In this case, his plan for our lives is that we “be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” “Conform” means to “make with” or “mold.” He wants us to be like Jesus. He wants us to manifest the character of Christ. What does this mean?
It means that we obey our Father like the One who prayed, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
It means that we commune with our Father like the One who got up “very early in the morning, while it was still dark” and “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
It means that we refuse sin like the One who said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:10).
It means that we forgive our enemies like the One who prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
It means that we serve our friends like the One who washed his disciples’ feet and told us, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).
God wants Jesus to be “the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). “Firstborn” in the Jewish culture meant the preeminent one; we are to imitate him as members of his family, showing the world Christ in us. How are you measuring up?
How can you cooperate?
It is God’s intention to redeem all he permits by using it to make you more like Jesus: more obedient, prayerful, holy, forgiving, and servant-hearted. How can you cooperate?
First, become the child of God. You cannot be like Jesus your brother until you have his Father as your Father. If you do, here’s what God has already done for you:
He “foreknew” you, knowing before time began that you would be here. He “predestined” you, choosing you to be like his Son. Then he “called” you when the Spirit convicted you of your sin and led you to faith in Christ. He “justified” you, cleansing you from all your failures and mistakes so that it is “just if I’d” never sinned. And he “glorified” you as the child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (v. 30). Become the child of God today.
Second, make his purpose yours. Decide that you will measure success by Christ-likeness, not by performance or possessions or popularity. Not your church by buildings and budgets and baptisms. Measure your life and congregation by the degree to which we are more like Jesus than we were last month and last year. Make this your North on the compass, your non-negotiable mission in life. The next time someone asks you what you want to do with your life, say “I want to be more like Jesus.”
Why? Because your Father knows what is best for you, and he says that this is your highest and best purpose in life. Being like Christ is what you were made and redeemed to do. I have found this fact to be absolutely true in my life. When I am seeking to imitate Jesus, there is a peace and purpose to my life which is missing every other time.
If I preach this sermon to perform or impress you, there’s no joy in it. If I preach to serve you like Jesus, there’s joy in every moment.
When I submit to the temptations of the enemy, there’s dissonance and pain in my soul. When I obey God’s will like Jesus, there’s victory in Jesus.
When I judge or criticize those who hurt me or disagree with me, there’s bitterness in my spirit. When I forgive like Jesus, there’s release and freedom.
When I do my work in my ability, I become tired or bored or dissatisfied. When I seek the Father’s presence like Jesus, there’s power for all he asks and more.
So become the child of God, and make his purpose yours. Third, ask how every experience can make you more Christ-like. This is how God redeems all he permits–by using it to mold you into the image of Jesus. Ask how he is doing this with everything that happens to you, and choose to cooperate with him. When people hurt you, choose to forgive like Jesus. When you’re tempted, choose to be godly like Jesus. When you’re hurting, choose to trust your Father like Jesus. Ask how you can be more like Jesus, and you will be.
So don’t give up, however hard life gets. God redeems all he allows, to make you more like Jesus. Someone told me this week that if the mountain was smooth, we’d have no handholds to climb it to the heavens.
I’m reading John Grisham’s latest novel, The Appeal. Grisham is a modern day phenomenon. His books have sold millions of copies, and movies made from them have made millions of dollars more. This Baptist Sunday school teacher and lawyer writes books his children can read and his mother can endorse. And he does it all in the context of a living faith in Jesus.
But it wasn’t easy. Grisham wrote his first novel, A Time To Kill, at night and on weekends while working as a lawyer in Mississippi. No one would publish it–no one. He finally paid to have it published himself, and sold copies out of the trunk of his Volvo. His garage was filled with unsold copies. But then his second book, The Firm, became a success and the rest is history.
Henry Ford went broke five times before he finally succeeded. Eighteen publishers turned down Richard Bach’s book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, before Macmillan published it and it sold seven million copies in five years.
Richard Hooker worked for seven years on his war novel M*A*S*H only to have it rejected by 21 publishers. He finally decided to publish it himself. It became a runaway best-seller, and led to a blockbuster movie and a highly successful TV series.