THE DIVINE DESIRE FOR SELF EXTENSION
Some people find it difficult to think of God as having desires. It is true, we must be careful about HOW we think about God. We do not want to develop ideas about God that makes Him like us. God's desires are right, and they are noble, or admirable and respectable. They are never wrong or in considerate. That is because God is basically good, and therefore His desires are basically, or fundamentally, good. By "basically good," I mean the main thing about God's desires is their goodness. They are for the good of others, and produce goodness in others. Just like an ocean is made up mainly of water, so God is made up mainly of goodness.
This article speaks of God's desire for "Self-extension." What does that mean? It might be well to say a word about what it does NOT mean. If I extend my house, I make it larger--but that is not what happens to God when He extends Himself. He is not becoming a bigger God, or a better God, or a more effective God. If God could become bigger, or better, or more effective, He would not be God. God does not grow and improve like we do. He is perfect, and He never "changes" by growing or improving, or becoming better. This is what God means when He says, "I the LORD do not change . . . " (Mal 3:6). Although this is a very crude illustration, God extending Himself is something like distributing a precious substance. Imagine that you had a large container of precious oil. It was all in one place, and only one person had access to it. What is more, the more this oil was used, the more precious it became. Desiring to share this commodity, you poured it into a number of smaller containers and distributed it to your favorite people. Image, too, that after you did this, you still had the same amount of perfume in the large container. You would have EXTENDED the oil. We have an example of something like this in God's Word. During the time of Elisha the prophet, one of the "sons of the prophets" died. His widow was at once hounded by a person to whom the family was indebted. The widow had no resources, and was unable to pay the debt. She asked the prophet Elisha what to do. He asked what she had in the housed, and she told him she had a container of oil. He told her to quickly borrow as many empty containers as she could from her neighbors. She filled the house with the borrowed empty containers. They were various shapes and sizes. The prophet told her to start pouring the oil she had into those containers. As she poured, the oil in her container stayed at the same level, even though she was filling container after container. When all of the containers were filled, she could pour no pour from the original container. She still had the oil she started with--all of it. Yet, she had filled a great number of containers with the very same oil. SHE HAD EXTENDED THE OIL. This account is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7.
When I say God desires to extend Himself, this is what I mean. God wants to pour Himself, so to speak, into other personalities. He not only wants to work in them, He wants them to work WITH Him. In sharing Himself, He loses nothing. He becomes no less God than He was before. Frankly, that is a marvelous achievement! This is what the Bible is referring to when it says, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:12-13).
"LET US MAKE MAN"
The desire of God to "extend" Himself is revealed at the threshold of history--"in the beginning." This is the revealed account of the origin of mankind. "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26-27). Jesus Christ Himself referred to this account in Mark 10:6. "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female." Notice why God made man in His own image, and after His likeness. Here is a special creation, made like God. Mind you, the creation is not God, it is like God, or "after His likeness." This was not a physical likeness, because God is a "Spirit." He does not have a form, or a body, like we do. The Bible says, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). That is another way of saying God cannot be contained. He has no limitations. He is not confined by space or time. He is the ultimate Spirit in which all other spirits have their origin. The likeness was a spiritual one -- one that cannot be seen with the eye. It can, however, be understood with the mind and heart. Man is like God morally. That means he can choose between right and wrong. But it goes further than that. Man can determine to do something, make a plan, develop a project. He can put things together intelligently and purposefully. In this, mankind differs from animals. A beaver can make a dam, and a bird construct a nest. But they do it intuitively. They do not think about what they are doing, or plan it like an engineer. Because of that, a beaver cannot teach you how to build a dam. A bird cannot communicate the finer points of making a nest to you. Unlike God, they do things instinctively, or intuitively. They do not have to think about what they do. Animals, shortly after they are born can swim. They do not have to think to do so. Man, on the other hand, will drown if you throw him in the water before he learns to swim. He has to think. He is in the image of God. You may think that is a handicap--to have to learn to do everything. Would it not be better to do things by instinct, without thinking? Dogs can swim, but only one way--and it is not very fast. What is more, animals that swim by instinct cannot be creative in navigating in water. Man can build a vessel and stay in the water for a long time. He can make something to house, or accommodate people on the water. He can develop different rates of speed on the water. He is in the image of God! It is to his advantage to be able to think, built, plan, and implement. How different he is from the rest of creation!
