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Formed Together With Christ
By David A. DePra
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. (Gal 4:19)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:28-29)
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)
A key to seeing the Truth of these verses is to know that the word, "conformed," in Romans 8:29 means, "formed together with." In other words, God does not merely act upon us – separate from Jesus -- to try to make us look like Jesus. He doesn’t create of us little independent versions of Christ. The Christian is never a Xerox copy of Jesus. No. We are FORMED TOGETHER WITH HIM. That changes everything.
That will make no sense to us unless we recognize that Christianity is CHRIST IN US. (Col. 1:27) We must realize that a person who is born from above is joined to the Lord in spirit. (I Cor. 6:17) Jesus Christ in the believer IS our life and IS everything else that God has for us. God doesn’t merely give us THINGS, "because of Christ." No. God gives us Christ IN WHOM are all things. This is essential Truth.
So we are ONE with Christ through the Spirit. This is how Christ dwells in the believer, and it is how the believer is IN CHRIST. From that point, God then desires, as Paul travailed for the Galatians, to, "form Christ in us." What does that mean?
To have Christ, "formed in us," means that we begin to inwardly realize Him. It means, as Paul said of himself elsewhere, to have Christ, "revealed IN me." It means to have a growing, inward revelation of Christ. This is, in fact, the entire purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is what Jesus said would be the job of the Holy Spirit that was given in Acts 2.
God wants to, "form Christ within us." But unto what end? This brings us to Romans 8:29: God wants to form Christ within us so that we might then be, "formed together with Him." In other words, as we begin to see and know Christ through the revelation of Him IN US – as Christ is progressively unfolded to us – this changes, adjusts, and alters US – we are conformed TO HIM – we are formed together WITH HIM.
There are other ways to say this. For example, Jesus Christ IS the Truth, and as we begin to see the Truth in Christ – this will MAKE US TRUE unto God. In other words, the Truth will set us free from ourselves by making us true unto God – and this will change us to where we can live in the TRUE relationship God wants for us. We will grow to be those who are walking in the Light as He is in the Light.
So what we find in these passages is a great Truth – it embodies the entire purpose of God. When we are born again Christ makes Himself one with us in Spirit. It is then God’s desire to FORM Christ within us. But this does not happen to the disregard of us, or in a way that is impractical. No. We begin to KNOW HIM in an inward way. And IF we embrace Him – a BIG IF – then the revelation of Christ within will change us. Seeing Jesus Christ will renew our mind. We will have a completely enlightened perspective towards God and everything else. Outward obedience will follow. Thus, if we embrace the Christ who is being formed within us we will then be formed together WITH Him.
To be, "formed together with Christ," means WE will decrease – through the work of the Cross – and He will increase and be made manifest in us. Jesus Christ is not being formed together with US. No. We are formed together with Him. Christ doesn’t need to change, and He is not going to alter Himself to fit us. No. We are going to be changed through renewal according to the Truth.
If we see nothing else at this point, we need to see that none of this is a matter of God acting upon us from the outside to make us look like Jesus. No. This is not a matter of us doing the right things and following the right principles so that God can act upon us and do things so that we will look like Christ. Rather, it is CHRIST IN US, being formed WITHIN – and a matter of US being formed together with Him. This is from the inside OUT – it is from the Christ who is within as the source. Christ will then be seen in us and through us. It is Him being seen because He is being formed – and we come along for the ride. We are being formed together with Him – not formed to look like Him.
The New Man
The new man in Christ – the new creation in Christ Jesus – is the union of Jesus Christ in Spirit with a human spirit. Christ dwells in us in our human spirit. That is where, and that is how, we are saved. It is Christ in us. In contrast, however, if the new creation is the union of Christ and our human spirit – then everything OUTSIDE of this union is not the new creation. It remains the old – the flesh and natural man.
The natural man includes the natural mind, the emotions, the soul realm, and of course, the physical body. Christ in us does not obliterate these. Indeed, when Christ is formed in us, one of the results is, "a dividing asunder," of soul from Spirit. We begin to know what is of Christ and what is of US – not merely in the outward world, but WITHIN OURSELVES.
Note that the key to this discernment between our soul and Christ within is NOT a list of things to do, or a, "how-to," book. No. The key to all discernment of any kind is to know Christ – in an inward way.
Now, someone will say, "No. The Bible is the key to discernment." Well, all true discernment will absolutely agree with the Bible. But the Bible itself tells us that we must know Christ to be able to discern. For if we don’t know Christ, then even our discernment of the Bible will suffer. This is why it is possible to know the Bible by heart and yet come up with terrible heresy.
