When you were saved, you became a new person. The old you died with Christ and was buried in your obedience as symbolize by your baptism (Colossians 2:12). You came alive but not as the old you who lived to gratify yourself, satiate your own desires and please other people. No you came alive as a new person, a child of God, a friend of Jesus, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. While we still walk on this earth, we still struggle with our flesh, that dead sin nature trying to defeat the living Spirit of Jesus Christ. In our obedient pursuit of the image of Christ we have to remember that the old self is dead and throw it off. We have to remember the new self is Jesus Christ and put on our new clothes, walk in the Spirit, and become the image of Christ. It is intentional, not happenstance. Verses 1-4 read,
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Setting our minds and our goals on Heavenly things, the Kingdom of God keeps our focus where it ought to be. Paul compared our lives following Jesus to athletics. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 reads,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Athletes have a goal and they work toward it. They train, keeping their goal in mind. I have a friend who runs marathons. He started out running shorter races. He set goals to run longer ones, first a 5K then a 10 K until after several years he could run a marathon which is over 42 kilometers. Then he set his goal to run the marathons at faster times. He now regularly places in the various races he runs whether they are 5 kilometers or 26.2 miles. It did not happen because he set the goal, it happened because he set his mind on it and worked toward it. In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul writes it this way,
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
That upward call of God in Christ Jesus, is the image of Christ, it is His glorification and ours (1 Corinthians 2:7). It is a purposeful pursuit. Paul said to forget what lies behind. The enemy will constantly try and tell us we who we use to be. He wants us to remember our old selves, the liars, the thieves, the adulterers, the idolaters, and the selfish. But the Word of God says that we are no longer those people, those people are dead! We are born again, we are not known by those sins any longer. We are now the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). So we do not give in to the lies of the enemy to return to our old lives. Verses 5-11 read,
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self ]with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
We let our old selves stay dead, we do not give them new lives. Jesus paid the price for our sins already. He is coming to bring the wrath of the Lamb to everyone who refused to accept His payment. How and why could we stomp over His sacrifice by resurrecting our dead flesh? No we are not who we used to be. We not the image of the world, we are the image of Christ. We are not man separate persons and peoples, we are one people, we are the body of Christ, we are the image of Christ. Believer, every single one of us has this new identity, we are collectively the body of Christ and He is in each one of us. If you do not want the enemy accusing you of being your old dead self, why would you think it is okay to do his bidding and accuse a brother of being his old self? How about pursuing the goal of the image of Christ together? Just as we deliberately put off our old selves, we expressly put on our new selves. Verses 12-17 read,
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
What a beautiful description of how we should be living life together. It doesn’t happen by accident, it is done consciously and with intent. It is the goal we set and pursue. Bearing one another is easily written and not always so easily done. There will be people who we, in our flesh have difficulty tolerating. But in The Spirit we can and do love them. The image of Christ is described beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.”
Remember God is love, to know Him empowers us to love. Love means living in unity and community the way verses 12-17 describe and the way the 1 Corinthians 13 describes. That kind of life doesn’t happen accidently, it doesn’t happen if we just wish or say it is true, and it doesn’t happen by pretending in front of others. There was a woman who for some reason hated me. Every imperfection I have she concentrated on and enlarged so that she couldn’t bear to be around me. She did some things to show other people how lazy, rebellious, and arrogant I was. She rejoiced over the bad things that happened to me because of her hate. It took me years to get over the wounds she inflicted; it took me years to forgive her. But I did because I purposely sought to love her and so forgive her. She is my sister in Christ, forgiven by my Lord, how could I not forgive her? The Lord knows the wrong she inflicted on me. He is God, not me. He is transforming her and He is transforming me.
Looking like Jesus, walking in the Spirit does not look like the world. We look very different from them. Had I been in the world, I would have told the world about this woman’s inadequacies, I would have hurt her back the way I wanted to do. But I am not in the world, I am in Jesus and He is in me. He is greater than the world. I know this to be true and I can overcome the world. 1 John 4:4-12 says it this way,
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
If we want the world to see God in us we live like Jesus, which is vastly different than the way of the world. Verses 18-25 tell us what we should like.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”
The picture we are presented with is one of humility, meekness that is concerned with others rather than exalting our own needs. It is so opposite from the world to submit to your spouse, trusting the love he has for you. It is contradictory to the world to love someone and trust that you never have to be unkind to be treated the way you hope to be treated. It is unlike the world to obey authority figures not in order to please them, gain something, or look good but in obedience to God. Let God be God and let us be who He has made us to be, the image of Christ.