Chapter Eight “Conformity to Christ” from the book “Back to Bethlehem” by Ed Miller

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Once again as we come to look in God’s word, there is a principle of Bible study that is absolutely indispensable; that is total reliance upon God’s Holy Spirit.  The Bible is God’s book.  Only God can reveal God.  He promised that if we come as little children He would reveal it to us.  We don’t need to come in an academic way.  We don’t study the Bible to know the Bible.  We study the Bible to know the Lord.  If our hearts are open to see the Lord, God will meet us.

This morning I’d like to look at the great foundation of conformity to Christ.  What does it mean to be made like Jesus?  I want to give a Bible verse and then I’ll pray.  John 1:42, “He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which translated means Peter).”  I want to focus on these words “you are” and “you shall be”; “You are Cephas; you will be Peter.”  That is what we want to look at, that change.  God will take me from what I am to where He wants me.  Let’s pray. 

          Heavenly Father, we thank You again for the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We know that it is Your delight to show us Jesus.  Take the veil off our eyes, we pray, and take the veil off our minds, we pray and take the veil off our heart, we pray and show us the Lord Jesus.  We thank You.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

          We’ve come to look at that wonderful truth; what it means to be conformed to the Lord Jesus.  That is a big truth.  Usually the way it is approached, the theologians call “sanctification”.  Sanctification deals with our progress in the Christian life.  Usually when you talk about sanctification you are talking about holiness, Godliness, separation and surrender.  Some people say that if you are going to study conformity, you’ve got to study what it means to grow in Christ.  2 Peter 3:18, “…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen”

          I think the apostle John might have had that in mind when he wrote 1 John.  He addresses fathers, he addresses young men and he addresses children.  Perhaps Jesus had that idea of growth in Mark 4:28, “The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.” 

          We want to be conformed to Jesus.  We want to be like Him.  Ephesians 4:13, “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”  We want to grow up in Christ.  Galatians 4:19, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you..”  We don’t want to get all confused about being like Jesus.  I don’t want to talk all about sanctification.  I don’t want to talk about the steps in how you grow in Jesus.  I want to look at what it means to become like Jesus in the simplest way possible. 

          If you like outlines, here’s the outline.  First I want to give the starting point of being like Jesus.  The starting point is the guarantee that someday I will be like Jesus.  Then I want to show you the process of becoming like Jesus.  Then I want to show you the consummation, when we finally arrive.  So, I want to show the starting point, the process and the consummation when we finally become like Him.

          In each case I’ll give a Bible illustration.  And to discuss the starting point I’d like to go back to the beginning.  God wrote a principle in nature.  He wrote that principle in nature because that principle illustrates the spiritual truth.  Genesis 1:11-12, “Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth’; and it was so.”   Genesis 1:20-21, “And then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.’ And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.”  Genesis 1:24-25, “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind; cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind; and it was so.” 

          In nature God made everything after its kind.  The life is in the seed and the seed determines what will come.  That’s true in animal life and that’s true in plant life.  Dogs do not bring forth cats.  A horse will not bring forth a lion.  A bird will never bring forth a fish.  Everything is after the life of the seed.  Watermelon seeds produce watermelons.  Apple seeds produce apples.  A squash seed cannot produce a carrot.  It’s a law of life. 

          Why am I stressing that life comes from the seed?    1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  This is the law of physical life.  It’s the law of spiritual life.  His seed abides in you and His seed abides in me.  That’s the guarantee that someday you will be like Christ.  When you receive Christ, God put His seed into your life; a divine seed, a heavenly protoplasm.  He made you alive in God.  He took your spirit and he planted a seed.  You are the workmanship of God.  Now, because His seed is in you, that seed will produce after its kind.  Everything will be conformed to the seed. 

          There is a great battle today among psychologists.  They study human behavior and they say, “What is the greatest influence on a person?  Is it the environment, where you live?  Or is it heredity; genetics.”  In all of life the image of the plant is stamped by the seed.  In other words, all life will move to be like the parent. 

          My mom and dad were divorced when I was three years old.  I didn’t see my father until I was seventeen years old.  When I saw him, he looked just like me because his seed is in me.  So, we walk like our father and we talk like our father.  You look like your parents.  When life begins, it begins with a seed.

          I tried to study this with secular books.  I’m not a scientist but I read, and I think this is true, that in the beginning when it is just a blob of protoplasm and semi liquid white substance, there is no way that the scientist knows what that will become.  They are not sure if it will be a squash or a tree.  At the beginning it all looks the same.  Will it be a fish?  Will it be a bird?  Will it be a man or a woman created in the image of God?  At first it all looks the same.  But the seed will produce the life of the parent.  The seed is in the parent and it will produce itself.

