Conformed to the Image of the Son

May 5, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Selected Scriptures |


Conformed to the Image of the Son | Romans 13:11-14, 1 John 3:1-3
Brian G. Hedges | May 5, 2024

Let’s turn in Scripture this morning to two passages of Scripture. We’re going to be in Romans 13 and in 1 John 3.

While you’re turning there, I hope you’ll forgive me for using a golf illustration two weeks in a row. Golf season is upon us, and I’m thinking about it a lot. I was thinking this was a good lead-in for this morning.

People who play golf have to learn to manage their expectations and their emotions on the golf course. You feel a lot of emotions in a round of nine or eighteen holes. Sometimes there are moments of pure exhilaration as you strike the ball well and it goes straight down the fairway and you hit a 275-yard drive. That can be wonderful. Or when you have a perfect chip onto the green and you’re left with a tap-in putt, or you read the green perfectly and you have a fifteen-foot breaking putt and it just dies in the hole. Those are great moments that don’t come very often.

More often, you’re chasing your ball into the trees or you’re hitting just a mediocre shot. It’s okay; you can play it. You’re just trying to advance the ball, and you walk away satisfied with a birdie, of course, or satisfied with a bogey, happy if you get a par.

But often you have the blow-up holes, and those are the holes when you end up hitting it into the water, you have to take a penalty, and you end up scoring three or four over par for that hole. In those moments, it’s really important to not get too emotional, not get too frustrated with yourself, and instead to just play the next shot. Ben Hogan was one time asked, “What is the most important shot in golf?” and he answered, “The next one.”

I think that’s very much what the Christian life is like. There are moments in the Christian life of pure exhilaration, the mountain-top experiences, when you meet with God, when you are touched by the Spirit of God, when you have an encounter that leads to some kind of transformation and growth in your life, those moments where you know that God is near. Those are wonderful moments that we cherish and treasure in our Christian lives.

But there are many days in the Christian life where you’re just kind of involved in ordinary, routine obedience. You’re trying to do the next thing, you’re trying to live faithfully. You’re trying to love the people around you. There may not be a lot of emotions in those moments, but you’re just seeking to be faithful to the Lord.

And occasionally you have those days—or even weeks or months—when things kind of blow up; when you’re faced with new trials or temptations, or you fail in some way, and you feel like instead of making progress in the Christian life you’re actually regressing and going backwards in your Christian life. This is sometimes the case in Christian living, and it’s important for us in those moments to not get overly discouraged, but to keep our eyes on the goal and to remember that we are in a long journey towards the finished and final and complete salvation that we’re waiting for in Jesus Christ. We have to learn in our Christian lives to measure progress not in days or weeks but in years and in decades.

This morning, in this message, which is the fourth in our series “Imago Dei: Restoring the Divine Image,” I want us to talk about the final goal, the goal of glorification, the goal of completely being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

I think often in our Christian lives we’re looking at our sin, often we’re looking at the process of sanctification and trying to live the Christian life, and it’s important to consider all those things, but today I want us to look ahead and think about what we’re waiting for and how that should frame our perspective for our lives in this world.

If you remember where we’ve been in this series, we’ve kind of been looking at human nature in light of the great story of redemption—creation, fall, redemption, and restoration or new creation.

We’ve talked about what it means to be created in God’s image, to be formed for the glory of God, but also what it means to be deformed by the fall, and how our lives now in a fallen world are characterized by sin and suffering and weakness and brokenness in our physical bodies and psychological brokenness and brokenness in our social relationships. That’s affects all of us.

Last week we talked about being transformed by God’s grace and how we are called to remember who we are in Christ and to realign our desires with God’s purposes for us and to put sin to death and to seek to be renewed in our minds and grow in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Today, as we look at this final message, we’re going to talk about what it means to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ the Son in glory; glorification, this final thing for which we wait. I want to frame everything by looking at these two passages, Romans 13:11-14 and then 1 John 3:1-3. We’ll look at a few other texts along the way.

Let’s begin by reading these passages, beginning in Romans 13. You can follow along in your own copy of God’s word or read along on the screen, and I’m reading from the NIV this morning. Paul is writing, and he says,

“And do this, understanding the present time [underline that phrase]: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”

Then 1 John 3:1-3.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

This is God’s word.

