(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Romans 8:28 through 31 shows the Christian life – the beginning, the middle, and the end:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be con- formed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first- born among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
The Beginning is shown in verses 28 and 30:
- Romans 8:28 – “…those who love God…those who are the called according to His purpose.”
When I became a Christian, I was 19 years old and in the Air Force, stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi Mississippi. I knew very little of Christianity and the Bible, for my family was not Christian. My friend Jerry had converted to Catholicism from a fundamental Protestant religion, and I wanted to know why. We talked about his decision, and since I had no religious background to speak of, I decided I would become a Catholic.
Soon after I had made my Catholic decision, I experienced something that changed my life. I knew little of the Christian faith, but I became sure about three things concerning Jesus Christ:
1. I knew that He was real!
2. I knew that He was alive!
3. I knew that He loved me!
…and I fell ‘head over heels’ in love with Him!
I loved God! I was called according to His purpose! That was the beginning!
- The beginning of the Christian life is also reflected in Romans 8:30, “…whom He called….” I did not find God! He found me! He called me to Himself, and I began my Christian life at age 19!
The Middle: I said in the last Gem, the middle is where the hard work begins! And that work is reflected in Romans 8:29: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Predestination is a hard concept to wrap our minds around. But in verse 29, the concept of predestination is made simple: God predestines every Christian to become more and more like Jesus! Yes, it is simply said, but it can be very hard to be conformed, (to grow up into) the image of His Son, Jesus!
How is this conformation to be accomplished? Basically, in two ways:
- God Himself takes up premanent residence in our bodies!
✞ In Him [Jesus Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your sal- vation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the re- demption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13, 14). ✞ ...do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (I Corinthians 6: 19, 20).
- The Holy Spirit’s job is outlined in Philippians 2:13: “…it is God [by His Holy Spirit] who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” He gives us not only the ‘do it’, but also the ‘want to do it’! This is important because much of what the Lord calls us to do is very often not what we want to do!
With the Spirit’s help, we are called to practice what Jesus showed us in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was crucified: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42). “…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The Holy Spirit within us will help us seek God’s will more and more, as we grow to be more and more like Jesus!
It is a process, this work of the ‘middle’!
- II Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
✡ After he came down from Mount Sinai, having received the Law, including the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:1-17), Moses’ face glowed with God’s glory, after having been in the LORD’s presence for forty days. The Israelites were frightened to even approach Moses! So he put a veil over his face so the glow of the glory would not frighten peo- ple away. (see Exodus 34:29-35). ✞ The veil has been removed in every Christian’s case! We have the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ! So we must keep our unveiled eyes upon Him! We are told in Hebrews 12:1 and 2, as we run this race of life, we must always be “...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith....” ✞ But it says in II Corinthians 3:18 that we are seeing Jesus “...as in a mirror....” ➔ Back in New Testament times, glass was hard to come by, and glass mirrors were extremely rare! “It is believed that mirrors made of metal-backed glass were first produced in Lebanon in the first century A.D....” (https://aleteia.org/2019/03/28/ mirrors-and-the-bible-reflecting-on-the-human- experience/). Mirrors were made of polished metal, and they could get scratched and marred, making the reflection a bit hazy. This is the kind of mirror Paul is using as an example in II Corinthians 3:18. ➔ We behold Jesus by faith, not by sight! (see II Corinthians 5:7). And faith often is like that first century mirror – it presents a rather hazy picture! I have never seen Jesus in person, and you probably have not either. (There are credible cases of seeing the Savior in visions, especially in Muslim countries). ➔ We are told in Romans 10:17, “...faith comes by... the word of God.” Reading and studying your Bible builds up your faith! And that same Bible is like a mirror that presents Jesus! That’s how we get to see Him and know Him! The more we are into our Bible, the stronger our faith becomes, and clearer is the image of our Lord!
- And the more we see Him and know Him, “…we…are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3:18). That phrase “…from glory to glory…” shows a process, sometimes a very slow process! Paul could have added some glories: “from glory to glory to glory to glory to glory….”! It is step by step by step by step by step by step, becoming more and more like Jesus!
No, it is not easy, this Christian growth to become more and more like Jesus!
- We have to die to ourselves to live for God!
✞ Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37). ✞ ...reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instru- ments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you.... (Romans 6:11-14).
- But we have been given all we need to accomplish this Christian task!
✞ His divine power has given to us all things that per- tain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious prom- ises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (II Peter 1:3, 4).
The ‘middle’ is not easy! It is a life-long committment to walk with the Lord, becoming more and more like Him! But it is the only way that at the end we will hear Jesus’ words…
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”