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 is the result of God’s amazing grace (with unveiled face) and our sputtering faith (beholding). As we saw yesterday, this happens in degrees, slowly and progressively, because it is by faith, and our faith is in process.
But what are these degrees of glory that Paul is talking about? Or as some translations say, “from glory to glory.”
Paul may have in mind the progression from the glory of the Old Covenant law to the glory of the New Covenant and then finally to the glory of seeing Christ himself. This is surely part of what Paul was thinking.
But what about our life now as we wait for the glorious return of Christ? Aren’t we now in some way moving from glory to glory? Of course, but how?
The glory that we behold, that we reflect, that we possess, is getting greater and greater every day. It is not fading like Moses’ shining face. It is increasing.
How is that possible? Isn’t Christ’s glory always the same? Yes. But our experience of the glory of Christ and of his cross is ever growing. Because our faith to behold the glory is ever growing.
What makes our experience of the glory of Christ and his cross increase in our hearts? This may surprise you, but two of the biggest things are our sin and our suffering. The two things that naturally tend to make us run from Christ, now, through our union with Christ, take us into his glorious presence.
Think back to the story in Exodus 33-34 where Moses gets to see the glory of God. Just before this, as Moses was on top of the mountain, the Israelites made a golden calf idol, had a drunken orgy around it, and thanked it for rescuing them from Egypt.
Without Moses they were suffering. And without Moses they were sinning. Their sin and suffering were great but then God’s glory was greater. And God’s glory stayed with them, just like it does with us in the form of Christ’s indwelling life.
When we allow ourselves to see the shame of the sin in our lives, we are able to see the greatness of the glory of God in the cross of Christ. He suffered for our sins, for our unjust victimization of others, for our own “victimhood,” for our petty selfishnesses. He forgives and cleanses us of all these. Now, every sin is meant to drive our hearts deeper and deeper into the glory of unconditional love and free grace. Every sin we commit, when confronted by God’s grace, moves us from glory to glory.
When we look honestly at the pain of our suffering – every unmet desire, every trial, every battle lost – we are able to see the greatness of the glory of the cross of Christ. By his suffering and resurrection all of our sorrow will be removed forever. Until then we groan as we await the return of the Lover of our souls. Each sorrow we face is meant to increase our longing for the glorious Christ to return to earth. Each sorrow is meant to drive our hearts to the indwelling Glory inside of us. The glory of Jesus and his grace.
One of the great realities of the Christian life is not just that we are transformed progressively over time. It is also that we experience more and more glory over time. And the paradox is that this happens as our sin and suffering become more and more clear to us. As my experience of my sin and suffering increases, the glory of Christ also increases in my experience.
“To live is Christ” moves us from glory to glory because the Christ inside of us allows us to confront our sin and suffering honestly without fear. Now sin and suffering can transform us from glory to glory. Now, rather than running from Christ, we can journey ever deeper into the glory of the cross.
How do you tend to face your sin and suffering? Do they take you away from Christ or towards Christ and his glory? How does union with Christ comfort you in your sin and suffering? How does it make the glory of grace increase in your heart?