We have spent months setting the stage for what we will see in the next few lessons. That does not mean, in any way, that the material we've looked at is second rate compared to the subject at hand. It simply means, that the subject of being transformed into the image of Christ cannot be understood by a simple manmade definition or some religious fabrication. Nor can we understand these deep things of God by looking at a few pet verses. Systematic Theology, by itself, will not bring an understanding of this subject.

This subject of the transformation of a Believer into the Image of Christ, may very well be one of the deepest topics of the Word of God. Therefore to understand it, we need all our pet verses, and many verses beyond our favorites. We certainly need our theology arranged in a systematic manner. However, to have a clear understanding of this subject, we must be careful when using manmade systematic theology.

Studying systematic theology is not wrong. As a matter of fact, it is a very good practice, as long as we remember a few things, and use proper caution in so doing. Remember, God did not present His theology in neat little packages with nice sounding names like: bibliology, christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, phenumatology and a lot of other strange sounding ology type names.

God gave, in a progressive manner from Genesis to Revelation, all the basic information contained in those ologies. God used this progressive manner, so we can understand the deep things of God, which are beyond the understanding of the human mind. God put the revelation of Himself and His plan in a context of physical and human circumstances, so we can compare these things, and through the direction and teaching of the Holy Spirit, the finite human mind can have understanding of divine and infinite truths.

Please, don't stop using your systemic theology books. But remember, the conclusions drawn from this type of study can have some weaknesses. To study christology, in this systematic manner, we must take the information about Christ, found in the Bible, lift that information out of its context and place all that information side by side (without its context).

We do this, so we can draw a human conclusion from the comparison of this information. But this type of comparison is made without the benefit of the context in which that information was given by the Holy Spirit. This system works very well, until we try to impose human logic and reason on that information, apart from the context, both immediate and total, supplied by the Holy Spirit.

When we fail to compare and keep on comparing a passage with its immediate and total context, and don't require our conclusions to be in perfect harmony with those contexts, then it is so very easy to draw a wrong conclusion, and teach others a false doctrine. Let me illustrate from an account of Paul's conversion found in:

Acts 22:16 'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

If we did not require our conclusions be in perfect harmony with the context, both immediate and total, we might conclude that to have our sins washed away, we must be baptized, or that baptism was the agent that removed our sins.

However, when we look carefully at the immediate context, and meticulously examine and harmonize every thing presented in the Scriptures about baptism and the forgiveness of sins, we can then see that a human conclusion stating that we must be baptized to have our sins washed away is as far as we can get from the truth of God concerning these matters.

When we look at the structure of this verse in the Greek and/or the English, we see that Paul, in his testimony, said that Ananias told him (Paul) to be baptized, and to do something in addition to baptism. Ananias did not tell Paul to be baptized to wash away his sins. Paul was to be baptized plus or and he was to have his sins washed away by calling on, or believing in, or accepting Christ.

We know from the total context of Scripture, that the only requirement for the forgiveness or washing away of sins is our acceptance of Christ as personal Savior. Therefore, from the context and the structure, we see that baptism and the washing away of sins are two different areas.

However, I'm so very sad to say, there are individuals, churches and even denominations that base their doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration on this verse and a few similar verses taken out of the context of Scripture. They draw conclusions based on human logic and by looking at only part of the total revelation of God concerning these subjects. They draw their conclusions without using the totality of Scripture, and requiring those conclusions to be in perfect harmony with all other Scriptures.

It is easy to do this same thing with any aspect of Systematic Theology, unless we go beyond the neat little packages of all those ologies, and compare that information with all of Scripture and make sure that any conclusions are in harmony with all Scripture, not just a few pet passages. That process takes time, lots of time. Therefore, we short-cut the process so we can get the book published, the sermon written, the Sunday School lesson prepared, etc. Add to that the fact, that trying to put that amount of information into a neat 30 minute sermon is impossible.

Folks, this is so important, yet so simple and logical.

To any thinking person this is a no-brainier.
If the Bible is the Word of God, then all of scripture must agree with itself,
and if there is any conflict within the information of the Word of God, then it is not the Word of God. 
Humans may reach wrong conclusions from that Biblical information, 
but that does not make the Scriptures in conflict with themselves. 

