“And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];” Phil. 3:10
Sometimes when Wanda and I converse Jesus throws in a diamond of wisdom that astonishes us. The other day, the Father unveiled a new layer of understanding about the wilderness. The illustration was a like a square peg in a round hole as we began to learn how God sees us being conformed to the image of Jesus.
When I was younger, I grew watermelons with my father. In the early summer, we saw bright yellow flowers on the vines showing new fruit soon to be arriving. If bees pollinate the flowers, a tiny watermelon fruit forms and grows. By summer’s end, we were harvesting large, juicy round watermelons. These were awkward to transport and store.
In Japan, where space is an issue, large round watermelons are problematic, so someone engineered a way to change the shape. They invented a method of encasing the growing watermelon into a box. Early after the fruit is formed, they put a box around the growing watermelon, which is then conformed to the shape of the container. When the fruit is ripe, the box is removed and the farmers harvest the square fruit. Now the Japanese can package, sell, and store the watermelon efficiently.
As Wanda and I discussed this, we saw a parallel in how we can be conformed to the image of Jesus.
The stages of Christian growth
In stage 1 of the Christian life, God encourages His children to bear fruit but few are successful. In nature not every flower produces fruit and in stage 1 not every believer matures. Most don’t. Though many believers claim to follow Jesus, their lives do not reveal the fruit of obedience and repentance. A large majority of believers will continue to live for ‘self’, even after salvation; frustrating the will of the Holy Spirit. Their life is far from being conformed to the image of Jesus.
Only a small minority of believers ever produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8). God nurtures these would be disciples in faith.
In stage 2 God observes the fruit of repentance in a believer’s life, much like the farmer looks over his crop and sees growing melons. God knows, however, despite the good fruit there is still a mixture of ‘self’ and spirit in the believer. The Father needs to create the right conditions to eliminate ‘self’ and nurture spirit in the person. The simple solution is to place the believer into constrained circumstances so they will be conformed to the image of Christ. (Phil. 3:10).
Conformed to the image of Jesus
Wanda and I often refer to stage 2 as the wilderness. In our family’s case the constraining circumstances Jesus placed us in had the effect of forcing us to trust Him in faith for our daily existence. Other disciples will endure different constraints, but with the same predictable outcome. Whatever the path, the goal of God is to conform each of His children into the image of His adult Son. This means no ‘self’ and a spirit yielded to the Father’s perfect will.
God designs a unique wilderness for each believer. All the trials one endures in this season have a singular purpose; to expose, isolate and eliminate ‘self’. As the believer, now a disciple, cooperates with God they grow into conformity with Jesus; much like the square watermelon. If they reject God’s training period of the wilderness, the believer will not look much like Jesus. Their ‘self’ nature will remain to corrupt and ruin them; making them useless to God and man.
Many believers will never reach the wilderness for their lives never produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
For those who persevere, the constraints of the wilderness will conform them into the image of God’s Son, Jesus. Those who succeed enter as spiritual children and exit as spiritual adults. As a fellow brother and sister we urge you to yield your life to God. Start bringing forth fruit in keeping with repentance so He may lead you into the wilderness. There God will conform you in the image of His Son if you follow Him.
Homer and Wanda
This Post Has 16 Comments
🙂 May He increase His blessing to you!
An older wise pastor friend said he believed the church is one of the greatest mission fields. You have to wonder how many of those who never bear fruit have really been converted. Love the square watermelon! What a great analogy.
‘Tis true. The pews are filled with false converts. They adhere to religion but are not disciples of God. Their lives a sad testimony to this fact. Your pastor friend is indeed very wise.
Thank you for your gracious comment. May His blessings fill your life today.
Great insights Homer. I have led 64 remote wilderness trips and am constantly amazed at how many people want to 1) exit the moment it gets hard 2) will do anything possible (including not eating drinking water) to just be comfortable at all times (the outdoor facilities are kind of natural. 3) become very selfish and not do any base camp chores (cook, clean up, set up tents, so on…) 4) Become expert “Paddle Dippers”. They stick their paddle in the water but never exert much pressure to make the canoe go forward. But they look good.
? Why does your experience not surprise me Gary. ?
I swear that people today are more full of ‘self’ and less willing to sacrifice than any generation yet. Your experiences exhibit this so perfectly. Frankly I would love to give these people’s ‘self’ nature a swift kick in the rear end. But truly that wouldn’t do any good either. No, I believe we just must walk this path God lays before us, accepting any hardship as it comes and let it change us. I can only answer for myself, give the message I have been called to give and bless any that come our way.
Thank you for bringing your insight to the table Gary. I really appreciate it. You have something few people have these days, experience of the hardships, joys and wisdom that only being the wilderness can bring. Truly, that is a great treasure. Thank you.
You’re such a good writer, Homer. What unpopular truths you present on this post. The trials are not always easy, sometimes we don’t even understand what God is doing, but knowing the why really helps one in yielding to God’s leading. Thank you.
Thank you. Blessings to you our dear sister!
So true! A deep post! And wow! Never seen a square watermelon before! I do believe I’ve seen about everything now LOL!
Thank you so much Renee. I am looking forward to growing some of my own some day. 🙂 Blessings to you!
That would be awesome! And you are welcome!
Great analogy between your thoughts and the subsequent revelations. Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging
Thank you. Blessings to you.
Awesome! Thank you. May the Father bless you richly!