August 17: Change Part 7: The Same Image.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Here’s where we’ve been so far in our “Change” mini-series: By God’s grace we are changed and can change because the veil has been removed from our hard hearts. Now we can behold (love and worship) the glory (goodness, significance) of the Lord (the cross and everything that points to it, which is everything). This transforms (changes from the inside out) us.

Transforms us into what?

The same image as the Lord Jesus.

The word image should take our minds back to Genesis 1. We were made in the image of God. Imaging God is your life’s purpose. We are each meant to be the physical manifestation of the invisible, immaterial God.

But as you know, we have all been very bad at this assignment. And so Jesus, in his great kindness, has done it for us. He took on flesh in order to be the human Imago Dei that we could never be.

Colossians 1:15. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

You see Jesus didn’t come to turn you into a god. He came to turn you back into a human.

And so here is a humbling thought, that our Savior, who IS God, lowered himself to become the image of God. He did this when he took on the corruption of human flesh and became a mortal. He was always God. But he also lived as the image of God for 30+ years, suffered, died a less than human death, and then was returned to glory. He retains his role as the ultimate human image bearer of God, having never relinquished his deity. His humanity goes on. His humility goes on. He’s both the Reality and the Reflection at the same time.

Christ did all of this for love. Love for the Trinity and love for us. He did it to rescue us from ourselves by filling us with love, and holiness, and freedom. He did it so that God could dwell with humanity. Walk with them and talk with them like he did in the Garden. He did this to restore the Trinity’s relationship with us. Something God could never have done without Christ as the bridge. Now God can truly experience his creation and we can experience him. Our spirits are joined in cosmic matrimony. The two (us and God through Jesus) have become “one flesh.” He also did it for the Trinity’s relationship with each other, so that they can glorify each other through their displays of grace shown to us through our union with Christ.

To God be the glory great things he has done!

What does this mean for us right now? To be the image of Christ is to look like Christ on the earth. Our union with Christ secures Christ’s life in us. This allows us to image Christ and God. When Paul says that we are being transformed into the same image, he doesn’t want us to just stay in the clouds. He wants us to bring it to earth – literally. We are called to live out of the imago dei.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Jesus was the physical manifestation of God on Earth, not just because he was God, but because he was human. Every human is called to manifest God, to carry his glory and goodness around with us. To impact the earth and share intimacy with others in loving, sacrificial relationships. In other words, to look, sound, and live like Jesus. But only those who by faith receive the life of Christ, can by grace accomplish this purpose for humanity.

“To live is Christ” means that by his indwelling Spirit, every believer shares the same image of Jesus and thus the image of God. As the New Creation we are the new humanity, empowered to change the world around us with the love of Christ.

Do you see yourself as the image of God? The image of Christ? Does your life look like Jesus? How does your union with Christ free you from any guilt or pride that may be preventing this?

August 16: Change Part 6: Transformed.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We behold the glory of the Lord and it change us. Paul uses the word transformed. In Greek, Metamorphoo.

Metamorphoo is a seldom used word in the New Testament. It’s only used four times. Two of them are in Paul’s writing (here and Romans 12:2), the other two are when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain top.

Matthew 17:2. And he was transfigured [metamorphoo] before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Wow! What happened to Jesus on the outside is happening to us on the inside. Inside we shine like the sun. Inside we are pure light.

Metamorphoo is change from the inside out. Not a mechanical change like a “house flipping” TV show. This is a change that comes from a new nature. It’s organic. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly or a flower blossoming.

2 Peter 1:3-4. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter describes the change that takes place in us as an indwelling divine nature. A nature that brings us into the glory and excellence of God. When God’s grace and your faith collided, the divine nature took hold in your spirit. Now your life force is controlled by God. And that is good news!

Paul makes it clear that our transformation is present, ongoing, and passive. Christian, you are changing. You can’t stop it. You can’t will it to happen. But you can resist it just like you can resist any grace. But God will prevail. Where your sin abounds grace abounds much more. So why not sit back and rest in the grace of God in Christ Jesus?

“To live is Christ” is to be being changed. Can you feel it? Me either. But sometimes, when I let myself pause and look back over my life, I do see the change. Sometimes when I instinctually forgive someone, or sorrow with someone, or respond in kindness without thinking about it too much, I experience the transformation. The metamorphoo. The transfiguration. And that’s glory.

Are you able to believe that you are being changed? When you look back over an extended time in your life can you see this change? How does your union with Christ empower the transformation that is occurring in your heart?

August 15: Change Part 5: The Blazing Center.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

How does change occur in the life of a Christian? That’s the question we’ve been answering using this amazing verse.

So far we have seen that we must believe that we have an unveiled face, that is, we are already changed by God’s grace. Then we behold the glory of the Lord. Beholding is worship, and our worship must be focused on the glory of God as seen in the cross of Christ.

