The True Foundation: Christlikeness

By Francis Frangipane

Christ Himself is the eternal blueprint for our lives.  Only in studying Him, in measuring ourselves by Him, do we grow securely upon the foundation of God. 

Beloved, we were created to become like Christ.  Yet, some would lead us to a lesser destiny.  They teach that a stumbling, disobedient people can somehow also be the same "overcomers" spoken of in the Sacred book.  Yet, God's plan has not faded out or become obsolete!  Even as Christ has not changed, so neither has the plan of God for the church.  Our transformation will burn in God's heart "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 fulness of Christ" (Eph 4:13).

You see, the focus of both leadership and congregations should be upon attaining Christlike transformation.  This has been the Father's purpose from the beginning of time and it remains His unchanging goal at the end of the age (See Gen 1:26-27 and Rom 8:28-29)

At the same time, just as an individual can have a unique calling, so congregations can be called to fulfill a variety of subordinate, yet important, priorities.  A congregation may have a strong outreach program to the poor or they may possess a special grace to release spiritual gifts.  A church may have a unique skill to reach youth or a wisdom in strengthening marriages.   There are many legitimate tasks assigned by God to individual congregations. 

The problem is that, too often, we define ourselves by what we do for God rather than what we become to Him. What pleases the Father most is not what proceeds from our hands but what rises from our hearts. He is seeking the revelation of His Son in us.

Thus, over the years, I have learned that there is nothing on earth that so pleases the Father's heart as when Jesus Christ is revealed in us.  It is this singular goal: the focused pursuit of Christlikeness, that is our quest at In Christ's Image Training (ICIT). 

That I May Know Him
Our mission statement at ICIT is to bring as many people to heaven as we can, in as Christlike condition as possible.  When we refer to becoming Christlike, we mean becoming people who think, pray and act out of love; Christians who are humble and committed to true spiritual unity with other churches; disciples who are known for their love for one another. 

This is why we focus on revealing Christ Himself instead of being caught up perfecting peripheral or subordinate doctrines.   Other aspects of Christianity develop correctly only as they are built upon the foundation of Christlikeness.  No aspect of our spirituality was created to exist apart from Christ. 

In pursuing Christlikeness we find true balance and spiritual assurance that we are not being led astray.  Indeed, Paul said that the result of seeking the full stature of Christ, is that "we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Eph 4:14).

Paul warned that people can be "carried about by every wind of doctrine."   Yes, false doctrines are dangerous, but Paul wasn"t limiting his warning only to false teachings. For even a true doctrine can have a false emphasis and lead us astray.  The pursuit of Christlikeness aligns us with the Father's highest priority for our lives. It secures us upon the path to truth.

Paul also wrote that intimacy with Jesus Christ was the deepest cry of his heart.  He wrote, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Phil 3:10).  Yet, he was not speaking of some esoteric knowledge of Christ, but an intimacy that lead to conformity.  Do you see this? He wrote, "that I may know Him...being conformed."  Knowing Christ and being conformed to Him is of the same essence.

Our quest at ICIT is to see hundreds of thousands of Christlike Christians planted in every nation of the world.  If radical Muslims will lay their lives down in murder and hatred of their enemies, how much more must we, as followers of the Lamb, lay our lives down in love to secure salvation for our enemies.

A Time of Training
Are you one whom God has chosen to reveal Jesus? Is your passion to reveal the Son of God?  Do you have an inner desire to deepen your spirituality?  Then consider registering for In Christ's Image Online Training.  The first level lasts six months and provides intense, focused attention on conformity to Christ that will deepen your spiritual walk with God.

Visit www.icitc.org for more information on the In Christ's Image Training program.

The Grinch That Stole Christians

By Francis Frangipane

Can we have a little family talk?  For most of you, this won't apply, but the devil has some of us bound, where we are focused on issues that are not the real issue.  What do I mean?  A few Christians have been taught that, according to Jeremiah 10:4, God is against the use of Christmas trees.  The text reads, "They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter."  Superimpose the image of our silver and gold Christmas decorations and we have a "revelation" that God hates Christmas (or at least Christmas trees). 

