The key verse in the book of Romans is 5:10; “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in His life.” Reconciliation to God through Christ has been accomplished already, but salvation in His life from so many negative things is still a daily matter.
The death of Christ on the cross has already dealt with all negative things. This is the reason we refer to Christ’s death as the all-inclusive death. Since Christ’s death has already dealt with the negative things, why do we still need to be saved in His life? We need such a salvation because we need to experience what Christ has accomplished for us. All that Christ has accomplished on the cross is an objective fact, but we need a subjective experience of this fact, an experience in life. Christ died on the cross as our substitute, but furthermore there is the need for us to be identified with Him in His death. The only way Christ’s accomplishment in substitution can be applied to us in experience is by our having Christ as our life. This is the identification that brings us into the reality of the fact.
In previous messages we have covered five items from which we need to be saved in Christ’s life: the law of sin, worldliness, naturalness, individualism, and divisiveness. In this message we shall cover the sixth item, which is self-likeness.
In Matthew 16 the Lord Jesus spoke about denying the self immediately after He had said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Although Peter was speaking out of his love for the Lord, in the eyes of God Peter was Satan at that moment. According to Matthew 16, Satan is the reality of the self. Self is the incarnation of Satan. As Christ is the embodiment and expression of God, so self is the embodiment and expression of Satan.
Every human being is a self. Not only were we born with the self and in the self, but we were born a self. As long as we are natural, we express the self. Whether we love others or hate them, what we express is the expression of self. A certain person may be very good, but he may be only good in a natural way. Although this one may be full of love, his love is natural. In essence, he is no different from someone who is full of hatred. In the eyes of God, someone who is naturally loving has the same essence as one who is naturally full of hatred. Do not think that your natural love expresses Christ and only your hatred does not. As long as you are natural and in the self, what you express is the self, not Christ. The expression of Christ comes only out of the life of Christ.
When we speak of being saved in the life of Christ from self-likeness, we mean being saved from the self. Self-likeness is the expression, the appearance, of the self. The expression of your self is your self-likeness. We need to be saved in the life of Christ from such a self-expression. When Christ died on the cross, He pronounced the sentence of judgment on the self, but this judgment still needs to be executed. Christ has judged the self objectively; we need to execute this judgment subjectively in our experience.
To be saved from the self is to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. This means that to be saved from the self is to be made truly a son of God. Romans 8 speaks of children of God, sons of God, and heirs of God (vv. 16, 14, and 17). We are children in the initial stage, sons in a more advanced stage, and heirs in the stage of maturity. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Not until we have the leading of the Spirit of God can we be considered sons of God. Until then, we are simply children, those who can cry “Abba Father” and who have the witness of the Spirit with their spirit. In order to be an heir, we must be both matured and qualified. Our concern in this message is not with the children nor the heirs, but with the sons. Romans 8:29 does not say that we shall be conformed to the image of the children of God or to the image of the heirs of God; it says that we shall be conformed to the image of the Son of God.
Through this process of conformation, the firstborn Son will have many brothers. As the Son of God, Christ was the unique, only begotten Son. Now through His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, Christ has become the firstborn Son, and the many sons, who are the brothers of Christ, are being conformed to His image. Romans 1:3 and 4 say, “Concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who came out of the seed of David according to the flesh, and was designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness out of the resurrection of the dead.” In these verses Christ, the Son of God, is the prototype, whereas in 8:29 the many brothers are those who have been “mass-produced” from the prototype. In 1:4 the one Son is designated, but in 8:29 the many sons are conformed. The designation of the one Son is related to the prototype; the conformation of the many sons is the work of “mass production.” Having gained the prototype, God is now seeking to have the “mass production” in order to produce many sons in the image of the Firstborn.
Do you look like a son of God? Although you may look like a son of God in some respects, in most respects you probably do not. How much we need to be saved from the self in order to bear the appearance of God’s sons! In the church life we are in the process of becoming sons of God.
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