God’s desire to conform us to the very image of His own Son sounds like a good plan to us and a worthwhile pursuit. We immediately think of all the wonderful things Jesus did while He was on earth, and we feel privileged that God wants to use our lives in a similar way.
Some of the things we admire the most in Jesus include His love for even the worst sinner, His faith to move mountains, His authority over demons, His power to heal and His anointing to preach. We have no objections for God to conform us into such an image—until we find out that He is planning to accomplish this through breaking us by means of the cross. His goal goes even beyond brokenness when it comes to our dearly loved “self” that sits on the throne of our lives.
If there is one Scripture in the entire Bible that speaks volumes of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to experience the fullness of the Lord, to have rivers of living water flow unhindered and to be changed into His likeness, it is Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Think about this Scripture. The “I” that to each of us represents the most important person on earth, our own self, was nailed to the cross and died there. With it, the greatest obstacle for Christ’s life to be seen through me is removed. Someone explained it like this: There is a cross and there is a throne in all of our lives. If “I” is on the throne, Christ is on the cross. However, if Christ is on the throne, then “I” is on the cross.
God knows that there is no peaceful coexistence possible between “self” and Christ. That’s why He breaks me in so many areas of my life, until I willingly yield my “self” to death. Only in the measure in which I will allow this cross to operate in my life—to bring death to my own selfish ambitions, my ways, my rights, my reputation and my interests—will I be able to allow Christ to manifest His life through me.
Jesus Himself never tried to walk away from either the process of brokenness or the cross because He knew very well that only through His death would we have life. There were times Jesus had the opportunity to save His own neck, but each time He made a deliberate decision to choose brokenness and death instead. For example, one of those times was when the Greeks came to Philip with this request: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21).
Eusebius, an early Church historian, sheds a little more light on this story. In his writings, he mentions that the king of a small kingdom sent several men to carry an urgent letter to Jesus. In this letter the king wrote a message that went something like this: “Jesus, I have learned about You, and I understand that the Jews are plotting to kill You. I believe You are a good man and a good teacher. Why don’t You come and be part of my kingdom and rule with me? We will take care of You.” The historian continues his account by writing the reply that Jesus supposedly gave the king. Interestingly, the answer is very similar to the one Jesus gave to those Greeks, recorded in John 12:23–26:
“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified . . . Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.”
Jesus was telling these Greeks, “If you really want to see Me, you must go where I go. My destination is the cross, where I will die in order to give life. If you truly want to see Me, you must choose the same road and die as well. Only through death will you find Me.”
How hard you and I try, even in our Christian work, to preserve our own lives and avoid the pain that accompanies the process of brokenness and death to our dear selves! Jesus said that we indeed have the choice of saving our own lives and remaining just as we are. If this is our course of action, we can study the Bible for the next 15 years and become experts, but we still will not see Him.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that only the pure in heart will see God. That purity comes not only when my sins are forgiven, but when I no longer fight to preserve my life but allow God to take me through the same lifelong process of brokenness and death through which He led Jesus His Son.
You and I must answer this question: What is it worth to me to see Jesus?
Reflecting His Image © 1998, 2004 by K.P. Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.