However, if you read the entire chapter, it isn't talking about Christmas, but idols and people who worship them.  So, if you are sitting at home reading this and it's prior to December 25th, you can get a Christmas tree.  It's okay as long as you don't worship it.  In fact, if you're reading this and it's past December 25th, that might even be better -- Christmas trees and decorations are very inexpensive after Christmas.   

Been There . . .
Please don't misunderstand me or think that I'm condemning anyone for their faith about this.  I'm writing as one who, for ten years, didn't allow my family to celebrate Christmas. I, too, had been taught this interpretation of Jeremiah 10:4.  I thought I was suffering persecution for my faith when relatives or friends criticized our colorless, joyless, loveless viewpoint about Christmas.  Their criticisms actually hardened my heart and made my "faith stand" more firm.

Avoiding Christmas wasn't easy.  We had five children and a foster child.  Each December the children had to listen as I explained theologically why the Christmas tree was evil and not celebrating Jesus' birthday was good.  Finally, with childlike innocense and purity, my oldest daughter, who was nine at the time, asked why gift giving was evil if we were also honoring Jesus. 

Suddenly, my heart melted.  I saw how religiously unloving this doctrine had made me.  We weren't being persecuted for our faith, but for my stubbornness and lack of love.  I deserved to be criticized.  So, I asked my family to forgive me and we decided to have our first Christmas.

We were quite poor at the time and couldn't afford a tree.  However, there was an evergreen growing in the ditch along the road by our farmhouse that I cut down and dragged into the living room. It was an ugly tree with the kind of needles that fall quickly.  But we had love and we celebrated the Incarnation of Jesus as a family. 

Saturnalia
Perhaps the worse thing about not celebrating Christmas is the isolation; it cuts us off from a multitude of people whom we could reach during this season.  People, in general, are more open to Christ.  If I go into a mall for any reason in December, I love listening to songs about Christ's birth.  Yes, I know "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" will probably be playing also.  So what?  It won't stop me from rejoicing when I hear, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!" or "Joy to the World."  In my spirit, I agree with the songs. 

Sometimes I actually sing along out loud.  They are awesome songs.  Other times I quietly pray for the Holy Spirit to fall on people as they listen to music that was inspired by people who sought the heart of God.  Why be upset with that?  Why not praise God?  Why be so focused on what's wrong that we fail to celebrate what's right?  We can be miserable, complaining, joyless, critical, loveless people sometimes, and then we wonder why God doesn't lead people to us. 

Christ's Great Commission commanded us to "Go!" to where people are, not wait until they come to us.  Paul said, "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it" (1 Cor 9:20-23).

You see, the law or principle we follow is the law of love.  Jesus said, "But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you" (Lk 11:41).   Love sanctifies and redeems what it touches.  Because of love, Paul was able to "become all things to all men."  I have no doubt Paul would be at every Christmas gathering he was invited to, using it as an opportunity to win people to Christ.

And before you wonder how deep I was into this anti-Christmas mentality, yes, I knew the history of Saturnalia, and how in the third century the early church combined the celebration of the winter solstice (a pagan holiday time) with the celebration of Jesus' birth.  Yet, I also know that the winter solstice happens to be that time of the year when daylight begins to increase, so it is not inappropriate to celebrate Christ's birth at this time. 

I also understand that some may teach Jesus was probably born in October or April, depending on which basis of research one relies upon.  But what difference does it really make?  Hundreds of millions of people believe the Jesus was born on December 25th, and multitudes reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation at some time during this season.  So why be uptight about the date, especially when arguing about it alienates you from the very people Christ calls you to love?  Why get hung up on when the Incarnation occurred when we can experience the reality of the Incarnation right now and bring Him into people's hearts?  

Finally
We, the Frangipane family, celebrate Christmas.  We have a tree and ornaments.  We are pretty low key about its size.  Some years we buy a smaller, living evergreen and then replant it in the yard in the spring.  But, we are not focused on peripheral issues; we are focused on Christ and celebrating Him with others during this time. 

One more thing:  The best way to win people to Christ is to simply enjoy them.  Picture Jesus laughing, telling stories, enjoying people as He reached to them.  Let's reveal Him, not the Grinch, this holiday season.