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Bible verses about Conforming to God's Will
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Nehemiah 5:14-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Few of us know much about Nehemiah or the times he lived in. Our mental picture of him is that he was austere, harsh, and perhaps even pharisaical. From what the Bible presents of him, he was undoubtedly serious about his responsibilities, brave, and circumspect, and he loved and feared God. His character displays a lofty nobleness. Regardless of our estimation, God thinks highly of him, and his life was so remarkable He included a few vignettes of it in His Word for our instruction.

When the Persian king appointed him governor of the Jewish exiles who had returned to Palestine from Babylon, Nehemiah discovered that the governors before him were in the habit of "squeezing" the people for their own gain. Nobody would have wondered if Nehemiah had done the same. Is that not the way people in government operate? Everybody does it! The people would have simply shrugged their shoulders, fully expecting it as the way things are done. It was the custom. Nehemiah's standard, however, was exceedingly higher: His hands must be absolutely clean.

Why did he do it? He feared God! Nehemiah's way of living reached down into the nitty-gritty of everyday life and may have involved considerable sacrifice. He would not operate the way the world does. Certainly, the laborer is worthy of his hire, but sometimes sacrifices must be made, and Nehemiah determined this was one of them. He would not conform to what everyone else did. Several other vignettes from the same book confirm this was not a one-time occurrence. Unless we are willing to say, "No," to what everybody else is doing, and do it often, our Christian life will be static from its outset.

God and the world do not have the same perspectives on how to live life. Once we have the right standards, God's standards, saying, "No," to ourselves is of paramount importance if we want to put on the image of God and remove the image of this world. The world, combined with our own carnality, keeps pressuring us to conform to its attitudes and ways, and if we are passive, it is easy for us to drift with its way of thinking. We must make choices. Sometimes, they are very difficult because of the sacrifice involved. In them, we will show whether we respect God and His purpose or this world.

The fear of God must become a foundation stone to us, one of the kind of nobility and strength of character Nehemiah possessed. It does not matter whether the issue is losing weight because of gluttony or eliminating debt because of covetousness. The world takes little notice of God until trouble is already upon them. But we must learn to do all things to glorify God, and it takes deeply respecting Him to do this. Honestly, would Jesus allow Himself to drift from His focus on glorifying God to become obese or in debt to the point of bankruptcy? His respect for—fear of—God would not permit Him to do these things.

The Christian has to rip himself from the world's way of thinking and doing. He must be a nonconformist in this regard. He must always understand that the world, though mentioning God frequently, does not fear Him, as its conduct shows. Romans 3:18 asserts, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." A Christian must consciously march to the beat of a different drummer.

Why do we not all conduct our life the way Nehemiah did? Partly because of laziness, to a degree because of cowardice, and sometimes because of ignorance. At times, we are so out of touch with God, we become swept up in sinful activity before we are aware what is going on. Yet, at other times, we fail because of this powerful sheep characteristic to give in to the impulse of the moment because everybody else is doing it. There is no tyranny like the tyranny of the majority. It can be every bit as harsh as the tyranny of a despot. Either can put us into bondage. Unless we are willing to look at things through the eyes of God and stand on our own two feet because we fear Him, we will be just as helplessly enslaved to the opinions of the hour as ever.

It is a historical truism that truth on an issue often lies with the minority. The opinions and ways of the majority are often impulsive, taking the path of least resistance without being concerned about the long-range effects. Those in the minority usually have the advantage of thinking things through because they know their ideas will be unpopular and resisted, and so they prepare themselves better.

