16. Christ Is the Pattern
Religion correctly assumes the fluidity of human nature. It assumes that the human character is in flux and can be directed into pre-chosen channels leading to desired ends. Could human nature be shown to be static, religion would instantly lose most of its meaning. For the one thing that religious persons want most is to be changed, to be made over from what they are into something they desire to be.
The Christian faith takes for granted that men should be and can be changed, and the change it sets before them is so radical as to amount to a moral transformation. The message of Christ lays hold upon a man with the intention to alter him, to mold him again after another image and make of him something altogether different from what he had been before.
"Be you transformed by the renewing of your mind" is the injunction laid upon believing men by the apostle. Now, granted that men may be changed and that the power of God in the Gospel can change them, the important question naturally is, Into what image are they to be changed? Who or what is to be the model for them?
To this question there have been many answers given. The quasi-Christian religious philosophy so popular today answers that there is a 'norm' somewhere in human nature from which we have departed to a greater or lesser degree and to which we must be restored. So religion is brought in to aid in the restoration. It operates by "adjusting" the inquiring soul, first to himself and then to society. Everything depends upon this work of adjustment. Human nature, so runs the theory, is basically right and good, but it has been put out of focus by the world stresses in which it is compelled to live. It has been warped by environment, by bad teaching and by various harmful influences, beginning at the time of its birth or before.
The whole burden of this type of religious thinking is to restore the man to an image of himself. All he needs is to be made into his own likeness again, to become "a real person," free from the warping influences of prejudice. fear and superstition. He was all right to begin with, as were his ancestors before him, and his highest present goal is to be restored, like a damaged painting, so that the hand of the master may again be discovered under the soil and grime of life.
All this sounds just cozy, but the trouble is that the underlying idea is completely false, and all the religious hopes and dreams arising from it are and must be without foundation. The message of the New Testament is bluntly opposite to this. People are not all right except for minor maladjustments. They are lost, inwardly lost, morally and spiritually lost. That has been the persistent Christian testimony from the first, and human history has shown how correct it is. There is nothing in us that can serve as a model for the new man. Conformity to ourselves, even our better selves, can lead only to ultimate tragedy. The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It must have help from outside itself, from above itself, if it is to escape the gravitational pull of its own sinful nature. And this help the Gospel furnishes in full and sufficient measure.
The Gospel not only furnishes transforming power to remold the human heart; it provides also a model after which the new life is to be fashioned, and that model is Christ Himself. Christ is God acting like God in the lowly raiments of human flesh. Yet He is also man; so He becomes the perfect model after which redeemed human nature is to be fashioned. The beginnings of that transformation which is to change the believing man's nature from the image of sin to the image of God are found in conversion when the man is made a partaker of the divine nature. By regeneration and sanctification, by faith and prayer, by suffering and discipline, by the Word and the Spirit, the work goes on till the dream of God has been realized in the Christian heart. Everything that God does in His ransomed children has as its long-range purpose the final restoration of the divine image in human nature.
Everything looks forward to the consummation. In the meantime the Christian himself can work along with God in bringing about the great change. Paul tells us how: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.