When God made man, therefore, he extended Himself. He made someone that could do what He does. It is on a smaller scale, but man can do the same kind of thing. Because man is in the image of God, he can love and hate by choice. He can choose to love the good and hate the evil. The Lord would "let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." This is our very first introduction to God's purpose, or objective, for mankind. It is a large purpose, involving "rule" or dominion. The extent of the rule is staggering. It is "over all the earth." It includes "the sea," "the air," and "the ground." It is God's world, but He made man to rule it! Man is the extension of God. The sea, air, and ground belong to God--He made them. Yet, man is the appointed governor over them. He is the extension of God. Everything in the sea, air, and land have been made by the Lord. They belong to Him--yet man has charge over them all. He is the extension of God. At this time, however, everything is not in the control of man. He cannot control the wind or the rain, the heat or the cold, the tide of the change of seasons. He cannot cause the ground to be productive without working. When Jesus provided Peter with money for taxes, He simply called for a fish to bring it up in his mouth (Matthew 17:27). I would not advise you to attempt to do the same. You might even try to curse a fig tree, causing it to die (Matthews 21:19-20), or walk upon the water (Matthews 14:26). A few attempts like this will confirm to you that nature cannot be governed by you now--even though humanity was made to do so. The word of God says it this way. "You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet. In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him" (Hebrews 2:7-8). Has God's plan been thwarted? Has it been "scrapped," so to speak, because of man's fall into sin? Indeed, it has not! The plan is still in force, and will be made universally clear when the world comes to an end. In the meantime, God has given us proof of His purpose. It can be seen in His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:9-10). The Lord Jesus Christ is a Man-- not merely A men, but THE man. That is what He is called in God's Word. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). By saying "the man," the Spirit means the main Person, the primary Individual, the most important Man! However, more is means than this. This verse means Jesus is the REPRESENTATIVE MAN--the One that represents every person God accepts. He stands, as it were, for every person approved by God. Jesus represents them to God, and God to them. It association with what we are teaching here, Jesus is what the saved will become--glorified and perfected. He is doing what they will be doing! Mind you, those that join Him in eternity will not be His equals--they will still be under Him. However, they will be "like Him" in the world to come (1 John 3:1-3). Now, as we see Jesus, He occupies the throne, a place of authority. As a glorified Man, He is doing what God intended for humanity to do--have charge of His creation.
This is not a distorted view of a deluded person--it is the Word of the Lord. The precise representation is found in the second chapter of the book of Hebrews. These words declare the fulfillment of God's reason for making mankind. He made them to have dominion, and ultimately they will. "It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Hebrews 2:5-11).
There is the reason why we are made in God's image--that we might participate in His eternal reign. God is extending Himself in humanity, especially in the world to come. We were not created merely to keep rules--although that is certainly done. However, keeping the rules prepares us for the real reason for our existence, "reigning with Christ" (Rom ans 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:12). This is why Jesus spoke of the "meek" as "inheriting the earth" (Matthew 5:5). It is why Paulo spoke of those in Christ as "possessing everything" (2 Corinthians 6:10). For this reason, the Spirit declared, "So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:21). God is extending Himself in His people; bringing them into His purpose.
SALVATION REMAKES PEOPLE AFTER GOD'S IMAGE
When I use the word "salvation," I have something specific in mind. From the academic poi t of view, "salvation" means deliverance. It involves the rescue of someone in captivity, the release of one that is in bondage or confinement. The idea of recovery is also included--like a sick person being made well. When the Bible uses this word, it has a much broader meaning. It deals more with man's real need, and announces a permanent resolution. Jesus is called a "horn of salvation" in Luke 1:69. The idea is that with Him came the announcement or proclamation of deliverance. This salvation is something that God has "sent" (Acts 28:28). It is something man needed. More than that, however, it is something God wanted to give! His purpose is the driving force behind salvation more than man's need and desire for it. This is a salvation that teaches men to "say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:12-14).