OK, so we change by worshipping God by beholding his glory in the cross? Yes.

But how is this possible in the day to day lives that we all live? Are we supposed to just sit around all day looking at a crucifix? Do we stop going to work and playing with our kids and just meditate on Jesus all day?

It’s actually quite the opposite. Everything you do every day is meant to point you to the blazing center of the glory of God in the cross of Jesus.

Think of the things of life as like our solar system. And at the blazing center of the solar system of your life is the glory of the Lord God. He is the sun. All the planets revolve around the sun.

Likewise, everything, and I mean everything, in our lives revolves around the SON.

You see, everything in our lives can either distract us from the glory of the Lord, OR it can point us to the glory of the Lord. Nature is glorious, but if it ends there, we will worship nature. Sex, money, children, work, music, the body, are all glorious. And each of these (and anything) can become what we worship. Or it can point us to the even more glorious one – Jesus himself. Everything revolves around him. He made it. He sustains it. He ransomed it. He rescued it. He will fix it. All of it will be under his authority and command. All of it will praise him and his goodness.

Now, think about the universe as sort of like a target. At the center of the target is the Lord God and his glory and goodness. Everything in the outer rings points us closer and closer to God’s glory. On the outside rings might be things like a good cup of coffee or the sandwich I had tonight from Panera (Turkey, Apple, Cheddar – yum). As we move closer inside there might be things like success at work, or a nice email, or a great catch in football. Moving closer still are our relationships and feelings and experiences.

You see, everything on this “target” is good. And because it is good, it reflects the goodness of God. And everything good on this target requires sacrifice and love. And so everything on this target points me to the love and sacrifice of the cross. That is, if I’ll resist falling short of the glory of God and worshipping the creation instead of the Creator.

Let’s keep going to the center of our target. Just outside the blazing center is the church. The lives of fellow believers. This is where the glory of God chooses to dwell today, just like it did in the Temple of old. And so, each Christian is sitting just to the right of God himself in all of his glory. The glory of God is blazing brilliantly out of each and every Christian. Can you see it? Often it’s veiled, but it’s there.

Now we have made it to the blazing center. It is Jesus and his cross. Besides the church itself and all of us Christians, Christ is the greatest display of the glorious goodness of God. Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection are the greatest reflection of the mercy, grace, holiness, and righteousness of God. And what the cross reveals to us, is that even the suffering we experience in this life is on the “target.” It’s in the “solar system.” Even our sorrow points us to the glorious goodness of God. Along with everything else that is good, or turned into good, by God’s grace.

“To live is Christ” revolves us around the blazing center of God’s glory in Christ, but it also places that same glory inside of our hearts. The One that is the center of the universe lives in you…… This means all of the goodness in the world points to the Goodness that is in you. This gives meaning to every little thing you do.

How would your life change if you truly believed that the goodness and glory of God resides in you? How would it change if you believed that everything you do has meaning? That everything either points you to the glory of the Lord or steals glory from the Lord depending on how you interact with it?

August 14: Change Part 4: The Glory of the (crucified) Lord.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Our transformation into the image of Christ comes by the beholding of the glory of the Lord.

As we said yesterday, glory changes us. We become like whatever we love and whatever we worship. But only the glory of the Lord can change us without destroying us. All other glories will cave in on us.

So what is the glory of the Lord? Well, if we go back to the passage that Paul is basing this whole section of 2 Corinthians on, Exodus 33-34, we will find God defining his own glory.

Exodus 33:18-19. Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Moses asks for God’s glory, and God sends his goodness. Why this word change? Because God’s goodness IS his glory. Sure, God’s glory is manifested in light and fire and rainbows around his throne. But those are the physical displays of his true glory. His true glory is who he is – his goodness, his holiness, his grace, compassion, and mercy.

Beholding this glory, this goodness, is what will transform us into the image of Christ. But how? How does beholding God’s glory and goodness make me like Jesus? Because Jesus IS God’s glory and goodness. God’s grace, compassion, and mercy are manifested in their fullness in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

More specifically, they are manifested in the cross.

That’s right, the cross is the greatest display of God’s glory.

And herein lies the greatest paradox, and frankly the greatest difficulty, of Christianity. Failing to see this truth is what has created all kinds of fake versions of Christianity and all kinds of deceived Christians.

If God’s glory is manifested in bright lights, and pillars of fire, and miracles, and sunsets, and flowers, and job promotions, and healed diseases, and finding that long awaited spouse, and freedom from addictions, and prosperity, then of course we have no problem with any of that.

But if God’s glory is manifested in an unjust murder on a cross, in self-sacrifice, losing, weakness, betrayal, self-denial, pain, sorrow, crying, slavery, death and the crucifixion of the self, then…. well, does anybody really want that?

