March 20, 2012

All things for my good

Jesus is perfection from eternity past and forever. He never sins, loves us perfectly and sacrificially, and always keeps His promises. If anyone asks me, “If you could be someone else, who would it be?” no other person sets a higher ideal that the Lord. 
I cannot be Jesus, but by the incredible grace of God, it is possible to be like Him. In fact, this is my destiny. The following verses say so, and have been my favorite verses since I became a Christian. These verses also describe the way that it happens.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28–29)
God, in His great wisdom and power, can use anything to shape His children into the image of His son. Think of a sculptor who has a large block of marble and wants to carve a horse. As one has said, “I just remove everything that does not look like a horse.”

This is what the Lord does in the lives of His people. First He puts His Son inside us. Like that chunk of marble, we bear a hidden treasure. Then, as if that were not amazing enough, throughout life He uses every instrument available to chip away all that does not look like Jesus. This is a slow process, but in the end when I step into eternity, all that stone will be gone.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)
For me, seeing Jesus is also an amazing hope in itself. What an incredible event to look forward to and long for with all my heart. He is my Savior, my best friend, my redeemer and defender. He guides and leads me, through good times and bad. Yet if seeing His face is not amazing enough, He promises in these verses also that I will be like Him. 

This is not something I can make happen. He does the transformation. Some of it is through the events of life that chip away at all the parts that do not look like Him. Some of it is being with Him, spending time near Him. In our humanness, we tend to take on characteristics of those with whom we spend time and are close. It is even more that way concerning time with Jesus. 

While I cannot shape myself into His image, I have some responsibility in the process. I’m not to hold on to that outer stony stuff that is my old sinful nature. The next verse says, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) This means that I let go of sin and self as He applies the tools of life. Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom once said, “I’ve learned not to hold on to anything too tightly because it hurts when He pries my fingers loose.”

Letting God do the carving and shaping is much easier when I focus on His purpose in doing this. I can cooperate with Him by asking what is there about Jesus that needs to be visible in my life. What does God want from me that I can only do by faith in the One who lives in me? Certainly each of those “all things” comes with a challenge to trust and obey God. When I do that, the chunks yield and fall away much easier.

Today’s “all things” include saying goodbye to our daughter. We put her on an airplane last night with a visa in her hand. She spent a year getting it so she can marry her fiancĂ© and live in another country. She has never lived more than an hour from us. Now we must take a flight ourselves to see her. I’m looking at her photo and already miss her, feeling a bit empty and more than a bit teary-eyed.

How does Jesus respond to this? Not by feeling sorry for Himself or whining that she is so far away. He who lives in me will continue to pray for her. As I do that in His image, He by His own grace will continue to answer our prayers, showing her His overwhelming love and power. All this is because He can use all things for the good plans that He has for His people.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Jesus, You are so precious. Trusting in You is a blessing. Even though the “all things” of life can be difficult, challenging, or bitter-sweet like today, yet You have the good of Your people in Your plans. You want the very best for us. That very best is to be without all my hang-ups and selfishness — and instead, be like You.

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