To Be Conformed To the Image of His Son (continued)
Now let us come immediately to the Pattern. You may never have wondered why we have four Gospels at the beginning of the New Testament, for they were not the first of the New Testament writings. Some of the Gospels were written well after the Apostles had written their letters. But you see, the Holy Spirit had this matter in hand, so He placed the Person before the corporate expressions. So we will look at the Person Who is the Pattern.
First of all, the Man Himself is presented. Where do the Gospels begin with the presentation of the Man? Perhaps you have noticed that the Gospel by Mark, which was the first of the Gospels to be written, begins with Jesus at thirty years of age. Matthew and Luke may tell us a lot about the earthly birth and childhood of Jesus, but the first one to present this Person begins with Him as a full-grown man. And the first thing that is shown to us about Him as the Pattern is Jesus coming to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
That represented a very great crisis in His life. At that point He stepped across the line which lay between His private life and His public life, between Jesus the carpenter of Nazareth and Jesus the great Servant of the Lord. At that point He stepped out before heaven - the 'heavens were opened;' before hell - because satan would begin at once to react; and before all men. And, as it were, before the whole universe, He took His position with God. He made His utter committal to God. One the one side there lay all that this would could offer, all the kingdoms of this world that satan could give Him, all the realization of human ambition, all the experience of the satisfaction of the natural man. On the other side of His baptism there lay suffering, persecution, loneliness and death. The Jordan was a grave, and in going down into those waters of baptism He died to all that which lay on the one side and accepted all that lay on the other.
This is the comprehensive and inclusive meaning of baptism. It is the repudiation and death to one whole realm of things, and the acceptance of all that is involved in the other realm.
So Jesus came to Jordan. John would forbid Him, and sought to discourage Him by saying: 'No, this is not for You. It may be for the crowd, but it is not for You. It may be important for a lot of people, but it is not important for You.' Jesus simply said: 'Let it be so, John.' He would allow no argument to turn Him away from this committal. The best arguments of His best friends would not turn Him aside. He said: 'This is what I have come for, and I am going through with it.'
Is it necessary for me to stay and apply that? This is the Pattern revealed, and it is what goes to make up a vessel. Many, many Christians do not get very far in the Christian life because this thing is not as absolute as it was with Jesus. What does baptism mean to you? Is it just something in the Bible that you are told to do? Is is some part of the ritual of the church? What really does it mean to you? Does it mean this - an absolute committal to God for all the future and all that it involves? That is the pattern, and we shall never come to the full expression of the Mind of God until this first thing is settled.
The first thing in presenting the Man is His baptism, and, as I have said, that has to be a testimony before heaven, before hell and before men. I do not think heaven is very interested just in formalities. The angels are not looking eagerly at anyone who is just going through a bit of ritual. If satan is interested in anything like like that, it is only because he wants to laugh. He says: 'Poor creatures! I will prove presently how false it all is.' And I do not think people who really think have much interest in a merely formal kind of ceremony. But when it is after the character of the committal of Jesus Christ, the whole universe is really interested. If anyone like the Lord Jesus is determined to go through this thing and the enemy cannot stop it beforehand, he will, as in the case of the Lord Jesus Himself, come soon afterwards.
This is just the first thing concerning the Pattern, but let me say at once that it is not just a matter of being baptized or not being baptized. No baptism ever makes us wholly the Lord's. You might be baptized every year and it make no difference. It is a way that the Lord has given us of showing where our hearts are, and a matter of where our lives really are: whether we are wholly committed to God.
May the Lord find every one of us to be like Himself in this matter, and in being wholly committed to God may we be "conformed to the image of His Son."
(continued with # 13 - (We...Beholding... The Lord Are Changed Into the Same Image)