Jim has been a Christian for 15 years. He has been a faithful member of First Baptist XYZ for the vast majority of those 15 years. You can find Jim and family in their unofficially designated seats each Sunday morning. The kids are active in the youth ministry. Jim’s wife is active in women’s Bible study. Jim and his wife host a group in their home for Disciple Now each year. Jim’s wife helps lead Vacation Bile School each and every summer. The family even tithes.
Jim and his family are model church members.
Yet, if you get Jim alone and press him to be honest – you’d be shocked by what you learn. He tries. He really does. But never gets into a habit of prayer. He reads his Bible along with the pastor on Sunday morning. He’s interested. He’s eager. He leaves the sanctuary determined to keep reading the Bible through the week. Yet, the determination fades by Wednesday.
If you got Jim to be completely honest – he’d tell you his Christian life has flat lined.
12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 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!
Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Galatia and the Galatian church was born.
Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia has been fighting for the gospel. The Galatians have moved from the gospel to a distorted gospel, which is no gospel at all. Rather, than trusting solely in Jesus Christ they have trusted in human effort.
A group of people have moved the church away from the message of the Gospel. The Gospel teaches freedom and grace, these false teachers have tried to return the Galatian church to the law. The Gospel teaches new life in Christ, the false teachers returned the Galatian church to festivals, rituals, and circumcision.
Paul began chapter three by screaming “You foolish Galatians!” In chapter four we see the Apostle Paul’s pastoral heart.
Paul instructs the Galatian church to be zealous – but zealous for the right things. He states that he is experiencing pain – like the pain of childbirth – desiring that Christ would be formed in the Galatian church.
The question then becomes – how is Christ formed in us?
How does a painter create a masterpiece?
How does a sculptor create a work of art?
How does builder create a home?
How does God form us into the image of Christ?
I think verse 12 speaks volumes but it’s easy to overlook. Paul says, “Become like me, for I became like you.” Paul is speaking of one on one, life on life discipleship. He not only preached the gospel to the Galatians – but he also walked through life with them. He saw them at their best. He saw them at their worst. They saw him at his best. They saw him at his worst. Speaking of seeing Paul at his worst – it appears that during his time with the churches in Galatia Paul became sick and the people faith took care of him.
Step one to have Christ formed in you? Find someone to walk alongside of you. Someone to encourage you. Someone to keep you faithful. That what we see in this passage. Paul is seeing the Galatians wander and he is reminding them: “Become like me, for I became like you.”
Step two (in my opinion) is adopting the spiritual disciplines. The spiritual disciplines are what God uses to sand off our rough edges and form us into the image of Christ.
Don’t allow you faith to flat line. Rather, be formed into the image of Christ.