Transformation Meditations: 18. The Way is Impossible
2 Cor 3:18 we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
I sense we are coming to an end of this interesting little series about how transformation takes place as an individual is apprehended by God and then changed. I leave us with the reminder that becoming a Christian and living out the Christian life as it is shown in the New Testament, is impossible without the supernatural working of God.
We live in a world of ‘self-help’. Book stores are filled with self-help books and on the internet you can find multitudes of sites that basically say, “This is how you do it…” Where people are aware of it in Biblical terms is uncertain but unlikely, for they mostly do not see themselves in comparison to God or how God sees them, but they nevertheless do want something better for themselves than they are at present. Hence the ‘self-help’ industry. Unfortunately it strays into the Christian world. I have in mind one particular well known, very successful preacher-writer whose books and public teaching, when you consider it analytically, is nothing less than a self-help mantra. There is little there about Christian realities and Christian discipleship, it is simply the power of positive thinking. In a secular context I have taught that in the past, but the truth is that all such things are entirely superficial.
In this series (and even more in the previous series on Redemption) we have highlighted the problem that humanity has – we are self-centred and godless and this leads us on to us getting it wrong in life, i.e. we are unrighteous and unrighteousness flows from or is an expression of Sin. When you listen to, or read, this ‘self-help’ teaching, it epitomises this ‘self-centred and godless’ approach to life that defines Sin. We can think positively and work positively and be utterly godless in our self-centred approach to life.
“We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”. Our verse above shows the lie of the self-help approach. The Message Version puts it, “we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” I think that paraphrase goes a bit over the top and doesn’t actually emphasise what Paul is saying but it does paint a good picture – of Jesus being transfigured (see Mt 17:2) and us taking on the same glory as Jesus revealed. The Living Bible puts it, “we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” Again a good picture but neither pick up the sense of the NIV’s ‘contemplate’ or the NKJV’s “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,” and the ESV’s, “beholding the glory of the Lord.” Each of these, shying away from merely reflecting the glory, point us towards considering a ‘gazing upon’ or ‘standing close to’ feeling that is a reality here.
The truth is that we are transformed, we are changed in three ways. First, because we enter into a relationship with Jesus and not a regime of rules of self-help, we are changed when we consciously spend time in his presence. This is where a ‘God’s presence awareness’ so-called ‘quiet time’ has been (and still should be) a simple teaching for discipleship. We will be changed in his presence as we spend time with him morning or evening. Second, because we will want to put content to our knowledge of the One we follow, we will spend time in his word, the Bible, and what we read will change us. Third, because his gift to us is his own Holy Spirit indwelling us, his presence within us will be working to bring continual change, continual transformation to our lives.
So we have looked at our need, the way that the Lord calls to us, disturbs us, breaks in on our complacent lives, challenges and convicts us and then, when we surrender, he justifies us, adopts us and empowers us, and we’ve just observed how the ongoing changes work.
We could also ponder on how the fact of our being justified and then of being adopted etc. also have transformation-power but I will leave that for you to ponder on in the days to come. It’s time to move on.