God is most concerned about how things end, the conclusion of a matter. He wants us to understand what the fruit of an action will be. Nehemiah was willing to be different, a non-conformist if conforming was wrong. His respect for God and what God thought was greater than his fear of what men would think of him or what he would have to deny himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part One): Fear


 

Matthew 6:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse leads into the model prayer, indicating that we should not pray with the idea that we are bringing something new to God. It also introduces the thought that the purpose of prayer is not to overcome God's reluctance to answer and give but rather to lay hold of His willingness to help us toward His perspective, the fulfillment of His purpose and into His Kingdom. The overall emphasis in our requests, then, must be inclined toward His purpose and will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

Matthew 7:21-24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Most assuredly, neither Jesus' teaching nor His manner of living conformed to this world. His warning is that many will use His name and authority to do marvelous works, but in their personal lives they will not submit to the very instructions that would develop their relationship with God and work to produce His image in them! The only conclusion we can draw is that, despite receiving the instruction, they nonetheless conformed to the world.

Clearly, if we do not know God because we are not really walking in His shoes, as it were, if He does not recognize us or see in us any family resemblance to Him because we are not at one with Him, He will command us to depart, to leave the Marriage Supper! We will not spend eternity with Him. We will have built our house on sandy ground despite all the privileges and warnings given to us!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Two): Vision


 

Mark 1:40-42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice the man's faith: "If You will, You can do it." God had revealed to him Christ's power to do this. He was confident that Christ had the power to do what he asked Him to do. The only question that remained was, "Is he willing to do it?" which is why he worded his request as he did. "If You will, I have the confidence that You can do it." Christ found this appeal within His will and the will of God. Jesus reached out and touched him.

There was a great deal in that act. The very act of reaching out and touching the man indicated that his request would be fulfilled because the law that He gave to the Israelites in the Old Testament forbade a person from touching a leper (Leviticus 5:3). In a sense, His act violated the very law that He gave to Israel, but His mind was made up He to do it to perform an act of mercy and deliverance. That quickly, He reacted to the man's appeal. At this juncture, the important fact is that the man clearly believed that Jesus Christ had the power to heal him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer


 

John 6:38-40   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "I" in these three verses is very emphatic! To show this emphasis, some translations read, "I Myself." He personally promises to follow through, fulfilling the Father's will, and to guard and preserve those given Him to the very end! He is virtually ensuring a calling that cannot be revoked, a foundation that cannot be shaken in any way, a seal or promise that cannot be broken, and a life that cannot perish! He practically guarantees the salvation of the saints! This is God's promise through Jesus Christ to "everyone who sees the Son."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

John 6:44   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God foreknew us and determined to call us before He ever made His summons known to us. By doing so, He was making a prognosis. We are in this elite group, the called, only because the great God of heaven and earth specifically and personally summoned us by forcibly bringing the good news to our attention so we would be motivated to choose to respond freely to it.

He then led us to repentance, to a personal understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and to an acceptance of it. Then He gave us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey the obligations of the New Covenant. It is in this combination of factors, plus a few more, that we can begin to understand the possibilities of human life. We see in Christ the pattern of what we ought to be, and the motivation to be in His image begins to arise in us. But this occurs only because God has summoned us to be in this elite group, the firstfruits, to run for this awesome goal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

Acts 5:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We generally think of this verse only in terms of a state of persecution, but its principle applies all the time. Life is a series of compulsions which lead us to choices. These compulsions come in two varieties: 1) forced, as by a gun to our temple which says, "Do this or else," and 2) unforced, just as each dawn comes regardless, gently persuading us to rise and meet our duties. Each pushes us to choose, and the only real difference in them is their strength.

We are surrounded by various elements that, forced or unforced, exert pressure to compel us to submit to them out of loyalty. Both good and evil are compulsions pressuring us to follow them. Our culture urges us to "go along." Family ties influence us to blend in. Our peers, friends in business, school, or neighborhood buddies, entice us to conform. These compulsions sweep us along, and all too frequently we go right into idolatry to satisfy our desires to be accepted and feel secure. But Peter and the other apostles said, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 6:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Romans 6:4 restates the reason for our being admitted into God's presence: Our altered standing before God enables us to walk in newness of life so we can be conformed to the image of His Son.

Walking requires effort, the expending of energy, to arrive at a desired destination. Are any works involved in the salvation process? "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). These works most assuredly do not earn salvation, but at the same time, God requires them. In fact, this verse says we are being created for the very purpose of doing them! Such works are covered within the general term "walk."

