WILL YOU ALLOW GOD TO REPRODUCE CHRIST’S LIKENESS IN YOU?
by: A.W. Tozer
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life
which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith
of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave him-
self for me. " Galatians 2:20
There seems to be a great throng of professing Christians in our churches today whose total and amazing testimony sounds about like this: "I am thankful for God’s plan in sending Christ to the cross to save me from hell."
I am convinced that it is a cheap, low-grade and misleading kind of Christianity that impels people to rise and state: "Because of sin I was deeply in
debt—and God sent His Son, who came and paid all my debts."
Of course believing Christian men and women are saved from the judgment of hell and it is a reality that Christ our Redeemer has paid the whole slate of debt and sin that was against us.
But what does God say about His purposes in allowing Jesus to go to the cross and to the grave? What does God say about the meaning of death and
resurrection for the Christian believer?
Surely we know the Bible well enough to be able to answer that: God’s highest purpose in the redemption of sinful humanity was based in His hope that
we would allow Him to reproduce the likeness of Jesus Christ in our once-sinful lives!
This is the reason why we should be concerned with this text—this testimony of the apostle Paul in which he shares his own personal theology with
the Galatian Christians who had become known for their backslidings. It is a beautiful miniature, shining forth as an unusual and sparkling gem, an entire
commentary on the deeper Christian life and experience. We are not trying to take it out of its context by dealing with it alone; we are simply acknowledging the fact that the context is too broad to be dealt with in any one message.
It is the King James version of the Bible which quotes Paul: "I am crucified with Christ." Nearly every other version quotes Paul as speaking in a different tense: "I have been crucified with Christ," and that really is the meaning of it: "I have been crucified with Christ."
This verse is quoted sometimes by people who have simply memorized it and they would not be able to tell you what Paul was really trying to communicate. This is not a portion of Scripture which can be skipped through lightly. You cannot skim through and pass over this verse as many seem to be able to do with the Lord’s prayer and the twenty-third Psalm.
This is a verse with such depth of meaning and spiritual potential for the Christian believer that we are obligated to seek its full meaning—so it can become practical and workable and liveable in all of our lives in this present world.
It is plain in this text that Paul was forthright and frank in the matter of his own personal involvement in seeking and finding God’s highest desires and provision for Christian experience and victory. He was not bashful about the implications of his own personality becoming involved with the claims of Jesus Christ.
Not only does he plainly testify, "I have been crucified," but within the immediate vicinity of these verses, he uses the words I, myself and me a total
of 14 times.
There certainly is, in the Bible, a good case for humility in the human personality, but it can be overdone.
We have had a dear missionary veteran among us from time to time. He is learned and cultured—and overly modest. With a great wealth of missionary
exploits and material to tell, he has always refused to use any first person reference to himself.
When asked to tell about something that happened in his pioneer missionary life, he said: "One remembers when one was in China and one saw..." That seems to be carrying the idea of modesty a bit too far, so I said to him, in a joking way, that if he had been writing the Twenty-third Psalm, it would likely read: "The Lord is one’s shepherd, one shall not want; he maketh one to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth one . . ."
I believe Paul knew that there is a legitimate time and place for the use of the word I. In spiritual matters, some people seem to want to maintain a kind of anonymity, if possible. As far as they are concerned, someone else should take the first step. This often comes up in the manner of our praying, as well. Some Christians are so general and vague and uninvolved in their requests that God Himself is unable to answer. I refer to the man who will bow his head and pray: "Lord, bless the missionaries and all for whom we should pray. Amen."
It is as though Paul says to us here: "I am not ashamed to use myself as an example. I have been Crucified with Christ. I am willing to be pin-pointed."
Only Christianity recognizes why the person who ls without God and without any spiritual perception gets in such deep trouble with his own ego. When he says I, he is talking about the sum of his own individual being, and if he does not really know who he is or what he is doing here, he is beseiged in
his personality with all kinds of questions and probIems and uncertainties.
Most of the shallow psychology religions of the day try to deal with the problem of the ego by jockeying it around from one position to another, but
Christianity deals with the problem of I by disposing of it with finality.
The Bible teaches that every unregenerated human being will continue to wrestle with the problems of his own natural ego and selfishness. His human nature dates back to Adam. But the Bible also teaches with joy and blessing that every individual may be born again, thus becoming a "new man" in Christ.
When Paul speaks in this text, "I have been crucified," he is saying that "my natural self has been crucified." That is why he can go on to say, "Yet I live"—for he has become another and a new person —"I live in Christ and Christ lives in me."
