Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart. It is an amazing life because we get to experience intimacy with God, but that does not mean we will have comfort and ease. In addition to experiencing the same pains, losses, and tragedies as the rest of the world, Christians also have persecution, spiritual discipline and conviction, and the sometimes-painful process of sanctification. All of this culminates in a life that will leave battle scars on the canvas of our souls.
This all struck a deep nerve in me while reading Because We Love Him: Embracing a Life of Holiness by Clyde Cranford.
In his chapter on discipline, he writes that we should see all difficulties as part of the discipline of God to make us holy. Samuel Rutherford was a 17th-century Presbyterian theologian, pastor, and author, who was jailed for his religious beliefs. While reflecting on God’s discipline, he wrote, “Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh deep furrows on my soul? He purposeth a crop.”
“God purposes a crop in our lives as well,” Cranford said. And indeed He does. He intends a crop in the life of every one of His children. But what does that crop look like, and what will it include? Cranford noted several things in his book, which I highly recommend reading. I have highlighted a few of them below.
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).
I have been present for the birth of three beautiful children. Each one came out as complete, fully formed human beings. They all had 10 fingers, 10 toes, hands, legs, eyes, and lungs they used to scream every night between the hours of midnight and 4:00 AM.
But they were not complete. They will physically grow, but they will also grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
At the moment of salvation, Christians are full formed believers. They have been given all the rights and privileges belonging to the children of God. All the promises of God are poured out on them. But that does not mean they are complete. We as Christians will spend the rest of our lives pursuing a deeper understanding of Jesus putting what we learn into practice.
For those 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 8:29).
I love a good recliner. There are few things in this world more relaxing to me than plopping down in a worn recliner, throwing my feet up, and reading a book. I did this even as a child.
But when I would visit my grandfather, his recliner was never really comfortable to me. As I grew, I began to understand why. Other than myself and my sister, my grandfather was the only one who ever sat in that chair. It was formed to him. It rocked at a slight angle because that was how he rocked it. The footstool had an impression in the middle because he always sat with his left ankle on top of his right.
As we Christians progress in our sanctification, our hearts will become more and more conformed to Jesus. When we try to take back the throne of our heart, it won’t sit right. When we place the world as our top priority, it won’t be comfortable.
You may look at your life and be discouraged because you see a deeper impression of Jesus on the lives of those around you than in yourself. But take heart, this verse is a promise from God. He will do the work of conforming you, of impressing Himself on your soul. This does not mean you have no work to do. You are an active participant in your sanctification, but you are not working alone. The Spirit of God, who lives in you, “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
But our conformity to the image of Jesus is but one fruit of the crop God has for us.
Glory of Christ
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
God’s primary motivation is His own glory. This is not out of vanity or misplaced pride, but because it is right. Who else would God give glory to? Who or what would be worthy of the praise of God?
Being conformed to the image of Christ is to live a life wholly dedicated to the glory of the One we are imitating. I recently listened to one of my favorite teachers, Michael Kruger, teach through the book of Hebrews. One of the primary messages of Hebrews is the supremacy of Jesus. He is the point of the Old Testament. He is the point of the New Testament. His glory is the point of our lives.
He is the only being worthy “to receive glory and honor and power, for [He] created all things, and by [His] will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
The final crop of our lives is the glory of Christ. Conforming to the image of Christ is done for the glory of Christ. Every day we live and breathe is for the glory of Christ. And when we breathe out for the last time in this life, we will die for the glory of Christ and dwell, eternally, in the glory of Christ.
God has purposed a crop for your life. Much fruit will come. But at the final harvest, the ultimate end of your life and mine will be the glory of Jesus Christ. Let that thought give us hope, encouragement, and the strength to persevere.