– Bill Corman
Christ Be Formed in You
There is little written in the scriptures about Jesus from the time of His infancy until the time just prior to His ministry at approximately 30 years of age. What information is given concerning His growth, however, is very important to us as believers, as it helps us understand His growth and development and gives us a pattern that is applicable to our own lives and ministries.
In the gospel of Luke, the story is told of the family of Jesus visiting Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. At the end of the celebration, the young Jesus was separated from His family for a period of several days. During this time, we are given a glimpse into His developing interest, passion, and zeal for His Heavenly Father. Instead of being in the company of His earthly family and others His age, He was found in the temple interacting with biblical teachers and scholars of the day.
“And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And when they saw they were astonished and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.’ And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s House?’” (Lk 2:47-49) [My emphasis added]
“And His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Lk 2:51-52) [My emphasis added]
Here, Luke gives us a picture of the growth that is occurring in the life of the youngster Jesus, so that it might become a pattern for our own progress and development as the Lord’s people. When we become born-again Christians, we are much like the boy Jesus: young in the faith and needing development before we are useful to God in His Kingdom. Jesus had to be prepared for His ministry and by this occasion in Jerusalem we see that He was already developing an identification with His Heavenly Father and His Heavenly Father’s purposes. “I had to be in My Father’s House” (NASB). “I must be about My Father’s business” (KJV). By an early age, Jesus was compelled to increasingly separate from the earthly and move towards the spiritual which involved having a living relationship with His Heavenly Father. This strong connection with the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was becoming evident – “I had to be…, I must be.”
How do we, as Christians, begin to increase in wisdom, stature and favor with God and men until we reach the perfection or full-stature which is our destiny? Many believers identify with desire for gain, blessings, and an increase in Godly qualities such as wisdom, stature, favor, joy, peace, holiness, etc. Should we, however, be seeking after something else instead? What compels us to the point that we choose to separate from the world and seek after the Father’s House and business? I believe we are to follow the pattern of the Son, the first fruit: first Jesus, then us. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the Way—the spiritual pattern we are to follow in developing oneness with the Father.
Luke tells us, “And the child continued to grow and became strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Lk 2:40) We are given a revelation here, not so much about what was accomplished, but rather who was accomplishing it. The Father Himself was at work in His Son. He was the teacher. By the grace of God, the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit was being done in the Son, and Jesus was responding. Jesus was growing in relationship with His Heavenly Father, becoming one with Him. He would later tell His disciples, “The words I say are not My own, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10b) This relationship of the Heavenly Father abiding in His Son, doing the work of transformation, brought about a growth of wisdom, stature and favor that continuously increased in the life of Jesus. Because of this, Jesus always wanted to please the Father and do His will.
The Father did the work in the life of Jesus, and we incredibly have the same promise at work in our lives for the formation of Jesus within us. Paul declared to the early Church, “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) God promises to perfect, or complete, His work in a people, which is the Church. It is the Father’s work, the formation of Christ Jesus in each man and woman, which He wants to do and promises He will complete. “Admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom that we may present every man complete in Christ.” (Col 1:28) This is all according to His own purpose. The question is, will it be formed in each of our lives? Will we, like Jesus, join together with the Father (oneness) in the completion of His purposes?
Jesus knew the Father was doing the work in Him. There was identification with the Father’s abiding in the heart of Jesus that manifested in growth and maturity even at an early age. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?” (John 14:10a) A living relationship with His Heavenly Father was developing in the young Jesus. There was a growing together, a oneness, in which the qualities of God the Father (a type of the vine) became evident in the Son (a type of the branch). As Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and favor, He was becoming just like the vine, His Father. The vine and the branch grew together, becoming one plant, alike in every way. “If you had known Me, you would have known the Father.” (John 14:7) They were becoming alike, as one.
It is the abiding, the remaining or staying attached, which produces fruit and the evidence of oneness. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) I believe the fruit being produced in the boy Jesus is made evident to us in the description of Him in the book of Luke. The wisdom, stature and favor were not something separate from the Father. Rather, they were all qualities of the Father. Jesus produced the fruit of the Father at an early age and the fruit continued to grow until He had surpassed anything that man had ever seen or heard. A testimony was coming out of Jesus that He was the Son of God. He surpassed the teachers of the world, the prophets, and all men. People asked, “Where did this man get His wisdom and miraculous powers?” (Mt 13:51) “No one ever spoke like this before.” (John 7:46) He even had authority to give this same level of operation to His disciples and us, as well, as long as we continue to abide in Him. “I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” (Lk 21:15)
Since Christ is our pattern for spiritual growth, wisdom and favor, through the direction of the Holy Spirit, then we clearly need to follow Him and His abiding pattern. This was the very thing that Christ put in the heart of Paul to proclaim to the Church. “My children, with whom I labor until Christ be formed in you.” (Gal 4:19) Here is the great goal and purpose of God proclaimed for all of us–CHRIST IN YOU. There is to be a forming, a growing, an increase of the living God in the life of each believer. I believe we ultimately will be measured by the progress we have made in the formation of Christ in us. This is what was at work in the life of the boy Jesus as He read the scriptures, prayed, gained knowledge, and pondered the things of His Father. Just as Jesus desired to be like His Heavenly Father who taught Him, it is the indwelling Christ who prompts a relationship with us so that we desire to be like Him.
O that Christ would be formed in you, in me and in His Church. The word “formed” (used here) is only found one place in scripture. In the NASB concordance, it defines it as, “Where the Christian is described as a little child who needs to mature until his character and conduct project the very image of Christ.” As Jesus was once a child, so we were all born spiritually as “little children.” Sadly, a lack of spiritual fruit would indicate that many in the Church are still in this stage of infancy. So much effort has been exerted toward church activities, events, socializing, entertainment–conforming to the culture of the world. Much of the effort of “building up” the Church has been directed towards attracting and keeping members. The “building up” that is being neglected seems to be the formation of Christ in the believer. When Christ is formed in us, we will “no longer be conformed to the pattern of the world, but are transformed like Him.” (Rom 12:1-2) “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into His likeness from glory to glory.” (2 Cor 3:18) The purpose of the Church is to bring many sons to glory. From one degree to another, we are to be emptied of ourselves and made like Him. There was a testimony in Christ that He was the Son of God, and our testimony is that we also are sons in the likeness of the Son: first Jesus, then us.
I would like to offer one final word of encouragement. Jesus was not busy trying to increase in wisdom, stature and favor, in fact, Jesus didn’t claim credit for any growth or any of the accomplishments that he performed. He gave the Father all the credit for the work. “The Father in me does His works.” (Jn. 14:10b) Jesus was, however, busy learning to know His Heavenly Father, caring for His Father’s house and His business. It has been given to us to know the Father and the Son. Paul prayed to the church at Ephesus, “that the God of Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Eph 1:17) We are to know Him. The Living Gods dwells in us and we are to know Him in increasing measure. The basis for our faith is in knowing our Lord. The forming of the “Christ in you” is through fellowship with Him. He wants us to know Him. It is in knowing Him that we begin to yield to Him, obey Him, and desire to be transformed into His likeness through His work. This great work is being done today in each believer who chooses to seek and abide in Him—“until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13) Just as Jesus witnessed growth from the work of the Heavenly Father in His life, we also are to be growing spiritually throughout our entire lives in order to accomplish the Father’s purposes.