“And 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.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18
I’ve read this passage many times, but recently I was arrested by the phrase, “contemplate the Lord’s glory.” It reminded me of the sermon series we recently finished on Mary of Bethany.
Mary contemplated the Lord’s glory. She saw in an ordinary man of flesh and bone someone who could redefine her identity, someone she could learn from, someone she could worship. Jesus commends Mary for her responses, even using her wise choices, love and repentance to call out religious leaders and even his own disciples.
But who was Mary, and why was she so special?
She was just a sinful, often un-named woman without the pedigree or experience of the Pharisees and disciples who form the backdrop of her story.
She was, in fact, not the point.
It was her undivided attention towards Christ that produced deep results in her life. She was, as the verse quoted above says, “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.”
I want that. I want to be transformed into Christ’s image with increasing glory.
But, in the past I found verses like this discouraging because it felt like I was going nowhere and I didn’t hear of any Christians talking about God giving them freedom in their lives. This made me question God’s power to actually help me live out the moral code he’d given. I knew I was still forgiven, but I had little hope of any sanctification while on earth.
This changed when I began pursuing God himself before trying to “be good.” The more freedom and joy the Lord has given me, the more burdened I have become to tell others about the tangible differences Jesus has made in how I live and act. This is so important because it’s a reminder to fellow believers that our God actually does have the power to save, heal and restore. If we don’t talk about where we’ve been or how far we’ve come (through Christ), we’re not giving God the credit for what he’s done for us.
Our Father’s gift of love is too marvelous to keep to ourselves. We can be expectant, knowing he will actually help us control our sin nature and live in freedom. When we start taking small, consistent steps of faith (asking a friend for forgiveness, giving God that $10 instead of spending it on a selfish purchase, putting the phone down and walking out the door when temptation strikes), the Lord steps in and carries us farther than we can imagine.
We can dare to dream big about where God will take us. As Christians, we are on a journey moving forward. That’s what 2 Corinthians 3:18 is saying! Yes, there are times when the sins we thought were done with creep back in again. Yes, we so often have to re-learn the same lessons. Yes, new bitterness, hatred or distrust slip in to replace old sins. Yes, we have periods of stagnant faith. However, if we are genuinely seeking after God, the big picture of our lives should be moving forward towards him. Sometimes, we will inch along at a snail’s pace, other times we will race at break-neck speed. But it is the movement itself we should pay attention to, and not be afraid to talk about.
Sanctification is an on-going, often frustratingly slow process; yet, Mary’s story is a powerful reminder that pursuing God does bear fruit. First, she cries at his feet as a sinful woman in need of forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). Later on, she boldly claims a spot at the teacher’s feet, normally reserved for male disciples (Luke 10:38-42). Finally, in an act of deep adoration and sacrifice, she anoints him with a perfume that would have cost her a year’s wages (John 12:1-8).
As she paid close attention to Jesus, God began transforming her. And not only did her actions bless her Saviour, but they continue to teach, convict and inspire the Church wherever her story is read.
Our stories of transformation need to be celebrated and talked about! Telling others about our past sin can be difficult, but it is crucial in order to give God the credit when he helps us recover, set aside shame and live according to his will. We don’t get there on our own. But the point is, we do actually get there.
We are triumphant conquerors through Christ, and we should be bold in sharing what he’s done in our lives so that those inside and outside the Church will be prompted to praise God for his mighty power.