Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Transformed to be Like Christ

The entire world is searching for a model. A model is more than a standard. A model provides a sense of direction, of meaning, of worth, of what is supposed to be. In the business world, people admire great achievers like Peter Drucker, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and so on. In politics people feel the charisma of King David Son of Jesse, Solomon Son of David, Chin Shi Huang Di, Han Wu Di, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Jimmy Carter, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Corazon Aquino, and so on. In the humanity movement, ethical, and social order, people remember great names like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, and so on. In the music world, people refer to Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, or even in the contemporary world of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna. In art people point to Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and so on. In Philosophy, people study Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Mencius, Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Heidegger, Nietzsche, and so on. But a model is hard to come by. Even if such a person lives among us, we might not be sensitive enough to consider. Who among us can be a model for another individual? A model cannot live an unworthy life. A model can’t commit wrongdoings. A model must be perfect. Again, who among us can be a model? Even the first and the oldest of human race can’t be a model for us. Adam and Eve failed miserably.

But God cares to see us succeed. So He provides The Model for us to imitate. He sends His One and Only Son, in whom we are created, to come to the world and to live among us. The true Imago Dei comes down from heaven to visit the other images of God living on earth. In Jesus we don’t just see a model, we see The Ultimate Model. We are, in fact, created after Him. Sin breaks our inherent nature as God’s image. Though the image is not lost, the entire human race doesn’t know how the true image of God should be. The brokenness runs so deep within our soul that we cannot see clearly. Even when the Son of God came, people think that He is an anomaly, unworthy to live with them. Precisely because of our depravity that we all need Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus Christ is the perfect model of how an image of God should live. God’s desire is to transform his people to be just like His Son Jesus Christ. But transformation cannot come with force. Transformation must come with voluntary submission. That’s why Jesus did not come with his heavenly army to capture humans and force them to be transformed. Jesus did not put guns on people’s heads or sword on people’s necks to press them to convert. Jesus came with the Word. The True Image of God came with the greatest Love the world has ever seen.

More than just imitating, anyone who submits to Jesus and is willing to be transformed will have the Holy Spirit of God himself reconstructing or recreating us. It all begins with the regeneration by the Holy Spirit which causes us, the broken, the depraved, the dead, to live again. Since Jesus Christ is the Life, then whoever follows Him must live. So the regeneration of the Holy Spirit is necessary. Moreover, the transformation starts from the giving of the new life. Then our being is formed according to the pattern of the Son of God (cf. Ephesians 4:13-15). By giving Jesus Christ, God gives the best us the best of the best. He did not send his angels, Michael or Gabriel, to be our model. God sent the second person of the Trinity, who is God himself to be the Model. God’s standard is Himself. Nothing is greater than Him, so when God gives Himself to be our model, He gives the very best. The transformation must be voluntary and without coercion. Jesus did not come to earth with sword, but He brought his blood to be poured on Calvary. He redeemed His own with His life. The Life himself must suffer death in order to bestow life upon us. To be brought from death to life, we don’t want to come back to the death. So we continue on with the life given to us with joy and thanksgiving. We then submit to be transformed to be like Christ by the Holy Spirit. This transformation takes some time. But the perfection will be complete when Jesus Christ comes the second time. In the mean time we undergo what theologians call as the sanctification.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). Our transformation requires our perfect submission, for the secret of transformation lies in our participation in the sufferings of the body of Christ. Christ himself was not devoid of suffering. In fact His entire life was full of sufferings. The greatest suffering any human can experience was felt by Jesus Christ. Jack Mezirow found part of the secret of transformation and he explained it in his concept of transformational learning. For transformational learning to occur, one usually suffers disequilibrium, and our nature would prompt us to find the equilibrium in order to free ourselves from being lost in the disorientation. Thus the process of re-equilibrium is crucial for the transformation to happen. Once a person arrives again in the equilibrium, he/she has been transformed. Many times disequilibrium can be found through difficulties, sufferings, hardships. Our sinful nature clings to self centeredness, and often times the way to purge our nature and transform it to be presentable in the presence of God is by sufferings. This knowledge is not a popular knowledge accepted by all the people who say they belong to Christ. Many Christians avoid sufferings at all cost and only desire the “goodness” from God. This is contrary to what the Bible teaches us actually. Many times sufferings provide the disequilibrium necessary for us to grow. As Mezirow has warned educators that the re-equilibrium process must be seriously facilitated through the presence of a skillful mentor who will guide the disoriented person to achieve equilibrium, God has already far ahead. God provides the Holy Spirit to dwell within our hearts as the Mentor so we will not be lost.

The guidance, the safety, the love, the peace, the strength, the Mentor, the Model, even the experience, everything we need are all provided by the God of the heaven and earth in order for us to succeed in our transformation to be like His Son. But one must go through the process of sanctification without reserve if to understand the majesty of our transformation. The gap between our depravity and the perfection in Jesus Christ can be seen more vividly through the process of transformation in Christ by the Holy Spirit. The gradual transformation that brings us from darkness to light is obvious if we trace back our footprints in times of disorientation. Total submission in Christ is key for the transformation to work properly. Our disobedience is not desirable for it will only delay our transformation, and moreover it will disorient more than it should be. It is important to understand that disproportionate disequilibrium is costly to our life structure. The danger of disproportionate disequilibrium is that it may keep us from being in harmony again. The longer we linger in the realm of disharmony, the harder we come back to equilibrium. Our mental capacity can only endure so much disequilibrium depending on how mature we are. If the disorientation is much greater than our mental capacity can handle, then prolonging the re-equilibrium process will only add to the destruction of our mental faculties. Total submission to Jesus Christ, our Master, prevents this unnecessary enlargement of the disorientation and thus avoiding the delay of the re-equilibrium process.

Total submission is easy to say but hard to do. But in the Bible we are given one model, that is Jesus Christ himself. The struggle in the Gethsemane bears witness to the disequilibrium Jesus suffers. However, Jesus did not let himself wander in the disequilibrium too long. He completely submits to His father in heaven. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. … He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done" (Matthew 26:39 & 42). The outcome is majestic. Jesus’ submission to His Father’s will results in the most beautiful action in human history. The Son of God who has all the rights to destroy the world in the flip of his finger, the Son of God who possesses all the power to turn the world upside down, the Son of God who commands the heavenly army, submits to His father’s will and dies on the cross like someone who has no right to live, no power to do anything, no authority over anything, and even more He who has no sin and perfectly holy dies on the cross like a lowly unethical criminal. Who can fathom the love of God? This Model has shown us the way, for He is the Way. He shows us the Way of Life. Whatever He says or does is the truth, for He is the Truth. Just like how He lives, then, we should live. Our sinful nature fails us miserably, but the grace of God in Jesus Christ brings us to the total transformation.

Such is the grand design that God is doing in our life. Praise be to God forever and ever, and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Hallelujah. Amen!

* The Business of Christian Education XII

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