A Righteousness by Faith #40: What will I become?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29 (NIV)

You are of inestimable value to God. No matter how many hard names and what shaming has been tossed at you over the years by people—or how savage you have been to yourself—your worth is always based on God’s glory. And for this reason, God has decided beforehand that He is going to change you into the image of His Son. Or maybe it is more clarifying to say that He is restoring you to what you were created to be.

It took me some years to get what Paul was talking about in this verse. I first had to understand that Romans was not about the slice of the gospel called justification by faith, but about living by faith during the whole spectrum of the gospel. Paul was not reforming the church. He was informing it of the gospel—the vastness of the gospel that had changed him from a self-deluded Pharisee to “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God . . .” (Romans 1:1 NIV)

This verse is the gospel at its core. God will change us to be like Jesus. Not god-like. Paul is not promoting some future godhood illusion that has plagued us since Satan used it as a pick-up line with Eve at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. No, what Paul is referring to here is becoming like Jesus who is fully human. Jesus as the last Adam. Jesus as Adam would have been if he had never rebelled against God’s reign over him. It is into this Jesus we are being changed. So Paul’s word choice of “image” is not accidental. It goes to the heart of our transformation. We are being restored to the ‘image of God’ which was marred in all humans in the Fall.

As I bring this blog series to a close, what does being conformed to the image of Jesus have to do with righteousness by faith? Because of space, I limit myself to three observations whose truth you need to live out empowered by the Spirit.

  1. Being conformed to Jesus means you now are able to be intimate with God in the same way that Adam and Eve experienced. There are no barriers left, no conditions to be met between you and the Father who reconciled you to Himself. All that has kept you from being changed by His love for you has disappeared. You may not realize how God delights in you even now because you still put more stock in the lie of Satan than the truth of God. But as you grow in grace, you will find the greatest change in you is your ability to understand this love “that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 NIV)

 

  1. Jesus was tempted in every way you are without resorting to sin as a response. Being conformed to Jesus means that you will stop wanting to use sin as a means to comfort your pain and guide your life decisions. I am not claiming that you will never choose sin again. I am saying that in conforming you to the image of Jesus, God is shaping you by His grace to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions.

Why should you believe this is true? Here is where intimacy with God bears its fruit. By being in Jesus, God’s “divine power has given [you] everything [you] need for a godly life through [your] knowledge of him who called [you] by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

  1. Being conformed to Jesus means you will be restored to emotional wholeness. I teach people that living in a world full of people affected by the Fall causes damage to our emotions. Damaged emotions color our world and make us see others and God all wrong. But Jesus displayed the healthy emotions that were present at the Creation. He showed deep empathy to broken or hurting or sin-sick people he met. He displayed righteous anger for justice and mercy towards a world system that crushed some and exalted others. He felt appropriate sadness for those whose hard hearts rejected the Father. At all times, he was fully loving like the Father—not a sloppy, close-my-eyes-to-reality kind of love, but one that embraced each person he encountered with the promise of a different kind of life if they would receive him.

This is the meaning of “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 3:9) You no longer work at being good for God. You get to be remade into who Jesus is and live free and whole.

-Steve Smith