating, eating, is every element of the coming butterfly.
There comes a time when the caterpillar wraps itself into a chrysalis and is ‘metamorphosized.’ This same thing is happening with us right now.
The New Testament refers to this process in two other ways.
“Receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your soul.” 1 Peter 1:9
There is a salvation applied to our souls, different from our initial salvation that came upon our spirit when we were born again. This further salvation is of our mind, our will, and our emotions, of who and what we are as humans.
Then, Paul uses a third term to talk about the same thing.
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification . . . Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 & 5:23
This transformation of our souls is also referred to as sanctification. These three terms speak of the same process. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We experience the salvation of our souls. We are being sanctified.
As we see in Romans 12:2, God He intends to prove His will in us. God’s will is that His will be done in the earth just as it is done in heaven. I am transformed by the renewing of my mind. I prove the will of God.
From the very beginning, God determined that I would be just like Jesus. God sees me as I am in my completed state, just like Jesus. I become what I am. Inside that Greek word metamorphosis is the thought of becoming what you are. A caterpillar is really a butterfly, it’s just fooling everybody by looking like a caterpillar. When the time comes, it becomes what it is.
This is my task, my calling; I am sent to prove to the entire universe the will of Almighty God. God gives us the picture of a caterpillar becoming what it is. This most beautiful illustration helps us understand the work of God in our souls.
The caterpillar spends all of its time eating in order to be filled with enough energy to be transformed. It must eat. As it grows, its old skin is no longer useful; it casts off that outer skin, then it continues to grow inside a new skin, then it casts that skin off. Five times the Monarch butterfly casts off its outer skin as it grows.
When the time comes, the caterpillar wraps itself in a chrysalis and becomes completely still. A chemical comes out of the caterpillar’s brain that turns the body into a liquid soup, the raw material for assembling a butterfly. All the energy taken into the caterpillar’s body through eating powers that transformation.
A Monarch butterfly’s chrysalis is transparent; you can see the butterfly forming inside. It is stunningly beautiful. Finally the strength of life deep inside that butterfly is pushed all through the new body by the force of the butterfly pressing against the outer shell until it is entirely cast off: the unveiling, the apocalupsis. What emerges is a beautiful creature that soars in the heavens.
When I was born again, my spirit was made alive. The spirit of man is that part of us through which we communicate with the heavenly realm. The human spirit in Adam died, becoming evil, permeating Adam with sin and iniquity. But that old Adamic spirit in me died with Jesus upon the cross. All of its iniquity was removed from me. In that moment God created a new spirit inside of me. My new spirit is different from the old spirit. Inside my new spirit is the very seed, Christ, the word of God. Inside my spirit are the genes of God, the very life of God.
That’s where it begins. The word ‘born again’ is the Greek word gennao, which corresponds with the English word ‘conceived,’ that is, the moment of conception. We are looking forward to the birthing into the full light of day. The Greek word tikto which is ‘brought forth’ a manchild, corresponds to our English word ‘born’ when the child comes forth and is seen as who and what he is.
As believers we groan and long for that day, the redemption of the body, the resurrection, when our physical bodies are swallowed up in life. The redemption of the body is our goal. Paul said “I have not attained to the resurrection, but I press towards the goal, (that is my goal, my focus,) if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3
We groan for the redemption of the body, that our mortal physical body would be swallowed up in the life of our new body patterned after Jesus’ resurrection body.
We find ourselves right now in a dark place. We are in the womb of the church. We await the completion of our transformation. This caterpillar in the chrysalis is also in a dark place. There is a work taking place inside that caterpillar very much like the development of the child in the womb.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Paul is talking of our transformation right now in the womb of the church.
“But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
That word ‘transformed’ is again ‘metamorphosis.’ We are being changed as we behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord. You see a reflection of yourself. You see yourself as you really are. We look at Jesus and we see who we are. And as we look at Him and see who we are, we are being transformed into that same image.
We become what we behold!
This is a glorious transformation, from glory to glory. This is not some fearful thing happening to us. God does not force anyone. God accepts only that which is freely given, that which comes out of faith, out of a heart of love.
God will win, but not by force; He will win by love.
Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus will win, but we want Him to win in us now. In the ages to come, the privilege and responsibility God extends to those who allow Him to prove His will in their bodies right here, is an honor we cannot imagine.
There are three primary things that are essential to our transformation. The first element is the renewing of our minds. We change the way we think.
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul says that we bring every thought to the obedience of Christ. We think what we see. This is a principle of God. We cannot make this transformation happen, but the excellency of the power is of God and not of us. That’s a given. We live in the certainty that the power of God is working in us. We don’t need to make it happen. Our part is to believe and to follow our faith.
Philemon contains a nugget of truth critical to our transformation.
That the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. Philemon 6
That word ‘acknowledgment’ means that first we must know. Know what? Every good thing that is in us in Christ Jesus. Then we must ac – knowledge it. That is we must speak it out loud, we must believe it to be truth. That is how our faith becomes effective. First by knowing the good things that are in us in Christ Jesus, then by confessing those things, by declaring them to be true.