Besides requiring effort, walking implies a destination, a goal. When a person walks, he is moving purposefully to accomplish something regardless of whether it is to flip a light switch, shop at a store, get some exercise, or go to work or school. God requires that we "walk in newness of life." It is our God-appointed goal in life and the reason He invites us into His presence. Our lives cannot consist of aimless drifting; we are headed somewhere, even as Israel's goal was the Promised Land.

I Peter 1:13-19 highlights what we must do:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Christianity is a way involving far more walking than talking. It requires effort, and most scriptures imply that the walking is voluntary. It must be this way because, most of the time when we walk, it is because we have made a voluntary decision to move from one point to another. In God's purpose, it is the only way to make the mind, nature, and character of Christ truly ours.

The last, brief phrase of Romans 6:4 contains a great deal about life's overriding purpose. In a broad sense, it is what life after conversion is all about. It is awakening to the reality of our spiritual slavery and responsibilities through God's calling, followed by a change of mind toward Him and a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection so we might walk in conformity to Christ into God's Kingdom.

God allows the sacrifice of Christ to take the place of the claim He has on us to restore us to fellowship with Him, which is absolutely essential in providing us the strength, motivation, and gifts—whatever it takes—to complete the walk successfully. Mankind has never enjoyed this; it has not had contact with God since He cut humanity off by putting Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.

This walking in newness of life is how going on to perfection is accomplished (Hebrews 6:1). God alters our standing with Him legally, graciously, and with generosity and kindness so we can fellowship with Him through prayer, Bible study, fasting, meditation, and obedience. God's spiritual creation requires our participation. It cannot be impressed upon us; we must consciously make decisions to take that walk.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

Romans 6:4-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The walk (verse 4) is sometimes quite difficult, but Paul provides encouragement and hope in Romans 6:5-6. As difficult as our march from slavery might be at times, the glory of the resurrection and the complete putting off of the flesh lies before us.

The word "united" ("planted" in the King James) in verse 5 draws our attention because it is elsewhere translated "grafted" or "engrafted." In John 15, Christ describes Himself as a vine, and we are its branches. In Romans 9, Paul compares converted Israelites to natural branches and Gentiles as unnatural branches grafted into the same vine. Union is achieved with all sharing a part. All are receiving of the same source, and all are striving to produce the same fruit.

But how do we know we are attached to that Vine?

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (I John 2:3-5)

There must be something that proves we are united with the Father and the Son, engrafted as part of Them and in union with Them. That something is the manner in which we conduct our life.

Language identifies people and so does the clothing they wear. A person's name is probably the most common of all identifiers. But the sons of God, those in union with the Father and the Son, are identified by commandment-keeping. It verifies that we are united with Christ. Commandment-keeping is love. Biblical love is an action, not merely a feeling. It may contain a positive feeling, even outright affection and passion for the one or ones who are the recipients of the act of love, but its foundation lies in the act rather than the emotion.

Acts of love without emotion can be entirely sterile. This extreme is not biblical love. At the other extreme are those who emotionally say they love Christ. What they say is probably true - as far as their understanding of love goes. Their declaration of love for Him may be motivated by feeling awe and gratitude springing from a recognition that He is indeed Creator, Savior, and High Priest, and that this awesome Being actually humbly sacrificed His life for them personally. Often, such people will then proceed to break His commandments, proving they do not know what love is.

In that kind of relationship, feelings eventually run dry, and the relationship and therefore the union ends. The love of the Bible is always first moral. This morality verifies we are yielding to Him. John commands us in I John 2:6 to walk as Jesus walked, and Jesus walked morally. The only way we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is to walk as He walked.