If Christ is formed within us, then the result is going to be that we become formed together with Him – our minds will be renewed according to the Truth in Christ. We will discern. And certainly we will begin to recognize when our natural man is functioning in a way that is contrary to Christ.
Why do so many Christians walk according to the flesh – which certainly means to walk according to natural man? Most of this confusion is the result of one thing: Christ has NOT been formed in us. So we don’t know Him. Or maybe we don’t even know that He is supposed to be formed in us. We have very little discernment between our soul and His Spirit.
The best example of this is EMOTIONS. Most new Christians, especially those who are taught that Christ is in them through the Spirit, mistake their emotions, and mistake their own religious thinking, for the presence of Christ in them. How they FEEL, or what they, "sense in their spirit," becomes a substitute for Truth. They easily continue in this error, not because they want to be in error, and not because they want to rebel against God – they continue in it because SELF and EMOTIONS are all they have to work with if Christ has not been formed in them.
Satan is the great counterfeiter. Much deception that is of Satan is by OMISSION. If he can hide the reality of Christ in us, then we will have only ourselves to work with. And that will enable him to lead us into all kinds of terrible deception.
Why, for example, do we suppose that people have all kinds of crazy fits – but say that it is the result of the Spirit of God being on them? They aren’t faking in most cases. What is going on? They have given themselves over to their own soul – and the reactions that take place are completely those of natural man operating in the psychic realm. This is able to happen, and is able to deceive them, because Christ has not been formed in them. They have no living standard for Truth. So they go with what they have been taught and see others do.
How about when people say, "I feel the anointing?" Do we recognize that there isn’t a single verse in the NT, or teaching, that tells us that the anointing is possible to FEEL? Even if a person reacts emotionally to something God does, the emotions and feelings are their REACTION to God’s Spirit – but not the Spirit itself. But we will never grasp this distinction between OUR soul and HIS Spirit if Christ has not been formed in us, and we are not being formed together with Him.
Heresy and error have their way with us because we DO NOT KNOW HIM – He IS the Truth. And He is IN US. But if He is not being formed in us, then we are certainly not being formed together with Him – and cannot be made true.
As stated, the new man in Christ is the union of our human spirit with the Spirit of God in Christ Jesus. This new man – or inner man – is born into and exists within the old or natural man. The only possible way we can be set free from the influence of the old, and come to walk in the Truth, is if SOMETHING takes care of the power and influence of the flesh. The Cross does that. But to be able to walk in the Truth, Christ must be formed in us, and we must be formed together with Him. Then we will discern the difference and be able, little by little, to walk in Christ.
Christ Our Life
Christian people have been taught that when God works He sends forth His Spirit to ACT UPON us and do things TO us and FOR us. Even if we have been taught that Christ is in us by His Spirit, we often think that when God works He does THINGS for us and to us. No. The fundamental way in which God works is to form Christ in us, and then because of that, to form us together with Christ – and EVERYTHING that God has for us as believers emerges from HIM.
God can and does do things as He pleases. Thank God He doesn’t wait until Christ is formed in us to help us. But that does not negate His purpose. Christ in us IS Christianity, and Christ being formed in us is the Christ life, resulting in us being formed together with Christ. This is what God is doing. And if we wanted to gather all that up and say it in one sentence, we could simply say, "Christ, who IS our life." (Col. 3:4)
Every THING is in life. And Christ IS our life. Thus, as Christ is formed in us, all that God has for us that is a part of LIFE will likewise emerge. As we are formed together with Christ, we will be adjusted and shaped so that we can receive and live in HIS LIFE; live in all that emerges from Christ. All that God has for us is found in Christ, who is our life, and as we are formed together in Him, we are fitted into Him and His purpose.
Of course, much of this is nothing but another way of describing a life of FAITH. But faith must be based upon Truth. It must be based upon the Person of Christ. That is why it is so vital for Christ to be formed in us.
A Renewed Mind
Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: (Col 3:9-10)
This verse proves that the Christian has BOTH an old man and a new man. The old man is the flesh – those aspects of us that are OUTSIDE of our spiritual union with Christ. And the new man is that spiritual union – Christ in us.
There would be no way to obey this verse if there were no separation between soul and Spirit. We would never know the difference between the old and the new. But many of us don’t know the difference. Lots of Christian people still think that the old man merely consists of bad works, and that the new man consists of good works. No. You could do many good works, fully in the flesh – you could do tons of good works within the old man. The old man is also quite religious. And self-righteous. Thus, this is something far beyond what we think.