Those who acknowledge selfishness and deceit will see selfishness and deceit. But Paul says that our faith will become effective as we acknowledge the good things of Christ inside of us.
Then, the second critical component in our transformation.
Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ . . . but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what very joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:13&15
This transformation must take place inside each of us, but it cannot be limited to us as individuals. We are part of the body of Christ. The whole New Covenant is about coming together, walking together, loving one another, forgiving, receiving one another. Each of us shares the good things God has put inside with the other members of the body of Christ, the local believers we know and love. As we share the good things of Christ with each other, the body of Christ is built up.
That walking together with other like-minded believers is essential to this process. We cannot crawl into a hole and be transformed all by ourselves. It doesn’t happen that way. We are in a relationship with other members of the body of Christ; our faith becomes effective as we give to other members of the body of Christ. The body is built up in love as a whole entity.
Then, the third element of our transformation.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
John, in 1 John 3, puts it this way, “We don’t know what we’ll be like, right now we are the sons of God, but we don’t know fully what that means. But we do know that we will be like Him as we see Him as He is.” (My paraphrase) – Then, John says, “He that has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.”
Part of our transformation includes a cleansing of all filthiness of flesh and spirit, purifying ourselves just as He is pure. This is a removal of everything that still taints our outer person. This is a cleansing of our thought process and the seeing of our eyes. This is the natural outworking of Christ living as us.
You see, this purification comes THIRD. It starts with the promises of God. It starts with the hope that we are just like Him, becoming what we already are. Out of standing upon the promises of God, out of Christ living in us and as us comes our purification, the cleansing of all filthiness of flesh and spirit.
This verse in 2 Corinthians 7 is set in the context of separation.
Come out from among them saith the Lord and do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you and I will be a Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty.
Central to our purification is separation. Separation from the filthiness, the deceit and emptiness of this world. We are perfecting holiness in the fear of God. This is who we are, this is what we do. Holiness is utter devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are proving inside our lives right here, right now, absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our calling, that God would prove His will in our lives, right here in this earth. We are being conformed to the image of His Son.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and the He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Our transformation, this work God is doing in our souls right now, is the work of faith, it flows from believing God, what He says, what He is doing. This thing is not of us. The excellency of the power is God working in us.
Serving God just because He’s God and for no other reason is not faith, nor is it pleasing to God. God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He is doing something wonderful in our lives.
God gave us the picture of a little teenage girl in the hill country of Galilee. The angel came to this little girl and told her things she could not understand. He told her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her, that she would conceive a child of God. He said that God would plant His seed in her womb and she would bear His Son. She didn’t understand what it meant, but there was something in her heart that responded in love to God.
Because you see, this wasn’t about Mary, it was about God! This is what God wants. Do we understand this? Our transformation is not what we want, it is what God wants. He wants it with all of His heart.
There was something inside this little girl that knew the love of God for her. And she said these words to the angel of the Lord, “I am Your servant, let it be to me according to Your word.”Somehow, she knew it must be.
As the child grew in her womb, before it was evident, God spoke to her that her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, had conceived a child. No one believed her, that her cousin Elizabeth was carrying a child, that was impossible.
But Mary went anyway to visit her. As she approached this elderly woman whom she knew and loved, Elizabeth turned and said to her, under the power of the Holy Spirit coming on her in that moment:
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
Isn’t this just like God? Here this little teenage girl doesn’t know what to think. She has a trusting heart. And the moment she steps into the presence of her cousin, God confirms His word to her so dramatically, so personally, with such convincing power, because here is this elderly woman with a baby in her womb.
And Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Mary walked through those next few months in a state of wonder. When she returned to Nazareth, her pregnancy could no longer be hidden. Everyone in her village rejected her, all of her friends. She was a horror to them. She had fallen into a sinfulness in their minds. People pulled away from her. Her parents could not understand, how could anyone believe a teenager who claimed she was pregnant by the word of God?
Joseph, in his strong, kind heart, made the decision not to accuse her. Joseph took upon himself the blame for beginning their marriage relationship sooner than was allowed. But even still Joseph thought she was silly in claiming that the child was born of God, that she was carrying in her womb the very life of God.
But Mary was not afraid. She knew that nobody would understand her. She carried that child through a violent world. Roman soldiers would just as soon kill you as look at you. A world where human life was held in contempt, where people were bought and sold, nothing more than pieces of dirt. She was not afraid as she walked though the rejection because she knew that the life inside of her was of God. She knew that surrounding her was an enablement, a grace, a protection.
As the life inside of her grew, she felt it kicking against her belly. Of course, God gave her a faithful husband who believed God when God said that this was of Him. And he covered her and protected her until the time came for the delivery of that child into the light of God shining upon it.
It begins with believing God. It continues through believing God. It is finished in believing God. In the confidence of hope, in rejoicing all the way through.
“I am Your servant, let it be to me according to Your word.”
It is God that wants you with Him, as His son. God hovers over the life that is in you with great tenderness and care, enabling you to do His will. This thing is of God.