Until Christ is Formed in You

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, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 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.

Put on the whole armor of God

Did you know that the devil is real? The Bible describes the devil as our enemy a great deal. It began in the garden of Eden when the devil tempted Eve to sin against God by eating the forbidden fruit. In the Old Testament book of Zechariah, the writer describes the devil accusing someone as unclean and sinful and therefore unfit for salvation and cleansing. In the New Testament, the devil is described as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The devil is real and threatens us with spiritual warfare. We are in a war! Fortunately, God has given us tools to equip and prepare ourselves in this battle against the devil.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

(Ephesians 6:11 NKJV)

As the writer continues, he talks about the nature of our war against the devil—a spiritual war. He then instructs us what the armor of God is and how it can help us.

The belt of truth

The writer tells us as soldiers to gird ourselves up with truth. When you think about all of the armor of a soldier, you do not often think of a belt. Yet the writer mentions this tool first. The belt in the Roman armor was important because it held the sword sheath, and therefore the sword. Without the belt, you were likely without the sword. Also, the belt had leather strips attached to it to help protect the thighs but also giving freedom to be able to quickly and easily maneuver in hand to hand combat. One of the most amazing things we have on our side is truth. When in combat with the devil we need our sword (the Word) for protection. The truth is found with the Word of God. We can use truth to help us quickly and easily maneuver around the enemy while also protecting our foundation.

The breastplate of righteousness

A physical breast plate covers the torso and protects the vital organs from injury. Righteousness is what helps protect us from potential deadly spiritual blows from Satan. Someone who is righteous is someone who is justified. There is none who are righteous alone, we get our righteousness as a gift from God. It is this righteousness that is vitally important to keep us from death.

Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace

A solider needs good footwear when going into battle. Imagine a fully armed soldier. He has his sword, his shield, his helmet, his breastplate and his belt…but his feet are completely bare. This is strange and dangerous. With covered feet you not only have protection from debris but it also gives the soldier a peace of mind. In short, proper footwear allows a soldier to step freely and without fear while he turns his full attention to the battle at hand. The gospel of peace here is the same gospel that is mentioned through the New Testament. It is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which saves us and gives us peace with God. As a soldier of the cross, we have been given a duty from our commander, to preach the gospel. As we announce the good news of God’s Kingdom, we will spread His way of peace around the whole world. Having our shoes on, we are ready to move, to spread these glad tidings to others.

The shield of faith

Up until now, Paul’s description of the armor of God has been limited to items we wear. We put on the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, and they essentially hold themselves up. The shield is different. The writer tells us that the shield is something we must take up and use it to protect ourselves. The shield is very important in battle. Because of its sheer size, soldiers were offered a great deal of protection from enemies. Because of its slight curve, it was able to deflect attacks without transferring the full force of the assault to the man holding the shield. It was also able to deflect even the more vicious blows that may have been deadly. Our faith acts as a defensive tool for us in our war against Satan. A shield guards, just like our faith can guard us from spiritual attacks. A shield deflects the fiery darts of doubt, worry, and temptation thrown by Satan. Faith is something that is of great substance. A great faith can protect us and sustain us in battle, but with a small flimsy faith we may not be able to succeed and may die.

The helmet of salvation

A helmet protects the head from the attacks of the enemy. A Roman helmet protected, but also had special ceremonial meaning that denoted rank and standing. Salvation basically means to be saved or delivered from something. Our sins kill us and Satan knows it. Being in a spiritual war, Satan will use any weapon he can, to make us commit sin. Jesus died for us so that we might be saved from sin. We can receive tremendous hope and comfort by focusing on the incredible sacrifice Christ gave to save us and the amazing Kingdom that is the goal of our salvation. This hope works like a helmet to protect our minds from the discouragement and despair in this world. We need to keep the hope of our salvation secure and ever on our minds to help us in this war.

The sword of the spirit

I do not believe you can think of a soldier without thinking about him carrying a sword.  A sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon and so is the spirit. We can use it to defend against attacks from those who would try to mock God and His word. We can use it offensively to go out and teach, actively. Rather than waiting for the forces of evil to come to us and having us use the word to defend, we need to be active in waging the warfare ourselves, going forth into battle and preemptively teaching God’s word to others.

We put on the armor of God to effectively wage war against our enemy, the devil. Without it, we are helpless—but with it, we are soldiers of the living God. Have you put on your armor? Are you prepared to use? Your enemy is coming whether you are ready or not. We should heed the words of God and put on the whole armor of God!

Based on a sermon given by Nathan Springer at Concord Church of Christ on 3/31/19.