Chapter 8—Growing Up Into Christ

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Our characters change when we become children of God. The Bible speaks of this change as a birth. It also says it is like the growth of good seed planted by a farmer. Those who have just learned to love Christ are said to be “like newborn babies.” 1 Peter 2:2. They will grow up to be men and women in Christ Jesus. Like the good seed planted in the field, they are to grow and bear fruit.

Isaiah says that the children of God “will be like trees that the Lord himself has planted. They will all do what is right, and God will be praised for what he has done.” Isaiah 61:3. God brings us many lessons from natural life to help us understand spiritual truths.

No matter how wise people are, they cannot give life to even the smallest plant or animal. Only God can give life. In the same way only God can give spiritual life to people. A person must be “born again.” John 3:3. We cannot receive the life that Christ gives until we are born again.

God gives life, and then He makes things grow. He makes the flowers bloom and the fruit grow from the flowers. By His power seeds form in the fruit—“first the tender stalk appears, then the head, and finally the head full of grain.” Mark 4:28.

The prophet Hosea said of Israel, “They will blossom like flowers…. They will grow crops of grain and be fruitful like a vineyard.” Hosea 14:5-7. Jesus tells us to “look how the wild flowers grow.” Luke 12:27. The plants grow only by receiving what God gives them. They do not take care of themselves or worry or work. A child cannot make himself taller by his own power or by worrying. Neither can we grow in our spiritual life by worrying or working in our own strength.

The plant and the child grow by receiving what they need—air, sunshine, and food. As these gifts of nature meet the needs of plants and animals, so Christ also meets the needs of those who trust in Him.

Christ is compared with many of the blessings of nature. He is the “eternal light.” Isaiah 60:19. He is “a sun and a shield.” Psalm 84:11, KJV. He is like “rain in a dry land” (Hosea 14:5), like rain on the fields.” Psalm 72:6. He is the living water and “the bread of God… which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” John 6:33, RSV.

God gave a wonderful gift to the world—His Son. This unequaled gift has circled the world with grace, like the air, which is everywhere. It is as real as the air we breathe. If we choose to receive this life-giving grace of Christ, we will live and grow up to become men and women in Christ Jesus.

The flower turns to the sun to receive its bright rays. The light helps the flower become beautiful and perfect. So we should turn to Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. Heaven’s light will then shine upon us, and our characters will grow into His likeness.

Jesus teaches us this lesson when He says, “Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine…. You can do nothing without me.” John 15:4, 5. We must depend on Christ in order to live a holy life, just as branches depend on the vine for growth. Apart from Him we have no life. Away from Him we will have no power to fight against sin or to grow in grace and holiness. But when we live in Him, we grow and bear fruit. We will be like a tree planted by a river.

Many people think that they must do some part of the work alone. They trust Christ to forgive their sins, then they try to live a good life by their own strength. But they are sure to fail. Jesus says, “You can do nothing without me.”

Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness—all depend on our oneness with Christ. We grow in grace by spending time with Him, day by day, hour by hour. He not only creates our faith but He makes it perfect.

Christ must be first, last, and always. He is to be with us not only at the beginning and the end of our lives, but at every step of the way. David said, “I am always aware of the Lord’s presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me.” Psalm 16:8.

Do you ask, “How am I to live in Christ?” Live in Him in the same way you first received Him. “Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in union with him.”Colossians 2:6. “My righteous people… will believe and live.” Hebrews 10:38. You gave yourself to God to belong fully to Him, to serve and obey Him. You took Christ as your Savior. You could not by yourself take away your sins or change your heart. But having given yourself to God, you believed that, for Christ’s sake, He did all this for you.

You became Christ’s by faith, and you are to grow up in Him by faith. Faith calls for giving and taking. Give all to Him—your heart, your mind, your work. Give yourself to Him to obey all that He asks you to do. And you must take all. Take Christ, the blessed One, to live in your heart. Take Him to be your Strength, your Righteousness, and your Helper forever. He will give you power to obey.

Give yourself fully to God every morning. Make this your very first work. Let this be your prayer: “Take me, O Lord, as wholly Yours. I lay all my plans at Your feet. Use me today in Your service. Live with me, and let all my work be done to honor You.”

Every morning give yourself to God for that day. Put all your plans before Him, then carry out these plans or give them up as He guides. In this way you may give your life day by day into the hands of God. Your life will be made more and more like the life of Christ.

A life in Christ is a restful life. There may be no feeling of great excitement, but there should be a steady, peaceful trust. Your hope is not in yourself. It is in Christ. Your weakness is joined to His strength. Your lack of understanding is united with His learning. So you are not to look to yourself or think about your own feelings. Look to Christ. Think of His love and of the beauty of His perfect character.

Think of Christ and how He humbled Himself and lived for others. Think of His purity, of His holiness, and of His wonderful love. When you love Him, depend on Him, and copy His ways, you will be changed to be like Him.

Jesus says, “Remain united to me.” John 15:4. These words give the feeling of rest, trust, and leaning on Him. Again He invites us, “Come to me, … and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28. David had the same thought: “Be patient and wait for the Lord to act.” Psalm 37:7. And Isaiah gives us God’s invitation, “Come back and quietly trust in me. Then you will be strong and secure.” Isaiah 30:15.