          If it is bird protoplasm it will grow feathers and a beak.  If it’s a fish protoplasm it will have scales and a tail.  If it’s a reptile protoplasm it is going to produce a snake or a turtle.  At the beginning you don’t know if it’s a worm, an elephant or a man. 

          Listen again to 1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  God has planted His seed in your life.  That’s the guarantee that you are going to be like Jesus.  You can’t avoid it.  You might rebel along the way but His seed is in you.  The seed will produce after its kind.  That’s why I want to start there.  That’s the guarantee that someday you will be like Jesus.  That should take the burden off your shoulders.  That should take away the discouragement that says, “I don’t think I’ll ever arrive.”  You are going to arrive.  His seed is in you.  His life is in you.  He has stamped His image in you and there will be a day when you will be like Jesus.  That’s the beginning; but what is the process?  I want us to look at the process.

          Once again there is a Bible illustration in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “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 from the Lord, the Spirit.”  James 1:23-25, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.” 

          God’s illustration is a mirror.  The Bible is called “a mirror”.  It’s a wonderful illustration of the process of becoming like Jesus.  In the New Testament the mirror was highly polished brass.  Usually our mirrors are glass and on the back they are silver; something to reflect light.  We all know what a mirror does.  It reflects what is in front of it.  If I look in a mirror I see me.  Here’s a great and simple truth.  Mirrors don’t lie, though there might be a trick mirror in the Fun House, concave, that will distort things. 

          Sometimes my Lillian acts like my mirror.  She’ll stand in front of me and say, “You’ve got a big ugly hair coming out of your nose.”  When I see my Lillian come with the scissors behind her back I know what is going to happen.  She’s going to cut my bushy eyebrows.  If I stand in front of a mirror I see me.  If there are pimples, I see pimples.  If there are wrinkles on my face, I’ll see wrinkles.  If yesterday’s breakfast is still on my face, I’ll still see that.  Mirrors tell the truth and they don’t lie.

          2 Corinthians 3:18, “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 from the Lord, the Spirit.”  The Lord said that when you look to Him, He takes the veil away.  Then you don’t have a veil and you come in front of a mirror and there is no veil.  When I stand in front of a mirror I expect to see me but when I stand in front of the word of God, I don’t see me.  I see the glory of the Lord.   That’s not a light.  That’s Jesus.  It’s a revelation of Jesus.  As I look, I ask, “Does He have ugly hairs coming out of His nose?  Does he have blemishes?  Does He have bags under his eyes?”  He’s perfect and He’s beautiful and He’s amazing.  He’s like His salvation – how great!  It’s Jesus!

          If you didn’t have the unveiled face and you came to the word of God, you would see yourself.  You can only see Jesus when you have an unveiled face.  If you have a veiled face you’ll look in the mirror and you’ll see yourself. 

          Understand this concept, please, because it’s the process of being like Jesus.  When you look into the word of God, it’s really you and you are in front of the mirror but it’s God’s mirror.  I look in the mirror and I say, “I don’t see me.”  But God says, “It’s you.”  It’s not how you see you.  God says, “It’s how I see you.” 

          When I come with a veiled face I see ugliness.  That’s not how God sees me.  I see my sin.  That’s not how God sees me.  I see my weakness.  That’s not how God sees me.  I see all my faults.  That’s not how God sees me.  That’s what Paul meant when he says, “By the renewing of your mind.”  I will never think like God until God renews my mind. 

          I see my sin and God sees me clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.  I look in the mirror and I see Ed Miller on earth.  God says, “That’s not what I see.  I see Ed Miller sitting in the heavenly places.”  I see myself as inadequate and helpless.  I see Jesus victorious.  In my own eyes I’m a barren branch.  God sees me as a branch attached to the vine and having that life.  I see me; God sees me in Christ Jesus. 

          Sometimes I get discouraged with some Christian because I don’t see Christ in that Christian.  One time the Holy Spirit rebuked me.  He said, “You are trying to see Christ in that Christian.  Try seeing that Christian in Christ.”  It made such a difference.  I was so critical.  I said, “He’s not growing.  I want to shake him.  I want to do what the child did to the flower and say, ‘Grow!’”  But God’s seed is in Him.  Even though I don’t see it with my natural eyes, he’s being conformed to the Christ.  God engineers everything to conform us to our parents; from one degree of glory to another we are being changed as we see Christ in the mirror.   Every new revelation of Christ makes me more like Christ.

