Following Jesus as his apprentice means that you have entered into a lifelong process of conforming to the image of Christ for the sake of others, I am thinking today about that last phrase – for the sake of others. For some reason, recently this has jumped out at me, like I’ve never noticed it before.
In Christian circles, we hear a lot about a personal relationship with God. True, we do have that, but somewhere along the way, I wonder if we have come to believe that our spiritual life is a private thing just between God and us, and is somehow separate from our real life? Sometimes I think we view relationships with others as secondary and only tangential to our primary relationship with God. It’s almost like we believe that all we have to do is learn Bible stuff, clean ourselves up a bit, and do the right kinds of religious activities.
What if it turns out that my relationship with God isn’t just all about me? The truth is that the process of being conformed to the image of Christ actually takes place right in the middle of the daily messy stuff of our relationships with others, not apart from them. Those frustrating people and circumstances are actually the intersection at which the Holy Spirit transforms us, where we become more like Jesus, more conformed to His image.
Our Lord’s teaching was always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a person – His purpose is to make a person exactly like Himself, and the Son of God is characterized by self-expenditure.
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest
Think for a minute about what Jesus did. He is the One who gave himself totally, completely, unconditionally for others. He hung out with the non-religious types and rather than looking down his nose judgmentally at them, actually seemed to enjoy their company. It makes sense that being conformed to His image will happen as we love, value and serve people the way Jesus did. Not just when we feel great, not just when it’s convenient, not just with people we like, who think like us or make us look or feel good.
Oswald goes on to say: If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain but what He pours through us that really counts. God’s purpose is not simply to make us beautiful, plump grapes, but to make us grapes so that he may squeeze the sweetness out of us.
A helpful question might be to ask yourself if you are willing to be conformed to the image of Jesus, primarily for the sake of others? Just imagine what the world would be like if all those who say they follow Jesus were to actually surrender themselves to this purpose.
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