It is this first I, the natural me, which stands confronted with the just anger of God. God cannot acknowledge and accept me as a natural and selfish man—I am unregenerate and an alien, the complete essence of everything that is anti-God!
I know there are men and women who dismiss the idea of anything being anti-God or anti-Christ. They are not willing to pay any heed to the teachings of Scripture relative to prophecy and eschatology.
Nevertheless, it is a biblical fact that whatever does not go through the process of crucifixion and transmutation, passing over into the new creation, is anti-Christ. Jesus said that all of that which ls not with Christ is against Christ—those who are not on His side are against Him. We do not quite know what to do with those words of Christ, so we try to evade or work them over to a smooth, new version, but Jesus said, "If you do not gather with me, you scatter abroad."
There is a great hue and cry throughout the world today on behalf of tolerance and much of it comes from a rising spirit of godlessness in the nations.
The communist nations, themselves the most intolerant, are preaching and calling for tolerance in order to break down all of the borders of religion and
embarrass the American people with our social and raclal problems.
This is the situation of the people of God: the most intolerant book in all the wide world is the Bible, the inspired Word of God, and the most intolerant teacher that ever addressed himself to an audience was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
On the other hand, Jesus Christ demonstrated the vast difference between being charitable and being tolerant. Jesus Christ was so charitable that in His great heart He took in all the people in the world and was willing to die even for those who hated Him.
But even with that kind of love and charity crowning His being, Jesus was so intolerant that He taught: "If you are not on my side, you are against me. If you do not believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins." He did not leave any middle ground to accommodate the neutral who preach tolerance. There is no "twilight zone" in the teachings of Jesus—no place in between.
Charity is one thing but tolerance is quite another matter.
Tolerance easily becomes a matter of cowardice if spiritual principles are involved, if the teachings of God’s Word are ignored and forgotten.
Suppose we take the position of compromise that many want us to take: "Everyone come, and be Saved if you want to. But if you do not want to be Saved, maybe there is some other way that we can find for you. We want you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ if you will, but if you do not want to, there may be a possibility that God will find some other way for you because there are those who say that there are many ways to God."
That would not be a spirit of tolerance on our part—it would be downright cowardice. We would be guilty with so many others of a spirit of compromise that so easily becomes an anti-God attitude.
True Christianity deals with the human problem of the self life, with the basic matter of "me, myself and I." The Spirit of God deals with it by an intolerant
and final destruction, saying, "This selfish I cannot live if God is to be glorified in this human life."
God Himself deals with this aspect of human nature—the sum of all our proud life—and pronounces a stern condemnation upon it, flatly and frankly
disapproving of it, fully and completely rejecting it.
And what does God say about it?
"I am God alone, and I will have nothing to do with man’s selfish ego, in which I find the essence of rebellion and disobedience and unbelief. Man’s nature in its pride of self and egotism is anti-God—and sinful, indeed!"
It is in this matter of how to deal with man’s proud and perverse and sinful human nature that we discover two positions within the framework of Christianity.
One position is that which leans heavily upon the practice of psychology and psychiatry. There are. so-called Christian leaders who insist that Jesus came into the world to bring about an adjustment of our ego, our selfishness, our pride, our perversity. They declare that we may become completely adjusted to life and to one another by dealing with the complexes and the twisted concepts that we have gotten into because our mothers scolded us when we were babies! So, there are thousands of referrals as the clergymen shift our problems from the Church to the psychiatric couch.
On the other hand, thank God, the Bible plainly says that Jesus Christ came to bring an end of self-not to educate it or tolerate it or polish it! No one can ever say that Jesus Christ came to tell us how to cultivate our natural ego and pride. Jesus never taught that we could learn to get along with the big,
proud I in our lives by giving it a love for Bach and Beethoven and Da Vinci.
Paul outlined the full spiritual remedy: ‘I am crucified with Christ. . . and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
This is a decision and an attitude of faith and commitment called for in the life of every believing Christian.
When we see that Jesus Christ came into the world to deal effectively and finally with our life of self and egotism and pride, we must take a stand.
With God’s help, we say to that big I in our nature: "This is as far as you go—you are deposed. You are no longer to be in control!" In true repentance and in self-repudiation, we may turn our backs on the old self life. We may refuse to go along with it any longer. We have the right and the power to desert its ranks and cross over to spiritual victory and blessing on Emmanuel’s side, walking joyfully under the banner of the cross of Jesus Christ from that hour on.