This is the reason for our standing with God. We stand before Him as Jesus Christ for the very purpose of living life as He did as closely as possible. We cannot say we do this perfectly because our actions and reactions, our tempers and feelings, our sins of omission and commission betray us, revealing our continual need for the application of Christ's blood to restore our standing to the pristine standard of our Savior, even if for only a short time. Our gratitude to God for His thoughtful foresight and merciful patience is thus renewed in the acknowledgement of our sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

Romans 8:28-31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here is God's purpose plainly stated. Those He calls are to be conformed to the image of His Son, clearly tied to the theme of creation where God says in Genesis 1:26, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." We have a small part in this greatest of God's creative works. We must yield to that purpose. We must surrender to it and allow its power to carry us along to perfection. But it requires faith, conviction of its rightness, and devotion to its requirements. This creative process requires sacrificing our former lives with their sinful desires in submission to the details of God's purpose for us. This is our small part in this vast operation ongoing already for about 6,000 years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction


 

Romans 8:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If God predestines someone to be conformed to the image of His Son, has God ever failed at anything? Never! Philippians 1:6 says that God is able to finish what He starts. We may stumble, but nevertheless, God desires to save us. He wants us to be in His Kingdom, and He has arranged for us to be resurrected at the seventh trumpet, at the return of Jesus Christ. He is preparing us to be conformed in the image of His Son so that we can rule under and with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God. Do we have that hope? Does it stir us that God has not failed at anything yet and that He desires us to be conformed to the image of His Son?

This will not be easy because to do this He may have to give us some terribly great pain. A great deal depends on whether or not we submit to Him—whether we submit willingly or whether we fight Him all along the way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

Romans 8:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The purpose for our admittance into God's presence is that "we be conformed to the image of His Son." When first justified by Christ's blood and admitted into God's presence, we stand before Him, but we are not yet in His Son's image. At this point, the work has only begun; Christ's righteousness is only legally imputed to us. That righteousness is indeed real, but it is not yet inscribed or engraved into our character to become part of our very being. We stand free, clear, and accepted, but we do not have the same nature, mind, or character as the Son.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

Romans 8:29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ was born first, and He will be followed by many others, who will be His brothers. If we to be conformed to His image, how can we be anything except what Jesus Christ is—especially when we consider the New Testament emphasis for us to change to be as He is! Does Paul not say that we are to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)? This more than implies a period of spiritual growth or maturity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Romans 12:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul refers to the new man in Colossians 3:10 as a man "renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him." "Renewed," translated here in the passive voice, comes from the Greek verb anakainoo. It means "to make new" in the sense of "to make different." The new man is different from the old one in that he bears the image of God!

Paul uses a similar verb in Ephesians 4:22-23, where he asks that "you . . . be renewed in the spirit of your mind." That Greek verb, ananeoo, again translated in the passive voice, means "to renew" or "to renovate." Through years of living Satan's way of life before conversion, our mind grows corrupt; even the best parts of it become "like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

The apostle provides more details about this renewal process in Romans 12:1-2. Here, he uses the same phraseology—the renewal of a person's mind—in a context that makes his meaning crystal clear: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

The noun "renewing" (anakainosis) is related to the verb anakainoo. Like anakainoo, it carries the sense of renovation to a different, rather than a younger, state. This attests again that the new man is different from the old.

Paul uses the verb renew in the passive voice in Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:22-23. In Romans 12:2, the gerund renewing is also part of a passive structure, "be transformed." A "problem" of the passive voice is that it does not tell us the actor of a verb, except through the use of an optional prepositional phrase. For example, "The stone was thrown," although a complete sentence, does not tell us who threw the stone unless we tack on the phrase by John.

We know the renewed man is different from the old, but who is the actor? Who does the renewing Paul mentions so often? God? Humans? Angels? Romans 12:1-2 tells us.

In verse 1, Paul issues a call for action: He pleads for us to present ourselves to God as holy. In verse 2, he tells how, in a general sense, we must do this. We become holy by transforming our mind through a renewal process. In saying this, Paul establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between our mind's renewal (cause) and our transformation (effect). Renewal causes transformation.