This morning we’re going to look at three things. I want you to see:

1. The Time in Which We Live
2. The Future for Which We Hope
3. The Implications for Our Present Lives

Today we’re going to move from theology to application. So put your thinking cap on for the first point especially, because I have to frame things theologically for us to really understand what it is we are hoping for and waiting for and then what the application for our present life is. When we get to the last point we’ll really dig into the application.

1. The Time in Which We Live

Notice that Paul says in Romans 13:11, “Do this, understanding the present time.” Paul wants us to understand the present time. When I say the “time in which we live,” I’m not thinking about life in a post-Covid world, I’m not thinking of life in the twenty-first century, I’m not thinking of life in a postmodern world, although all of those things are worth considering. I’m thinking, rather, of the time in which we live according to God’s timeline, the timetable of human history and of God’s grand work of salvation. Where do we live?

I think to answer that question we have to wrestle with this language from the Scriptures that talks about this present age and the age to come. I’m going to put a chart up on the screen to kind of help explain this.

We need to understand, first of all, that the kingdom of God in Old Testament expectation viewed human history in these two ages: there’s this present age, but there was this hope that when the Messiah came, the Messiah would usher in the age to come. That was the expectation. There would come this time when the kingdom of God would come, when God’s promises would be fulfilled, when there would be a spiritual renewal of the people of God, a regathering of the people from exile. The promises of future resurrection and restoration—all of this would happen in the age to come when the Messiah came. That was the Old Testament expectation.

But when you get to the New Testament, with the first advent of Jesus Christ, this picture gets filled out. In the New Testament teaching, the kingdom of God comes in two stages. “The age to come” dawns in the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; but we are still waiting for the full consummation of God’s promises.

So in the Scriptures the New Testament regularly speaks of us as already living in the last days. You have this in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews says that “in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son,” Hebrews 1:2. It speaks of those who have tasted the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:5), and it says that Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26). Why is that the end of the ages? Well, because in the coming of Jesus Christ the age to come has dawned. It’s already begun. You could say that the future has invaded the present, and now we as Christians live in this overlap of the ages. We live between the “already” and the “not yet.”

When it comes to our sanctification—that is, when it comes to this process of being restored in the image of God—this is is what it means. It means that we are already justified, we are already sanctified in the sense of being set apart for God, but we are not yet glorified. We’re not glorified. We are saints, but we are not perfect. We are new creations in Jesus Christ, but we are not fully renewed. We are in process. Something has started in our lives, but it has not yet been completed.

We have to understand that. We have to understand that we live in this overlap of the ages, we live in this in-between time, between the “already” and the “not yet.”

Let me give you an illustration that I think maybe will bring this to life for you. I’ve shared many times the story of Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the Narnian chronicles from C.S. Lewis. Eustace is this little boy who becomes a dragon. He turns into a dragon, and it’s only through the surgical work of Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, that Eustace is un-dragoned. The dragon skin is pulled away and Eustace goes and bathes in this mountain pool and emerges as a new boy. It’s sort of a conversion experience for Eustace. It really pictures the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new.

I’ve told that story many times, but I want to read you the last paragraph of that chapter from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, because I think it’s very interesting what Lewis says. He says,

“It would be nice and fairly nearly true to say that from that time forth Eustace was a different boy. To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun.”

Brothers and sisters, when we understand the time in which we live, that we live in this overlap of the ages between the “already” and the “not yet,” something very similar could be said of us. You could look back to the time when you came to Christ and say that you began to be a different person, but the truth is, you still have relapses. The truth is, all of us can sometimes be pretty tiresome. We still have a fallen human body, we still wrestle with the flesh, we still live in a fallen world, we are still subject to temptation, we still sometimes commit sins. We have been changed—the cure has begun—but we are not yet fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I just want u s to understand that this morning. This is the time in which we live. Understanding that is going to become very important for us, when we get to the application, for framing our expectations of what the Christian life is supposed to look lie. The time in which we live; that’s point one.

