Friday, March 23, 2012

Transformed by the Image of the Son

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. (Romans 8:29)
This has always been God’s plan for those who belong to Him, that we be conformed to the image of His Son. To be “conformed” means to have the same form as something, to be just like it. What we are conformed to here is the “image” of Jesus.

The use of “image” is very significant, especially in regard to God’s plan from the beginning. The Greek word is eikon. In English, we spell it as icon. An icon is a representative image. Click on an icon on your computer screen, for example, and you bring up the program that is represented by it. The icon and the thing it represents go together. Indeed, the icon derives its meaning from the thing it represents.

Now think back to what God did in the beginning, when He created the heavens and the earth. After He made everything else and saw that it was good, He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). In the Septuagint, the earliest translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, the word used for “image” is eikon. Man was created to be the icon of God, to be like Him and represent Him on the earth. That is why, according to the rest of this verse, God gave man dominion: “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air and over the cattle, over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” We were all created as icons and meant to have dominion, to be kings and queens who reflect the glory of God on earth.

Of course, we know that Adam blew it all when he rebelled against God, and that affected not only us but all of creation. But that is why Jesus came, “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image [eikon] of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). He is God become flesh and is the perfect representative of the Father on earth. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

So when Paul speaks of God’s plan to conform us to the image of the Son, Jesus, it is all about restoring us to the purpose God originally had for us at creation — to be His image, to be like Him and represent Him over all the earth.

When does this happen? I believe it has already happened for those are born again, born from above by the Spirit of God, through faith in Jesus the Messiah. We received a new identity as “sons of God” (John 1:12). We received the Holy Spirit dwelling within us — Jesus Himself dwelling in us by His Spirit (Romans 8:9-10). We became part of the new creation, and the old thing that we were passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this new identity, this new life, this new creation, we are now conformed to the image of Jesus, the Son of God.

That is what we really and truly are inwardly. But there is a tension between that and what we are outwardly. The apostle John recognized this tension when he said, “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). When Jesus comes again, we shall see Him as He is, and we shall also see ourselves as we truly are in Him — we shall see that we are like Him.

Paul also recognizes this same tension between what we are inwardly and what we outwardly. In Romans 12:2, he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). If we let the world around us press us into its mold and shape us according to its own fallen image, our lives will not accurately reflect the new life and identity we have in Jesus.

What we need is to be transformed, changed from the inside out so that what we are outwardly matches up with what we are inwardly. This transformation is a process. That is, it happens over time. It is not something we can do ourselves. It is something He must do. It happens by the renewing of our minds, but even this is the work of God. Our part is simply to yield to Him and let Him transform us, letting Him renew our thoughts and our ways by His thoughts and His ways. The more we allow Him to work in us in this way, the more our outward lives will reflect who we really are inwardly in Jesus the Messiah. (See also Not Conformed — Transformed and Exploring the Mind of God.)