This is what it means to deal with and finally dispose of the "old man," the old life of self, which is till causing problems in so many Christian lives. We take a place of actual identification with Jesus Christ in His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
In the Christian life, that is what baptism is supposed to mean, but sad to say, baptism is nothing but a quick dip to the average person because that one does not know what baptism represents. He does not know that baptism genuinely ought to be an outward and visible testimony of a spiritual and inward
transformation that has taken place; a symbol declaring that the old selfish and perverse human nature is repudiated in humility, and put away, crucified, declared dead!
That is what baptism should mean to the believer —death and burial with Christ, then raised with Him in the power of His resurrection! It can happen apart
from water baptism of any mode, but that is what water baptism should indicate. It should set forth that identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ just as a wedding ring witnesses and sets forth the fact that you are married.
Now, it is impossible to bring together and synchronize these two positions concerning the old life and nature of self. I do not believe that we are ever obliged to dovetail these two positions. Either the Lord Jesus Christ came to bring an end of self and reveal a new life in spiritual victory, or He came
to patch and repair the old self—He certainly did not come to do both!
I expect someone to say, "We are interested in spiritual victory and blessing in our group, but our approach doesn’t agree with yours at all!"
In answer I can only say that on the basis of the Word of God, true identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection will lead men
and women to Christ-likeness. God has never promised to work out His image in us in a variety of ways according to the inclinations of our own group. Forming the likeness to Jesus Christ in human lives and personalities is something that He does alike in all groups and all conferences and all fellowships around the world regardless of what they may be called.
There really is no way to patch up and repair the old life of self. The whole burden of New Testament theology insists that the old human self is ruined completely. It has no basic goodness, it holds to false values and its wisdom is questionable, to say the least. It is the new self in Christ Jesus—the new man in Christ—which alone must live. Onward from the point of this commitment, we must reckon ourselves indeed to have died unto sin, to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus.
But the natural self, the natural "I, myself and me." Is continually taking inventory, seeking and hoping to find some human help in trying to forget and escape the guilty past, something that will make it more acceptable in God’s sight, something that will enable it to develop to the fullest the potential of its nature.
Part of man’s natural frustration is the inner feeling and realization that he is never measuring up and achieving to the full potential given him in creation. Actually, I believe God has created each one of us with a master blueprint representing His highest desires for the use of our many capacities in this
With God’s blueprint stretching forth in all directions, what usually happens to the human life and personality? Well, we may see a utilitarian
little house or shack there in the middle of it, and after a few years of hard work, an addition of some kind, but the outreach of our human personality which we picture in this way never stretches out to the limits of the blueprint.
The human nature in its striving and its groping has never been able to finally roll up the blueprint, put it away on the shelf, and say, "Thank God, my earthly existence is everything God desired It to be! The last wall has been raised, that final arch is complete, the roof is without a flaw—it is a habitation that can be considered to be perfect!"
The potential and the abilities of man’s mighty nature are almost limitless—but we have to add, not quite! I am always stirred in my being to
consider all that created man can do, the great powers and ability to think, the powers of imagination and creativity. Yet, if men and women do not find a way to properly use all of those powers and talents and gifts in bringing praise and honor and glory to God the Creator and the Redeemer, they are still not what they ought to be.
I believe there is a subconscious desire deep within every human being to realize and utilize his full potential—the desire to live a full and complete life
which often means the hope of escaping the past and the ability to face the future in confidence.
But what do men and women actually find when they look into their own hearts in this quest? They find nothing that measures up to their dreams and
hopes. They find that they possess nothing of eternal value. They find that they know nothing with any certainty. They find that they can do nothing which is acceptable in the sight of a holy God.
Human beings continue to lean on a variety of crutches to support the ego, to nourish the pride, to cover the obvious defects in human existence. Many have believed that continuing education would provide that missing link between personality and potential. Many have turned to the pursuits of philosophies; others to cultural achievements. Ancestry and environment and status occupy many more.
But the ability to brag about human ancestors. To point with pride to the nation of our descent or the cultural privileges we have known—these do not
transform and change and regenerate the human nature. Regardless of our racial strains, regardless of our cultural and educational advantages, we are
all alike as human beings. In my own nature, I am nothing. Of myself, I know nothing. In God’s sight. Without His help and His enabling, I have nothing
and I can do nothing.