When God speaks of rest, He does not mean stopping all work. The Savior’s promise of rest is united with a call to work. “Take my yoke and put it on you; … and you will find rest.” Matthew 11:29. The person who rests most fully on Christ will be busy working hard for Him.

When we are thinking of self, we are turning away from Christ, who gives us strength and life. Satan knows this, and he is always trying to keep our minds turned away from the Savior. He wants to keep us from living and working with Christ.

Satan uses the pleasures of the world in trying to turn our minds away from God. He uses life’s worries and sorrows. He uses the faults of other people and our own faults and weaknesses to turn our thoughts from God. We must not let Satan trick us with his plans.

Many who really want to live for God spend too much time thinking about their faults. In this way Satan tries to separate them from Christ and hopes to gain the victory. We should not make self the center of our thoughts, nor worry whether we shall be saved. Thinking of self turns our minds from God, who gives us strength. We should give ourselves to God and trust in Him. We should talk and think of Jesus, and forget ourselves.

We must put away our fears and believe in God. Then we may say with the apostle Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.” Galatians 2:20.

God asks us to rest in Him. He is able to keep that which we have given to Him. If we leave ourselves in His hands, He will give us power through Jesus to make sure that we win the battle against Satan.

When Christ became a human being, He tied the people of the world to Himself by a tie of love. This tie can never be broken except by our own choice. Satan is always trying to get us to choose to break this tie to Christ. We need to watch and pray that nothing will lead us to choose another master. We are always free to do this.

Let us keep our eyes on Christ, and He will hold us. We are safe when we are looking to Jesus. Nothing can take us out of His hands. We are to look at Him all the time, for then “that same glory, coming from the Lord, … transforms us into his likeness.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The early disciples became more and more like Christ when they kept their eyes on Him. When they heard His words, they felt they needed Him. They looked for Him, found Him, and followed Him. They were with Him in the house and sat at the table with Him. They were with Him indoors and outdoors. They were His pupils, listening every day to His lessons of holy truth. They looked to Him, as servants look to their master, to learn their duty.

Christ’s disciples were “as completely human as we are.” James 5:17, TLB. They fought the same battles with sin. They needed the same grace in order to live holy lives.

John, the greatly loved disciple, was most like the Savior. But he did not naturally have a lovely character. He was selfish, bold, and wanted honor. Sometimes he acted too quickly, with little thought, and became angry when he was not treated right. But when the character of the divine One was shown to him, he saw his own faults and felt very humble.

John saw the strength and kindness of Jesus. He saw His power and love. He saw that although Jesus was a king, He was humble. John was filled with love for the Savior as he watched Him. Day by day he turned to Jesus until he lost sight of himself in love for his Master. His selfish, bad temper yielded to Christ’s power, and the Holy Spirit made his heart like new. The power of Christ’s love changed John’s character.

We are sure to be changed when we join ourselves to Christ. When Christ lives in us, our whole nature is uplifted. His Spirit, His love, humbles our hearts and turns our thoughts and desires toward God and heaven.

Even after Jesus returned to heaven, His followers still felt His presence with them. They felt His love and light. Jesus, the Savior, had walked and talked and prayed with them. He had spoken words of hope and comfort. And while He was giving them His message of peace, He had been taken up from them into heaven. As the cloud of angels received Him, the disciples had heard Him say, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20,

Jesus had been taken up to heaven in human form. The disciples knew that their Friend and Savior was standing before God. He still loved them and was one of them. He was showing to God His wounded hands and feet. He was reminding His Father of the price He had paid for those He had redeemed. The disciples knew that Jesus had gone to heaven to prepare places for them. They knew He would come again and take them to Himself.

The disciples met together after Jesus had gone back to heaven. They were eager to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. In faith and wonder they bowed in prayer and repeated the promise of Jesus: “The Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your happiness may be complete.” John 16:23, 24.

Their faith grew stronger and stronger as they prayed. They reasoned that “Christ… was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us.” Romans 8:34.

On the day of Pentecost the Comforter came to them. Christ had promised that the Holy Spirit would be with them. He said, “It is better for you that I go away, because if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you. But if I do go away, then I will send him to you.” John 16:7.

Through the Spirit, Christ would always live in the hearts of His children. He would be closer to them than when He was on earth and they could see Him. Christ living in them would shine out of them in light, love, and power. People who saw the disciples “were amazed… . They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus.” Acts 4:13.

All that Christ did for His disciples He wants to do for His children today. In His last prayer with His disciples gathered around Him, He said, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message.” John 17:20.

Jesus prayed for us and asked that we might be united with Him, even as He is united with His Father. How wonderful this is! The Savior said of Himself, “The Son can do nothing on his own.” John 5:19. “The Father, who remains in me, does his own work.” John 14:10.

If Christ is living in our hearts, He will work in us to help us be “willing and able to obey his own purpose.” Philippians 2:13. We shall work as He worked and show His spirit. As we love Him and live in Him, we shall “grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head.” Ephesians 4:15.

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