GROWING INTO THE LIKENESS OF JESUS
By Dan Luehrs
A seed is a remarkable thing. When it is planted in the ground to grow, either the seed will grow to maturity or die in the growth process. The object of planting a seed into the ground is for the seed to grow up and mature, reproducing it’s self many times over. If the seed does not grow to full maturity the crop is a failure for the farmer because he has no harvest to sell or seed to plant the next year. Because of the failure of the seed not maturing the farmer has wasted his money for the seed and the tilling of the land, and he has nothing to show for his time and effort.
You and I were once small seeds in our mother's womb that could not be seen with the naked eye, but we grew and grew until our bodies became fully matured in size. The goal of our parents was to grow us from infants into mature responsible adults that could one day reproduce after our likeness. If we had miscarriage in her womb we would not have matured as human beings.
THE SEED OF JESUS
"For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23 NAS).
All the natural seeds of the earth are perishable, but when we are born of God's eternal seed we are imperishable. When we asked Jesus to be our Lord and Savior He became a living seed in us even as He was living in Mary His mother! He became a seed in us that wants to grow to maturity so that He might reproduce after His own kind. A seed always reproduces after its own kind. If you plant a watermelon seed you will get watermelons, not grapes! The same is true with the blessed seed of Christ. If He is planted in us a mature Jesus should grow to maturity in us and reproduce after His kind. Our goal as a Christian is found in 1 John 3:2, "…When He appears, we shall be like Him …" The seed of Jesus must grow to maturity in us so that we will yield our heart and mind to Him. Then Jesus can live His life through us as the Head and we His body. But the maturation process starts with the seed of God's word being planted in us. Think about it: we live off of seeds everyday; many of our vegetables are seeds and our breads come from seeds. No wonder the Bible says, "… Man does not live on bread (seed) alone, but on every word (seed) that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4 NIV). Every word of God is a seed that feeds us and grows in us daily. Either the seed grows to maturity in us and we become like Jesus, or it dies in us and we stay carnally minded.
"Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times" (Mark 4:8 NIV).
In Mark 4 Jesus told a parable about the sower of the seed. The seed is the word of God and we are the soil that the seed/word is sown into. If we are good ground the seed will grow and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty or a hundred times what was sown in us. But this was not the case with all soils/Christians that heard and received the word/seed sown into them; in fact much of the seed was wasted.
"The sower sows the word. "And these are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. "And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Mark 4:14-19 NAS).
In essence Jesus is saying that only one out of four soils/people comes to maturity and produces a harvest. The first soil was hard; the seed of God's word will not grow in a hard heart because it can not penetrate the soil. The second was rocky; the seed went down in the rocks and sprouted, but had no root or stability to grow upward. The stress and pressures of life like the wind blowing and the sun burning down on a plant with no roots; soon the small plant dies. The third soil was thorns or weeds. Weeds grow faster than the good seed and will choke off any healthy seed that is planted. The good seed cannot not grow and bear fruit because all the nutrients are going into the weeds rather than the good seed. Jesus likens weeds to worries and the desires for other worldly things like pleasures and entertainment's that do not last or satisfy us in the end. The deceitfulness of riches is one of the greatest deceptions in the church today. Why is that? When people are doing well financially they think that God is well pleased with them and when they are hurting financially they think that God is angry and is judging them. This is truly a great deception in our day! "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV).
The fourth soil is the good ground, "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold" (Mark 4:20 NAS). There are four criteria for us to become the good ground and for the seed of God's word to be planted and come to maturity in our lives to become fruitful. First, the soil of our heart has to be prepared and broken up by God through our tribulations and trials before the seed can be planted. As a farmer prepares the ground by violently breaking the hardened ground up so that the seed will go in, God has to break up our hardened hearts through trails and difficult circumstances. If we are without trials our hearts becomes hard and the evil one will come and steal the seed away. The second standard for us to be good ground is hearing the word of God! Jesus said two times in Mark 4:9 and 23 that we are to "hear" His word. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Hearing the word is like planting the seed in the soil; that is, if our heart has been softened through tribulations. Seven times Jesus said to the churches of Revelation, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7 NAS). We must have a hearing ear so that we might hear the voice of the Spirit teaching us the truths of God's word in whatever way He chooses to. Whether it is through the written word or through nature itself, we must be hearing! Many Christians are so busy right now doing the work of the ministry they have no time to sit in His presence and "hear" what He is saying to the church. The Father said to the disciples in Mark 9:7, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him!" The most important thing we can be doing right now is to, "HEAR HIM!" In fact, if we are not hearing Him we will not be given any more spiritual truths than what He has already given us. "Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you and even more." "Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him" (Mark 4:25 NIV). The word of God is invaluable; whatever value of measurement we have placed on the word will be given back to us. If we have little value for the word, it will be taken from us. But if we value it most highly above all things, more will be given to us so we will continue to grow into the full likeness of Christ.
Jesus is knocking on our heart's door so that we might have fellowship with Him. When we let Him in He will teach us His truths. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20 NAS). When we hear Him knock on our heart's door and open it, we will dine with Him, eating on the dainty morsels of God's word. Either we will open the door to Jesus or we will open the door to evil one and have fellowship with evil thoughts and desires.
