By Francis Frangipane
In our last message, we stated that the destiny of every Christian, according to Paul, is to be conformed "to the image of [God's] Son" (Rom 8:29). Typically when I remind people that our core destiny is Christlikeness, most people just nod, affirming the general truthfulness of my statement. However, they really do not believe that it is true. Indeed, when people think of their destiny, they first think of something they will do for God, something that involves the visible demonstration of a unique gifting or ministry calling. But neither our gifts nor a specific calling represent the core reality of our destiny.
So, let me state it again: Our destiny is to be Christlike. Our responsibilities and gifts may be as varied as the seasons of our lives, but our enduring destiny is that part of us that becomes Christlike in nature. God wants us to develop our gifts and, of course, He has created us to fulfill certain tasks or ministries, but we must never lose sight of the main purpose of our existence, which is to become like Jesus in all things.
The Pure Focus; the Pure Life
The sad fact is, we have all seen ministry leaders whose gifts and callings were so powerful, so captivating that they seemed capable of bringing heaven itself to earth. Then, to our shock, we discovered later that these very same individuals, some who had built great religious empires, were secretly in the grip of the most disgraceful sins. How could such things occur? When our primary focus rests upon the development of our gifts or calling rather than our character, we become increasingly vulnerable to satanic deception.
You see, a time will come when, to some degree, we actually begin to master our gifts and calling. We know how to pray. We learn how to preach or prophesy or sing in church. We even master the appearance of sincerity when we minister or are in church. Outwardly, we have convinced the world we are spiritual, yet inwardly we have become bored with our staged, Sunday morning performance. Having somewhat mastered our gifts and calling, the challenge is gone. In its place, a secret hunger, born of the flesh nature, now begins to grow. No one who sees us discerns our inner decline; even our closest friends are fooled. Instead of hungering for the fullness of Christ, we begin craving the lusts of the flesh, or desiring earthly success or material possessions. Yet, none of these things can ever satisfy our inner man. The grief in my spirit is that I have seen people perfect gifts while neglect Christ. Their failure scandalizes the body of Christ and brings shame to the name of Jesus. I have seen this happen far too many times.
The antidote for spiritual emptiness is the pursuit of Christlikeness. Possessing the character of Christ fills our gifting and tasks with living substance. We can say, like Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). Paul said, "Christ lives in me." It is Christ living in us that brings true spiritual fulfillment to our lives.
Beloved, Jesus Himself promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness 'shall be satisfied" (Matt 5:6). To possess the nature of Christ is its own reward. He is the pearl of great price; the treasure hidden in the field. Christ Himself is the narrow path that leads to life. We do not need crowds to see us perform nor applause to affirm our goodness. When we possess Christ, we eat freely of the Tree of Life and find eternal fulfillment.
Becoming Like Him
One may ask, "How shall I become like Him?" We might assume attending a Bible school would secure our answer or going on to the mission field would transform us -- worthy endeavors, indeed. Yet, the actual power to become like Him is with us already. It comes through the Holy Spirit as He deepens our relationship with Christ. To become like Him is, in fact, a natural consequence to intimacy with Him.
Let me explain. I grew up in an Italian home. My parents sprinkled their English with Italian phrases and words, and I learned to speak English, and a tiny bit of Italian, by living in relationship with them. In fact, until I was about 18 years old, almost my entire world view was passed on to me from my parents. It was perfectly natural to talk, act and think as they did because of my relationship with them.
Likewise, we do not have to "try" to be like Christ in some mechanical way, we simply need to live in close relationship with Him. Jesus Himself put it this way: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:4-5).
Christlikeness is the consequence of our relationship with Christ in us. Our holy goal is to cultivate our relationship with Him until we possess as a living reality the substance of His life. We do not study His word to be good, but to know Him. Our prayer life is not a 'spiritual discipline," but a place of communion with Him. We do not worship out of duty, but to ascend into His heart and become like Him. Intimacy with Jesus Christ is the path to the transcendent life.