These are my teaching notes of yesterday evening.
Back in March I gave a teaching called “Discipleship 101” where I tried to provide a definition for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The teaching notes for this can be found here:
In summary, a disciple of Jesus can be defined in the following five points:
- A disciple is a reborn follower of Jesus (Matt. 4:18-20; Matt. 8:18-22; Jn. 10:27);
- A disciple submits to at least one other person who teaches him how to follow Jesus (1 Pet. 5:5; 2 Tim. 3:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 4:15-16; Eph. 5:21);
- A disciple learns Jesus’ words (Jn. 18:31-32; Ps. 19:7-8; Ps. 1:1-3; Ps. 119:11);
- A disciple imitates Jesus’ life and character (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Tim. 4:7; Gal. 5:22-23,25; Lu. 14:25-27,33);
- A disciple finds and teaches other disciples who also follow Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20; Matt. 9:36-38);
This teaching can be considered the follow-up, Discipleship 201, and discusses the transformational aspects (or marks) of when you imitate Jesus’ life and character.
Beholding the Glory of the Lord
According to John 15, we need to be abiding in Jesus, in order to bear fruit, we so we can become like Him, be transformed in His image. Since we are in Christ, we have a new regenerated heart from which we can live, with the help of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says it like this: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
I think there are three questions that Paul wants to answer for us here:
How are we being transformed? – “with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord”
We are transformed into His image by looking at His glory. How do we get an unveiled face? Paul tells us two verses earlier: “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16). You become what you constantly behold. It is about fixing our gaze on Him, look at Him, think about Him, and put Him before us again and again. This is key to becoming like Him.
To what are we being transformed? – “transformed into His image”
As we look into God’s mirror, we will be changed into the same image of the Lord. When we spend time beholding the glory of the God of love, grace, peace, and righteousness, we will see a transforming growth in love, grace, peace, and righteousness. We are being transformed – progressively, degree by degree – into the image of Christ the Lord. This work of transformation is a process. We are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us. That we be progressively be conformed to the image of Christ.
Who is doing the transforming? – “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”
With these last words, Paul is emphasizing two things. First, this access to God and His transforming presence is ours by the new covenant, because it is through the new covenant we are given the Spirit of the Lord. Secondly, this work of transformation really is God’s work in us. It happens by the Spirit of the Lord, not by the will or effort of man. We don’t achieve or earn spiritual transformation by beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord. We simply put ourselves in a place where we can be transformed by the Spirit of the Lord.
So if we are to be transformed into the image of Jesus, what is it that will be transformed:
- Transformed Mind: Believe What Jesus Believed
- Transformed Character: Live the Way Jesus Lived
- Transformed Relationships: Love as Jesus Loved
- Transformed Habits: Train as Jesus Trained
- Transformed Service: Minister as Jesus Ministered
- Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led
Transformed Mind: Believe What Jesus Believed
We need to be transformed to have the same mind as Jesus. Believe what He believes. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus. It’s quite another to believe what Jesus believed. And the first cannot be what it should be without the second. The key verse here is Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The world (in other words, the popular culture and manner of thinking which is in rebellion against God – will try to conform us to their pattern, yet we need to resist this process. Renewing the mind has not as much to do feeling nor with doing. A life based on feelings says: “How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my wife? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?” A life based on doing says: “Don’t give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that.” It is not that God is against either feeling or doing, but rather we should ask “What is true here? What does God’s Word say?” It also not necessarily mean to get more knowledge (or better knowledge), for Ephesians 4:23 says that we should “be renewed in the spirit of your minds,” but it is the ability to set our mind on the right things.
Some more verses for personal study on the mind: Psalm 26:2; Proverbs 28:26; Matthew 16:23; Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:2, 4:7; Colossians 3:2; 1 Peter 3:8.
Transformed Character: Live the Way Jesus Lived
We need to be transformed to have the same character as Jesus. Character being defined best in this case as maturity. The key verse here is Romans 5:3-4, which says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” From suffering to endurance to character to hope. This is sort of a golden chain of Christian growth and maturity. One virtue builds upon another as we grow in the pattern of Jesus. We build character through endurance (or perseverance) which comes through suffering (or trial). James says it like this: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4). When it comes to daily worldly opposition trials fall under the three categories of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (2 John 2:16). And if you think this is a new thing, consider that these three were exactly what caused Eve to sin in the garden. We read in Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [boastful pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
Some more verses for personal study on character: Matthew 4:1-11
Transformed Relationships: Love as Jesus Loved
We need to be transformed to show the same type of love in our relationships as Jesus did. The key verse here is John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The Greek word for new (kainos) here implies freshness rather than recent or different. It’s for instance also used in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation“). It’s not that Jesus just invented this command, but that He presents it in a new and fresh way. So what’s so fresh about it? Whereas the Old Testament demanded that men should love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18), the New Commandment is that they should love the brothers better than themselves, and die for their friends. The command to love wasn’t new, but the extent of love just displayed by Jesus was new, as would be the display of the cross. Love was newly defined from His example.
Some more verses for personal study on love: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:3-4; Jude 1:17-21
Transformed Habits: Train as Jesus Trained
We need to be transformed to incorporate the same habits as Jesus. The key verse here is Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Training is not trying. We must not try, but train. Training means that we commit to rearrange our lives around the practices of Jesus. We don’t try to practice spiritual disciplines, but we train ourselves to implement them into our lives because Jesus did. And over time, through a patient process, we allow the positive effects of discipline to change us. We need to train hard, be disciplined, so that we will be perfected in unity with Jesus Christ (John 17:23), perfected in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1), perfected in patience (1 Timothy 1:16), perfected in faith (James 2:22), perfected in love (1 John 4:12). We get encouragement for training and discipline by reading Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Some more verses for personal study on training: Proverbs 22:6; 1 Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 1:5-7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Transformed Service: Minister as Jesus Ministered
We need to be transformed to have the same servant heart as Jesus had. The key verse here is Galatians 5:13-14: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” Clearly, we can choose to use freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. That option (or danger) is open to us. We can take the glorious freedom Jesus has given us, spin it, and use it as a way to please ourselves at the expense of others. This is the antidote for using freedom as an occasion for the flesh. The flesh expects others to conform to us, and doesn’t care much about others. But when we through love serve one another, we conquer the flesh. This is exactly the pattern set by Jesus. He had more freedom than anyone who ever walked this earth did. Yet He used His liberty to through love serve one another. The idea is that as we naturally take care of ourselves, we should also take care of others.
Some verses for personal study on serving: Matthew 6:24; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:24-27; John 12:26; Romans 12:11; Romans 14:18; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 4:10, Titus 3:14
Transformed Influence: Lead the Way Jesus Led
We need to be transformed to have the same influence as Jesus had. The key verse here is Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Disciples are like salt because they have a preserving influence. Salt was used to preserve meats and to slow decay. Disciples are like salt because they add flavor. Christians should have a preserving and flavorful influence on their culture. We are not only light-receivers, we are also light-givers. Jesus never challenged us to become salt or light. He simply said that we are – and we are either fulfilling or failing that given responsibility. The world will see the light of the kingdom through the good works done by Jesus’ disciples (and believers today), with the result that the Father who is in heaven will be glorified.
Some more verses for personal study on influence: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 26:9-23; Philippians 2:5; Acts 4:5-13