This is salvation from sin and its effects. Jesus came to "save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). "Their sins" are the thoughts and deeds that drove a wedge between them and God. They are the things that caused us to become unlike Him, even though we bear His image. Until we are born again, we are like God in capacity, but unlike Him in expression. That is another way of saying we have been made so weak by sin that we cannot do what God intended us to do. Sin, or violating the will and law of God, takes our moral power away. Moral power is the ability to choose what is right and reject what is wrong. It is the skill avoiding doing what is evil and never avoid doing what is righteous. On these points, the entire human race has failed, or flunked the test. This is what the Bible means when it says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). That is another way of saying we have not acted like God. Salvation deals with our situation, and does so effectively. Remember, we have been made in the image of God. However, sin scratched and effaced the image--something like scattering spots of paint over the canvas of a valuable painting. The painting, in such a case, would be marred, or defaced. Humanity is like that. It has been defaced by sin. Salvation restores the Divine image, making us like God once again. This is exactly what the Bible says. "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Colossians 3:10). What is the Lord saying in this verse? Simply this: when we are saved from the guilt of our sin, we are also saved from its power over us. Not only is it wrong to lie to one another, we do not have to do so. We can "take off" our "old self," Just like we take off dirty and torn clothing. We do not remove our "old self" in our own strength. When we are saved from sin we become strong with God's own strength. Then we are able to quit doing and saying things we do not quit before. We are even able to quit dwelling on such things in our minds. You then take "off your old self with its practices." But it is not enough to simply quit doing what is wrong. That does not properly reflect what God is like--and we are being restored to His image. The Lord not only does NOT do what is evil, He DOES do what is righteous. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3) is described like this: "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy" (Heb 1:9). This is what empowered Jesus to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Himself. "He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right" (Isaiah 7:15). That means Jesus fed His heart and mind on things that clarified the difference between good and evil. That is the kind of image to which salvation restores you. From the positive point of view, salvation is becoming like the Lord Jesus Christ. That process begins in this world, and will be consummated, or completed, when we leave this world to be with the Lord. From this point of view, any salvation that does not result in you being made like Jesus is really no salvation at all! Remember, God has targeted to give you the world, but it cannot occur until you are like Him! He will not share His rule with someone unlike Himself. This is involved in the word of Amos to wayward Israel. "Do two walk togather unless they have agreed to do so?" (Amos 3:3).
CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE BY GOD'S SPIRIT
We have talked about WHEN this process begins--when salvation is initiated, or started. But how does it continue. People that come to Christ do not instantly lose all of their old ways. They do not begin at once to be 100% like Jesus in all that they say and do. Mark this well, that is what they want to do, but it simply is not accomplished in an instant. Our sins are forgiven in an instant, but we still grapple with them. Our hearts are made pure in an instant, but evil still tries to push its way in. Our desires are made new in an instant, but old desires linger to tempt and distract us. Although it is apparent, it is good to say it: we are not in heaven yet! How are we going to get there? How will be presented "before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy" (Jude 24). Can you really be assured in your heart that you can be part of "a radiant church," presented to the Lord "without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27). There is a way, praise the Lord, there is a way!
The Holy Spirit, working within our hearts, changes us by degrees, or in stages. This process does not necessarily indicate a long period of time. The point is that it is not all at once. It is like a growing child-- it takes place one stage at a time. Here is what the Bible says on the subject. "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). The idea is that as we concentrate on Jesus, we are changed into His likeness. The term "unveiled faces" takes us back to the Old Testament times. The reference is to the time of the giving of the ten commandments. This took place on a mountain called Sinai, where God Himself gave the ten commandments to Moses. There, in the presence of the Lord, Moses appearance was altered. Without him knowing it, the skin on Moses face actually started to glow. He did not become aware of it until he came down from the mountain to face the people. The book of Exodus says it this way. "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD" (Exodus 34:29). Moses was changed when he looked upon the Lord--changed by the Lord's glory.
