Called To Be the Image of Christ

In recent weeks I have been thinking about how to live victoriously and triumphantly in Christ. I have been thinking about Hebrews 12:1-2 and the fact it says that for the joy that was set before him Jesus endured the cross Hebrews12:2 in the New Revised Standard Version says

"…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of[a] the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."

The word used here for joy is according to Strong's Concordance is chairo meaning cheerful, calm delight, gladness and exceedingly joyful. I have studied history and know that crucifixion/cross was an exceedingly shameful, agonizingly painful way to die. It brought no glory to the one enduring it but a curse instead.[1] We see this when Jesus is condemned and dies as a criminal and has to be taken down from the cross and buried the same day so the land would not be defiled.[2] Definitely not something to be excited about or look forward to and if anything something to be dreaded and avoided at all costs. Yet it says for joy Jesus went to the cross. After the Last Supper Jesus knowing Judas was about to betray him to death sings songs of praise to God with his disciples as they proceed to Gethsemane. [3] The word used here for sung means to celebrate and praise God for all he has done for them. This same attitude was exhibited by many of the early Christian martyrs as they went to their deaths.

Many of us I suspect if facing the same situation would be looking to run from it, to do anything to keep from having to suffer and if falsely arrested and condemned to death might have a few choice words to say about it, be crying and complaining about the unfair system and judgment and be anything but calm let alone joyful or gleeful about what was about to happen to us. We might curse the judge or jury who condemned us and perhaps even curse and blame for what is happening to us. Surely if he is God then he could rescue us or save in some way. Perhaps we might question our faith or lose it altogether thinking if this is the way God treats his people I'm not interested. I suspect many of the early Christian martyrs and even Jesus had their doubts and times of wrestling with God but in the end were able to yield to God's will for them. How could they do this?

The Last Supper following was a time of agony and grief for Jesus even to the point of sweating blood.[4] All four gospels record Jesus as being troubled and in agony on his last night alive on earth. It was not a fun night. It took three hours of prayer alone before Jesus could totally yield to the Father's will and what was to come. The disciples initially were ready to defend him with Peter taking a sword and cutting off a servant's ear which Jesus heals. Jesus tells him to pit away the sword and everyone promptly disappears lest they be arrested along with Jesus and suffer the same fate as him. Peter follows afar off but in the end denies Jesus three times. The "brave apostles" cowered behind locked doors until after the resurrection. Yet Jesus preservers never faltering, giving up, turning back or expressing any kind of unwillingness to go through what the Father wanted him to. How could he do that?

To answer that lets go back to Hebrews 12:1 and take a look at it. It says

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely ] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith".(NRSV)

This I think begins to give us a clue as to how Jesus and the early martyrs were able to do what they did. They got rid of any weights or sins that might weight them down or hinder them from being to able run the race with perseverance to victory and triumph Jesus said he only did the will of the Father.[5].We know that when he died he had only the clothes he was wearing which divided up among those participating in the crucifixion as they cast lots to see would get what.[6].Jesus in his ministry taught about taking care of the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, taking care of the homeless and so forth.[7] Jesus practiced what he preached going around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.[8] The early church took to mean they sold everything they had and brought the proceeds and laid them at the apostle's feet so everyone's need were meant and nobody lacked for anything.[9] The early church was known for the love they had for one another. How could this be and could they have arrived at this point where they did it willingly?

Recently I had a dream in which I was standing on the ground then taken up above the clouds into transformative light. Others were also caught up into the same light and were transformed also. As this happened, the light spread banishing all darkness until all was light. Light represents I believe the Spirit of God/Christ and the spirit of truth which reveals all things. In I Thessalonians Paul speaks of the return of Jesus in what many have called a "rapture of the church" into heaven to escape tribulation here. May I be so bold as to say there is no rapture and the church was never called to escape but to go through triumphantly to the other side and glory. Might I also suggest that the book of Revelation is a blue print of our life now and the battles, trials, temptations we all face every day of our lives and how we can get through them successfully and what will be our reward for doing so. Lets explore the text a bit.

