And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (NIV).
One day by grace, we heard Christ call us to follow him. Since that time, we have been on a spiritual journey in which God develops his purpose in us. He acts in us according to his will and good pleasure. Perhaps we don’t think often enough that he is active inside us by the Spirit and the word. He forms new thoughts, ideas, and attitudes; for example, the calmness of depending on him, as we walk through circumstances in which we can do little else. When you’re on the operating table right before emergency surgery, he teaches this quickly.
God is active in our lives, but what is he actively working for? Our text quoted above tells us that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We need to listen carefully at this point, because we all want to define what the good is. However, let’s walk away from our own desires (a.k.a. self-denial) and embrace what the Lord desires for his people. The Spirit tells us two aspects of his purpose.
First, God acts in all things that we will be conformed to the image of his Son. God wants Christ to be formed in us (Galatians 4:19). The Spirit forms us by the gospel and making the presence of Christ real to us, so that we have “Christ-structured” lives. For example, as you read the Gospels, you see Christ’s patience with people, both his disciples and his opponents. People failed to grasp what he said, and so he had to repeat, repeat, and repeat. The Spirit wants that same kind of character in us; therefore, he directs us in situations which require great patience from us. Will we fail? Yes, many times, and the Lord knows that we will fail. But the goal is Christ-likeness, not what we call perfect behavior. God does not seek a group of perfect little Pharisees, but people being formed into Christ-likeness.
Second, God acts in all things that we will be part of many brothers and sisters of whom Christ is the firstborn. In other words, God’s purpose is for each follower of Jesus to be part of his spiritual family. The goal for an individual follower of Christ cannot be detached from the whole family of believers. You see, holiness is not an individual matter; it is a family matter. Consecration to God is what happens when we walk in love together toward God. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan paints a scene where Christian vaingloriously runs ahead of Faithful, and then in his pride falls. Christian cannot get up to continue the journey until Faithful comes and helps him to stand. In the same way, God has ordered that our destiny involves a spiritual journey with our brothers and sisters in Christ. So then, we must become Christ-like together.
Have you been attempting your spiritual journey toward glory by your own definition of good and in isolation from close fellowship with others? If so, please let this text redefine your journey. Submit to God’s purpose and seek partnership with other followers of Christ.
Grace and peace, David