We must go back to the definition of the new man – the new man is, "Christ in us," and our union with Him in Spirit. So NEVER think of, "the new man," or think of, "putting on the new man," in terms merely of US doing something. NEVER think of this as us, "just believing," and acting like Christ. No. To, "put on the new man," equals, "to put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27)
So what does it really mean to, "put on the new man in Christ Jesus?" Well, let’s build on the picture Paul is giving us in his use of these words. The words, "put off," and, "put on," actually mean, "to get out of one’s clothes." But don’t misunderstand. Christianity is not a matter of looking good – in the way that clothes could make you look in merely an outward way. No. Paul is getting at something deeper. He is basically saying, "if any man is in Christ, he IS a new creation. Old things are passed away. All things are new. That is the Truth. So you need to put off all that contradicts this Truth. You need to put this Truth on and let Christ govern you."
In effect, Paul is telling us if Christ is being formed in us that at some point we are going to begin to know Him – we are going to begin to know Him in a way that renews our mind; changes our entire perspective and thinking about ALL. In short, if Christ is being formed in us, we are going to be formed together with Him – and fundamental to this is the renewing of our mind and understanding according to the Truth. Or, to use other words, at some point the Truth is going to begin to MAKE US TRUE unto God. When that begins to happen, Paul exhorts, we need to put off all the we do – but really, we need to put off all that we are in our old man – which is not according to the Truth. Thoughts, moods, emotions, intellect, and of course, conduct – if these are not the Truth, we are to discard them as we would ugly clothes. In contrast, what IS the Truth we are seeing in Christ? Put that on. Put it on with regards to conduct, but put it on as regards to faith and motivation.
The new man is our union in spirit with Christ, but the old man is everything about us that is outside of this union. BOTH are there and BOTH are functioning. The question becomes: What is the TRUTH? What is of Christ? Some of the answer is obvious, especially when it comes to moral Truth – and especially as it pertains to outward conduct. But the inward is where the issue must be settled. Only as Christ is formed in us will we see the Truth – only then will even UNTRUTH and the bad be seen fully for what it is. We will see what is of Christ – the new man – and what is not of Christ – the old man – only to the extent that we SEE CHRIST! And then, Paul says, "if Christ is being formed in you," PUT HIM ON – that is, be formed together with Him. Let the Truth of Jesus Christ that is renewing you come to govern you. Exit out of those old lies, and enter into the reality of Christ.
None of this would be possible if you were not ALREADY a new creation in Christ. This isn’t about acting a certain way or about knowing the doctrine. No. It is about you and I being formed together with Christ – and then because we are being formed together with Him – it is about us being changed and altered in every way.
Paul says we are, "renewed in knowledge, after His image." What does this mean? That we need more Bible knowledge? No. When the Bible uses the term, "knowledge of God," or, "know Him," it is talking about more than intellectual knowledge. It is talking about inner knowledge. We might even say it is talking about EXPERIENCING Christ, or about seeing Him in a spiritual way. Paul alludes to this in Ephesians when he says:
(I) cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (Eph 1:16-18)
Paul stated his great desire for the church – that God would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ – he stated his prayer for us at the beginning of an epistle that was filled with doctrinal teaching. Yet he did not say, "Read my words. Study them. Memorize them. Then you will know HIM." No. Despite all the teaching he would give us, Paul knew that we would remain blind to what that teaching really mean until they began to SEE CHRIST. Anyone can read what the Bible says. But until we come to know HIM we won’t know what it means. We CAN’T know what it means. The best will be an intellectual knowledge of teaching.
To put it another way, I can intellectually grasp much Truth, but I don’t really know it until the Truth MAKES ME TRUE – until seeing Christ begins to change and alter me so that I can be formed together with Him. I can even know the Truth that Christ is in me, and know that He wants to be formed in me, and know that I need to be formed together with Him – I can know all of those truths right from the Bible, but remain blind to Christ Himself, and never come to experience any of what I know intellectually. The only answer is for God to do whatever is necessary to open my eyes to Christ. God has to, "reveal Christ in me." (Gal. 1:16)
There are many Christians today who object to the fact that we must have Christ revealed in us, and object to the fact that we must have an inward knowledge of Christ. They say that if that is the case, we will stray from the Bible and say that we know Christ in a way that contradicts the written Word. This is nonsense. There is only ONE TRUTH. Get that: There is only ONE TRUTH. The Bible is the written Truth. Jesus Christ is the Living Truth – He IS the Word, isn’t He? Thus, since there is ONE TRUTH, any personal revelation of the Person of Christ – who IS the Truth -- that God gives me, is going to agree completely with the written Truth. In fact, the Bible is a written revelation of what God wants to show us in the Person – Jesus Christ.