"For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever."[10]

As we look at this passage we see that the Lord is coming down out of heaven with first a cry of command or shout. This shows us he wants our attention and doesn't want us to miss what he wants to say to us. Secondly it says he speaks with a voice of an archangel. Archangels are God's messengers to people as like the Archangel Michael who brings God's message to Daniel and Archangel Gabriel who appears to Zacharias concerning the birth of his son John the Baptist and to Mary to tell her of her going to be the mother of Jesus. He also appears to Daniel. Therefore the Lord comes to bring a message. To make sure we don't miss it but instead get how important this message is he adds a trumpet blast to make sure we hear. The message is we shall not all sleep which is a nice euphemism for death either natural or spiritual. It speaks of the dead rising first and then the rest of us. It is my belief that God continues to pursue us after death and to woo us and to take us higher. Meanwhile he is pursuing us here on earth also trying to catch us up higher with them so that all can be saved as he is not willing any should perish. Some may ask about the Great White Throne Judgment where Jesus tells people to depart from him into everlasting punishment?[11] Here we see two crowds of people goats and sheep, The sheep hear the voice of the Lord and respond accordingly entering into all God has prepared for them. However the goats hear the same voice but a different message completely one of condemnation and judgment. For light does two things it can illumine us and show a better way, a new dawning, a better place than where we are at, On the other light can blind us so we cannot see and our left alone in our darkness to stumble along as best they can. In Matthew 7th chapter Jesus speaks of people who claim to know him and have done many things in his name. Yet they too get a message of rejection and punishment.[12] What determines the two groups one hears and does and the other hears but doesn't do anything about it. Jesus says he never knew or approved of them. They were simply doing their thing for God. Paul tells us Satan can appear as an angel of light to deceive even the very elect of God if that were possible.[13] While I personally believe it is impossible for one who is truly born again and seeking God to be deceived there I suspect many like those in Matthew who think they are saved are following what they believe to be the voice of God. However when they come into the true presence they don't recognize the true voice of God. Being blind they cant see the truth and hear only condemnation and judgment. Problem Jesus says he will reject anyone who comes to him and God says he wants everyone to be saved.[14] God can't go against his own nature nor can he deny his word. Jesus said he rejects no one and God says he wants everyone saved. Therefore it has to be.

I think that the goats hear the voice of God but think its fake news not real because it doesn't line up with what they believe and have heard. So they follow their own voices and hearts and go off to their fate. By the time they wake up and realize the truth it may well be to late and they have gone too far to turn back. Instead they find themselves somewhere where God is not, where they can see and feel with no escape there to suffer eternally. One other scenario could be found in Revelation in reference to Gehenna where it says all whose names were not found in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire. I believe it's possible that all people who have ever been born were written in the book of life. However that life has to be fed and kept going by God who is the life giver. If we choose to ignore him then we cut ourselves off from the source of life and our place in the book of life. So therefore we either end up drifting somewhere or cease to exist.

Going back to our passage in I Thessalonians it says we will be caught up into the air there to be forever with the Lord. The air is the air we breathe the spirit of God which was breathed into the first man and he became a living and immortal soul. It is that same spirit that can transform us and our world. In God transformed by his spirit and love nothing matters or can get us as whatever happens it temporary and then comes the joy and calmness of heaven and eternal to all who believe and walk in love as Children of God who when they see him will be like him as they will see him like he really is.[15] That is what God is calling us to through his Son. It is love and letting the spirit of God come fill us and take over our entire beings that will transform us our world even as it did the apostles at Pentecost and the early church. It is to realize Jesus said its finished. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua meaning God has saved. He did this as the anointed one of God (Christ). That means we are in the 7th Sabbath day of rest and next comes 8 which is the number of new beginnings. The tapestry of my original vision is I believe the universal body of Christ whose only requirement for membership is that we love one another. It is recognizing that all who love are born of God irrespective of anything else. God's arms reaches out to all and are totally inclusive rejecting no one. His true church will be the same. It is that spirit of love through God's spirit that transformation will come. I say Maranatha, come Lord Jesus come and make us like you. Let us be the image of Christ restored clearly for all to see and be transformed by.