Guest Article – Dallas Burdette “Until Christ is Formed In You!”

Until Christ
Is Formed  in Us

Paul’s words to the Galatians, “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19), should penetrate our hearts as we examine own lives to see if Christ is really formed in us. Is Christ reproduced in our lives? Since Jesus is the Savior of the world, it is imperative that we allow Christ to envelop the whole of our hearts, our souls, and our minds. An understanding of the Christ event should cause us to yearn for Christ to be shaped in our lives. The coming of Jesus into this sphere of world history is of decisive significance for all eternity. This consciousness of the richness of God’s grace should remold our external performance.

The contrast between the world of unbelievers and the world of believers is vast. For the unbeliever, the world is swallowed up in the “nothingness” of death—beyond which there is no issue leading from the events of time into eternity. In other words, there is no difference between the death of a dog and the death of a human being. On the other hand, for the believer, eternity flows from Jesus. As we contemplate eternity, we are conscious that what happens in Christ is that which streams from eternity past to the present and to the future.

Even before God spoke this universe into existence, God had already decreed redemption for His creatures; even though, in actuality, they had not yet been fashioned. Jesus who belongs to eternity is the only One who leads to eternity. Since this is true, we should ask ourselves, is Christ produced within our lives? Is Christ truly “formed” in our lives? If we truly reflect upon what it means to allow Christ to be fashioned in our lifestyles, our walk with God will be a life that honors God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

For us to agree to allow our lives to be bent toward Christ, we must come to grips with the unique and once-for-all character and mission of Jesus. Even though the Atonement occurred almost two thousand years ago, nevertheless, this happening represents the eternal world of God. God disclosed Himself through Jesus Christ. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, God decreed eternal life to those who accept Him. Undoubtedly, some within the various churches  in the province of Galatia had not allowed Christ to be created within themselves. In fact, Paul writes, so it seems, with anguish:

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (Galatians 4:19)

The positive side to Christ’s formation in us consists of the “fruit of the Spirit,” which facets of the “fruit of the Spirit” is catalogued in Chapter 5 of Galatians. Listen to Paul as he calls attention to the external behavior demanded of God:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (5:22-24)

As Christians, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not consent to allow Christ to be formed in us. Again, Paul addresses this same topic to the Ephesian believers. Pay attention once more to Paul as he exclaims:

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Paul desires that the inner life of every believer come to life in the Lord Jesus. In other words, Christ has been given to believers in order that a transformation may come about in their lives. This new life in Christ is not intended to be just internal, but rather it is to be external as well. Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, addresses what His followers are to exhibit and represent in their day-to-day walk—Salt and Light:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Are we “salt” and “light” to society? If the world does not see Christ in us, how do we expect to win the world for Christ?  Jesus not only sacrificed His life to give eternal life, but He also advanced the teaching that we are “light” and “salt” to the world of darkness. For us to believe in Him without any alteration in the way we live is to deny the new birth. Biblical faith means to become a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As long as we are worldly and self-willed, Christ cannot be formed within us. Every Christian is to be a “light of the world.”

If we wish Christ to be shaped in us, then we must give the Spirit access to our lives. We must bend beneath the yoke of Christ’s humility. Do others see Christ in us? Remember, God invites us to share in His glorious kingdom through Jesus His Messiah. Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians is an appeal to external behavior: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Is Christ formed in us? Are we living worthy lives? What does God’s new creation mean to us? Emil Brunner (1899-1996, Swiss Protestant [Reformed] theologian) wrote a sermon (published in 1953) on “Until Christ Be Formed in You” as a message to be delivered during the Christmas season. Yet, this message is appropriate during any season or time. The following comments capture what it really means to allow Christ to be formed in us:

“Jesus Christ has been given to us in order that a transformation may come about in our lives. Merely to believe in Him without anything new coming to birth in us, is a sort of belief which the Bible does not recognize as true faith. Faith in the true sense of the word means: to become a new creature. ‘If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.’ To believe means: to be taken up, incorporated into the eternal life of Christ and to grow therein. This generation of new life is something transcendent and unique, namely this, that Jesus Christ begins to take possession of a human life. Yet the manifestation of this new element does not take place all at once, but by a process of inner development. This is what Paul means when he alludes to structural growth. He has spoken in greater detail about it in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. There he says: ‘Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in all things into Him who is the Head, Christ, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’” (Emil Burnner, The Great Invitation and Otherr Sermons. Translated by Harold Knight [Philadelphis: The westminsterr Press, 1953, 1957], 147-148.

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Yours in Jesus Messiah,

Dallas Burdette