TRANSFORMED INTO THE LIKENESS OF JESUS
By Dan Luehrs
"Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy" (1 Corinthians 14:1 NAS).
Above all things in life we are to learn to grow in love. There is no higher calling for us in life but to mature completely in God's love. Love is the essence of who He is and when we have matured in His love we will have become like Him. Besides learning to love Paul says we must desire, even covet true spiritual understanding. The word "gifts" in the above verse is not in the original language but was added by the translators. Paul prayed for the church at Colossae that they would have spiritual understanding. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9 NAS). God wants to give us the gift of spiritual understanding if we will lift up our voice and cry out for it.
Our mind set on the ways of the flesh cannot comprehend spiritual things. To the average person spiritual things are foolishness; it is like trying to figure out an atomic bomb's mathematical computations. They're completely lost! Yet in truth the spirit world is easy to understand, it's like taking a walk in the park as the Spirit of truth reveals it to us. Paul spoke about this in 1 Corinthians 2:15, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (untaught). But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." Those who do not know the ways of the spirit world around them will not understand people who walk in the spirit because they have not learned the ways of the Spirit. Jesus came for this very purpose: to show us the ways of the spirit world and how to operate in it so that we might live in the light of God's Spirit and not through worldly knowledge and understanding. Jesus came, "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79 KJV).
MAN, GOD'S SUPREME CREATURE
"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7 NAS).
God has made human beings very unique above all that He created. He has made us to live out of two realms at the same time. One is the spirit realm and the other is the natural realm. For us to feel completely fulfilled in this life we must take care of our spirit man foremost. Our "spirit" man is made in the likeness of God, we also have a "soul" (the will, mind, and emotions); then we have our "body" of flesh and blood. Our body is made of the dust of the ground; it's earthly. In fact, it is the least important part of the three because it goes back into the ground where it came from. Yet the body needs to have nutrition from the earth to maintain its strength. God caused the fruit trees to grow in the garden to feed Adam and Eve. This was to be the only nutrition they would ever need because it was a representation of feeding on Jesus. Jesus is the only true tree of life that man has ever needed. It was only after the fall of man that God made them eat from the fields of their own harvest; this was a curse unto them (see Genesis 2:9,16, 3:18). The tree of life in the garden was a blessing unto them, but even this was taken away from them after the fall.
In order for us to become like Jesus we must only eat of Him, for He is the only true source of life. In John 6:53 Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." When we have eaten all of Him, we will have become like Him. Even as the Jewish people were to completely eat every portion of the Passover lamb for their meal, now we must spiritually eat of Christ. When we eat of Christ we are eating of Spirit, and by the Spirit, not literal flesh. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life" (John 6:63 NAS). The Spirit of God gives us life as we wait in His presence and partake of His word. We know we are eating of Jesus when we are only getting our spiritual strength and nutrition from Him alone and not from the spirit of this age.
When we are born again we must have both spiritual and natural nutrition because we live in a body that is made of the earth; it must have food from the earth. Everything our bodies digest grows from and out of the earth. But when we are born again our spirit-man is an infant and needs spiritual milk to grow. Milk would be the elementary teachings of Christ (see Heb. 6:1-2). But when we mature in Christ we need spiritual meat; teaching on a higher understanding of spiritual things. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). A baby will put anything in its mouth even what is not good for them. But a mature Christian discerns what is good and bad. If we are going to grow both naturally and spiritually we must gather our own food, but someone else must feed an infant. An adult can gather and cook their own food to grow strong by. If you are only fed once a week in a church service you’re probably still an infant in Christ. But if you need and want to seek God and bask in His presence daily you are on your way to becoming a mature Christian. God can then reveal Himself in greater ways than most Christians can possibly comprehend. They may end up calling you a heretic because you have more spiritual understanding than they have.
