There is a misconception that once you become a Christian, everything is sunshine and rainbows—life is easy. In reality, once you become a Christian you still have problems, and there is still a lot of work involved and growth that needs to happen. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he spoke of the work and pain associated with being a Christian.
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,Galatians 4:19 NKJV
While referencing the need of growth, Paul uses an analogy to help them understand his feelings toward them and his expectation for them. His analogy is the birth and raising of a child. I have never personally experienced birthing a child, but I did watch my wife and I was an eye witness to the pain and work of having a baby. I have also experienced the concern when you see your child struggling, the fear that she may not develop as she should or be in danger, and the pain associated with seeing them fail but knowing it is part of the growing process. These moments I believe is what Paul was going through with the Galatians.
The reason there was pain, is because he saw them as his children. He loved the people of this congregation and when he saw them struggling, it hurt. His expectation for them was to allow Christ to be formed in them, in other words to allow the example and teachings of Christ to become a part of them. This was obviously something they were working towards but struggling. This is difficult because it means changing who you are to be more like Christ.
It was also becoming more difficult because there were false teachers coming and misguiding the Galatian Christians. There were those who believed that in order to be a Christian you needed to follow certain aspects of the law such as being circumcised. They kept guiding them back to the law, yet Paul was telling them to follow Christ and be free from the weak and beggarly element of the law. His advice is to leave the law, and stand fast in the liberty which Christ made us free and don’t become re-entangled with the yoke of bondage.
The struggle to be more like Christ was not an isolated problem. It is a problem which many Christians faced. Paul told the Christian in Rome to be conformed to Christ rather than the world.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And 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 12:1-2 NKJV
You can see that he also told them that a part of being able to do this was offering yourself as a living sacrifice to God. It is through offering yourself and renewing your mind that you can be formed to Christ. This means that not only do we need to make ourselves less and Him more in our lives but we also need to learn who He is so we can transform our minds to be like His. Jesus gave us the perfect example of this type of service and sacrifice to be who God wanted Him to be…
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.Philippians 2:5-9 NKJV
First, Jesus humbled Himself to be who God wanted Him to be. He took on the form of a servant, and was obedient to the point of a horrific and excruciating death. Second, we can have this same type of mindset which will help us be more like Christ. As the passage continues, it speaks of God exalting Jesus and that through Him the Father is glorified.
Just as it was in the first century, the struggle is real for us today. When we are baptized into Christ and put on Christ we do not automatically become like Christ. This takes a lot of work. As Christians in 2019, we need to conform to the image of Christ and become like Him. I believe two key components will help us on our journey to be more like Christ; to make ourselves less and learn about who Jesus (His qualities, His characteristics) and start imitating. It is also helpful to have someone like Paul to help by loving, laboring, and encouraging.
My prayer is that Christ can be formed in myself and in you. Join me in the effort and commitment to learning who Jesus is and being more like Him.
Based on a sermon from Beau Boan at Concord Church of Christ on 4/7/19.