2. The Future for Which We Hope

Now, point number two, the future for which we hope. You have some hints of this in both of our passages this morning. Romans 13 says, “Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” He’s talking to people who are already saved in the sense that they’re already justified, they’re already united to Christ, they’ve already been brought into the family of God. These are converted, regenerate, born-again Christians, but Paul says “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” because he’s thinking of their salvation as a future event. He’s thinking of something that’s yet to come.

Then in 1 John 3:2 we read this: “Dear friends, now we are children of God.” This is verse 2. “Now we are children of God [get this], and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

You see what the author is doing there? Do you see what John is doing there? He’s saying, “You’re already a child of God, but you’re not yet what you will be. You will not be who you will be until you see Christ, when Christ comes again, when Christ appears.” So we’re waiting for something, we’re hoping for something. Hope in Scripture is not a mere wish; hope in Scripture is always a confident expectation of what God is yet to do.

Our expectation is that there is coming a day, when Jesus comes again, when we will inhabit a new creation, a new heavens and a new earth, and we will be given new, glorified bodies. That’s what we’re hoping for. Let’s think about each one of those things for just a moment.

First of all, new creation. This is the language of 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21, both of which are echoing Isaiah 65-66. It’s this image of a new heavens and a new earth, a renewed world, a restoration in the created order itself. This is what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for that time when the lion will lie down with the lamb. We’re waiting for that time when the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, when there will be no more death and no more suffering. We’re looking for a restored, created order, new creation.

I want to read one passage of Scripture that I’ve already read once in this series. Let’s read it again from Romans 8. It describes how the creation is waiting for something. This is Romans 8:18-25.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

What’s so interesting in that passage is that Paul says the whole creation is groaning and is waiting, kind of in these pangs of childbirth, waiting. But what creation is waiting for is something that is connected to our salvation, and in some ways it’s even contingent upon what happens to believers in the future.

Paul talks about the freedom and the glory of the children of God. He talks about our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Again, there’s this sense in which we can already say we’re adopted, we’re sons and daughters of God. But Paul here is envisioning the full revelation of what that means, the revealing of the children of God when the glory of God is revealed in them. That’s what we’re waiting for, and that’s when we are given these new bodies.

Listen to Sinclair Ferguson for just a moment. Sinclair Ferguson, a great Scottish theologian, wrote this classic book on the Christian life. I recommend it. It’s on the book table. Ferguson says,

“The goal of the Christian’s vision is not his own death, but stretches beyond that to the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom. There is one last ritual event to take place. This event, variously and vividly described in Scriptures, is the last salvation event, which has a decisive and critical influence on the life of the child of God. It takes us to the outer limits of Christian knowledge and leaves us like men standing on the shore watching a boat disappear over the horizon into an experience at which we can only begin to guess. This event is our glorification.”

That’s a big theological word, and I want you to understand what this means: it’s our glorification.

In the church, we talk a lot about conversion, coming to Christ. We talk a lot about justification: what does it mean to be declared right in the sight of God? We even talk a lot about sanctification, about the process of becoming more like Jesus. I don’t think we talk enough about glorification, but glorification is just as important as the other events, and it’s actually the one that brings it all to completion.

Let’s look at a few texts here that talk about our glorification. Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We looked at that last week. When Christ appears, we appear with him in glory. That’s talking about our glorification.

Or Romans 8:29-30:

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

It’s spoken of in the past tense because it’s that certain. Just as surely as God calls those he predestined and justifies those he called, so also will he glorify those who have been justified.

In our passage this morning, 1 John 3:2, “What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Then 1 Corinthians 15—that was our assurance of pardon—talks about this mortality, putting on immortality; this which is perishable, putting on that which is imperishable. That’s the future resurrection body.

One more passage. Philippians 3:20-21 says,

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

This is our hope! Our hope is that we will receive a new body in the new heavens and the new earth. New creation and new bodies—glorification. It happens when Jesus comes again and we are resurrected out of death into glorified human life and our bodies are transformed so that our bodies become like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ.

You know what that means? That means our bodies will be free from sin, they’ll be free from suffering and decay and disease, it means that we will be immune from all sickness and sorrow and death, and it means that every moral, physical, and psychological imperfection or sign of brokenness in our lives will be removed once and for all. That’s what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for glorification, when we will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. He himself is the pattern of our glorification.