Before the fall Adam and Eve lived in the natural world and still drank from and lived out of the spirit world. They got their strength and wisdom from God as they walked with Him in the Spirit. This is how Jesus lived, both out of the spirit realm and the physical realm at the same time. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13 KJV). Listen to what this verse is saying. Jesus is in heaven as He is standing upon the earth! Jesus knew that He must only drink spiritually from the Father; this is the realm of life. The same can be true for us. When we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a direct connection with God in the spirit and can live out of both realms at the same time, receiving our strength and wisdom from God. Paul said in Ephesians 2:6, “And (Jesus) raised us up with Him (in Spirit), and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” Most Christians are waiting to go to heaven, but the truth of the matter is, we can have heaven NOW on earth! God's presence is what makes heaven, heaven. “In His presence is fullness of joy!” If God’s presence were not there it would be hell no matter how nice it was. Take for example movie stars. They have the best of everything and yet many of their lives are a living hell because God’s presence is not manifested in their lives. Or you could find a street person living in a cardboard shack with the presence of God and it would be like heaven itself. Why? Because he has learned to live out of the realm of God! If we are going to make it through these days ahead we too must learn to live out of the realm of the Spirit and get our strength and joy from Him daily. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
There is no greater joy than being in the Spirit of God. It is life, peace, joy, rest, and love all combined in the same awesome presence of God. This is what mankind is looking for, but they cannot find, when they are looking for His peace in a bottle, drugs, sex, etc. Most people enjoy being in water, like a bath, shower, pool, or spa; the water brings peace and relaxation to our bodies. When a person is under the water it brings such peace to us as if we were in another world. This is what it is like in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is likened to water because He brings us all that we are looking for in the world: peace! People of the world only find peace for brief moments through physical experiences. For us to enter the spirit realm and receive our strength from God we must make a conscious effort to enter into it as one would enter the water. In other words, the moment we begin to focus our attention on something we want to hear we must begin to listen for that sound. So it is with the spirit realm around us, "For in Him we live and move and exist…" (Acts 17:28 NAS). We must understand that we are living in God's Spirit at all times and if we will grow in Christ, God will help us train our senses to focus on the Holy Spirit at all times and to drink continually from His living waters. By this we will be receiving His strength and joy, His joy will be our strength and companion through life's journey. Depression and darkness will have to flee in the presence of God's pure light/understanding!
THE RENEWED MIND
Learning to walk in the spirit starts with us having a renewed mind. When we first get saved our mind still thinks and acts like the carnal world around us because that's all we have ever known; we were enslaved to it because of the fall of man and because of habit. But when we begin to learn of God's ways through the knowledge of His word and the teachings of His Spirit our minds are slowly being renewed as we obey the Spirit's leading and our daily habits begin to change from sinful acts to acts of righteousness. This is why the Bible says, "And have put on the new self (who is being renewed to a true knowledge) according to the image of the One who created him" (Colossians 3:10 NAS). -- "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Romans 13:14 NAS). We must put on the likeness of Christ and choose to live the truth that God has given us. If we choose not do what is right it is because we have chosen to do so. Some Christians live as if God is one day going to magically zap them to not want to obey sin or the flesh anymore. But it does not work that way! How did we naturally learn how to walk? One day we began crawling and then we began to walk. It was a progression. So is walking in the Spirit, in fact all of life is progressive. A person doesn't just one day wake up and say, "Well, I think I'm going to pastor a church today." No! First a person must grow in the faith and then be Holy Spirit trained for years before they can maturely pastor a church. There is also a progressive path to ruling and reigning with Christ on the throne that we have been called to. But it will not happen unless we have been trained in the earth by God and have become like Jesus in the process. For we are now being conformed into the likeness of His Son so that we can reign with Him. "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29 NAS).
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove (discern) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable (pleasing) and perfect (mature)" (Romans 12:2 NAS).
As we are being un-conformed or deprogrammed from the world's ways, we are being conformed into the likeness of Jesus. Our minds are slowly being renewed, transformed, matured, and freed from the natural control of the world into what pleases the heart of God. Our mind must discern what the will of God is and what is good and pleasing to Him. This is why Paul said, "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10 NAS). As our minds are being renewed daily we will choose to do what is right as if it is second nature because we have inherited the knowledge of God and we know what is right and wrong before Him. This pleases the heart of God! "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man (the mind) is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16 NAS). - "And that you be (renewed in the spirit of your mind), and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Ephesians 4:23-24 NAS). The carnal mind is set on fear, worry, confusion, doubt, and unbelief. But a renewed mind is set on righteousness, peace, and joy. We do not just know the truth in mind, but our daily walk and actions prove we are being renewed day by day, trial by trial.
"And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV).
If I could give one definition of what Christianity is, I would say, "It is the changing or renewing of the mind to the ways and thoughts of God!" Our minds are being transformed from one level of God's glory to another until the great day of our full transformation. As Christians we are looking for and anticipating the transformation of our bodies, from this state of flesh and blood, to a spiritually glorified body like Jesus. "Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:21 NAS). This is the hope we have been called to! Many people are trying to make their aging body look younger and stronger, when in fact every one of these bodies will die unless Jesus changes it. But in order for this body to be changed it must all start in our mind first! If we are looking for Jesus to change our vile bodies into the likeness of His glorious body we must first have our minds renewed into His likeness. Otherwise we would bring our glorified body into sin and live forever in death. God blocked the entrance to the tree of life with fire so that Adam and Eve could not eat from it and live forever in the fallen state. Revelation 19:7 say, "… His bride has made herself ready." We must make our mind ready for the transformation by His grace; God will not do it for us!
