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?