In gaining salvation for most Christians, the primary emphasis is on the correct belief over living out the proper behavior in our lives. Whether you realize it or not, our character is usually secondary to what we believe is the basis of our relationship with God. What is important is what you think and not what you do because salvation is by grace alone, not by works. It is easier to know the truth than the need to live out that reality in our lives.
However, in the gospel’s message, God became human to transform humanity and creation into the one-person Christ image. Christ is the head of a new race of humankind born of both the flesh and the spirit. In the incarnation, God forever declared by that action that the material world is not evil. The resurrected Messiah came to inhabit clay vessels, transforming humanity into God’s likeness. (The Indwelling Presence of Christ)
In the fourth century, the words of St. Athanasius challenged and confronted our comfortable beliefs about life and salvation. He declared that God became man so that man might become God. We cannot discuss the ramifications of his words without a proper understanding of what he is saying. Terms, concepts, and meanings make perfect battlegrounds for debate within human communication and understanding limitations. In Christian theology, the Greek word for divinization (making divine) describes the transformation of becoming divine partakers of His nature and being molded through sanctification into the likeness of Christ. Christianity teaches that God is an uncreated being and will always remain distinct from us. However, there is a perplexing mystery that scripture proclaims we may participate in God’s divine nature and divinity. It is a powerful claim and wonder to behold how we live out that reality in our lives. (Contemplation: Seeing the World through God’s Eyes)
Jesus came radically to change all humanity into His image. He came to redeem, restore, remake, and mold us into His likeness. It is true God’s grace saves us, and there is nothing in our power to save us. However, it causes us to believe there is no need to do anything except receive it by faith. Instead of dying to our will and letting Christ live through us as an example of what we believe, we battle over how we think. As a result, we spend our time much like the religious leaders in the time of Christ. We debate, trying to explain everything by what we know instead of what we do in our walk with Christ.
We quarrel over baptism, church membership, and our doctrines. Instead of living by the spirit, we slice and cut up others who do not believe like us. We analyze everything theologically to determine who is right. We are human scalpels dissecting and labeling every piece of theology that does not fit into our beliefs.
We earn higher spiritual education degrees to become proficient in proving our points. The more we learn, the more we analyze what it means to be a Christian and lose sight of what transformation looks like in our hearts and others. We protect our sacred-held views of God and humanity to explain why we reject the opinions of those who do not believe like us—always protecting us from those who could be wrong. It is a battle between them and us and who is right. (I am a Pharisee)
May we learn to focus our attention on the life-altering changes for the good the resurrected Jesus desires to live out through us. Let our minds reflect and contemplate His divine nature and character daily. May we, in humility, understand that God is not in a neat theological package; we open and realize the entire essence of who God is. When we humble ourselves, we know we know nothing and are wise enough to understand that we have a glimpse of God through Christ to spend the rest of our lives becoming Christlike in our actions. Let us embrace renewing our minds every day and be gracious toward others who do not believe the way we think. (The Secret to Loving Your Enemies)
The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. I Corinthians 15:45 NLT
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT
Note: Athanasius defended the church against the heresy of Arius, who denied the divinity of Christ being in the very nature of God. It was known as the Arian controversy relegating Christ to a position of subordination to the Father. In more precise terms, it stripped Jesus as being the God of the universe and in complete oneness with the Father and Holy Spirit.