The word "transformed" in Romans 12:2 means, "metamorphose," which means to be "changed." "Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51 NRSV). This is the blessed hope of the church! For us to learn about the ways of the spirit we must look at a natural type of "metamorphosis." I read of a researcher that studied the caterpillar in 1942. A young Harvard biologist named Dr. Carroll Williams began a brilliant piece of scientific research which went far toward solving the mystery of metamorphosis. Working with the large cecropia moth, Dr. Williams soon learned that whatever directed metamorphosis was located in the front section of the insect. If the pupa was cut in two the front half went on to develop into half a moth, while the back part remained a pupa. Continuing one step further, Williams sought to find out what in the head section was triggering the change. His experiments pinpointed two interdependent hormone centers, one in the brain and the other in the thorax, just behind the head. Further experiments showed that a warming of the temperature in the first warm days of spring triggers the flow of the brain hormone to start the transformation of the dormant moth.
Even as the caterpillar is changed into a moth through a process in the mind, so our metamorphosis also starts in our mind. The change takes place slowly and daily. As we die to self and respond to our trials with the peace and rest, we are being changed. This metamorphosis process will take place in our mind as we spend time alone with Jesus in our cocoon; by having the warmth of His word warm our heart and mind. Paul Mueller wrote, "God has had people cut off from fellowship and has put them into their tabernacle or cocoon to have fellowship with God in Spirit so that He can give us more truth than others cannot receive right now. This is the path to mature sonship!" He goes on to say, "When the Lord calls us out He is then fulfilling the primary aspect of the Feast of Tabernacles in our lives. God is preparing us for greater glory, a glory that can only come when we have experienced that intimate and secluded communion with God in Spirit." "But I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, As in the days of the appointed festival" (Hosea 12:9 NAS). - End of quote. The Feast of Tabernacles must be fulfilled in us personally for us to be changed. Even as Israel had to spend time in their small booth or tabernacle, now is our time to get to know God and be changed into His likeness. There is no other way for us to be changed into His likeness!
A HARLOT GIVES BIRTH
"By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace" (Hebrews 11:31 NAS).
One of the most amazing things to me in all scripture and that has left me scratching my head is, "How could Rahab the harlot be in the lineage of Jesus?" (See Matt. 1:5). Rahab and Ruth were the only non-Jews in the lineage of Jesus, but Rahab was the only harlot! How could the long-awaited, holy Messiah come through a harlot's lineage? God's ways are truly mysterious!
In Joshua 2:1 we have the first mention of Rahab being a harlot. In fact the Bible uses this language of Rahab being a harlot five times. Even though thousands of years have passed since she lived and all her good works of faith were done, she is still labeled a harlot. Why? I thought our sins are thrown into the depths of the sea and forgotten? Or is there a greater message to be understood about her life? I believe whatever has been written in scripture has been written for our instruction. "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Corinthians 10:11 NAS).
How could a harlot be for our instruction? Because of her changed life! Our mind set on the flesh is Rahab the harlot! The name "Rahab" means, "Proud or prideful one." "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:6-8 NAS). Our mind set on the flesh is hostility against God; it is an enemy and a devil against the true ways of God. This is why our mind must be renovated and renewed to please the heart of God. The mind and body in itself is not evil, but the mind set on the ways of the flesh is, because it causes the body to do evil deeds. Our mind has been programmed to sin against God since the fall of man, but now Jesus has come through the power of His cross to set us free from the curse of sin and death in the mind. Every human being since the fall of man has been plagued by the three kinds of sins of the flesh/mind: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. They are ingrained in each one of us. Each of these areas in our life must be overcome by the Mighty Conqueror, Jesus. It is hard for us to die to self because the pride in our lives wants to exult the self-life above the will and knowledge of God. We want to feel good about ourselves and not feel embarrassed about how we are living and what we are doing to make a living. We want to think well of ourselves and we want others to think well of us also. This is the pride of the life/mind! Jesus had to die to His own will and reputation to fulfill the will of the Father. He died to self by hanging on a cross, naked! Now we must carry our cross daily to die to self and to be frank with you, it hurts!
The fact that Rahab was in the lineage of Jesus speaks prophetically to us that our mind can be changed to give birth to the man-child, Jesus. In Revelation 12:1-5 there is a woman about to give birth and we are that woman, "And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered" (verse 2). These travailings and pains we are going through in life is bringing death to the harlot in us so that the life of Christ will be manifested through us. But the evil or the d-evil in our mind is trying to stop the birthing of the Son of God in us. This devilish mind of ours will not prevail against God because He is going to help us overcome it if we ask Him to. "… The dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne" (verses 4-5). Jesus promised us as overcomers that we would sit on the throne with Him and rule and reign. Now it is coming to pass!
Great things are about to break forth in the earth through the people of God. But if we think that we will be changed into the likeness of Jesus without our minds being renewed we are greatly mistaken and will fall short in our quest. But the Lord will help us prevail because it is His will!