You Become What You Look At

cross sunset

Pastor Jay has asked me to take the reins of “Four What It’s Worth” while he rests this January. I’m not sure what will appear in this column in the coming weeks – I’m still discerning what will be most helpful – but I want to use this entry to expand on the first application point from my New Year’s Day sermon: “seeing God’s glory effects transformation.”

In that point, I gave a cursory discussion of 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6. I think this text merits further reflection because of its richness and importance to Christian formation. Let me observe four features of this text (in keeping with the theme of this column).

I. Reading the Old Testament Can Be Thrilling!

Many find the Old Testament hard to understand. Yet part of Paul’s point in these verses is that we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in the very reading of the Old Testament. “When they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away…To this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts” (3:14-15). In these verses Paul contrasts unbelievers, especially Jews who rejected Christ, with those who turned to Christ and now behold his glory in the Scriptures. We should therefore expect to see Christ, even in the enigma of the Old Testament. Consider this statement of Paul’s elsewhere: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:14-15). In other words, the “sacred writings” (read: Old Testament) are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Next time you read the Old Testament, look for your Savior there, because he really is there!

II. The Triune God is at work in the reading of the Scriptures.

Every time a believer opens the Scriptures, he/she communes with the Triune God who breathes life into him/her. The Father decrees, “let light shine out of darkness:” He illuminates our minds to discern the presence of Christ in the words of Scripture (4:6). The Son, in the person of Jesus Christ, is the key to understanding the Scriptures because He is their essential content (4:4-5); the light which regenerate readers behold is the light of the glory of God in Christ’s face (4:6). The Holy Spirit frees the believer from the bondage of sin so that he/she can behold Christ’s glory (3:17). We ought to be radically charismatic in our reading of the Scriptures, because the Triune God is at work in every reading to set Jesus Christ before our eyes.

III. Our destiny is to become the image of God again.

In reading the Scriptures and beholding the glory of God, we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (3:18). Which image? Christ’s – he, after all, “is the image of God” (4:4). This is consonant with Paul’s teaching elsewhere: “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” (Rom 8:29). In sanctification and in glorification, our end is to look like our Savior, to reflect His image. And while this process is undoubtedly for our good, it is ultimately for Christ’s glory (“in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”). Even our reading of the Scriptures gets caught up into God’s eternal purpose to glorify his Son. We should rejoice at partaking in such a wonderful privilege.

IV. “Transformation belongs to the Lord.”

Finally, Paul accents human passivity and divine sovereignty in formation in this text and its context. Formation into Christ’s image, from one degree of glory to another, “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (3:18). And, we receive the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ by God’s creative fiat: “let light shine out of darkness” (4:6). (Paul alludes to Genesis 1:3 to describe the way in which God imparts the light of Christ’s glory to the sinner’s heart.) But God’s sovereignty in formation (or sanctification) does not discourage our participation. In fact, it undergirds it. Notice Paul’s logic in Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” He calls the Philippians to work hard at putting on the virtues of Christ, and simultaneously encourages them in their pursuit with the inexhaustible grace of God, which is working to recreate them in Christ’s image.

His message remains for us today: let us work hard to take up the Scriptures, behold the glory of Christ in them, and imitate the beauty which we are granted to see.

Matt Gilleskie Youth Minister Chapel Hill Bible Church