“Christ in power resurrected, / As we will be when he comes.” That’s what we’re waiting for, but we’ve not received it yet. That’s our hope! We’re confident that God’s promises will come to pass and that this will be done, but we’ve not experienced it yet.

3. The Implications for Our Present Lives

So what does this mean, then, for our Christian lives now? That’s the last point: the implications for our present lives. Once we understand the time in which we live (already and not yet), and with our hope set on this future event, our glorification, when we will be fully conformed to the image of Christ, that should shape the way we think about and live our Christian lives now.

This is where I want to get practical. What I want to do in the last twenty minutes or so is walk through six implications for our present Christian lives, when we understand our lives within this framework of what God has already done—the cure has begun—but what we’re still waiting for, our glorification. Six implications.

(1) Here’s number one: struggle is normal. That’s first, and you and I need to reckon with this. The Christian life, while it is full of blessing and joy and many other things, the Christian life is still life characterized by struggle. You’re not in heaven yet. You don’t have a glorified body yet. You’re not free from temptation yet. You’re not out of a fallen world yet. Therefore, struggle is the normal experience of every Christian.

There are three reasons for this. Those three reasons are the world, the flesh, and the devil. You live in enemy-occupied territory. You live in a fallen world with a fallen world system, where the system of thinking and the pattern of behavior in our world is diametrically opposed to you becoming more like Jesus Christ, which means that you’re going to regularly be hitting obstacles by just living in a fallen world.

Not only that, you have an enemy, the enemy of our souls, Satan, the great adversary, with a host of spiritual forces. We’re not usually very aware of these spiritual forces, but you and I are engaged in real spiritual warfare, where the enemy is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. That’s what Peter says in 1 Peter 5. The way he does that is by deceiving us and distracting us and keeping us focused on other things rather than on Christ and on the gospel and on God’s priorities in our lives. The devil pulls us off course with his deception and his temptation.

Not only that, but you carry within your heart the cancer of indwelling sin. That’s the flesh. It’s not that when you became saved you suddenly no longer had a sinful nature. There’s a very real sense in which you still have a sinful human nature. Now, you have a new nature in Christ because you’re born again, so there’s a very real sense in which you are a different person, but you still have the remnants of the old you. That’s why there are these repeated commands in Scripture for us to deal with sin. As we saw last week, we’re called to mortify our sin, because we still wrestle with the flesh.

As long as you live, you’re never going to outgrow that battle. You’re still going to have the flesh to contend with. You’re still going to be tempted by sin, sometimes you’re still going to fail in sin, and you need to understand that when that happens, while it’s not ideal and it’s not what we aim for, it’s not abnormal. It is part of what life is like in this present fallen world. Struggle is normal.

(2) Number two, growth is a process. You don’t get saved—that is, justified—and glorified all at once. You don’t become a Christian and become perfect all in the same day. It’s rather like very slow maturation and growth, and it’s like when your children are growing up. You don’t really notice how they’re getting taller, until you measure them against the wall and you realize, “Oh, they’ve grown six inches in the last year,” or you’re having to buy new shoes because all of a sudden their feet don’t fit in the old shoes, or you go see distant relatives and they’re amazed by how much your kids have changed; but you’re not seeing the growth every day. It’s happening, but you’re not really aware of it.

The Christian life is more like that. The growth is a process, it’s not a one-time event, and it doesn’t happen through one crisis experience.

I think it’s important to emphasize this, because there are teachings out there that have a version of perfectionism with it. Christian teachings—you have this in preachers and teachers and popular Christian devotional writing—that promise that if you have a certain kind of experience it will usher you into a higher plane of Christian living where there’s no more struggle.

Those books are everywhere. I have a lot of those books in my library, I’ve read a lot of those books over the years, and I’ve heard a lot of that teaching over the years. As a young Christian, I found it very disheartening, because I would go through whatever the experience was supposed to be—I would confess my sins, I would surrender to the Lord, I would ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit, I would walk the aisle, I would cry tears…and two weeks later the same temptations were back.