In the third chapter of Second Corinthians, the Spirit is likening Jesus to Moses, and the people of God to the Israelites. Moses face glowed, but Israel was not able to look at it--it was blinding to them. Because of this, Moses placed a veil over his face, hiding the blinding glow that was there. However, this is not how it works in Jesus Christ. Instead of Jesus covering His face, or hiding His character from us, He shows us what He is really like in His Word. When you are born again, you are made able to concentrate upon Jesus without being hurt or discouraged by the view. You are able to thin k long about what the Lord is really like--to consider what He has done, what He has said, and where He is now.
The thing that happens as we consider, or ponder, the Lord Jesus Christ is marvelous. As we think about what Jesus has done, and is doing, for us, the Holy Spirit goes to work. He transforms, or changes, us into Christ's likeness. That is another way of saying we become like Him. Gradually, or in stages, His qualities are found in us. The Word of God calls these results the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23). As we become more like Jesus, we become less like the world. Heaven becomes more important, and earth becomes less important. And why is all of this happening? It is to make us suitable to be with the Lord forever, working with Him in ways unimaginable to us now. Stated another way, the Holy Spirit is orienting us for heaven. He is acquainting us with the heavenly way of doing things by making us like the Lord of heaven and earth. It is important to emphasis this transformation takes place only as we focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible to spent the majority of our time thinking about what we should do, or even what we want to do. There is nothing transforming about that kind of thinking--at least not transformation into the Lord's likeness. Salvation is Christ-centered, not human centered. It is saturated with the values of heaven, not those of the world. A religion that does not have Jesus at the center is like a house without a foundation.
Satan has a goal, and he is good at achieving that objective. It is to make us UNLIKE Jesus by tempting us to look at things like he does. The Holy Spirit has a goal, and He is better at achieving it. He is making us like Jesus by shining the light on what Christ has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. Those that do not "resist" the consideration of Christ Jesus will find themselves being changed, altered, and transformed by the Spirit of God. Allow me to be practical on this matter. When you think about death, think of Christ's death. When you consider life, consider Christ's life. If you want to ponder achievements, ponder His achievements. If you want to major on what others have said, major on what Jesus Christ said. Adjust your mental focus on Jesus like you would focus a camera on a subject you wanted framed in a picture and placed on your wall. Believe me, you will be changed, and God will be extended in you.
PARTICIPATING IN THE DIVINE NATURE
We "participate" in something when we share in it, or are involved with it. For example, someone "participates" in sports when they become a part of the sport itself. At the point they begin to participate, they are no longer a spectator alone. They do more than read books about the sport, they become a part of it. Being "saved" involves more than becoming a Bible student. That certainly is involved, but it is not all there is. When we come into Christ, we begin to "participate" in the "Divine nature." That is another way of saying, we become like God. Mind you, we do not become God--not even a little god. However, we are changed into His likeness. To say it another way, God extends Himself in us--that is what He wants to do.
The Word of God speaks directly about this matter. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:3- 4). Notice that the power of God is employed to accomplish this remarkable task--making us like God. He uses "very great and precious promises" to achieve this work. His objective, or goal, is to bring us to think and act like Himself. He uses wonderful incentives to bring us where He wants us. Those incentives are reasons--good reasons--to do what He says. What He says He will do is so marvelous that we want Him to do it in and for us. When we come to that point--where we want Him to do His will IN us--we asre not far from obtaining the blessing.
This process begins with enabling us to see Jesus as His Son, and to love Him as He does. It is true, our capacity is not as great as His. However, our insight into, and love for Jesus is the same kind that the Father has. It is something like having two containers One is empty, and one is full. The one that is full is a five gallon can, and the empty one is a pint jar. If I were to fill the pint jar from the five gallon container, they would both contain the same thing, even though they would have different amounts. When it comes to the "Divine nature," we are like the pint jar, and God is like the five gallon container. He extends Himself in us by giving us His own nature. One additional consideration. With God, nothing of Himself is lost when He extends Himself in us. We have more, but He does not have less. How unlike humanity! If you had $1,000,000, and decided to give away $500,000, you would only have $500,000 left. The only exception to that rule would be if you earned interest on the balance, causing it to increase.
In the case of God enabling us to "participate in the Divine nature," He is no poorer because He shares Himself with us. If He gives us His peace, He has no less than He did before He gave it to us. He has, in fact, extended Himself--something He desires to do.
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