The third standard for us to be the good ground is, "accepting" it. The ground must accept the seed in it for it to grow. I'm sure you have heard of the saying, "In one ear and out the other." In other words, did we understand what was being spoken to us? "But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matthew 13:23 NIV). In order for us to mature and be fruitful we must understand what we have been taught. This is why Paul prays for us in Ephesians 1:18, "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." We must pray for spiritual understanding if we are going to understand spiritual truth. Only God can give us this! Every word that God speaks to us is a seed that He wants to grow in us. Yes, we are born again through the seed of His word, but that is only the beginning of what He wants to do and plant in our lives.
The fourth standard for us to be considered good ground is, that we "bear fruit!" What good is it for a farmer to plant thousands of dollars worth of seed in the ground if he knows that that ground cannot produce a harvest? A farmer would always like to harvest a hundred times what he planted in the ground, but this is not always the case. Because of things out of his control like drought, hail, and other natural events he may only end up with thirty or sixty times what he planted. But that's better than nothing!
The same is true with God. He would like us be one hundred percent like Jesus, (this is in the genetics of the perfect seed that is planted in us), but He will take thirty or sixty percent of what Jesus looks like in us. Let me try to explain it another way. The Christian experience is three-fold, "The Way, the Truth, and the Life." This is the thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold of God. These three Christian experiences are all found in the Feasts of the Old Testament and are experienced in the lives of New Testament believers. The first Feast is "Passover," this is where we experience the life changing power of Jesus as the "Way" in our life as we receive salvation through the power of His blood. The next Feast is "Pentecost," this is where we experience the "Truth," the Holy Spirit baptism which is the down payment that has sealed us unto the day of full redemption. The third Feast is, "The Feast of Tabernacles," this is where we experience the "Life," the fullness of the Spirit that brings us into the full likeness of Jesus. For we cannot change ourselves, God must do the work in us through these three experiences of God. (I have written much more on these in my book called His Coming Glory, which can be found on our website at the end of this chapter).
"The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. "But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:28-29 NAS).
Here again in these verses do we have the thirty, sixty, and hundred. "The blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head." But notice the soil (the person) sets the level of grow for each seed! If the soil is well watered with (the word of truth) and has plenty of sun (daily being filled with the Holy Spirit) the seed will grow to full maturity and produce a hundred times.
The likeness of Jesus is now hidden in all our hearts if we have received Him as Savior. No person knows how far along we are in His likeness and having our minds renewed, but God can see exactly how much we have grown into the likeness of Jesus. The Lord gives us a great promise in these verses that when we have completely come to full maturity and the likeness of Jesus He will "immediately" harvest us and than plant us into the lives of others. This only makes good farming sense. For what farmer would harvest his grain before it was completely matured? This would be a complete waste of seed! Yet many Christians get saved and think that they are ready to be planted in the lives of other people when really they have not yet matured and died to self in the process. A seed must die to itself before it can be planted, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24 NAS). We die to self by losing our life to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
God wants mature sons who have died to self so that He can manifest the life of Jesus through them. "For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19 NAS). This is why the seed of the Lord Jesus Christ was planted in us in the first place. He is now hidden away in us from the sight of others, but one day Jesus has promised to reveal Himself through us for all to see. "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light" (Mark 4:22 NAS). Yes, believe the word of God! He has a great and mighty calling on us if we will pass the tests that He is allowing in our lives to mature us into the likeness of Jesus. "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:4 NAS).
The problem is, many Christians are starving the life of Jesus in themselves by not feeding Him a steady diet of anointed truths from God's word. Most churches today only feed their people milk and not solid food so their people can grow. Jesus said, "For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink" (Matthew 25:42 NAS). Jesus is talking about us feeding the ever wanting to grow like Jesus in us and feeding Him in the lives of the brethren. Many carnal Christian use these words as if Jesus is telling us to feed all the physically hungry of the earth. Jesus didn't do this in His earthly ministry! He is telling us to feed the spiritually hungry! Jesus told His church at Laodicea, "You are poor miserable, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). Now for Jesus to tell His people that they must have been starving for the revealed truths of God's word!
KEEPING THE WORD WITH IN US
"But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected (matured, completed). By this we know that we are in Him'' (1 John 2:5 NAS).
I was meditating on this verse of scripture and I asked the Lord what it meant to have the love of God perfected, matured, or completed in me. He gave me Mark 4, which talks the sower of the seed. He showed me that the seed of His word had to be growing in us for us to come into the full maturity of His Son. He also showed me that His word is His love to us! As I studied the book of 1 John I saw a word pattern that John used frequently, the words, "In us," "In Him."
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8 NAS).
"And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 John 3:24 NAS).
"No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us" (1 John 4:12 NAS).
"By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit" (1 John 4:13 NAS).
In order for us to be spiritually mature the seed/truth has to be in us. Our hearts are the treasure house of God; this is where we hide our greatest treasure, His word! As I looked over 1 John 2:5 again I saw something that I had not understood before. The word "keeps" means "to guard from loss or injury, by keeping the eye upon it." When Adam was placed in the garden the Lord told him to "keep" it. That word "keep" in the Hebrew also means to "guard." Adam was to guard the garden from the enemy (see Genesis 2:15). Today we have the garden of God in our heart where we walk with the Lord and have fellowship with Him daily.
Now read again 1 John 2:5 as I add the word "guards" in the place of "keep," and move the coma to the word him. "But whoever (guards) His word in him, the love of God has truly been perfected (matured, completed). By this we know that we are in Him'' (NAS). In other words, if we will guard our heart like man guards the greatest treasures on the earth, truly the love of God has matured in us because we have seen the importance of the unfathomable riches of God. Once we see the true value of God's word in us, then He will reveal more and more of Himself to us, until we are fully like Him!