Spiritual restoration is the end-game of the plan of God
How many times have you stood helplessly by while a good friend or family member has made horrible mistakes, and hurt themselves and other people? How you longed to be able to relieve some of the agony and pain of the reaping of consequences that you know are going to follow their decisions.
How many news stories do we read each week about little minority atheist groups like “Freedom FROM Religion” suing to have the Ten Commandments removed from a public school or courtroom? Our government and society willingly comply, and never even question their own actions in doing so. Then the next school shooting takes place and they blame it on guns, instead of a godless-mindset, purposefully created by a Godless government school. It was this sort of attitude that Christ Himself expressed frustration with when He said,
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)
The Example of Paul
Let’s look at how Jesus Christ handled one such individual He dealt with after His glorification. The risen Christ had no problem communicating His views on Saul’s behavior to Saul, and bringing about an incredible change in Saul’s life.
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:1-9)
But Saul wasn’t the only one who needed a little advice from the spiritual realm here. The Lord also communicated the will of God to a man named Ananias. Given Paul’s track-record, Ananias was understandably reluctant to visit him. But God said, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:10-16).
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles — if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:1-8)
In verse 7, Paul refers to “ the effective working” of God inside him. The Greek word is energeia (G1753), and it refers to God’s inner working inside of someone, His efficiency in work, and His energy in the work He does within men and women He calls into His church. If you want to do a really inspiring word study, look up all the different forms of this word energeia, and how they are used in scripture, and that might give you a more complete picture of how He really does read and influence the inner man/woman with each of us today. And the word translated “power” is the same word we just looked at in a previous post – dunamis. So the way that God worked in Paul to minister to brethren was “by the effective working” of the same kind of “power” that flowed from Christ to heal hundreds of hurting, damaged, sickly people.
Phil. 3:21 is a truly remarkable verse, because it tells us in one place how God and Christ are going to pull their plan for you and me off.
who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Phil. 3:21)
You see, the same methods that He used to subdue all things to Himself, He is now using to subdue all that we have to overcome to be like Him! Again, the word translated “working” is energeia. When we are “like Him”, we too will have the ability to influence human beings from within using these awesome tools of energia, and dunamis.
And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. (Is. 30:20-21)
We’ve heard this read for years as a millennial duty of “kings and priests”. Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 say we will be kings and priests when we are “like Him”. Just as His effectual working in power changed the life of a carnal man named Saul in Acts 9, we may also be sent to human beings to change their lives from within.
Pure Like Him
What is Christ really like today as our King of kings, and our High Priest? He described His whole attitude very well in two brief sentences recorded in the gospels: “I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27) and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19)
This is a message of hope to the nation of Israel. Often when we think about them, we think of their many failures and their final rejection by God as His nation … but was that rejection really final? If you want a real shot in the arm of encouragement – especially if you feel like you have been failing God and falling short in some way — just look at what Micah knew God would do for Israel based solely on God’s virtue and character. It appears that God, and those who are made “like Him” by God, will be able to do almost anything.
Let’s go back to 1 John 3:1-2, where we began this series of posts, and look at one additional verse.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
I hope I’ve given you at least a little food for thought as to what it might actually be like, to “be like Him” (even though I’m not sure that anyone can paint a really complete picture of what that really will be like). But what I really want to focus on as a final thought is in verse 3. “and everyone who has this hope in Him, purifies himself, just as He is pure”. We all have “this hope” in Him, and I think we can all agree, whatever we have to do, change, or give up in life to become clean and pure is well worth it to become … LIKE HIM!