Picking up from our last post on image and likeness, there’s been a prosperity movement in the Church that says God wants everything for us that our flesh wants because Jesus suffered so we don’t have to. This is wrong and ignorant of many parts of scripture. It’s a fleshly/worldly way of thinking. What about Jesus’ disciples? Weren’t they the first to inherit this blessing of the way of Christ? Wouldn’t they have understood very well what He was offering? Why did all but one get martyred? The one who didn’t was imprisoned on the island of Patmos when he wrote Revelation and called himself a “companion in the suffering.”
They say discipline builds character. This is true! God disciplines those He loves so that He builds in us His character. Those called to great things in the Lord must suffer greatly as He did in order for the flesh to die and to submit the soul to God so that His spirit can reign in us.
I would encourage you to read the first 8 or so chapters of Isaiah and ask the Lord which of these ideas will apply to today. It will give a beautiful understanding of what He is doing in this hour.
Instead, I’m going to point to the personal. Peter is an excellent picture of many in the Church today. In his youth, he was fired up about God. It was fleshly enthusiasm. He did not have any of the likeness of God in him. When he was put to the test, he came up lacking. He denied Christ. He left the disciples and went fishing in shame. Later, even after being told by God that the Gentiles should be admitted as brothers, he refused to eat with them.
However, God had chosen this life to be transformed into His likeness. Because Peter had a special calling, it was necessary for him to endure more than others. And through this, he grew more into God’s likeness and understanding. Late in life, he shared with us…
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Peter well understood that God used these things to train and discipline him and all those He loves.
Let’s look at communion. What are we doing? We are partaking in Jesus’ body and blood. One explanation of that symbolism is that the wine/blood represents the suffering we must follow Him into. The bread/body represents the new life He offers us.
Judgment is coming to the world. The nations have turned away from Him and He must discipline us to bring us back to Him. For many it will simply be a horrific wrath of God that they cannot understand. But for those who know Him, He will be our refuge. This does not mean that we will not suffer, for we surely will, but when we see our circumstances as the loving hand of God, we will see how He is using these things to grow us closer to Him. We will at times have great understanding in how He is leading us. At times we will have to greatly endure with patience difficult things. At other times, He will show us the way to escape the judgment that is falling around us.
This is Part 8 in the series Bearing the Image and Likeness of God. To continue with this series, click on Pt 9. To use this as a growth tool to better understand your own calling, please read Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5, Pt 6 and Pt 7.
Photo credit: khrawling