“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” — Galatians 4:18-19
Paul pleads with passion about the pain he is experiencingas disciples in Galatia are abandoning a personal relationship with Christbased on grace. Judaizing teachers had infiltrated the body and were teachingthese new believers (most of whom were Gentiles) that they must adhere to therequirements of the Old Law, such as circumcision, observance of special daysand seasons of the year (Galatians 4:10; 5:2-4). In other words, they werecalling people to become Jews first, then Christians. It meant that a person’ssalvation depended on his ability to keep the law and with careful attention,could be attained by his own orchestrated efforts. And they even claimed thiswas good news! The apostle’s response is at once strong and adamant. Not only is it not goodnews, it is no gospel at all! It is destructive to faith and Paul says all whopromote it are under a curse from God. He then spends the better part of theGalatian letter backing up these forceful words with a detailed explanation onthe destructive nature of law-keeping and legalism. He argues from his personalexperience (1:1-2:21), the theological comparison of Law and Grace (3:1-5:10),and finally an argument based on the results of these beliefs (5:2-6:18). We do not have Judaizing teachers among us today, but we do have a tendency tofall into a legalistic mindset. Our relationship to Christ can be replaced byfinding fulfillment in a few Christian activities, such as church attendance orgiving contribution. But we lose that dynamic faith that springs from a deepand abiding relationship with God. A belief that inspires us to share ourfaith, serve the poor, and to love deeply the body of Christ. Paul says itclearly, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision hadany value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” -Galatians 5:6 The question of the hour is how do we get back to becoming like Jesus andhaving Christ formed in us. That’s the test that Paul was asking the Corinthiansto take. He said, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith;test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, ofcourse, you fail the test? And I trust you will discover that we have notfailed the test.“ – 2 Corinthians 13:5-6
Here a few of the many ways Christ can be formed in us:
Saturate our lives with God’s word. Paul tells the church in Colossae, “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.” – Colossians 3:16 (ESV) To become like Jesus, his very words need to live in us. Jesus states it plainly when he says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7 Are you in God’s word? Does the early morning sun find you with your Bible open—yearning to listen, learn and live what you find within its pages? When a teacher or an evangelist preaches on Sunday, are you taking notes and examining the Scriptures. Do you have a Berean heart—are you receiving the message with great eagerness (Acts 17:11)? If we are to become like Christ, we must know his word. Take on his mission. The gospel of Mark waste no time in getting to the heart of the ministry of Jesus. Shortly after Jesus’ baptism, he begins preaching the good news and his first act is to call men to take on his mission. While walking on the beach of Galilee he sees Simon and his brother Andrew fishing. Jesus said, “Come follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” – Mark 1:16-17 Even though it’s obvious, we often overlook it. To become like Jesus, we have to take on his mission. His passion, needs to be our passion. His vision, needs to be our vision. He declared, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” – Luke 19:10 Everything Jesus did was to further his purpose of reaching a lost world. After his resurrection from the dead, and shortly before his return to the Father, Jesus clarifies again the mission his disciples must adopt: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 Let the Spirit do its work. We do not become Christlike with just our own determination. Jesus has given us his Holy Spirit to see that transformation take place. In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, it says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Paul also tells them, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” -2 Corinthians 3:3 In fact, the apostle John reminds us that one of the ways we know that Jesus lives in us, is because he has given us the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13). Don’t quench the Spirit, let it do its work of transformation. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Jesus foretold it himself, when he said, “As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” – John 12:32 Jesus is the drawing power—and he provides the staying power. That is the reason why in the letter of Hebrews 12:1-2, the inspired writer had to remind the Hebrew Christians, who were becoming weak in their faith, to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and to persevere and most important, “fix their eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” What we keep our eyes on, what we contemplate and consider, is what we become. Follow those who follow Christ. Sometimes we just need a human example of what it looks like to follow Jesus. This is what Paul had in mind when he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1 He also reminded the disciples in Thessalonica, “You became imitators of us and the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” – 1 Thess. 1:6 He completed the trifecta by telling the Philippians, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” – Philippians 3:17 So, don’t be afraid to look for an example of a Jesus-centered disciple and follow them as they follow Christ. Don’t be a spectator, live like Jesus. Not just theory, not just wishful thinking—we have to be like Jesus. The disciple Jesus loved, said it best: “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” – 1 John 2:5-6 The apostle Peter repeats the same concept, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” – 1 Peter 2:21 Two of his closest disciples made it clear: To become like Jesus, you have to live like Jesus.