Taking Christ as our Pattern

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Ever heard of the Australian sculptor Ron Mueck? He’s part of an emergent art movement called “hyperealism” which seeks to make accurate sculptures of the subjects they draw from. Mueck will go as far as to detail veins and hairs in his sculptures. When one looks at his work it’s hard to say fit sure whether it’s alive or not. It could be said that Mueck takes the subjects of his sculptures as the pattern for them.
In the second half of Philippians we also see Paul encouraging us to take Christ as our pattern. This also matches Romans 9 where we see we’re like a lump of clay being molded by God as the potter.

Well, if we are being molded, what are we being molded according to? The answer Philippians gives us is that is Christ Himself. Furthermore, Colossians tells us we are being conformed to the image of God’s Firstborn: Christ.

What the Lord needs isn’t our effort to conform to the pattern as a lump of clay that has a mind of its own isn’t very useful. We also shouldn’t be close because in our example this would be like working with obdurate clay. Ask anyone who has taken a ceramics class and they’ll be quick to affirm working with rock-hard clay isn’t fun either. The main thing the Lord desires from us is our cooperation just as the most desirable attribute of clay is it’s malleability.

Letting the mind of Christ be in Us

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Quick: what am I thinking? This is an impossible task unless you’re a telepath (I’ve never met one, personally). It seems strange, then that in Philippians 2 Paul encourages the Philippian believers to make his joy full by thinking the same thing. What’s more, he even tells us to let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus. How can this be? Is this a case of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)?

Well, as it turns out Paul isn’t asking us to play telepath. He’s encouraging us to allow the Christ who has come into our spirit to fill our mind, emotion and will which are the components of our soul as you can see in this diagram and which is unveiled in 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

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Magnifying Christ

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Have you ever heard that if you eat too many carrots you’ll turn orange? As it turns out it’s not just urban legend. One of the main nutrients in carrots and other orange vegetables is beta-carotene, which absorbs light with a wavelength of about 600nm which we would perceive as the color orange. This vitamin is lipophilic, or fat-soluble, meaning it can lodge itself in our bodies and even our skin. A profuse consumption of foods rich in this vitamin will cause it to accumulate in the skin, thereby giving it an orange hue. This condition is called carotenosis. It’s a clear example we are what we eat.

In this example you could say that because the skin expresses the nutrients of the carrot, the carrot is magnified by the skin. The apostle Paul in the book of Philippians uses similar terminology in telling us it’s his earnest expectation and hope Christ would be magnified in him. Yet similar to the case of carotenosis, magnifying Christ doesn’t occur by our attempts to imitate Him in an outward way but it is the issue of eating Him and enjoying Him.

To eat something in the physical realm means to take something outside of us into us and for that thing to become one with us. Furthermore, it means to digest, assimilate and partake of the food and for it to become our constituent intrinsically. To eat Christ, spiritually speaking, also means to take Him into our being, to open to Him, to enjoy Him and to let Him become one with us. In this way there will be an issue and that will be Christ expressed, that is, Christ magnified.

The Bountiful Supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ

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Have you ever heard of the word “choragus?” This term comes from the Greek. In ancient times Greek choruses will go around performing Greek plays (Oedipus Rex, Antigone, etc.). Whenever they would arrive to a city, a wealthy patron would welcome them and sponsor their every need. You could say he would bountifully supply every need of the chorus. This patron then received the title “Choragus.”

When Paul talks about the bountiful supply of the Spirit in Philippians 1, he uses the word “epichoragus” to refer to the bountiful supply of the Spirit. In a sense the metaphor here is that we are the chorus and the Spirit is our choragus, supplying our every need.

The Spirit who supplies us isn’t quite the Spirit in Genesis 1, the Spirit of a faraway God who is simply our Creator. Although our God in essence never changes (I.e. immutability is one of His divine attributes), He has gone through the processes of Incarnation, Human living, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension to ultimately become the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). Thus in His humanity He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, yet God the Father become the ultimate source of His joy. The book of Hebrews also tells us that due to His human experiences He’s able to be touched by the feeling of our weaknesses (Heb. 4:16). Hebrews also tells us that due to His divinity in Him there’s the power of an indestructible life. Such Spirit is now out supply for every situation.

The amazing thing is that He has made our accessing this supply so very simple. Just by telling Him we love Him, just by saying “Lord Jesus, I love you!” you can experience the supply of the Spirit.