Our conclusions that are not based on the totality of the Word of God are the major factors that the critics use to back their claim that the Bible is not the Word of God, but only writings of eccentric humans. There are no conflicts in the Scriptures. There are many conflicts in the conclusions of people who do not compare and harmonize all Scripture with itself. None of us do the job of comparing perfectly, but many do not even attempt to do so.

We can't take the time to review the many different subjects we've examined in preparation for this aspect of our study. Each of those different subjects along with others play an important role in the process of a Believer being transformed into the image of Christ in their conduct.

Some areas we've looked at get right down where we live. Some of those subjects even get a little personal. Holiness is extremely personal. I've had some ask, "Did you prepare that message just for me?" The answer to that is, "Yes! If you were here, I prepared it just for you."

If you want a sermon specially prepared for you, you will need to ask a question in writing, or do something that could upset the whole plan of the church. I don't recommend the latter. However, it is strange that when we preach the Word in a systematic manner, the Word seems to have a way of getting down into the crevasses of our everyday lives. It's amazing how the Holy Spirit brings needed information into our lives in such an appropriate manner, and His timing is impeccable. To bring the needed information to us at just the right time, the Holy Spirit may use a sermon, a book, a friend, etc. The Holy Spirit knows what information we need and when we need it.

I trust you will let the Holy Spirit bring back to your memory the many areas we have studied. As we study this next aspect, we will not have time to review each of those past subjects. As we study, I may simply refer to some pertinent aspect that we have already studied. I might not mention by name a truth we've studied in the past, but it will still play an important role in the understanding of the present subject. We won't take the time to re-study the subject of God's power today. I simply want to bring back to your memory and emphasis the area of God's power in prepration to this subject of His glory. Both are so important to our understanding of being transformed to be like Christ, or to be holy in our conduct.

2 Corinthians 4:6- For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

For this glory of God to be seen through our earthen vessels, that transformation will take no less than the power of God. In the next few lessons, we will be spending a great deal of time and effort looking at the glory, what that glory is, how we acquire that glory, and how we demonstrate that glory. In preparation for that study, I would like to refresh your thinking as to the power that is needed to accomplish this demonstration of God's glory. It is a power that I fear most of us have denied.

2 Timothy 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
denying (Greek)
to say not, to contradict; to abrogate; to forsake; to renounce a thing.

By the very fact that we develop an outward form of godliness, we are contradicting God and His power. When we fashion a form of godliness, we, by that act, forsake what God has done in our lives and what He wants to continue to do. God can't produce real godliness in our conduct when we have turned away from the real power of God, to a manmade form.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

This power of God, that brought salvation to our lives through the good news of Christ's work and life, is the same power God wants to use in our lives to demonstrate His glory to those around us.

Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Please don't miss this, we could use many other verses to bring out this truth, but this one clearly demonstrates the fact. This power is ours only through the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
power (Greek)
a force, specifically miraculous power; to be able, or to be made able; inherent power; power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature.

Over the months of our study, I have mentioned several times that holiness, and godliness must come from within, they are internal. Holiness or godliness can not be produced in our conduct by anything we do by human actions.

Over and over, we have seen that holiness and godliness come only from and by God. Any holiness or godliness that is in the Believer's conduct must be by the power of God from the inside-out, not from the outside-in. Notice Ephesians 3:20, "...power that works in us". There have been a number of questions on this point, and I realize that many do not really understand the concept.

This proper production or demonstration of godliness and holiness through the life of a Believer is so different. Yes, it's the opposite of what is taught by many teachers today. Most of this confusion comes because of what we refer to as legalism. Legalism has many faces. Therefore, I will lump all of those aspects into one for easy reference.

In legalism, the Believer is told to do certain things and not to do other things. By the doing or not doing, they will be fine Christians and God will smile down on them and give them wonderful blessings. Some of the so called blessings that the legalists use to sell the form of godliness that denies the very power of true godliness are:

You'll have wealth, health and a comfortable life 
Your kids will never go astray 
And the list goes on and on...

