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Formation of Christ in the Believer

Have you ever come across one of those colourful bracelets with the short inscription W.W.J.D.? It stands for ‘What would Jesus do?’. It reminds the person wearing it to constantly measure himself against the example and model of Jesus, and thus gradually work on thinking, speaking, and behaving more like Him. 

While this approach of becoming more like Jesus is familiar to many Christians today and our current thinking, the Christians of the first centuries had a different understanding of how this can be achieved. They understood that becoming more like Jesus does not happen by just training ourselves to imitate Jesus—in fact this may lead to frustration and a sense of defeat rather than to true transformation and change, because we often experience that we are quite unable to imitate Jesus. 

How then can we ‘be conformed to the image of His Son’ (Romans 8:29), as the Word of God commands us?

The words of apostle Paul in his epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians give us insight into this. The apostle addresses the believers of these churches, saying:

‘My little children, for whom I labour in birth again until Christ is formed in you’ (Galatians 4:19).

‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (Ephesians 3:17).

This reveals to us an important aspect and a further dimension that is necessary for our spiritual growth and steadfastness which is often missing from the understanding of the Church today or lacking in the practical application, leading many Christians to be stuck at a certain level of spiritual growth, suffer from recurrent sins that they cannot overcome, are unable to imitate Christ, or are unable to enter into the intimate fellowship with Christ which they long for.

The early fathers of the Church understood the divine revelation in the words of apostle Paul that highlight that after receiving the grace of salvation, this is not the end of the process of receiving Christ, but rather the beginning of a blessed spiritual journey towards being transformed into Christlikeness by allowing Christ to grow in us and be formed in us, until we are able to say with the apostle: ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).

When we receive Christ in our life, we receive the seed of the grace of salvation. This seed should grow progressively into a person (the new inner man) who is the Person of Christ (Christ formed in me). But in some or rather many cases, it grows a little bit and stops because believers are not aware of this truth and are not vigilant in allowing it to grow. Thus, it may only remain as a seed. As a result, a believer would have received Christ, but may be continuing to live mostly according to the old man—the flesh. 

Sin is the separation from God. Our fallen nature is sinful. The new nature which we receive from Christ is not sinful. There continues to be a conflict between the old and the new natures (Galatians 5:17). 

Therefore, the process of the formation of Christ faces two oppositions: one of them is from the outside (from the evil spirits), and the other is from the inside (from the fallen nature and the reign of sin in the soul). The human soul does not want to let go of the throne of sin. Also the devil does not want this to happen as he wants to secure his authority to be able to conquer man—since the throne of sin is the field where the devil can work in the believers.

Based on how the person responds and which nature he nourishes (his old or his new nature), one of them gets stronger and more dominant than the other. If we continue to allow the new to grow, by nourishing on Christ, the Living Bread, and rejecting the things of the old so that they would start to wither, we will start to become Christ-like.

This is, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to nourish on Jesus as the Living Bread. But the Holy Spirit does not do this alone, He requires our cooperation. He calls us to work hand in hand with Him on this work. 

Christians of the first centuries had a clear understanding of the mystical process and the stages of inner spiritual growth. They knew the different stages and understood what was needed to foster this process, such as observing the seasons of salvation centred around the salvific acts of Christ, following a spiritual discipline that allows the soul and spirit to be continually girded and vigilant, living a life of true and deep repentance, living an ascetic life that bridles the flesh and its lusts, accepting suffering with joy because it is fellowship in Christ’s suffering, and benefitting from the different means of grace as channels for a steadfast life in Christ.

Thus, they were able to allow the Holy Spirit to work in them, transforming them to be Christ-like (Galatians 2:20), making them partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and bringing them into perfect unity with Himself, with all men, and with all creation (John 17:21). Indeed, the saints of the old ages—and even some today—reached the state of living in perfect harmony with God and nature, even with wild animals bringing them food and protecting them.

To complete this process of transformation into Christlikeness, we need to go through a journey which has certain principles. These principles are practical and achievable but most importantly, they are dependent on God’s grace and on opening the channels for the true Life of Christ to come into our inner being, bringing the formation of Christ within us.

The outcome of this formation is great beyond measure. This includes acquiring the Kingdom personality, the restoration of the harmony and integration between the soul, spirit, and body as was the case in man’s original creation, entering into our inheritance in Christ, the release and manifestation of the true offices of the Church, and experiencing the companionship of Christ.

To learn more, refer to the book, The Inner Man and the Formation of Christ.

Refer also to the book, Prayers and Prophesying (Build Up Your Inner Man), to learn how to pray and proclaim the blood of Jesus and prophesy over the members of your inner spiritual man through the verses of the Bible. We prophesy over the members of the old man to be crucified and replaced; thus the transformation would happen from the old to the new, from being instruments of evil into being instruments of righteousness.  

Refer also to the same book to learn how to build our inner man toward the purpose of the formation of Christ within us.