We have just read that Paul the apostle wants God to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ – which will give us understanding of the entire purpose of God. He prayed that God would do this – despite spending the rest of this epistle writing about the very things he desires for God to reveal to us. Paul knew that the key to everything was to KNOW JESUS CHRIST.
So we are to PUT ON Christ. As Christ is formed in us, and our minds are renewed so that we begin to know Him, we will be progressively formed together with Him. We will be made true. We will be altered and changed so that we can walk in the Truth in Christ. But none of it is going to happen against our wills. At some point, we will have to say, "This is the Truth. This is Christ. I am going to discard all that is contrary to Christ. I am going to PUT ON Christ – I am going to enter into the Truth that has been revealed in me through Christ."
Do you wonder how a Christian changes? This is part of the answer. At some point, we KNOW – because we have come to see HIM. And then there is a renewal – a putting off of the old and the putting on of the new. We begin to IGNORE our emotions and IGNORE our thinking – when these are contrary to the Christ we know. We PUT THEM OFF. And we begin to believe and be governed by the Truth. We PUT HIM ON. It is a matter of recognizes the difference between what is of the new man in Christ, and what is of the old man – and a matter of putting off the old and putting on the new.
Now, if the purpose of God is to form us together with Christ, then it only stands to reason that there must be a change in us that will enable us to fellowship and walk in Christ. Christ does not need to change. We need to change. We need to be formed together with HIM – we need to be changed as He is revealed IN US. And despite the fact that we might describe this change in many ways, one way is probably not quite what we expect. A primary way in which God changes us so that we might be formed together with Christ is by reducing us to a complete weakness in ourselves. Then we can walk with Christ in utter and complete faith and dependence. He will be our strength.
Being made weak in ourselves is nothing more than being brought INTO all Truth. It is what happens when man encounters God. In fact, in one sense God does not MAKE us weak. No. He simply shows us the Truth about ourselves – we always were weak and empty. Christ is the Light and when we begin to be formed with Him, all of the Truth about us comes out.
But again, don’t think of this discovery about our weakness as a doctrine. No. God will see to it that we are reduced down BY EXPERIENCE to the Truth. He is making us fit for Christ.
Christians often teach that God gives them a THING called, "power," and that once He does give it, then we can use this power to obey God and serve Him. But can we possibly see the danger in launching out with power when we don’t know Christ and haven’t been formed together with Him? Power without knowledge is terrible. But worse is power without relationship.
God will not give us much power to do anything until we come under His power. In fact, God does not give us a THING called, "power," so that we are able to live the Christian life. No. He gives us Christ – who IS the embodiment of all power. But how then does God FIT US INTO Christ, who is ALL power? By making us WEAK in ourselves. Sure. Our strength cannot fit into His strength. Only if we are weak can the power of Christ rest upon us.
What this means is quite simple. As Christ is formed in us, and we are formed together with Him, the result will be a complete depletion of our own strength and self-reliance. This IS how we are formed together with Him. There is no other way to be.
Being made conformable unto his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)
The words translated, "made conformable," here, are the same Greek roots as are used in Romans 8:29, where Paul says that the purpose of God is to, "form us together with Christ." Thus, to be formed together with Christ is impossible unless it includes being formed together with Him in His death. You have to lose your life to find His. You have to, as it were, be FITTED into your oneness with Christ by the work of the Cross. You have to be, "crucified WITH Christ." (Gal. 2:20)
They key to walking in the power of His resurrection is to be conformed to His death – that is, all that is outside of Christ must be cut off and shown to be weak. Then what will emerge is CHRIST, the power of God.
So again, you are not ever going to be strong. God does not empower YOU. He gives you Christ. And to the extent that you and I yield to Christ and all allow Him to form us together with Christ, the power of Christ will be there. Christ is the power. Christ is the source of all. We experience NOTHING except that we experience HIM.
If the Christian is to be formed together with Christ, then this means that WE acquire that which belongs to HIM – and in turn, this means we discard what used to belong to US. It means that only as we are formed together with Him do those things that are found IN Christ come into our experience. Again, God doesn’t merely want to give us THINGS – He gives us Christ, in whom are all things. Thus, all that is in Christ comes into our experience as we are formed together with Him.
We are formed together with Christ – which is to say we are raised with Him – only to the extent that we are formed together with Him in His death. It is a central Biblical Truth – life comes only through death. We must lose our lives to find them in Him. This is the purpose of God.
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