Into His Image
(Please read "The 2 Sides of God" before reading this if you haven't as this is part 2)
So the Old Testament reveals God mainly as a holy God and the New Testament reveals Him mainly as a God of love in Jesus Christ. Because He is holy, He is a righteous Judge who has to punish our sins. But because He is also love, He comes down to earth as a man and receives the just punishment Himself on our behalf, so we can be forgiven and cleansed by His blood.
Thanks to the price paid on the cross, we are now back in fellowship with a holy God and we have access to His presence. We are proclaimed "not guilty". Our debt to God has been paid! If it stopped there, it would already be wonderful as this is the ultimate act of love that brings reconciliation between God and the human race.
But something else happens as well. God's purpose through the cross and resurrection was not only to cleanse us from sin so we could be fine to appear in His presence. His purpose was much deeper: it was to change us completely so His presence could dwell in us. Since the Old Testament times, God's desire has always been to dwell in the midst of His people (see Ezekiel 37:27). This is a mystery, but through our faith in Jesus Christ, we are made new (or born again) and we become the temple of the Spirit of God. God's Holy Spirit comes and makes His home in us.
"Jesus answered him, “If a man loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him." (John 14:23)
"What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6:19)
Many Christians take this for granted and have ceased to be amazed at such a thing. But when we stop to think about it, this is beyond anything we can ever dream of... The God of the universe lives in us! The omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, infinite, holy and loving God dwells in us! If you ever think you don't have enough resources, think again!
Nevertheless, God's presence in us is not meant solely to amaze us or give us goosebumps. God's Spirit lives in us because - as well as having a close fellowship with us - He wants to accomplish something specific: making us more like Him. He wants to mold us into His image, which is the image of Christ.
"But we all, seeing the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The Holy Spirit is at work in us to shape us, break us, change us, transform us from the inside out. This is a life long process, and the end product should be the perfect image of Christ. We have a God who wants us to be like Him! The main reason He saved us is so that we could be like Him. This may look like an impossible challenge, but nothing is impossible with God.
And since we know that our God is a God of love and holiness, we can understand that to be made more like Him involves growing in love and holiness. In fact the 2 main characteristics that should define a Christian are these: someone who lives a life of love (toward God and others); and someone who lives a life of holiness.
If we only consider the holy side of the "coin", we stand at risk of becoming legalistic; and we only consider the love side of the "coin", we are at risk of tolerating sin to please people. We need both to get the right balance.
- God calls us and enables us by His Spirit in us to love with His own love poured out in our hearts.
"... because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5)
This is a love that goes beyond what the world knows and is able to give. The Bible calls it "agape" love. It is a sacrificial love that enables us to lay down our lives for others. Ultimately, it is the same love that Christ manifested at Calvary.
A Christian who walks in love is a person who is kind, caring and who gives to the point of putting God's interests and other people's interests above their own.
- God also calls us and enables us to live a holy life through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.
"... because God has from the beginning called you to salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief of the truth."
It is the work of the Spirit to sanctify us. He is the One who makes us holy. He puts in our hearts a desire for purity and a repulsion towards sin. Our appetite for sin decreases and our desire to please God increases. We are set free from the power of sin in our lives and we are empowered to walk in righteousness. The Bible tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin which means that we can now decide not to sin; whereas we used to be in bondage under the power of sin, and unable to stop sinning. Thankfully, we have now become slaves of righteousness to live according to holiness (see Romans 6:17-18).
A Christian who walks in holiness is a person of integrity who stays pure, is radical against evil and does not compromise with sin.
So because He is holy, God calls us to be holy.
"But as He who has called you is holy, so be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
And because He is love, God calls us to love.
" Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)
God's life is a life of love and holiness, therefore our life should be a life of love and holiness. However by His grace He does not only call us to love and holiness, He also enables us. His Holy Spirit empowers us to live this life. We do not walk in "perfect" love and holiness, but He perfects us with time, as we mature in our Christian life. This is a life-long process.
In God's unsearchable wisdom, He has given us the privilege to take part in His divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4). When we received Him He changed our nature so that we may have His own nature. His life in us is all we need; and if we allow Christ to live His life in us daily, then when the world sees us they will be able to get a glimpse of the wonderful God we serve - who is both LOVE and HOLY.