Summary: How is the life of God formed in the heart of man?
"My little children, for whom I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you."
God calling to himself those chosen to be his very own is a pervading theme in Scripture. Like variations on a musical theme, it keeps resurfacing throughout the pages of the Bible (Genesis 12; Titus 2.11-14). Yet, however clarion God’s call, it is savingly audible only to his elect (John 10.14-16, Romans 8.29-32, Ephesians 1.3-6); all others are deaf to his voice. All who confess Christ as their savior have been born again; their previous bondage to sin has been broken; they are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5.17). They resolutely set their minds and affections on Christ and have it in their hearts to please him in all that they do (2 Corinthians 7.1; Colossians 3.2-3). They know that it is God’s desire that their lives be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8.29) and they have purposefully severed their ties with their former passions (Titus 2.11-14) in order to focus their attention on the things of God (Romans 12.1-2). They endeavor to take every thought captive that they may obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10.3-5). Believers are eager to keep Christ’s word and live in fellowship with him (John 8.51). Thus, their chief activity in life is to honor the Son whom God has glorified (John 8.54; 17.4-5).
Not surprisingly, by endeavoring to be obedient to God’s call Christians often find themselves out of step with the rest of the world. Many godly people in Scripture were also estranged from their contemporaries (Noah an his ark, Genesis 6; Abraham, who began a new life at 75, Genesis 12.1; Samson with his Nazarite vows regarding his hair, wine and dead things, Judges 3.5) Sometime after Paul’s conversion he was constrained by the Holy Spirit to become an apostle to the Gentiles and lived out the remainder of his life as an itinerant preacher (2 Corinthians 11.16-33). As strange as some of these behaviors may appear, these people were motivated by the same thing that motivates every Christian: more than anything else, believers love God and they love his people (1 John 4.19-5.2). There is no force in the world that can compete with the indwelling power of God’s Spirit. Satan does not ignore believers (Ephesians 6.12), so it is not surprising that Christians undergo trials and temptations, but God does not intend for his children to be overcome by sin (Romans 13.11-14; 1 Corinthians 10.13; James 1.2-4, 12-15). It has been said, “there are two things in the world, power and love, and you cannot have both.” Is it not interesting that the Devil, and the darkness he represents, is frequently associated with power and self-fulfillment (Matthew 4.8; Ephesians 6.12), while the light of Christ is associated with humility, service and sacrifice (John 13.12-17)?
Christ calls men and women to live in a vital, life-dependent relationship with himself (Luke 14.26). The call of Christ on one’s life is not an invitation to embrace a new fad or philosophy. Being a follower of Christ requires that the believer be in communication with him. It is not enough to admire, respect or esteem the things Jesus represents; you must love Him, and this you cannot do without the Holy Spirit who sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts (Romans 5.5). So too the apostle Peter: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1.8-9). Oswald Chambers writes in his devotional classic, My Utmost for His Highest: “Whenever the Holy Ghost sees a chance of glorifying Jesus, He will take your heart, your nerves, your whole personality, and simply make you blaze and glow with devotion to Jesus Christ.” The love for the Lord Jesus Christ is such that by comparison love for family begins to pale (Matthew 10.34).
Mankind’s only significance, whether he knows it or not, lies in his relationship with God. If he misses that, he misses everything of importance. Sadly, little thought and even less action is devoted to spiritual virtues. I am not, of course, referring to intrinsic virtue (that is, the virtue of mere physical creatureliness), but that virtue which is the product of being created in the image of God. St. John Chrysostom in his 4th century treatise, None Can Harm Him Who Does Not Injure Himself, observes the horse’s virtue is not in its gold studded bridle but in its strength, speed and courage in battle. So too for man. His virtue is not in the possession of riches so that he is immune to poverty, nor health that he should have no fear of sickness, neither in being the object of popular public opinion, nor in a host many other lesser things which men have come to value. What matters is understanding and holding on to true doctrines (cp. 1 Timothy 3.15) and maintaining godly rectitude in life (Hebrews 5.14; 2 Peter 1.10). The person who possesses such things can never be dispossessed of his treasure (Proverbs 4.7-8, 23). “All true needs—such as food, drink, and companionship—are satiable. Illegitimate wants—pride, envy, greed—are insatiable. By their nature they cannot be satisfied” (cp. Herbert Schossberg, Idols for Destruction, p. 107). Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs (Jonah 2.8, NIV).