When you go through that time and again, you start to wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why is this not working for me?” What was very helpful for me was discovering a different understanding of the Christian life that said struggle is normal, growth is a process. You’re not going to achieve perfection overnight. You can have a mountaintop experience, but that experience does not mean that you are so transformed that you never struggle again.

I think we need to be careful that we not raise false expectations of immediate transformation that does not usually happen in the Christian life. The transformation is more of a process, and it takes a lifetime to learn to fully follow Jesus.

(3) That means, number three, that effort is required. Since growth is a process and we are involved in that process, it requires something of us.

Let me just clarify. I don’t mean in any way that your effort is required in order for you to be justified from your sins. We’re not saved by works. But that does not mean that there’s no effort required in living the Christian life. In fact, the Scriptures often speak to this effort. Peter says, “Make every effort to confirm your calling and election,” and tells us how we are to grow by adding to faith virtue and to virtue patience, and so on. There’s a whole list of virtues to add there.

The Scriptures often are calling us to walk in a certain way or to run the race or to fight against spiritual enemies or to put sin to death. These are calls that require us to do something.

Really, we looked at this last week. We saw last week that every Christian needs to remember your identity in Christ, you need to reorder the desires of your heart, and your mind needs to be renewed. Those are three things; that’s a summary of what’s required in the Christian life.

You can see it this morning in the passages we’re looking at. Without going into detail, just notice that Paul says in Romans 13, “Put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” That’s calling you to do something. He’s telling us not to live in certain kinds of sins but instead to clothe ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ. And in 1 John 3, “All who have this hope in them purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

So there’s a call for us to do something in the Christian life. Effort is required.

Now, what I want you to get here is that there’s a balance in the Christian life. On one hand, knowing that we are not yet perfect and will not be glorified until Jesus returns should keep us from undue discouragement and disillusionment when we struggle and when we fail. When you blow it in some way or another, you should be humbled, you should confess your sins, you should repent, you should seek the Lord. I’ve had to do this thousands of times. That should be part of your Christian life. But you should not be unduly discouraged and disillusioned. You should not think that you are an abnormal case, and you should not throw your hands up in despair.

On the other hand, the frequent calls in Scripture to sanctified effort in the pursuit of holiness should keep you from giving up on spiritual growth and from spiritual laziness and sloth. The growth is gradual, yes, but it is possible to grow. You can be more holy than you are, you can be more Christlike next year than you were last year, there can be more obedience in your life, more maturity in your life. We should be able to look back five years from now—we should be able to look back in our lives and see that there is more love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in our lives, if we’re growing spiritually. But it’s gradual growth, and it only happens when we, in God’s strength, depending on God’s Spirit, put forth some effort in the Christian life.

How do you do that? Go back to last week’s sermon and you get a basic blueprint for how to live the Christian life.

(4) Number four: Suffering is purposeful. Just as there are versions of Christian perfectionism out there that kind of disillusion us when we’re thinking about our sanctification, there are also versions of teaching out there about what the Christian life should look like in terms of blessings and trials. There’s the health-wealth prosperity gospel that essentially says that if you have enough faith you should never be in any kind of want, you should never be sick, you should always have provision, you should always have healing. If you just have enough faith, then these things are yours and you’re never going to suffer.

I don’t think that’s what the Scriptures teach. In fact, I think the Scriptures are pretty clear that suffering is inevitable. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” You’re going to have tribulation; it’s inevitable. I almost worded the point like that, suffering is inevitable.

But it’s not only inevitable, the suffering is purposeful. It’s not just that, “Okay, we’re stuck in a fallen world and we’re going to suffer and there’s nothing we can do about it.” The Scriptures also teach that God uses the suffering.

Do you want to know what the means are for becoming more like Christ? It certainly involves the spiritual disciplines and the means of grace, but one of the tools that God uses in our transformation is the tool of suffering. He uses that in our lives to make us more like Jesus.

Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17. He says our “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us,” they are working for us, “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

That means that every difficulty you encounter along the way, every suffering that you endure as a Christian, is used by God for your good, your eternal good, to make you more like Jesus.

Let me read something else from C.S. Lewis. This is from Mere Christianity. Lewis said,

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

He’s making you more like Christ. He’s advancing you along this road towards Christlikeness, and the sufferings we endure are part of the process.

