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INTRODUCTION:

The outlook of the world insists that becoming something or someone in life has to do with the sum total of your circumstances and experiences. Meaning, what makes you the person you are becoming is your personal experiences. The concept of existentialism comes from the claim that existence creates essence. Thus, you are formed by what you go through in life. We see this notion in Mrs Michelle Obama’s book “BECOMING”. Another example is the use of the word ‘Evolve/Evolving’, especially in the US. This idea of becoming or evolving stems from existentialism, which advocates that essence is not given, but discovered through life experiences. Thus, people are motivated to discover who they are and be the best version of themselves. 

The 17th century was largely defined by the words of a French philosopher Rene Descartes, “I think therefore I am.” These words emphasise reasoning as grounds for existence. In my opinion, the 21st generation (postmodern) can be defined by the words, “I feel, therefore I am.” The emphasis has become on feelings. Feelings are the base upon which we rest the meaning of life. What we feel defines us and gives meaning to what we are in a true sense. In this outlook, people live to discover their essence through life experiences based on their feelings.

However, Christianity holds a radically different view. We do not look at our experiences, current circumstances, neither do we look at our desired future to become something. We are not searching for meaning in life based on our feelings. We look at Christ: He is the sum total of who and what we want to become. Jesus Christ is the true image of who we should be and what we desire to become daily. In Christ, our essence in life is already defined. We do not create meaning through life experiences.

We do not use God to experience life; we use life to experience God. Our life experiences, pain, suffering, shame, loss, joy, achievements, success and power are a means to know God and to be more like Him. They are not what we are or what we are becoming. Our feelings do not lead to becoming something or someone. We are informed, empowered, and pulled by a higher reality. We assimilate and conform to the Person of Christ, that is what we are becoming or evolving into. Thus, if you are evolving or becoming the best version of yourself, I hope your best version of self looks like Christ and not the ideal self formed by 21st century ideologies. If you are becoming anything that does not resemble Jesus Christ, you have missed the goal of being a Christian. Meaning, you have missed the mark with your whole life!

WE HAVE BEEN PREDESTINED TO BECOME CHRIST-LIKE. 

We exist for the sole purpose of becoming like Christ. The destiny of everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is to conform to the image of Christ and exalt Christ in all things. Christ must be exalted in your relationships, in your marriage, in your career, in your business, in your children, in your present and future endeavours. God is glorified when Christ is exalted in our lives.

When you get born-again, you do not become like Christ automatically. Regeneration happens once, but transformation takes place overtime. The formation of Christ in our lives is not given. It is something that we grow into through the work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Word. Apostle Paul likens the effort of forming Christ in people to labour pains, “I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you”Galatians 4:19. It takes extreme effort to come to the full stature of Christ. In fact, this is the whole purpose of the five-fold gifts and ministry, according to Ephesians 4:12-16.

In essence, the formation of Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings the formation of Christ in us through the Word of Truth. However, a pastor with a calling and a ministry with a vision must work hard for people to be fully formed into the Image of Christ (by the Spirit through the Word). We are called, “so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” Colossians 1:28.

This is what we are resolved about: To make Christ known so that Christ may be fully formed in people and exalted in all that they do in their lives. Ultimately, we are resolved to live a Christ exalting life.

THE IMAGE OF GOD.

“He is the image of the invisible God…” Colossians 1:15. 

Jesus Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15-17. In Christ, we see the God who cannot be seen, John 1:18. Jesus Christ is the perfect representation of God and the very essence of God’s nature, Hebrews 1:3. The fullness of God dwells and can be fully seen in Christ, Colossians 1:19. This concept of the image of God is prominent in the Bible. In fact, we hear about the image of God from the beginning, Genesis 1:26.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God did not create or invent His image. It has been with Him since eternity. 

Jesus Christ did not become the image of God. He has always been the Word, the Image and the begotten Son of God. On the other hand, Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. They were created in His image. When Adam and Eve fell, they took a different image, which did not represent God. They lost the image of God! They lost their “Christlikeness!” Now, the redemption of mankind is the restoration of the image of God, who is Christ Jesus to mankind. 

The invisible image of God is now visible in Christ so that we can see Him and become like Him. Our migration from Adam to Christ moves us from the flesh to the Spirit, from old man to the new man, and from the fallen nature to the divine nature. “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49. 

We are called to take the image of the Son and thus represent Him in all things: personal life, career, marriage, and relationships. We are called to project the image of Jesus Christ in this life. We live for Him, to show Him in all that we do and say, Colossians 3:16. We are being transformed into His image. “And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:10. 

