Praying Unto Christlikeness
Bible Reading: Philippians 1:9-11
If you’ve ever watched the show Fixer-Upper you’ve seen how dramatic the result can be when a house is totally renovated and made to look beautiful and appealing. But there is no more dramatic renovation than that which is done by God in saving a radically depraved sinner and transforming them into Christlikeness. It is a work which is “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6), and when Jesus comes to be “glorified in his saints,” He will be “marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). We will be awestruck by Jesus and by the work He has done in us!
The entirety of the believer’s salvation lies in the realm of the miraculous. The believer in Christ is not a religious person, at least not in the sense in which we normally understand that term, instead he is a person who has been miraculously born again into a personal and life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Every step he takes in his transformative journey is a “by grace” step, a step in which he must be led and empowered by the Spirit to do things he could never do on his own (John 15:5; Galatians 3:3; Philippians 3:3). Progress is not made by trying harder to do better in his own self-effort but happens instead as the Spirit works though the Word to transform him into “(Christ’s) image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The call to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” would be impossible were it not for the fact that “it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Why does this matter and how is it related to devotion to prayer? The realization of the depth of our dependence in the light of the glorious destiny to which we’ve been called, should drive us to devotion to prayer. The things for which Paul prays in Philippians 1:9-11 are things we could never do in and of ourselves. That love which “abounds more and more” and is instructed by truth and exercised with discernment, is not a human love improved upon, it is a love which “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). It is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). No amount of human self-effort or religiosity can work to bear the “fruit of righteousness” in us, as it “comes through Jesus Christ” and is therefore to “the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). As Jesus made clear, His fruit is born in us as we abide in Him, for apart from Him we “can do nothing” (John 15:5). His renovating work has this lofty goal: “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). This saving work of Jesus is indeed a miracle, for His grand purpose is to progressively eradicate sin from us in every respect! This fact alone put us in the place of constantly looking to God in prayer for direction and strength, for the journey is too difficult and the destination too far off for us to ever make it apart from His gracious leading and provision (Romans 7:24-25)!
D. A. Carson offers these insightful words in relation to this prayer: “This means that when Paul prays this prayer, he is praying for nothing less than revival. He is praying that Christians might be, right now, what we ought to be, what we certainly one day will be. The text teaches us to pray that we will test and approve for ourselves the highest and holiest things—all with a view to the day of Jesus Christ. Even now, Paul’s prayer insists, Christians are to be holy as pardoned sinners can be this side of eternity. And we pray toward that end. It is in this way that Paul’s prayer for what is excellent is tied to the long view, to the day of Jesus Christ.”
“O to be like Thee! Blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer!”
O TO BE LIKE THEE!
Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.
Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.
Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.