GOD’S THOUGHT CONCERNING SALVATION—THAT WE MAY BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF GOD’S SON
If we carefully read through the Bible, we can find God’s thought concerning salvation. Every person who manages a business has a thought concerning his management, and the administration and arrangement of his business is based upon this thought. Likewise, God also has a thought concerning the economy and dispensation of giving grace to us. Today in Christianity the prevailing concept is that we were once sinful but that after we believed in the Lord and received God’s forgiveness, we were saved. Thus, after we die, our souls will go to heaven to enjoy eternal blessings. Remember, however, that this is man’s concept, not God’s concept.
Romans 8:29 says that “those whom He [God] foreknew, He also predestinated.” For what did God predestinate them? Was it for them to go to heaven? It was not. Verse 30 goes on to say, “And those whom He predestinated, these He also called.” Did He call them so that they could go to heaven? No, He did not. The verse continues, “And those whom He called, these He also justified.” Did He justify them so that they could go to heaven? No, He did not. The Word says that these “He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son.” God saves us not for us to go to heaven but for us to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Ephesians 1 says that God “chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world…unto sonship through Jesus Christ” (vv. 4-5). God’s intention is that we become sons of God. Then chapter four says that His desire is that we, the saved ones, arrive at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (v. 13). First John 3 says that undoubtedly “now we are children of God,” yet “it has not yet been manifested what we will be.” John also says that, nevertheless, at the Lord’s return “we will be like Him.” Furthermore, he says, “Everyone who has this hope set on Him purifies himself, even as He is pure” (vv. 2-3).
In view of this, what is God’s thought? God’s thought is not as simplistic as our thought. The Bible tells us that God has a pleasure in His heart, and according to His pleasure, He intends to gain a group of people to be vessels of His glory in the future. Like a potter, God made us with clay. We were just lumps of clay, yet we were created by God to be vessels, even vessels that He had prepared beforehand unto glory. God’s intention is to put Himself as glory into us that we may become vessels of glory (Rom. 9:20-24). What grace this is! Just as a glass can contain grape juice, so we also can contain God. However, because the glass is a dead vessel, the grape juice cannot change the glass or be mingled with the glass. However, as living vessels of God, we contain the living God with the living Spirit and life. Thus, we can be mingled with God.
Thank God that on the day we were saved, God came into us, and as soon as He entered into us, a fellowship was brought in between Him and us, us and Him (1 John 1:3). Once fellowship is brought in, transformation begins (2 Cor. 3:18). I believe that we all have this kind of experience. At the time we were saved, God came into us, and from then on, He has been interfering with everything in our daily life—our speaking, our doing, our intentions, our thoughts, and our motives. This One who is in us is living. As He lives in us, He bothers us and fellowships with us all the time, producing an effect within us. The more intense this effect is, the more we are transformed inwardly.
This transformation takes place first in our spirit and then gradually reaches our mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). When this happens, our mind has the element of God. Gradually this transformation reaches our emotion, and as a result, we can no longer be as free as we were before in expressing our joy, anger, sorrow, and delight. We can no longer be free to love what we want to love. When we want to love someone or something with our love, the One in us holds us back and does not let us love. Formerly we loved as we pleased and lost our temper as we desired, but now it is not so convenient for us to do these things anymore. When we are about to love someone or to lose our temper, the One who is in us holds us back and bothers us, causing us to have no peace. Formerly, our ideas, decisions, choices, and preferences were all of ourselves. However, after God is mingled with us, everything is different and we are no longer so free. This is because God’s element has been added into us.
(How to Be Useful to the Lord, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)