Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 that God is at work in us, “conforming us to the image of His Son.”
Put another way, God is at work, to make us more like Jesus.
Take that in a moment….and remind yourself of the story of Scripture.
In the beginning, God created us in His image. We were created to be like God. To reflect God.
To be fully human…truly human…is to be in His image….to live out of that image…to image forth the One whose image we are created in.
Everything that we do, finds its fullest expression, when it’s done in a God-like way…when it’s done out of the image in which we were created in.
Scripture tells us that sin marred the image of God in us.
Our rebellion…our rejection of God…our hard-heartedness…destroyed all that was good.
Yes, we are still made in His image…but we no longer display that image in the fullest way possible.
We no longer represent Him as we should.
We no longer reflect His glory.
We no longer live out of His image.
We argue. And complain. And are mean. And self-seeking. And hurt. And wound. And kill. And destroy. And tear down. And are selfish. And are moody. And seek revenge. And embitter. And hate.
We seek ways to promote ourselves at the expense of others. We manipulate those around us for our own ends. We plan and plot and connive. We fracture and cause dissension. We destroy peace rather than foster peace. We sow decay rather than bring life.
We no longer know how to live fully human lives.
We no longer know how to live as image-bearers.
We no longer know how to live God’s way.
When Jesus came, he came as the visible image of the invisible God. He came as God in the flesh.
He came to reveal God to us. To lead us back into relationship with God. To restore the God-image in us. To make us fully human.
If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus.
If we want to know what it is to be fully….truly, human….we look at Jesus.
So when Paul says God wants to conform us to the image of His Son, he is reminding us that in and through Jesus, God is restoring His original intention in us and for us…He’s restoring the God-image in us. He’s recovering the glory that we were created to display. He’s inviting us to know and experience the fullness of humanity that God has always wanted for us. He’s making us fully human.
So when Jesus says, Come follow me, he’s inviting people into a relationship…into a journey…where they…we…learn how to live God’s way…how to live out of the God-image that we are made in.
He steps into our brokenness…and invites us to rediscover the fullness of humanity that we were created for. He says, ‘I’ll show you…I’ll teach you. Come, follow me. Come learn from me.’
It’s as we follow Jesus…that this transformation occurs…this being conformed to the image of Jesus….takes place.
It’s as we follow Jesus, that we discover our sin. We learn the truth about our heart. Our motives. Our brokenness. About what we’re really like. It’s as follow Jesus that our eyes are opened. Our ears are unblocked. Our hearts are softened. It’s as we follow Jesus that darkness lifts and light permeates. It’s as we follow Jesus we discover the truth about who He is. And what He has done. And why He did it. It’s as we follow Jesus, that we discover and come to understand what repentance is. That it’s not a one-time thing, but a daily posture of your heart. It’s as we follow Jesus that we discover submission and surrender. It’s as we follow Jesus that we come to understand new life. And receive it. It’s as we follow Jesus that we hear Him promise His Spirit. It’s as we follow Jesus that we are filled with His Spirit. It’s as we follow Jesus that we discover our life is changing. That we look different. That the old is going and the new is taking root.
It’s as we follow Jesus that we become fully human.
Why is this important?
Because, I think, too often, this being conformed to the image of Christ is broken down into steps and stages and systems and doctrines. This being conformed to the image of Christ is described using various fancy words and phrases that theologians love to use.
But Jesus doesn’t do that.
Check out the end of Matthew’s gospel. 28:16-20.
This is after the resurrection. This is after the price has been paid. After death has been conquered. After sin has been dealt with. But it’s before all the technical words and various doctrines that formulised the Christian experience have crept in.
Listen to what Jesus says.
Go and make disciples.
Question: How would Jesus’ disciples know what it was to make disciples?
Answer: Their only experience of this was what Jesus had done with them.
They weren’t being asked to do anything new….but simply to replicate what Jesus had done with them.
And what were they to teach?
Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Let me paraphrase.
Jesus: “Guys….everything I’ve taught you….you teach others.”
Folks, remind yourself of these gospel truths.
God is about making all things new.
God is about making us new. About restoring us to the fullness of humanity we were created to enjoy.
God does that through Jesus. Through His life. His death. His resurrection. His giving His Holy Spirit.
And He calls us to experience that…to participate in that…through attaching ourselves in discipleship to Jesus.
We are called to follow Jesus.
At Neighbourhood, we are together committed to learning what it means to follow Jesus.