Notice something else about verse 2: In it, Paul is doing far more than just telling us how to be transformed; he is exhorting us to carry out that transformation. God does not renew our mind! If God, by fiat, simply caused us to be transformed by renewing our mind, we would need to take no action whatsoever. God would simply renew our minds, and as an effect of His action, we would be transformed. If that were how it worked, Paul's exhortation to us would be useless, senseless, and illogical.

No, we are to renew our mind. As we do so day by day, we invariably experience a transformation of character, such that we become less and less "conformed to this world." It comes as no surprise, of course, that growth to holiness requires effort on our part. The apostle Peter issues a call for holiness in I Peter 1:16, "Be holy, for I am holy" (see Leviticus 11:44). Notice the context. Peter says we are to be "holy in all [our] conduct" (I Peter 1:15), that is, our way of life. How? "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts [those of the old man], as in your ignorance" (verses 13-14). Clearly, Peter exhorts us to become holy by changing our conduct. In following chapters, he specifically defines holy conduct for servants, wives, and husbands.

The relationship between holiness and conduct is not just a New Testament teaching. The Old Testament says the same thing. For example, Leviticus 19 clearly connects the holiness we are to seek (verse 2) with our conduct. The chapter outlines the moral and ethical conduct God requires of holy people in a number of areas, such as business and sexual matters.

Of course, all this does not deny or belittle the part God plays in our individual growth to holiness. Notice Romans 12:1 again. We attain holiness "by the mercies of God." In reality, God has a huge role to play. As we showed before, God establishes the new man in the first place. We could never do that. In addition, He provides vital help on a day-by-day basis through His Holy Spirit, a vital role, as Paul makes clear when he reminds us that God "saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).

The most basic way in which we renew our minds is by obeying God's law, the perfect reflection of His character and nature. Notice how consistently Paul describes the new man in terms of the behavior and conduct God expects from him. In fact, wherever Paul broaches the subject of the new man, a discussion of a Christian's proper moral and ethical conduct is never far away.

Charles Whitaker
Choosing the New Man (Part One)


 

Romans 12:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He is saying, "This is where we need to submit. Do not conform to or comply with the world, but instead, submit to God." Then he addresses specific areas where we need to submit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Romans 12:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To grasp this properly, one must understand these two verses against the background of the book of Romans. The preceding eleven chapters contain the doctrinal foundation and prelude to the last four chapters of practical Christian living. These two verses bridge the gap between the doctrinal foundation and the practical, daily applications. In these two verses, he is essentially saying, "In light of what I have told you, this is what you are obligated to do in order to serve—that is, to love—Christ."

First, we must operate by these two principles and give up our whole being constantly to these pursuits. Second, we must yield ourselves so that we are not merely avoiding conformity to this world but being transformed into a new being, proving to ourselves the benefits of this way of life. Thus, we are to apply these two principles to the subject of the rest of chapter 12, which primarily concerns relationships with the brethren within the church, and secondarily, with those in the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Romans 13:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Love is the essence of the spirit of God's law. The commandments are proscribed as rules of life. When we love, we have found the true principle of obedience, the true spirit of the holy law. Paul sums it all up in love. And we, having received the love of Christ, living in His love, see the law not as a stern, condemning taskmaster but as an appealing, bright vision of understanding and blessing.

We see the law embodied in Christ, and our imitation of Christ involves obedience to the law, but we fulfill the law, not simply as a standard outside, but as a living principle within. Acting according to the dictates of the way of love, our lives conform to the image of Christ, as we conform to the law. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctification is also known as becoming holy (Ephesians 1:4) and being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). It cannot be left out of God's purpose because it is the step whereby we are transformed into the image of His Son, as well as into the image of the Father. It is in this step that we begin to take on the characteristics of the Family—where we begin to think and act like the current members of the Family of God. The character, the mindset, the attitudes, the perspective, the way we think, the way we look at things begins to become just like the God's.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:14, 16 that "a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." Sanctification—if it is taking place in a person—cannot be hidden. Why is God so concerned about sanctification? Because 1) this is the step in His purpose in which the major portion of the transformation takes place, and 2) it can be seen—this is how we make a witness! Thus, when Paul sees the working faith, the laboring love, and the patient hope of the Thessalonians, he writes:

. . . remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. (I Thessalonians 1:3-4)

Seeing the fruits of their lives, he knew that they had been begotten by God—that they had God's Spirit—because they had begun "looking" like the Family. Therefore, if a person claims to be a son of God but habitually lives in sin—he is deceiving himself. Those qualities that identify his "spiritual ancestry" begin to show. "Family ties" can be seen.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

Titus 1:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Do these people have the faith of Jesus Christ, that is, do they believe in and practice the same things He did? Are they truly walking in His steps? Even to casual observance, it is obvious they are unwilling to make sacrifices to practice many of the things He did. Jesus kept the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days of Leviticus; they do not. Jesus kept Passover; they keep Easter, which Jesus never did. He never observed a single Halloween or Christmas, which are never commanded in the Bible and, in fact, are clearly pagan to the core.

This barely scratches the surface, involving only the more obvious pattern of works. However, it points to the fact that the verification that one loves God is moral. God determines the standards of morality, not men who say they love God yet often ignorantly go their own way in many areas of life. Without the keeping of the commandments, there is no other means acceptable to God to identify that we are in union with Him (John 14:15; I John 2:3-5).

This does not mean that love ends with these works—in fact, just the opposite. Keeping His commands, which express godly love, only begins the process. It is by this means that we make our witness to the world. The apostle John writes, "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (I John 2:5). Thus, this process also produces the boldness and confidence that enable us to overcome our anxious fears and conform our life to His.

We were created, called, and granted forgiveness upon confession of faith for this very purpose. In Romans 8:28-30, the apostle Paul confidently declares:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Romans 5:2 reminds us that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Our goal is set, but now we learn it is conformity to Christ that leads to glorification. Justification by itself is wonderful, but it only begins the process.

Can we honestly say that our walk is every bit as pure as His walk? If we are honest, we freely admit that, in comparison, our walk is irregular, inconsistent, and sometimes thoroughly misguided. Our actions, reactions, words, and attitudes are all too often not in accordance with Christ. We take Him into situations He never would have gotten into Himself. It should be evident why we need Passover each year. It is comforting and encouraging to remember God's mercy—that because He sees us as Christ, He gives us time to recognize what we are, repent of it, yield, and progressively conform to His Son's image.

The days of sacrificing are most assuredly not over—only what is sacrificed has changed. No longer are blood or grain offerings given but things of immeasurably greater value. Our life given in total devotion to walking as our Creator and Elder Brother Jesus walked is the sacrifice that brings conformity to Him. Before our calling, our lives may have been filled to the brim with status, activities, and things we felt were important to our well being. However, in many cases, such things must be jettisoned to accomplish this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)


 

Hebrews 2:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God sanctifies us through Jesus Christ and graciously justifies us by means of Christ's blood, providing us with His Son's righteousness and granting us entrance into a relationship with Him. The sanctification process writes the laws of God in our hearts and minds, making His righteousness real and practical to daily life. During this process, which requires our cooperation with Him in His purpose, we literally become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The overwhelming majority of Christian works come to the fore within this process as part of the preparation for God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Hebrews 10:11-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are those who are "perfected forever." However, "perfected forever" does not mean we are morally perfected. Rather, His one sacrifice is perfectly adequate to assure our standing before God. As we have seen, the sacrifices show Him proclaiming how He lived His life, but here we are seeing its impact, the consequences of what He did so well. We see man, sinning and imperfect, becoming at one with God through Christ.

By means of the burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings, we see all of God's holy requirements met in Christ so that we might be quickened by His Holy Spirit, be in continual fellowship with Them, and grow to become fully at one with Them. Ephesians 1:3-6 adds Paul's thoughts on this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

The consequences of Christ's sacrifices do not end with our acceptance before God. Acceptance creates the requirement of being conformed to the image of the Son; we are expected to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Peter frames his instruction on our responsibility once we accept Christ's sacrifice in our stead in this way: "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4-5).

