Water drips from the chin. Smiles abound. God’s power has created a new life in Christ Jesus. Yet, major questions remain.
What can we expect in living this new life? Clearly, God plans for Christians to be transformed into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).
So, what are we to think about ourselves if after twenty years we still succumb to the same old sins? Can we still be encouraged because God’s transformation of our lives is inevitable or do we bear responsibility for failing to grow?
Just as a process exists for babies to become mature adults, Romans 8:29 appears to describe a transformation over time. Yet, not all babies turn into mature adults.
For a variety of reasons, my reading of scripture leads me to conclude that while God desires to work within our lives and can strengthen us (Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 3:16-21), we must deliberately work at growing into the image of Christ.
Growing is contingent upon obeying. Just listen to what Paul commands Christians.
“I insist … that you no longer live as the Gentiles do. … You were taught … to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image” (Ephesians 4:17,21,23,24).
“I exhort you … to present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God … Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1,2).
Such demands are pointless if the process would automatically transpire regardless of our effort.
Our moral and spiritual stuntedness does not reveal God’s failure. If maturity were guaranteed, God would be responsible for wayward Christians. Rather, we are responsible for whether we grieve the Spirit by choosing to pursue carnal goals or whether we seek to live by the Spirit thereby denying the flesh (Ephesians 4:29-32; Galatians 5:17,24,25).
In fact, Paul promises disciples practical help in Galatians 5:17. Since the ways of the Spirit and the flesh are diametrically opposed, if we will seek to live by the Spirit, we will be incapable of fulfilling our flesh’s desires! Don’t just try to avoid evil, focus on living out the goal!
If it is true that we are responsible for working with God’s plan to reshape us, should spiritual failure then discourage us? Should we just toss in the towel? Not at all! We need to wake up from our spiritual slumber allowing God to fulfill his goals.
Scripture reminds us that he who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). God desires to achieve his purposes in and through our lives. To move forward with God, we need to focus upon God’s will by: Embracing what God has revealed is true; Perceiving sin for the hideous destructive force it really is; Praying to God in order to seek his help; and Putting into practice the positive ways of the Spirit. After all, God has a plan regarding his people.
“We know … those whom God foreknew he also predetermined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28,29).