Sad to say, many have bought into this form of ungodliness without any divine power. Legalism is a religion of fear. The fear that if you or yours don't perform just right, God will withhold all of those blessings. Fear that if you don't jump through all the right religious hoops, you will be sick, poor and your kids will all turn out to be druggies or something. Not only are some caught in this web of "doing to obtain", but they try in any way possible to get other Believers to fall in line with them in this ungodliness.

It is so sad! Many of those caught in the trap of this form of ungodliness are sincere, and really want to serve God and live godly. But they unwittingly deny the very power that can make this type of life possible.

This miraculous divine power is the only thing that can bring about true godliness in any Believer. No matter how moral you may be, even if you give all you have to the church, even if you give your body to be burned for the cause of Christ, you're living and acting in ungodliness according to 1 Corinthians 13 and elsewhere. Unless these things are accomplished by an inherent power residing in you by virtue of your nature, new nature, those good deeds are ungodly acts.

Over these past few weeks, I have racked my brain in order to find a method, an illustration or something that I could use to make this truth clear and understandable. The more I looked, the more I drew a blank until I started to work on a council time lesson for the sparky AWANA club last Wednesday.

I'm here to tell you, the hardest age group for me to speak to is kindergarten up through about 5th grade. My hat's off to those who work with that age group. Those who can get the message across to that age group are some of the finest teachers I know. I'm sure, I think, that those giving of themselves to that age group will have some of the biggest mansions in eternity.

Not only did I come up blank as to a good way to explain this transformation, I was also coming up blank for my council time message. Then my wife, bless her heart, made a suggestion and it was a good one, too. You know wives are real handy. I highly recommend wives as a profitable investment. Maybe I should qualify that statement a little. Let me change that from wives to wife. I highly recommend a wife, not wives. Too much of a good thing might not be the best. At any rate, I had better get back to the subject at hand, before I get in over my head.

As I began to work over the illustration my wife had suggested, the light dawned. I figured if the illustration was understandable by sparkies, then it wouldn't be too far above the understanding of adults. You leaders of the sparkies and the clubs, and some of you clubbers saw part of this illustration on Wednesday. Please pretend you're seeing this for the first time, will you? I am going to apply it differently than I or Pastor Eric did at AWANA. Plus, if you see the truth illustrated by this little demonstration, you will have a better handle on this subject that's deep within the deep things of God.

The illustration of popcorn can help us understand this deep spiritual truth. For you who just woke up, its the popcorn popper making that noise. There is no bomb! The train didn't jumped the tracks, nor is it running down the center aisle. With that bit of information and comfort, you may resume your sabbath rest.

I want to let this kernel of corn represent a Believer walking in the power of the flesh or the human nature. For our illustration, the Believer should be transformed, or be changed in similar manner as the popcorn coming out of the popper. However, a Believer, living by the human nature, like this kernel of un-popped corn, can only demonstrate what's on the outside.

For this kernel of corn to demonstrate anything but the external, it will have to go through a change. When that change is complete, this kernel will be able to demonstrate on the outside, that which is already on the inside. This kernel will be the same kernel before and after popping. The difference will be, before popping, we can see only the external, and the value, as far as eating is concerned, is nil. After popping, we will see that which was internal. We will see very little, if any, of the external, and kernel will be valuable for eating.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
power (Greek)
a force, specifically miraculous power; to be able, or to be made able; inherent power; power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature.

Look again at the definition of the power that makes it possible for the glory of God to be seen through our earthen vessels, or for the Believer to be holy in conduct. This power can make the Believer able to demonstrate the essence of Christ in their conduct. That essence of Christ is already resident within the life of a Believer by virtue of the new nature through the new birth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Unlike the transformation brought about by the power that resides inside the kernel of popcorn, the transformation of a Believer to the image of Christ will not take place as the result of a crisis or an explosion. However, step by step this process of transformation will just as surely take place. A crisis may bring a Believer to the point of being willing to start that process, but a crisis cannot bring about the change to holy living.

