A few days ago I posted an article entitled “Saved for the World” which presented the idea of Christians being citizens of heaven and not of this world. Since we are in this world and citizens of another realm, we together as the church constitute an outpost of the heavenly realm, representing and advancing the ideals of our King into this alien and hostile territory. We have been saved FOR the world to serve for the benefit OF the world while we live here.
Today I want to expand on the idea that salvation is not the only objective for those who are recipients of the saving power of the blood of Jesus. There is much, much more that our heavenly Father has in view for us than just to live a good moral life until we are called home to be with Him forever. The approach of most churches for too long has been to “get people saved and on their way to heaven,” so when a person is converted, it seems that many feel that their responsibility to them is over and done. Those converts, so abandoned by the churches, are pretty much left on their own to “sink or swim.” And then people wonder what happened to that person in a few weeks or months when they become another statistic to add to the attrition rate of the membership in that church.
This neglect of any further serious effort on the part of the churches betrays a tragic misunderstanding of what God is seeking to accomplish in the lives of each one of us. Those initial steps of conversion are just that – steps along the way to a much fuller purpose than just to get a person out of sin and started down – or up? – the road to heaven.
So, what is it that God has in view for us if it is not to “get saved so we can go to heaven when we die?” Please understand that I have nothing against being saved from past sins. Nor have I anything against being with God where He is forever. But there is more to the problem of sin than just our being forgiven of our past sins. There is more to Jesus’ coming into the world than just to die for our redemption, as precious as that is.
In order to understand what His coming was intended to accomplish and what God’s purpose for us is after our initial forgiveness we have to go all the way back to the beginning and think about what happened when sin first entered into the world and our first parents fell from their happy relationship with our loving Creator.
In Genesis 1:26-28, we are told that man was created to be in the image of God. We were made this way in order that we might know Him, and in that knowing, enjoy an eternal relationship with Him. We were intended to share with Him in the governance of the whole creation, being His special representatives to reflect His glory to every part of that creation. With the entrance of sin through the deception of the devil, human beings fell far below – missed the mark or purpose of – their exalted state of being in the likeness of the Creator.
In order to restore us to fellowship with Him, of course sin has to be removed. That is what the blood of Christ accomplishes through our faith in Him as our redeemer. But once the sin is removed, there is the further need to be restored to that original ideal God had in creating man. The “image” does not consist in merely being sin-free. His purpose is for us to be restored to His image or the image of His Son – (there is no difference in the two terms). This is what has been ignored among most churches for far too long. Most seem to have the idea that after one becomes a Christian one just has to “live a good life” in order to please God. But the evidence for what I am contending here is everywhere you look in the New Testament. Besides the direct statements that plainly declare that this is God’s purpose, there are other statements that can only have the meaning of a restoration to the original purpose for man.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
A disciple is a follower of a rabbi. His purpose is not just to learn lessons taught by his rabbi, but to become just like him in every way. He lives with the rabbi, eats with the rabbi, travels with the rabbi, learns to think and to act like his rabbi. Jesus is our rabbi. Our goal in life is to become exactly like Him in every respect. It is to become the “spittin’ image” of Him. In doing so, we will become more and more what God made us to be in the beginning.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27).
To “follow” Jesus is to submit to Him, to do as He says, to go where He goes. It is to depend on Him for our life. In doing so, one becomes like Him.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
To “repent” is to turn away from rebellion and turn to God by becoming obedient to His Messiah.
“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When we become a “new creation” we are remade in the image of God – which is also the image of Christ. We are not made into something entirely new in design – what would be the point – we simply are restored to God’s original intent and purpose.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:23).
When one lives “faithfully” he is submissive to the will of Jesus whose purpose for us is to be a servant just like Him.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).
One submits to the king upon entering the kingdom, taking on the values, sharing the responsibilities and the life of the realm and becoming like the King.
Becoming like Jesus – not just following Him as an ethical example – but to become like Him with a heart of a sacrificing, submissive servant is the predominant theme of all the instruction to those who had previously taken those initial steps of becoming Christians. If we miss this, we will have missed a very significant, very vital part of what it means to be a Christian.