But the inventory of the new man in Christ Jesus is so different! If he has found the meaning of commitment, the giving up of self to be identified with Jesus Christ in His crucifixion and death. He discovers in an entirely new measure the very presence of Christ Himself!
This new person has made room for the presence 0f Christ. So there is a difference in the personal inventory- It is no longer the old do-nothing, know-
nothing. Be-nothing, have-nothing person! That old assertive self died when the crucified and risen Saviour was given His rightful place of command and control in the personality. The old inventory cried out: "How can I be what I ought to be?" but the inventory of the new man is couched in faith and joy in his recognition that "Christ liveth in me!"
Paul expressed it to the Colossians in this way: "Christ in you, the hope of glory!" and then proceeded to assure them that "You are complete in Him!"
Paul wrote to the Ephesians to remind them that the essence of faith and hope in Christ is the assurance of being "accepted in the Beloved."
To the Corinthian believers, Paul promised full spiritual deliverance and stability in the knowledge that Jesus Christ "is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption."
Our great need, then, is simply Jesus Christ. He is what we need. He has what we need. He knows what we need to know. He has the ability to do in us what we cannot do—working in us that which is well-pleasing in God’s sight.
This is a difficult point in spiritual doctrine and life for many people.
"What about my ambition? I have always been ambitious so it is a part of my being. Doesn’t it matter?"
"I am used to doing my own thing in my own way—and I am still doing it in the church. Do I have to yield that?"
"I have always been able to put my best foot forward to get recognition and publicity. I am used to seeing my name in the paper. What do I get from
crucifixion with Christ?"
Brothers and sisters, you get Christ and glory and fruitfulness and future and the world to come, whereof we speak, and the spirits of just men made perfect; you get Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of the everlasting covenant; an innumerable company of angels and the church of
the firstborn and the New Jerusalem, the city of the living God!
And before you get all that, you have the privilege and the prospect of loving and joyful service for Christ and for mankind on this earth.
This is a gracious plan and provision for men and women in the kindness and wisdom of God. He loves you too well and too much to let you continue to strut and boast and cultivate your egotism and feed your I. He just cannot have that kind of selfish assertion in His children, so Jesus Christ works in us to complete Himself and make Himself anew in us.
So, you see, that is really why Jesus Christ came into this world to tabernacle with us, to die for us. God is never going to be done with us in shaping us and fashioning us as dear children of God until the day that we will see Him face to face, and His name shall be in our foreheads. In that day, we shall genuinely be like Him and we shall see Him as He is.
Truly, in that gracious day, our rejoicing will not be in the personal knowledge that He saved us from hell, but in the joyful knowledge that He was able to renew us, bringing the old self to an end, and creating within us the new man and the new self in which can be reproduced the beauty of the Son of God.
In the light of that provision, I think it is true that no Christian is where he ought to be spiritually until that beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ is being reproduced in daily Christian life.
I admit that there is necessarily a question of degree in this kind of transformation of life and character.
Certainly there has never been a time in our human existence when we could look into our own being, and say: "Well, thank God, I see it is finished now. The Lord has signed the portrait. I see Jesus in myself! "
Nobody will say that—nobody!
Even though a person has become like Christ, he will not know it. He will be charitable and full of love and peace and grace and mercy and kindness and goodness and faithfulness—but he will not really know it because humility and meekness are also a part of the transformation of true godliness.
Even though he is plainly God’s man and Christ’s witness, he will be pressing on, asking folks to pray for him, reading his Bible with tears, and saying, "Oh, God, I want to be like Thy Son!"
God knows that dear child is coming into the likeness of His Son, and the angels know it, and the observing people around him know it, too. But he is so intent upon the will and desires of God for his life and personality that he does not know it, for true humility never looks in on itself. Emerson wrote that the eye that sees only itself is blind and that the eye is not to see with but to see through. If my eye should suddenly become conscious of itself, I would be a blind man.
Now, there is a practical application of the crucified life and its demands from day to day. John the Baptist realized it long ago when he said, "He must
increase but I must decrease!"
There must necessarily be less and less of me—and more and more of Christ! That’s where you feel the bite and the bitterness of the cross, brother! Judicially and potentially, I was crucified with Christ, and now God wants to make it actual. In actuality, it is not as simple as that. Your decision and commitment do not then allow you to come down from that cross. Peace and power and fruitfulness can only increase according to our willingness to confess
moment by moment, "It is no longer I, but Christ that liveth in me."
God is constantly calling for decisions among those in whom there is such great potential for displaying the life of Jesus Christ.
