But we with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. This comes from the Lord, who is The Spirit.
(2 Cor 3:18)
As we gaze on Jesus and how beautiful He is, we become more and more like Him.
I love the way Paul says it’s like looking in a mirror. We simply reflect His glory by looking at Him, by focusing on Him, by resting in Him.
That’s why I cringe when I hear preachers tell us we should try to ‘be more Christlike.’
We cannot be more Christlike in our own effort. We become more Christlike by gazing on Him. As we spend time with Him, we reflect Him.
We are the fragrance of Christ, as Paul says.
Trying to be more Christlike in our own strength – i.e doing good works – is self-effort Christianity, which Clark Whitten, author of Pure Grace, says is ‘a lie that has demoralized and defeated the Church for centuries.’
We cannot please God by obeying the law.
He gave us His righteousness as a free gift, which comes through our faith.
In Philippians chapter 3 Paul tells us he considered himself faultless according to the law, yet when he discovered he had been given God’s righteousness as a free gift, he considered his own efforts ‘rubbish.’
…more than that, I consider everything rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD…not having a righteousness of my own which comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ. A righteousness that comes from God and is by faith!
Paul couldn’t believe it. He was righteous by faith. No work involved. Simply by believing! Could it possibly be true? No wonder he couldn’t stop banging on about it! Him and Isaiah:
I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!
We cannot become like Christ through our own self-effort. The only self-effort God requires is the effort to gaze on Jesus, and that takes no effort at all once your realize how beautiful He is. Does gazing at something beautiful take effort? Gazing at a flower, a face or the amazing beauty of the eyes of your lover?
The amazing thing is, when God gazes at us He sees us as beautiful as Jesus. Because of the cross, God consumed all of the sin that separates us from Him – once for all – so He is able to see us the way He made us. We are the creations of the One who created the galaxies, rainbows and supernovas. To God, we are intricately as beautiful. We are the icing on the gateaux of creation. We are the apple of His eye.
We are beautiful Princes and Princesses, children of The King of Kings.
Our self-efforts to achieve righteousness – I must do this, I must do that, read my bible more, pray more, be more holy – puts the burden on us, whereas the gospel says:
By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who have been made holy.
His sacrifice has made us holy, once for all.
We cannot make ourselves holy.
He did it.
If we could do it ourselves, why did Christ have to die?
If we think we can add to our righteousness by our own good work, we are stripping the glory from Christ, taking His prize, saying His suffering was for nothing, because we could have done it on our own.
In the movie 127 Hours young Aaron learns a tough lesson, that if he hadn’t been so selfish, if he hadn’t believed he could do everything ‘on his own’ he wouldn’t have to endure the extreme suffering he goes through.
Yet, unlike in that shocking biography, thankfully God didn’t leave us to endure extreme suffering on our own – even though we deserved it.
Jesus suffered for us. He experienced eternal hell for us.
Saying we can achieve righteousness ourselves says Christ’s suffering and sacrifice wasn’t enough.
It’s Christ, plus us.
As John Stott says:
“We are offended at the idea that we have nothing to contribute to our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.”
(The Cross of Christ).
But we have nothing to add to the blood of Christ.
We have no eternal suffering to endure.
He did it, and all the praise and glory goes to Him.
Without Him we can do nothing.
He did it.
He has made us holy by His finished work.
And as we gaze on Him He changes us.
He changes us. We do not change ourselves.
This comes from The LORD, who is The Spirit.