I can still hear it in my head, one of the choruses from my childhood: “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus / All I ask is to be like Him / All through life’s journey / From earth to glory / All I ask, is to be like Him.” These words came to mind as I reflected on the words of Paul as recorded in perhaps one of the most well-known couple of verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28-29: “And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. For those whom He foreknew [and loved and chose beforehand], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [and ultimately share in His complete sanctification], so that He would be the firstborn [the most beloved and honored] among many believers” (AMP).
Of course, many are the souls that have taken and continue to take encouragement in verse 28; that incredible assurance that allows us to navigate the challenges, disappointments, and tragedies we experience in our lives. In the midst of our confusion and pain, our hearts experience a lift when we remember that Christ came “to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:2b-3, KJV). Armed with such promises, some are able to stand tall in the face of adversities. We pick up the pieces, lean on God’s grace, and we keep going.
However, if that is all we do we miss out on something that is even more significant in both portions of Scripture. From Paul we learn that God’s purpose in using “all things” for good in the lives of those who love Him and who are the called according to His purpose is so that we – our lives, our thoughts, our minds, our attitudes, our ways of being – be conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, so that everything about who we are reflects Christ. From Isaiah we learn that everything Christ does in our lives is not for us to claim spiritual brownie points or to show how spiritual we are, but that we “might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified” (emphasis added). Taken together systematically, God is at work in our lives, using all things to shape/mould us to the image of Christ and for His glory.
At the heart of the Christian experience is transformation (Romans 12:2). Fruits of the flesh give way to fruits of the spirit in what is effectively a life-long process. Each day, as we surrender to Him, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives moulding, shaping, recreating and comforting. The more we resist, the more we are broken and refashioned as God works to accomplish His purposes in and for our lives. James remind us “under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:3-4, The Message). Why? Just so you and I can become just like Jesus.