          I want to show the relationship between the gaze and the glory.  He said, “As I gaze, I’m changed.”  The more I gaze, the more I’m changed.  James 1:24, “…for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”  Do you hear what James is saying?  If I walk away from the mirror, I’ll forget who I am.  I’ll forget who I am in Christ.  That’s why we’ve got to keep looking in the mirror; not to learn about the mirror but to see the Lord.  Then, as we see the Lord, we are changed!

          Two things happen if you stop seeing Jesus.  Number one, you are going to forget who you are.  Number two, the process will stop.  As you gaze, you are changed.  If you stop gazing, the sanctification process is over.  That’s the process.  The starting point is His seed in you.  The process is that you look in the Bible to see Jesus and we’re changed.  

          When we see the Lord and we’re changed, some people get confused what that means.  They think, “If I see Him as a great forgiver, I’ll become a great forgiver.”  But the Bible says, “He who has been forgiven much, loves much.”  So, when I see Jesus, I’m changed.  That’s true.  But if I see Jesus as a Teacher, I don’t become a teacher.  I become a student.  If I see Him as my Lord, I don’t become as a lord.  I become a servant.  What if I saw Jesus as omnipresent?  Do I become omnipresent?  That’s not what it means.

          Let me illustrate from Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”  Let’s say that God shows me Christ as my Shepherd.  Do I become a shepherd?  No.  I lay down in green pastures.  I’m led in paths of righteousness.  If I go through the valley of the shadow of death, I won’t be afraid.  When my neighbor looks at me they don’t say, “Ed has become a shepherd.”  But they see me resting and they see my walking in righteousness.  And in their deep heart they think, “He must have a wonderful Shepherd.”  We’re conformed to Christ and that conforming is by gazing.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t stop gazing at Jesus in the Bible.

          The starting point is that God has put His seed, His life in you.  That seed will produce after its own kind.  The process is that we come with an unveiled face and we look in the Bible and we see how God sees us.  How wonderful is the way God sees us!  But will I ever become like what God sees? 

          1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”  When we see Him, we’ll be like Him.  That’s not only true down the road; that’s true now!  I gave illustrations.  The starting point is the seed.  The process is a mirror.  Let me give you the consummation.

          2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  I’d like to illustrate it with the judgment seat of Christ.  To many Christians this is a frightening prospect.  They don’t like to think about the judgment seat of Christ.  They often miss God’s heart about the judgment seat of Christ.  I know some Christians who dread the judgment seat of Christ.

          Many books are written about it.  I want to pass by the technical side.  I studied the Bema (Judgment) Seat and perhaps you have, too.  I know it’s not about God judging sin.  God is honest and He will not collect the same debt twice.  Jesus paid for all your sins on the cross.  You’ll never have to pay again for that.  What is the Judgment Seat of Christ? 

          1 Corinthians 3:13-15, “…each man’s work will become evident, for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.”  A day is coming when everything will be tested by fire.  The deepest thoughts of my heart will be examined by fire.  Everything I have ever done will be tested by fire; what was fruit and what was works. 

          Here’s the point.  One hundred percent everything that I have ever done to dishonor the Lord, to disappoint God, to hurt Jesus, every sinful thought, everything I’ve left undone, every offense to God, will someday be burned up.  It will be gone.  People are afraid of the Judgment Seat of Christ.  I can’t wait.  I want that fire.  I want everything that doesn’t please Jesus to be burned up.  That’s the consummation at the end!  That’s why all tears will be wiped away.  You don’t have to be afraid of the Judgment Seat of Christ. 

          At the Judgment Seat of Christ, God will look at you and say, “There is nothing that displeases me.”  I have arrived because I see Jesus and I’m finally like Him.  There’s no more sin and there’s no more dishonoring God.  It’s all ashes; it’s gone.  I’m not afraid of that fire – “Burn baby, burn!”  I want that fire. 

           Let me review this.  How do I know for sure that I will become like Jesus?  It’s because God has put His seed in our hearts and everything produces after its kind.  What is the process?  I stand in front of the word of God and I see Jesus and every view of Christ transforms my heart.  How will it end?  Someday, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, everything that displeases God will be burned up. 

           Our Heavenly Father, how glad we are for the truth that we are going to be like Jesus.  Sometimes we look at our lives and we doubt that it will ever happen.  But You’ve given us Your life and You have put Your seed in us, the precious Holy Spirit, and have given us Your word so that we can know the Lord.  Help us to see the union of grace and gazing.  Help us to keep our eyes on Christ.  Thank You for the day when everything dishonoring will be burned up and for forever we’ll be like Jesus.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen