The Apostle Paul wrote about one of God’s greatest desires, that is, to form His Son in you and me, setting us apart from sin and making us holy in His sight.
Paul had established many Christian communities throughout the First Century Mediterranean world, and one of those fellowships, located in the Roman province of Galatia, received one of his significant letters – a letter we have in our New Testament today. (To give you some geographical context, Galatia was located in the area of modern-day Ankara, in Turkey.)
In Galatians 4:19, Paul wrote: “I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.”
1. SOMETHING NEW
When Christ is “formed in us” by the Holy Spirit, our human nature changes dramatically, mysteriously, and I believe miraculously. Jesus called the beginning of this process being “born again.”
In Paul’s second letter to the Christian community located in Corinth (Greece) he wrote, “14… Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He [Jesus] died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ … 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor. 5:14b-15b, 17)
Becoming that “new person” is where the rubber meets the road, where God loves to work, and where Satan, the devil, cranks up his opposition to the transformational work of God being done in us.
Clive Staples (C. S.) Lewis (1898-1963) is best known for two fictions: The Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia. He was a prolific writer and brilliant defender and champion of Christianity. Some of his best known writings are Mere Christianity (also known as The Case for Christianity), Miracles, The Abolition of Man, The Four Loves, Surprised by Joy, God In The Dock, and The Problem of Pain.
This wonderful man I consider a personal friend, even though we’ve never met, because his writings have so profoundly affected my life. I recently downloaded (on Audible) several of the books mentioned above, some being read by the author himself, and I’m enjoying them immensely.
In The Screwtape Letters (remember, this is fiction), Uncle Screwtape is writing his nephew, Wormwood. They are both devils, but the Uncle is a demonic mentor, and the nephew is his student. Screwtape refers to God as “The Enemy” and to Wormwood’s target human as “the patient.”
Chapter two begins, “My dear Wormwood, I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties; indeed, in your better moments, I trust you would hardly wish to do so. In the meantime we must make the best of the situation. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favor.”
For the rest of Lewis’ book Screwtape and Wormwood conspire to bring about the patient’s downfall.
Lewis was communicating a truth throughout his book: we are being opposed by the kingdom of darkness and death, and Satan wants you and I to be tripped up by our human-nature with its unrighteous, unholy and impure habits. Our enemy uses ungodly habits against us!
But Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:11: “Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.”
While Paul was confident that the Corinthians were up-to-date on the treacheries of the great deceiver, I’m not convinced modern day believers are aware of “his evil schemes,” or understand the importance of knowing that we are in a real war between God and pure evil. We need to be.
Why? Because our souls are the prize, and after we realize this WE must DO battle, WE must get in the fight for our lives and our eternity.
That’s why God said through Paul, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we (you) are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:10-12 NLT)
(See the February 13, 2021 blog, Spiritual Warfare is Real, at lowellequalls.com.)
2. YOUR PART (AND MINE)
The Holy Spirit is adamant throughout the whole of the Word of God:
- WE must be STRONG IN THE LORD if WE are going to live a transformed, victorious life.
- WE must have “the mind of Christ” because the battle takes place in OUR minds. (1 Corinthians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 4:4)
- WE are not bystanders while God and Satan duke it out.
- WE are engaged, WE are involved, and WE must be wholeheartedly!
Does Jesus have your mind? Does Jesus have your heart … the core of your being and the center of your life?
If He does have your heart it is because, at some point in time, you decided to accept Him as Master (your owner, boss, or quarterback).
If He has your heart today it is because you have cooperated with Him, agreed with Him, and intentionally followed His guidance. You are not just a believer. You are a follower.
Jesus was clear about this when He said, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me.”
And understand this: Jesus deliberately used another term to describe this kind of intimate followership. He deliberately used the word “disciple.”
According to Wikipedia, “A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. The term ‘disciple’ [mathētḗs (μαθητής)], generally means ‘one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice’, or in religious contexts such as the Bible, ‘one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical (definition: related to teaching) reputation or a particular set of views.’”
Accordingly, followers could be part of the crowd, and they could come or go as they pleased.
But when Jesus spoke of true followership He was describing someone who had decided to be a loyal, and a committed imitator of His life and lifestyle. Jesus actually required that anyone who would choose to be His disciple understand He was not offering a casual relationship but a new identity.
I would call what Christ longs for is a people who whole-heartedly accept Him as “Lord.” That would require Jesus’ ownship of your heart and mine – the core of our beings! We’re talking sons and daughters who see themselves as servants first and beneficiaries second.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “God blesses those whose hearts are pure” (Matthew 5:8 NLT). As an example He said, “… anyone who even looks at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NLT). Christ declared, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21).
Our hearts and minds are the prize in the battle for human souls.
The Lord, when confronted by His enemies who would eventually demand His death, said, “How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”
Later in His ministry Jesus said, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart (Matthew 12:35).
In the parable of the Sower and the seed, Jesus spoke about various kinds of “soil” where the seed of God’s Word would be sown. When He spoke of soil He was speaking of hearts. He identified one such soil as hard. “The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts(Matthew 13:19 NLT).
Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law came from Jerusalem and challenged Jesus because it appeared that He didn’t respect or practice their traditions, i.e., their legalistic approach to life.
In His response to their challenge He quoted from Isaiah, “These people honor Me (God) with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matthew 15:8-9 NLT, referring to Isaiah 29:13 in the Greek translation).
Does Jesus own your heart? You must give up ownership. That is your call. That is your choice, your EVERYDAY decision.