We need to realise that we exist (all that we are) for the sole purpose of becoming like Christ more and more. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is destined to conform to the image of Christ and thus exalt Him in all things.

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST.

“He is… the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15. 

The description ‘the firstborn’ means that Christ is foremost and takes priority in all things. Christ is Alpha to all things and that should be evident in us. “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God.” Revelation 1:8. Christ is the essence of all things and He is before all things. He is in everything a priority. Christ cannot be in something and not be a priority. He is the firstborn, John 1:1-3.

A theological term that expresses the foremost of Christ is the word preeminence. Preeminence is the quality of being more important or better than others are. It is the superiority and dominance of something over others. Thus, when we speak about the preeminence of Christ in the life of a believer, we are speaking about the dominion, high regard, and supremacy of Christ in and above everything in the life of a believer.

If Christ is preeminent in our lives, there should be no question about who we are living for. Meaning, the supremacy of Christ should be obvious in our lives. Jesus must come first and be before all that we love, admire, and cherish. Jesus Christ is the most important thing in our lives and nothing dispute, challenges, or competes with Him in our minds, hearts, and body. 

To say Christ is before all things is effectively to say, Christ is bigger than life itself. So, you cannot live life at His expense. Instead, you live your life to express His supremacy in all things. God made Himself knowable so that we can experience Him in this life, not so that we can use Him to experience this life. In fact, I dare to say God has left nothing outside Himself to be desired! Christ is our ultimate desire, and that desire informs all other (our) human desires. 

The centrality of all things under one Name, for one purpose, to one true God is the crux and the end-goal of Christianity. God’s ultimate plan reaches its apex in the preeminence of Christ in all things. God’s plan has always been to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth, Ephesians 1:10. God is glorified when Christ is exalted through our lives.

“Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29. 

The reason we are being conformed to His image is so that through our lives, Christ might be first in everything. We were made to become Christ-like so that Christ might be the first in everything. The formation of the image of Christ in us is only evident when Christ becomes foremost in all that we do. The essence of Christianity is therefore to become like Christ so that through our lives Christ might be preeminent in all things.

PUTTING ON CHRIST. 

In the times when people are becoming more and more self-conscious, the call to be deeply and firmly Christ-conscious is greater. 

The Bible commands us to put on CHRIST, “… Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Romans 13:14. 

To be clothed with a person was a frequently used Greek phrase, meaning to assume the interests of another, to embody their spirit, and be wholly on their side. To put on Christ is to step aside permanently and let the Spirit of Christ take charge over you. Christ is the most glorious, most graceful and most balanced person to cover our humanity. Thus, you should show the values and nature of Christ in your personal life, relationships, marriage, career, parenting, business, and ministry. 

To put on Christ is to be completely immersed in the Person of Christ, it is to be baptised in His death and resurrection. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27. What does it mean when we say we are baptised into Christ? Simply put, it is to be unrecognisable! To disappear in His death and appear in His resurrection as a new person. 

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4. 

How much of Christ do you think you have allowed to takeover your life? How much of this newness of life has infected you?

One way to know the answer to these questions is to look at what you lack, which Christ had in great quality; truth, love, forgiveness, peace, joy, humility, obedience, and grace. Otherwise, you can look at what you tolerate, which Jesus Christ rejected; sinful behaviours of all kinds and form.

If we are occupied by Christ, then we should have the burden and the will to live with a single goal of becoming more and more like Him in all that we are in this life.  

CONCLUSION 

The preeminence of Christ Jesus in our lives is not only reflected by what we desire to be (our effort), but more so by God’s divine will and purpose expressed through us. Christ is not only the object of your effort to know Him, but the source and an enabler of that effort. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. 

Becoming Christ-like does not result from our natural effort. It is a spiritual transformation that takes place as we expose ourselves to His glorious presence, live by His divine Word, and are being led by the Holy Spirit. 

The word must be preached in such a way that the image of Christ is made clear for everyone to see it and assimilate to by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our worship experience must reveal and exalt Christ in such a way that people encounter Christ Jesus and are transformed by His glory. Our lives and service to people must be an encounter with the love of Christ and thus compel people to desire and believe in our Lord, Christ Jesus.

May our ministries compel people to Christ and reveal a glorified Christ. We should be a space where the image of Christ is not only desirable but also possible. The transfiguration experience was so that we can remove our own “images” and traditions in order that Christ might remain the only image visible to us, “And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” Matthew 17:8. 

Thabang T. Letsie

Pastor at Resolved Church in Pretoria, South Africa. Life is more meaningful when lived with eternal perspective: the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE and not just life. I love reading, writing, and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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