We sang it this morning: “I know my pain will not be wasted; / Christ completes his work in me.” That should encourage us in the face of difficulty. Suffering is purposeful.

(5) Number five, peace is possible. Don’t hear what I’m saying as in any way communicating that the Christian life is gloomy and dour and full of sorrow without joy. There is sorrow, but it’s not sorrow without joy, it’s not trouble without peace. In fact, we find this often in Scripture. Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. I have come to give you peace, not as the world gives do I give you . . .”

Paul talks about the peace that surpasses understanding. Peter talks about the joy that is inexpressible and full of glory. Paul says we are “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” Peter talks about the inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade, and he says, “In this you have greatly rejoiced, though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” There is joy, there is peace that is possible in the Christian life. Even in the most difficult circumstances, with a deep trust in God and a confidence in the promises of God you can experience a kind of fullness and joy in knowing that your trials are carefully measured out by the good, wise, and fatherly hand of God.

(6) Finally, number six: Glory is guaranteed. That’s back to the second point, glorification. This is what we’re waiting for.

Paul said, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” And in Romans 8, “Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.” You’re going to be glorified. If you are united to Christ by faith this morning, this process will be complete, and the day will come when you will be freed once and for all from sin and suffering in every way, and you will be fully conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. You need to keep that perspective in view.

I want to end in this way. I hope you feel encouraged as you consider these things, but I want to read you a portion of a very encouraging letter that a pastor in the eighteenth century wrote to one of his friends. This is from John Newton, a wonderful letter from John Newton, who was this great Anglican pastor, famous, of course, for “Amazing Grace.”

“I can truly say that I bear you upon my heart and in my prayers. I rejoice to see the beginning of a good and gracious work in you, and I have confidence in the Lord Jesus that he will carry it on and complete it. Therefore, fear none of the things appointed for you to suffer by the way, but gird up the loins of your mind and hope to the end. Be not impatient, but wait humbly upon the Lord.

“You have one hard lesson to learn; that is the evil of your own heart. The more we know of ourselves, the more we shall prize and love Jesus and his salvation. I hope what you find in yourself by daily experience will humble you but not discourage you. [That’s key. Be humbled, but not discouraged.] Humble you it should, and I believe it does, but let not all you feel discourage you. For if our physician is almighty, our disease cannot be desperate; and if he casts none out that come to him, why should you fear? Our sins are many, but his mercies are more. Our sins are great, but his righteousness is greater. We are weak, but he is power. The more you know him, the better you will trust him. The more you trust him, the better you will love him. The more you love him, the better you will serve him. This is God’s way. You are not called to buy, but to beg; not to be strong in yourself, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. [Listen to this.]

“Remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom, but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed, but surely. Many suns, showers, and frosts pass upon it before it comes to perfection, and in winter when it seems dead it is gathering strength at the root. Be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means and endeavor to look through all and fix your eye upon Jesus, and all shall be well. I commend you to the care of the good Shepherd, and remain for his sake, Yours, John Newton.”

Dear friends in Christ, you are formed in God’s image, but you have been deformed by the fall. But the good news is that by God’s grace you have now begun the process of transformation, and someday you will be conformed to the image of God’s Son in glory. Let that perspective frame your expectations and your understanding of the Christian life. Don’t lose heart in the bad days or the bad weeks or the bad months. Continue on with Jesus, take the next step, fulfill the next obedience, continue to walk with the Lord and trust in him, knowing that if you’re in Christ your future is guaranteed, and someday you’re going to be perfect. Let’s pray together.

Lord, thank you for these truths from your word this morning. I pray that we would experience a deep comfort and encouragement in our hearts as we consider these things. We pray that your Holy Spirit would take these truths and burn them deeply into us, and give us, Lord, the kind of fortitude and perseverance that we need to live faithfully in our Christian lives. Lord, we pray that you would give us repentance where that is needed, humility as we consider our weaknesses and our sins and our needs, but also deep confidence in your grace and your mercy given to us by Christ and in these wonderful promises from your word.

As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we ask you, Lord, to meet with us. May you strengthen us through the grace of Christ. May you fill us with your Spirit and assure us once again of your faithfulness to your people. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.