But we must. For this is the only path to true glory – Death. Then resurrection. Then glory. In that order. You can’t find the glory of God without first experiencing the death of Christ. This is true for your salvation in general, and it is true in the daily experience of your union with Christ.

Take for example person A who has been passed over for the job promotion. We tell them that God has a wonderful plan for their life. We pray for the job promotion to come. He works harder and harder. He believes that if he truly trusts God it will come. And then it does.

Person B has also been passed over for the job promotion. She faces her grief, crying out to God over her loss. She allows the Spirit to let her pain reveal her true desires – the desire for security or respect. She begins to trust God that he is enough for her. Her fantasy of the promotion begins to be crucified while her soul is resurrected to be satisfied in Jesus alone. Now she works hard from true unconditional love, not self service.

Which one beheld the glory of the Lord? Person A did a lot of Christian things and followed Christian principles. But he never died and he was never raised to glory. He jumped over death and resurrection and tried to gain glory without the glory of the cross (self-denial, self-sacrifice). He worked harder but for his own sake. He trusted God but for his own gain. He never faced the pain he felt and instead numbed it with “prayer” and “hard work.” He didn’t look for the intrinsic goodness of God, he looked for the goodness of God in what God would do for him.

“To live is Christ” is to have the true glory and goodness of God inside of you. Not the false glory of the uncrucified self, but rather, the true glory of the crucified self.

Can you recognize the difference of the true glory of the Lord in the crucified Christ as opposed to the false glory of God in “finding the good life of blessings?” How does your union with Christ allow you to see that the glory inside of you is the glory of the Jesus who died BEFORE he was raised? How can meditating on this thought change how you approach hard situations in your life?

August 13: Change Part 3: Glory.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We’ve started looking at what it means to change. Change is something we all want and the Christian life is, by nature, transformation – a metamorphosis.

In Part 1 we said that transformation is made possible by the grace of God because he has already changed us. The veil has been lifted.

In Part 2 we learned to behold, that is, to love and worship. We only change as our loves change.

Today let’s add the object of our beholding, glory. Glory is a big theme here at To Live is Christ. We’ve talked about it here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Beholding the glory of the Lord is what transforms us. There is no other answer to the riddle of Christian growth and formation. Why?

Because glory alone changes us. Everything we do in this life, we do for some level of glory – meaning, purpose, significance, value. We go to the mall for glory. We go to work for glory. We eat for glory, date for glory, have sex for glory, watch Netflix for glory, even do ministry for glory.

We are all glory chasers. And there is no shortage of things that want to fill the glory hole that sits in the middle of your heart. If you think this isn’t a danger for you, you’re deceived. You’re chasing something. We all are.

But only the glory of God can change us for the good. Worshipping at the feet of any other source of glory will destroy us.

Here’s why:

The law of worship says that we become like whatever we worship. We become like the thing we love. In other words, we take on its image and likeness, its character. If we worship the creation, we will become a distorted image of this corrupted thing.

Here’s how New Testament scholar N.T. Wright explains it:

“Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sex objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch.”

The biggest danger for us each day as Christians (and humans in general) is that we tend to find our glory (meaning, significance, value) in our own righteousness – “I’m right, you’re wrong… My group is better than your group… I would never act that way… I can explain why I did or said that… That’s not what I meant… That’s not my fault.”

And on and on goes your inner lawyer.

But even your own self righteousness is a false glory that can’t live up to reality. It too will crush you along with all the others.

“To live is Christ” is your final stop for glory. You in Christ and Christ in you is all the glory you’re ever going to get and all you will ever need. Stop chasing. Slow down. Take a breath. Behold the glory of the Lord with that unveiled face of yours. It’s right there inside of you.

Can you identify your source of glory, meaning, identity, value, significance? Is it something other than your union with Christ? How can your union with Christ satisfy your search for glory? How can it end your need to self justify?

How does Andrew Keen’s assessment of the internet connect to our search for glory?

August 12: Change Part 2: Beholding.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Do you want to change? Most of us do. We all want to change something in our lives, get better, sin less.

But the great paradox is that the more we try to change the more likely it is that we won’t. Sure, we might exchange one behavior for another. But is that the change that we really want and need? What Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is far more than just behavior modification. It’s transformation into the image of Christ.

So if we don’t change by trying to change, what is the answer?

Beholding.

True change happens when we behold the glory of the Lord. When we gaze longingly upon him. In other words, when we love him. Love is what changes our hearts. We change when our affections change. Our desires drive the transformation into the image of Christ that we desperately both need and long for. God knows it takes much more than just changing our intellect to transform us into Christ. It takes changing our very longings in order to bring about the character of Christ in us.