This is in language any of God's children can understand. We are to offer up sacrifices in the way He did. There is not one record of Him ever making a sacrifice at the Temple. Rather, He lived their intent as a living sacrifice. This is why our identification with Him is so important. We are now part of His body; we represent Him. He lives in us, and we experience life with Him as part of us. Our conduct is open to the view of all who care to look. Are we glorifying Him?

Please understand that, though our offerings will be poor and weak in comparison to His, they are not worthless by any means. They are still acceptable to God because of Christ, and they are still a witness.

Consider these illustrations: If a couple have a small child of perhaps just a few years of age, do they expect him to run one hundred yards in nine seconds? Are they disappointed because he cannot drive a car or understand Einstein's theory of relativity? Of course not! If their child is only one year old, he may just barely be able to toddle across a room! If he falls a couple of times, do they lose their temper and put him out of the house?

Of course, they are neither disappointed at his present inabilities nor do they even think of putting him out of the house. Why? Because they know he is just a baby, and they adjust their expectations and judgments accordingly. They are confident he will get better as he matures and gains experience. They know that someday he will stride confidently across the room and much more besides. Someday, he may run a hundred yards in under ten seconds and grasp the essentials of the theory of relativity.

In other words, growth is anticipated. God's judgment of us is much the same. When we are first in Christ, He considers us as babes (I Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13). At this point, He very well may consider us as "perfect" for the time since our regeneration, and we are acceptable because of Jesus Christ. He allows us time to grow, even though we may make mistake after mistake because of our weakness and immaturity. Because of Christ, He keeps judging us as "perfect."

This is a wonderful gift! He is not overly concerned about our individual sins as long as He sees in us a steady, upward trajectory toward maturity in our conduct to reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. If a child falls as he toddles across the floor, will not his parents set him upright, dust him off, comfort him, and show him, "This is the way you do it"? Can we expect any less from God, in whose image we are? Therefore, our acceptance before Him gives us time to grow.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)


 

1 John 2:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The will of God is the driving principle of life—indeed, of all of creation because our Creator is gradually imposing His will on the whole creation as He works His purpose to His ends. Those not in harmony with that will are doomed; they will simply cease to exist! Permanent value, reality, abides only in God's purpose and His will. Everything else is vanity. We belong to eternity only as far as we attach ourselves to His will and conform to it.

If we live according to the lusts of the flesh, we are not living according to God's will. We will pass away and be destroyed. Life beyond the grave is bound up in the life we live here and now (Romans 2:5-10). This is because the blood of Jesus Christ and the way we live prepare us for walking with Him eternally.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life


 

1 John 3:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There are many verses of similar general nature, for instance II Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:24; I Thessalonians 4:7; I Timothy 2:15; I Peter 1:15-16.

When John wrote I John 3:1-3, he did not use the word "motivation." However, he strongly implies that the motivation to purify ourselves arises from knowing who we are. We are now the sons of God, and we shall become like Him as we labor to purify our conduct and attitudes to conform to His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

1 John 3:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The goal is salvation, a concept that needs to be rescued from the small ideas man has assigned to it. Protestant religion has degraded it by talking about it incessantly. But salvation is such a majestic idea! It denotes the comprehensive process of God's purpose by which He is justifying, sanctifying, and transforming His children. John shows us the transformation. God does this by calling us, granting us repentance, forgiving our sins, accepting us as righteous in His sight through Christ, and then progressively changing us through His awesome creative power, by His Spirit, into the image of His Son, until we become like Christ, made like God God, with new bodies in a new world, the new heaven and the new earth. It is deliverance from the degrading, mean lives in which we have been held captive in this world! It is living in the Kingdom of God, its goal!

We must never be guilty of minimizing the awesomeness of such a great salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

 




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