“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,”
The third category by which Paul wanted to know the Lord better was conformity to His death.
“Being conformed to His death”
The word “conformed” means to take on the same form as His death. It means to make like form with another person or thing, to render like.
This does not mean to die on a cross as Christ did. The thrust is to have the same attitude Jesus did when He went to the cross. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “If it is your will, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus understood fully what He was about to face. He knew the horrors of the cross. Yet He still went to the cross. Jesus faced pressure with a certain orientation.
Tradition believed that Paul was beheaded. He did not die in bed. Most of us would prefer to die in bed, with white sheets, with a nurse or two, with a head physician plus a couple of interns. It probably will not work out that way. We had little to do with our entrance into the world, and we will have little to do with our exit.
What epitaph will they place on our tombstone? What will people say about us? What would we want them to say? Will they say, “He lived for Christ? He put the priority on eternal values?” Most of us have heard the couplet: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” If we could only view things in light of eternity, we would put Christ first. Our perspective on life would be entirely different. We would put God first. Everything else would be incidental.
Yet, we generally put everything else first. We relegate the things that count for eternity to our spare time. We consign eternal priorities to hobbies. We dispatch the winning of people to Christ to whatever position is leftover from other priorities.
We do not live with eternal values in view. Most of us feel the main thing is to make a living, stay healthy, raise our children, get a good education, and be a good citizen. All this will be put in proper perspective in eternity. These are good things. Good things can become distorted if put in inverted order. Paul put the Lord at the head of his list: “That in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). Jesus was “Mr. Big” in his life.
Everything we have belongs to Him. That includes our children, education, health, job, business, house, friends. All that we have must conform to Him. All we possess belongs to Him. What an ambition—to “know Him!” Any experience in life will help me know Him better, whether I am perpendicular or horizontal. One reason God lays us horizontally is that we will know Him better.
In Romans 8:29, Paul set forth Jesus as the model to which we should be conformed: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” God predestines us to be conformed to the image of His Son. He determines that every child of God shall be ultimately like the Lord Jesus, even if He has to take us to the woodshed! To God, it is inconsequential whether we live for 20 years or 90 years. John the Baptist and Jesus both died young. It is not how long we live that matters to God, but how well. How well we live is determined by how well we know Christ personally.
The length of our lives or the time of our death is incidental to God.
The quality of life from God’s viewpoint is how well we have come to know Christ. What epitaph will be on your tombstone?