Here is one of the most important truths of our spiritual growth: if you want to overcome a sin in your life, stop obsessing with overcoming that sin in your life. Our sin comes from disordered loves. This means loving something bad that you have no right to love. Or, more likely, loving something good but loving it more than God and others. Loving it in order to feel good about yourself. Or, as the Bible would call it, idolatry. And anything that you make into an idol will ultimately destroy you. It won’t handle the weight of your worship. It WILL let you down eventually.

The only way to overcome your love for something that is destroying you, is to love something else more than you love that thing. And there’s only one thing we can love and worship wholeheartedly without it destroying us – God himself. Why? Because only he is both perfectly good and eternal. Everything else in life will either get worse over time or come to and end. Everything else will let you down or turn you inward to self worship.

Beholding the glory of the Lord is the fusion of our loves and our worship. God changes our loves by our worship. Our loves change by the day to day habitual ways that I see life. Your life IS your worship. So everything you do in life is forming your heart. In other words, you’re always beholding something. You’re constantly longing for something. You’re always thinking about what you desire. Or, in the words of Dr. Hannibal Lechter, “you desire (or covet) what you see every day.”

Warning: creepy clip alert.

The good news is that the veil has been lifted by the grace of God and we are free. Free to to see the unveiled glory of God in the person and work of Christ (the gospel), and free to love that glory more than we love anything else. This is far beyond obeying biblical principles or having spiritual experiences. Please, Christian, don’t let your life be reduced down to those two things. Life is so much more. It is worship. It is looking into the face of God through Christ and his Body and loving and trusting him more for it.

“To live is Christ” is to desire Christ so much that we worship him. And it is worshipping him so much that we love him. This happens as we behold his grace and truth in the everyday moments of life.

In what ways do you behold God in Christ? Have you experienced the heart change that comes by worship? How does our union with Christ, his indwelling life, allow us to behold him constantly?

 

 

 

August 11: Change Part 1: The Unveiled Face.

2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This verse stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Galatians 2:20 as a foundational statement for spiritual growth through our union with Christ. It answers the question that every Christian should be asking, “how do I change in Christ?”

We are changed into the image of Christ as we, with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord in Christ. Over the next few days let’s dig into this amazing verse as we seek to embrace transformation through our union with Christ.

With unveiled face.

The very first thing we must believe before we talk about anything else, is that, by the grace of God, the veil has been removed from your heart.

2 Corinthians 3:16. when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 

When you placed your faith in Christ and trusted in his life, instead of your own, for salvation and righteousness, the veil was removed. What veil?

2 Corinthians 3:14. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.

Paul depicts the law as being veiled, or misunderstood, as it was read in the synagogue. The law that the Israelites read about, from the Old Testament, was always meant to point to three things: 1) the good life, 2) our inability to live the good life, 3) Jesus living the good life for us.

The hardness of humanity’s hearts placed a veil over all of this. They didn’t see the goodness of the law. They didn’t see their own failure to love. And in each sacrificed lamb, they couldn’t see the One who would have to come and sacrifice for them in order to give them the life that the law demanded.

Enter Jesus.

By his living and his dying he 1) showed us the good life. The life of love and trust in God. He showed us 2) our utter failure in living the good life of love and trust. And, 3) he lived the good life for us in our place.

His life physically and spiritually removed the veil. The physical life that Jesus lived revealed what a human life lived under the Law could be – and it was glorious. Compassionate. Kind. Faithful. Peaceful. Dependent. Submissive and yet free. The imago dei.

But Jesus didn’t just lift the veil that was over the law with his own human life. This is crucial: He lifted the spiritual veil over our hearts as well.

2 Corinthians 3:15. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.

Each of our hearts were veiled. We couldn’t see the glory of the law until we saw it on display in Christ’s physical life. But also he lifted the veil over our hearts and minds by his spiritual life granted to us by grace. He lifted the veil when we turned to the Lord (3:16).

By God’s great grace and our repentance (turning to the Lord) the veil was removed!

And so here is our starting point for change – before we can change, we must believe that we have already been changed. Our minds and hearts have been unveiled. The cover has been lifted. We are the New Creation. The old is gone, the new has come. We are free.

Do you believe this? If you want to change then you must!

You must believe you are already sanctified before you can be sanctified.

You must believe you are free before you can live in freedom.

You must believe you are dead to sin before you can crucify sin.

You must believe that the old man has been taken off before you can take off the old man.

You  must believe that you are justified and righteous before you can be an instrument of righteousness.

You must believe that you are raised to life and alive to God before you can live for God.

You must believe that you have a new desire for God before you can live from that desire for God.

Before any transformation can begin by the life of Christ in us, we must believe that the veil over our heart’s understanding and desire, has been lifted because we are in Christ.

“To live is Christ” is to live in this unveiled faith.

Take a minute today and think about your desire for and attempts at change. Are you starting with the faith that you are already changed? How does your union with Christ demand this kind of faith? How does it empower this kind of faith?