We must decide: "My way, or Christ’s?"
Will I insist upon my own righteousness even while God is saying that it must be the righteousness of His Son?
Can I still live for my own honor and praise? No, it must be for Christ’s honor and praise to be well-pleasing to God.
"Do I have any choice? Can I have my own plan?"
No, God can only be honored as we make our choices in Christ and live for the outworking of God’s plan.
Modern theology refuses to press down very hard at this point, but we still are confronted often with spiritual choices in our hymnology. We often sing:
"Oh, to be dead to myself, dear Lord; Oh, to be lost in Thee."
We sing the words, we soon shut the book, and drift away with friends to relax and have a pleasant soda. The principle does not become operative in most Christians. It does not become practical. That is why I keep saying and teaching and hoping that this principle which is objective truth will become
subjective experience in Christian lives. For any professing Christian who dares to say, "Knowing the truth is enough for me; I do not want to mix it up with my day-to-day life and experience," Christianity has become nothing but a farce and a delusion!
It may surprise you that Aldous Huxley Often a critic of orthodox and evangelical Christianity, has been quoted as saying: "My kingdom go is the
necessary corollary to Thy kingdom come."
How many Christians are there who pray every Sunday in church, "Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done!’ without ever realizing the spiritual implications of such intercession? What are we praying for? Should we edit that prayer so that it becomes confrontation: My kingdom go, Lord; let Thy kingdom come!" Certainly His kingdom can never be realized in my life until my own selfish kingdom is deposed. It is when I resign, when I am no longer king of my domain that Jesus Christ will become king of my life.
Now, brethren, in confession, may I assure you that a Christian clergyman cannot follow any other route to spiritual victory and daily blessing than that which is prescribed so plainly in the Word of God. It is one thing for a minister to choose a powerful text, expound it and preach from it—it is quite something else for the minister to honestly and genuinely live forth the meaning of the Word from day to day. A clergyman is a man—and often he has a proud little kingdom of his own, a kingdom of position and often of pride and sometimes with power. Clergymen must wrestle with the spiritual implications of the crucified life just like everyone else, and to be thoroughgoing men of God and spiritual examples to the flock of God, they must die daily to the allurements of their own little kingdoms of position and prestige.
One of the greatest of the pre-reformation preachers in Germany was Johannes Tollar, certainly an evangelical before Luther’s time. The story has been told that a devout layman, a farmer whose name was Nicholas, came down from the countryside, and implored Dr. Tollar to preach a sermon in the great
church, dealing with the deeper Christian life based on spiritual union with Jesus Christ.
The following Sunday Dr. Tollar preached that sermon. It had 26 points, telling the people how to put away their sins and their selfishness in order to
glorify Jesus Christ in their daily lives. It was a good sermon.
When the service was over and the crowd had dispersed, Nicholas came slowly down the aisle.
He said, "Pastor Tollar, that was a great sermon and I want to thank you for the truth which you presented. But I am troubled and I would like to make
a comment, with your permission."
"Of course, and I would like to have Your comment," the preacher said.
"Pastor, that was great spiritual truth that You brought to the people today, but I discern that You were preaching it to others as truth without having
experienced the implications of deep spiritual principles in your own daily life," Nicholas told him.
"You are not living in full identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I could tell by the way you preached—I could tell!"
The learned and scholarly Dr. Tollar did not reply. But he was soon on his knees, seeking God in repentance and humiliation. For many weeks he did not take the pulpit to preach—earnestly seeking day after day the illumination of the Spirit of God in order that objective truth might become a deep and renewing and warming spiritual experience within.
After the long period of the dark sufferings in his soul, the day came when John Tollar’s own kingdom was brought to an end and was replaced by God’s
kingdom. The great flood of the Spirit came in on his life and he returned to his parish and to his pulpit to become one of the greatest and most fervent and effective preachers of his generation. God’s gracious blessings came—but Tollar first had to die. This is what Paul meant when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ."
This must become living reality for all of us who say we are interested in God’s will for our lives. You pray for me and I will surely pray for you—because
this is a matter in which we must follow our Lord!
We can quote this text from memory, but that is not enough. I can say that I know what Paul meant, but that is not enough. God promises to make it living reality in our lives the instant that we let our little, selfish kingdom go!
Now! How about you? Are you ready to let your little, selfish kingdom go?
If you are, and would like prayer, meet with your Pastor’s down on the front lines where the battles can be won, and victory obtained for your soul tonight.