2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is (within the Believer), there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 4:1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

There are several other aspects involved in this spiritual transformation that can be demonstrated by our popcorn illustration. The internal condition of the popcorn must be just right if transformation is to take place. This is also true of a Believer being transformed into the image of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit knows when the internal condition of that Believer is right for popping. The component inside of this kernel that makes this transformation possible is water or moisture. If the moisture content of this kernel of corn is too high, it will not pop properly. If the moisture content inside this kernel is too low, it will not pop at all.

For this internal force to cause the kernel to pop, it must be activated by an external force. In the case of the popcorn kernel, that external force is heat, and it must be a proper kind and intensity of heat. In the case of the Believer, the external force can be several things or a combination of those things. Some of those outside forces that help to bring the holiness of God into the conduct of the Believer are:

Even in the conduct of the earthly life of Christ, these things were used to bring to the surface that which was already within.

Hebrews 5:6-9 As He also says in another place: "You (Christ) are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek"; 7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

Christ did not need to do anything to be perfected in His person. In His person, Christ was obedient from before the worlds were formed. When Christ came to this earth, He took the form of a human. His physical conduct, like ours, had to be controlled by Divine power, not by physical means. Therefore, Christ could say of His conduct, "I always do those things that please Him (the Father)."

John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

The Holy Spirit wants to use these same external elements, that perfected Christ in His conduct, in each Believer's life so that they, too, will be perfected in their conduct.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Don't make the mistake, when God allows the heat to be applied to your life, of using that 'ol legalist phrase, "God please show me what you want me to learn, so I can get out of the heat of this popcorn popper!"

God does want to teach you something, all right. He wants to train you by those pressures, so they will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness in your life. Getting out of the heat is not always what God wants for you, nor is it always the best for you. Sometimes the very best for you is to stay in the heat.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The question is:

 Do we want to be like Christ?
Are we willing to be transformed into that image?
Do we just want to be comfortable in this world? 

Don't trade a little physical comfort of this world, for that which is "more precious than gold" for all eternity. One last thing to see in our popcorn illustration that has a lot to do with discipleship, and personal holiness.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up (provoke) love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We are to stir up or provoke one another to love and good works. However, we must be very careful how we stir up or provoke, or we will do far more damage than good!

Galatians 5:25-6:4 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Remember this transformation comes from within, not by external pressure brought by another Believer telling the other to shape up. Only the Holy Spirit knows what external pressure is needed to bring about that transformation from within. Be careful that you don't start playing the Holy Spirit. You just aren't properly cast for that role.

In this process of transformation, we are to be concerned with our own actions and attitudes, or as v.4 puts it "let each one examine his own work". That process is what we are to do as we look into the mirror of 2 Corinthians 3. When we try to do the job of the Holy Spirit, we will mess it up every time. Wrong external pressure destroys! It does not build up. Let me illustrate with this hammer and this candle.

Sometimes we Believers feel that the Holy Spirit is delinquent in doing His job. Therefore, we lend a hand. After all the Holy Spirit has a lot to do, and just maybe, He hasn't had time to get around to all the Believers, yet. So, the ones the Holy Spirit hasn't had time to work on, we will! After all, it takes heat to make popcorn. Therefore, we will use a little heat of our own and hurry up the popping process.

We can hold a kernel of popcorn in the fire of this candle. As you can see, this candle produces plenty of heat, enough to burn the corn. The candle can change the color of the yellow corn to black, but the candle does not give off the right kind of heat to produce the proper demonstration of what is within the kernel. When you try to use your heat on a fellow Believer, all you are doing is destroying any possibility of spiritual growth through that situation, or/and you will make them a legalist like yourself.

Certainly, this hammer can exert external pressure. I can bring this hammer down on this kernel of corn and produce greater external pressure than the popcorn popper. But the use of the hammer does not produce popped-corn. The hammer can produce cornmeal, but not popcorn, and it can't even produce very good cornmeal.

Proper external pressure  brings about a demonstration of that which is already within.
Improper external pressure simply destroys, breaks up and does away  with any type of unity. 

We must be very careful how we help the Holy Spirit in His job. More often than not, we will destroy or hinder the work of the Holy Spirit, rather than advancing His work.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998