(Israel Conference at Langensteinbacherhohe, Karlsruhe, Germany: “Radicalism and The Testimony of Christ in Israel”, 22-28 Oct 1999)
God has a vision for us: to change us and conform us to His Son’s image. Now we know that Jesus was the express image of the invisible God, so God has in mind that we become like Himself. This is wonderful, amazing, requiring the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to accomplish this. We need to recognize that this is His purpose for us.
Why does He want us to become more like Him? Because we are being prepared like a bride, the Bible says, to be finally joined with the Lord. Our challenge is to realize what He is doing in us and in our brothers and sisters in the body. Our challenge is to persevere in participation as He leads us and takes us through life’s experiences. Are you taking up the challenge to let Him change you, develop you, mature you and form you to be more like Him, our Father?
It sounds nice, doesn’t it: being changed to be more like Jesus?
But we are also in the process of being rejected by the world, and this is not so pleasing to the natural man. The Bible says that the people of Israel rejected and hated the Holy One of Israel because He trusted in and delighted in the LORD God His Father. In other words the people hated Him without cause (Ps. 22:7-8; 69:4-21; Is. 50:5-9). So in being conformed to His image we may discover that we are rejected and hated by others.
It is common knowledge that in Israel Jesus is not honored, especially among the Jews. Even His Hebrew name is corrupted to ‘Yeshu’ instead of the proper Yeshua. ‘Yeshu’ is an acronym meaning “let his name and memory be blotted out.”
This expression of being blotted out is, in fact, what the Lord said He would do to Amalek and what the Arab/Islamic nations say regarding what they want to do to Israel (Deut. 25:19; Ps. 83:4).
ASIDE: I want to add right here that some of you may feel that the Jewish people have a good reason to reject and hate Jesus because of what was done in His name by the church and Christians– including here in Germany–over the centuries even down to our own day. As a Jew myself, who has lived in the shadow of this perception, I want to say to you that we Jews did not accept Yeshua even before there was such a thing as a gentile-dominated church or Christianity.
Our first sin was our own rebellion against our God, which is recorded for the whole world to see in the Bible. We were also insensitive to God’s love for gentiles, for whom we are to be a light. It is not the gentiles’ fault that God the Father took the Kingdom away from Israel “for many days” and has given it to others during this time (Hos. 3:4-5; Mt. 21:41-45).
It is for me to forgive you, and I do.
It is not for me to accuse and blame you for my people’s hardness of heart to the gospel.
I think if we are all honest, we will acknowledge and confess that we have all made the Name of our God and Savior a reproach in the world, and have made it hard for people to want to believe in Him.
In Israel believers can face radical opposition by ultra-orthodox religious or ultra-liberal, pluralistic democrats. Both sides have their own view of how to change the world. Many believers around the world face radical opposition from groups who see Jesus as a threat to their own plans. This type of opposition can result in some measure of personal, family, or community suffering and loss. But while we experience these things, God ‘s desire is that these things would serve towards conforming us to His image.
Jesus, of course, is our primary example of one who learned obedience through the things which He suffered, according to Hebrews 5:8. So likewise, the primary and essential way for us to learn obedience is apparently through suffering (1 John 4:17). (Well, His thoughts are above ours!)
But whatever the source, suffering, from God’s point of view, should cause us to call upon Him; then we too will learn to obey the voice of our great and good Shepherd (Ps. 95:7; John 10:1-17). This obedience in faith to God causes us to be changed to being more like Him. This is His will for us.
As we let the Lord change us through experiences of rejection or suffering that He may take us through, we are allowing Him to work towards goals and objectives that He has for us. Here are some of the things I found– ways we can learn–as God conforms us to His image: Radical opposition can be used by God to bring radical change in His children.
Here are some changes that can take place under His grace:
We can learn to obey with faith and gladness and learn to become meek and lowly in heart, keeping pride covered (Mt. 11:38-30; Job 33:17).
We can become trained to trust in the Lord, even when intimidated by others in front of authorities, and to turn the other cheek if struck (Mt. 10:17-20; 5:39).
We don’t have to revile back when we are reviled (spoken of hatefully) and instead, we can learn to bless or to keep silent Mt. 5:11-12; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1Pet. 2:23).
We can learn to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21); and,
We can lean to love our enemies and forgive them, so that we can be forgiven (Mt. 5:44; 6:14-15).
Suffering can also cause us to see more sharply the need to intercede for our people and nation (Hab. 3:2; Lk. 23:34; Acts 7:60). Suffering for the sake of Jesus is redemptive.
While God works in us to change us to the image of His Son, He will keep us being salt and light.
You know that in Israel, good works from the hands of believers can result in believers being accused of trying to change the religion of the Jew to that of a Christian. Nevertheless, despite false accusations (Mt. 5:10), the believers must continue in good works to please our Father in Heaven (Mt. 5:16; Rom. 2:7; Gal. 6:9).
Many blessings come as a result of obeying the Lord: He blesses us when we fear Him more than our enemies (Mt. 10:28), and when we confess openly that Jesus is the Messiah, He is Lord (Mt. 10:32; Acts 2:36).
If we suffer for the Lord, we need to remember that it is for His sake. It is not for our own glory. Suffering for Him brings us to boast in the cross; it is the cross that unifies Christians. In being conformed to His image we die and He lives in us. This is seen on the cross, in baptism, in resurrection, all so that we can walk in newness of life. Finally, we look forward to His return when God will be sanctified and glorified in His own people, and even in His enemies (Ezek.36:23; 38:16).
Jesus said that He knew the Father’s presence because He always did that which pleased Him (John 8:29). We will be pleasing the Father if we are wanting to be like His beloved Son (John 5:22-25), and we too can know His presence.
What is the basis for this work of conformity? Isn’t it love? Just as God has poured out His love to us in giving us His only begotten Son, God desires us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. So he has also commanded us to love each other (2John 5).
In loving each other we are being converted into the image of Jesus, who loved us with the love of the Father.
This multi-faceted command to love may be the biggest challenge we face in obedience and letting God conform us to His image. Praise the Lord once again that He is with us by the Holy Spirit to help and strengthen us, but we must set our minds and hearts on it. Our Heavenly Father delights to pour out His love for each one of us. Are we delighting to love those around us?
· Radical opposition to us because of our living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings to light some of those who need our intercessions and need to see the love of God;
· The discomfort and suffering that radical opposition brings can help us be compassionate towards others who have suffered;
· And finally, suffering rejection that opposition brings can work in us a greater obedience with active faith to the things of God, the Way of the cross, enabling Him to accomplish all His purposes.
As we set our minds and hearts to letting ourselves be conformed to the image of God when we receive difficult and trying experiences in our lives, we can rejoice in seeing the truth and good way of the Lord.
(Rom. 8:28) “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.”