I was the kid in class who said, “When I grow up I want to be a Major League Baseball player!” My teachers always smiled, probably thinking, “Yeah, right.”
My hero was Ken Griffey Jr. I had posters of him on my wall, I had his ’89 Upper Deck rookie card, and I even got to see him play against the Rangers when Seattle was in town. When it came to baseball, I tried to emulate him in every way.
Although I didn’t make it out of A-ball (if you know baseball, then you know what I’m talking about), and I didn’t have anywhere near the talent he had, trying to emulate him actually made me better at baseball. Watching and emulating greatness rubs off on people.
There is a similarity in the Christian life. God desires for us to grow in holiness, but we need a model. We need someone to emulate. Paul hints at this in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he says,
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 as Christians is in direct proportion to our beholding the glory of Christ. The more we dwell on who He was and what He came to do, the more we will look like Him.
So how does this work?
1. There must be a starting point.
Everyone who is born into this world has a veil that covers their eyes so that they cannot see the truth. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 that the gospel has been veiled and that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The last thing the enemy wants is for people to see the beauty of Christ and His sacrifice for our sins. So how is the veil removed? The answer is only through Christ (v.14). The moment you trust and believe in Christ for your salvation is the moment the renovation process begins. There must be a starting point.
2. You must see the glory of Christ.
The fact is, we become what we behold. Once your eyes are opened through faith, you now are able to see Him for who He really is. Meditating on and looking intently at the person and work of Christ will result in transformation. Paul says, “we are being transformed,” which means that it is something that happens to us as we look at Christ.
3. Remember that it’s a process.
This process of transformation is not an overnight event, it’s a lifelong process. Paul says we are “renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16), and that we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
John Calvin says:
Observe, that the design of the gospel is this — that the image of God, which had been effaced by sin, may be stamped anew upon us, and that the advancement of this restoration may be continually going forward in us during our whole life, because God makes his glory shine forth in us by little and little.
Oftentimes we grow frustrated at our lack of progress and we are tempted to quit. It’s in those moments that you have to remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
4. It requires Spirit-empowered effort.
The good news is, this is ultimately the work of the Spirit of God. John Piper says,
the Holy Spirit does not do His work apart from the gospel because his work is to open our eyes to see Christ … the work of the Holy Spirit in changing us is not to work directly on our bad habits but to make us admire Jesus Christ so much that sinful habits feel foreign and distasteful.
As the Spirit gives us clearer and clearer vision of the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we, little by little, become more like Christ. Apart from the Spirit there is not much we can do.
So whose beauty are you beholding? Where are you fixing your gaze? Is it on the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ? He is the perfect image of the invisible God and it is only by gazing upon Him that we have any chance of being transformed into His image.