Saturday, 8 March 2014

Being Transformed into the Image of Christ

"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." 
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

                     Transformed by what is seen

 Today the dominant belief is that the way to become more like Christ is to do more. Since Jesus' life was one of almost constant activity in order for the Christian to be like him he has to live in this same proactive way. And so there are many Christians who follow Martha's example who are preoccupied with what they are doing rather than following Mary's example and sitting in the presence of Christ and enjoying him as they hear and see him. The catalyst for change rather than being time spent with Christ has now become what  the Christian does for Christ. I have spoken to many Christians who live such busy lives that they have minimal time for reading the bible and spending time with Jesus. How sad it is that the means by which God means to change the Christian is relegated to second importance and is neglected. This awesome change of a vessel of clay into the image of God's only begotten Son is something that only God alone can do. No human being can do for himself this immense transformation. It is done by God alone. 

            How does the Christian change          into the Image of Christ?

But then the questions arise, "but how then does God do this? How does he change the Christian into his Son? What means does he utilise?" Then during my daily readings this passage leaped out of the pages at me. And as I read and re-read it I came to learn that God means to change me and every Christian by the following ways:

1)  By directing my attention away from what I can do to what has already be done for me. The transformation of myself into Christ was something that He purchased at the cross along with salvation. Therefore to become like Christ has nothing at all with what I do but has everything to do with what God promises to do for all those who belong to his Son. Therefore the foundation of my being transformed into Christ is all that Christ has done for me in the past. At the cross Christ not only lived and died so that I am now justified but also that I am and will be sanctified and in the future glorified. All of salvation finds its foundation not in what I do or how I live or how obedient I have been but in what Jesus did those many thousands of years ago. 

2) By directing my attention away from myself to Jesus Christ and His glory. It is so easy to think that when the bible talks about being like Christ it means I must do this and do that. It can be so easy to think that I must start living in a certain way. It is the default human position to think that becoming Christ like is the result of human effort and striving. I can be so caught up with myself and how I am doing with regards to obedience rather than looking away from myself to the only one who can transform me. Obedience is the fruit but the tree of obedience is Jesus Christ. To become like Christ I must first see Him. 

The more time I spend looking at Him and thinking about Him the more I will become like Him. This is true of every day life. For instance as children we learn from an early age how to behave from watching our parents. We pick up their mannerisms, their attitudes, their idiosyncrasies, how they relate to one another, how they relate to other people. We mimic much of this and we learn for better or worse that this is how we should behave.  How much more true of those who observe the glory of Jesus Christ as He is seen in the Bible. The same Holy Spirit who illumines Christ to the mind transforms us by what we see "from one degree of glory to the next." As we see Christ we begin to see how he related to others, how he behaved and how he spoke. We start being changed by what we see so that we love as Christ loved and we hate what he hated.  The question then is how much time do I spend looking at Christ? Is it a priority in my life and is it the main priority? How much time do I spend reading the bible since all of it ultimately points to Jesus? If I want to become more like Jesus then my whole life must revolve around time spent in the bible as the first and most important priority. If I want to become more like Christ then what I spend my time and energy on must first be seeing the glory of Christ.

3) Finally looking to Christ and becoming like Him is a gradual process. I can become so impatient with how little I seem to be growing in Christ-likeness. Sometimes I seem to take two steps forward and five steps backwards. The progress seems so excruciatingly slow and sometimes I wonder if there has been any progress at all. At such a time I can be so discouraged and downcast. But it is always good to remember God's promises:

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. he who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) 

"God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him." (Ephesians 1:4)

"Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." 
(Ephesians 5:25-27)

"But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 2: 13-14)

John Piper writes:

"In choosing you his purpose was your holiness. In predestining you his purpose was your holiness. In dying for you his purpose was your holiness. In calling you his purpose was your holiness. And so we can say with Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 24 not only, "He who called you is faithful, he will do it—he will sanctify you," but also, "He who chose you is faithful, he will do it. He who predestined you is faithful, he will do it. He who sent his Son to die for you is faithful, he will do it." 

And he does this by pointing us to his Son and as we see Him in all His glory the Holy Spirit changes us so that we become like him.

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