Have you ever come across one of those colourful bracelets with the short inscription W.W.J.D.? It stands for ‘What would Jesus do?’. It reminds the person wearing it to constantly measure himself against the example and model of Jesus, and thus gradually work on thinking, speaking, and behaving more like Him. 

While this approach of becoming more like Jesus is familiar to many Christians today and our current thinking, the Christians of the first centuries had a different understanding of how this can be achieved. They understood that becoming more like Jesus does not happen by just training ourselves to imitate Jesus—in fact this may lead to frustration and a sense of defeat rather than to true transformation and change, because we often experience that we are quite unable to imitate Jesus. 

How then can we ‘be conformed to the image of His Son’ (Romans 8:29), as the Word of God commands us?

The words of apostle Paul in his epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians give us insight into this. The apostle addresses the believers of these churches, saying:

‘My little children, for whom I labour in birth again until Christ is formed in you’ (Galatians 4:19).

‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (Ephesians 3:17).

This reveals to us an important aspect and a further dimension that is necessary for our spiritual growth and steadfastness which is often missing from the understanding of the Church today or lacking in the practical application, leading many Christians to be stuck at a certain level of spiritual growth, suffer from recurrent sins that they cannot overcome, are unable to imitate Christ, or are unable to enter into the intimate fellowship with Christ which they long for.

The early fathers of the Church understood the divine revelation in the words of apostle Paul that highlight that after receiving the grace of salvation, this is not the end of the process of receiving Christ, but rather the beginning of a blessed spiritual journey towards being transformed into Christlikeness by allowing Christ to grow in us and be formed in us, until we are able to say with the apostle: ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).

When we receive Christ in our life, we receive the seed of the grace of salvation. This seed should grow progressively into a person (the new inner man) who is the Person of Christ (Christ formed in me). But in some or rather many cases, it grows a little bit and stops because believers are not aware of this truth and are not vigilant in allowing it to grow. Thus, it may only remain as a seed. As a result, a believer would have received Christ, but may be continuing to live mostly according to the old man—the flesh. 

Sin is the separation from God. Our fallen nature is sinful. The new nature which we receive from Christ is not sinful. There continues to be a conflict between the old and the new natures (Galatians 5:17). 

Therefore, the process of the formation of Christ faces two oppositions: one of them is from the outside (from the evil spirits), and the other is from the inside (from the fallen nature and the reign of sin in the soul). The human soul does not want to let go of the throne of sin. Also the devil does not want this to happen as he wants to secure his authority to be able to conquer man—since the throne of sin is the field where the devil can work in the believers.

Based on how the person responds and which nature he nourishes (his old or his new nature), one of them gets stronger and more dominant than the other. If we continue to allow the new to grow, by nourishing on Christ, the Living Bread, and rejecting the things of the old so that they would start to wither, we will start to become Christ-like.

This is, of course, the work of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to nourish on Jesus as the Living Bread. But the Holy Spirit does not do this alone, He requires our cooperation. He calls us to work hand in hand with Him on this work. 

Christians of the first centuries had a clear understanding of the mystical process and the stages of inner spiritual growth. They knew the different stages and understood what was needed to foster this process, such as observing the seasons of salvation centred around the salvific acts of Christ, following a spiritual discipline that allows the soul and spirit to be continually girded and vigilant, living a life of true and deep repentance, living an ascetic life that bridles the flesh and its lusts, accepting suffering with joy because it is fellowship in Christ’s suffering, and benefitting from the different means of grace as channels for a steadfast life in Christ.

Thus, they were able to allow the Holy Spirit to work in them, transforming them to be Christ-like (Galatians 2:20), making them partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and bringing them into perfect unity with Himself, with all men, and with all creation (John 17:21). Indeed, the saints of the old ages—and even some today—reached the state of living in perfect harmony with God and nature, even with wild animals bringing them food and protecting them.

To complete this process of transformation into Christlikeness, we need to go through a journey which has certain principles. These principles are practical and achievable but most importantly, they are dependent on God’s grace and on opening the channels for the true Life of Christ to come into our inner being, bringing the formation of Christ within us.

The outcome of this formation is great beyond measure. This includes acquiring the Kingdom personality, the restoration of the harmony and integration between the soul, spirit, and body as was the case in man’s original creation, entering into our inheritance in Christ, the release and manifestation of the true offices of the Church, and experiencing the companionship of Christ.

To learn more, refer to the book, The Inner Man and the Formation of Christ.

Refer also to the book, Prayers and Prophesying (Build Up Your Inner Man), to learn how to pray and proclaim the blood of Jesus and prophesy over the members of your inner spiritual man through the verses of the Bible. We prophesy over the members of the old man to be crucified and replaced; thus the transformation would happen from the old to the new, from being instruments of evil into being instruments of righteousness.  

Refer also to the same book to learn how to build our inner man toward the purpose of the formation of Christ within us.