"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."
II Corinthians 3:18
The subject of our transformation or maturing in Christ is, obviously, too large to adequately cover in this little article. However, I would like to briefly touch upon some basic concepts that I feel are unscriptural and have led us down the wrong path. The way that we view transformation will, in large part, determine how we live our Christian lives. If we know that God's goal is to form the image of Christ in us, but we misunderstand "how" He does this, then our whole approach will be off center. How does God mature us? How does He transform us into the image of His dear Son? I propose to you that the way you view transformation will determine your whole approach to the Christian life.
Two Different Views on Transformation
I believe that there are two basic ways of looking at how God changes or transforms us. I have held to both views at different times in my own life and have observed countless believers in their approaches over the past thirty years. It really boils down to two views and these two views are completely opposite to one another.
The Improvement of the Old Man
We could call this view the "Home Depot" method. In case you don't know, Home Depot is a large chain of home improvement warehouses in America. Most believers have this view of how God transforms us. We think that God is in the remodeling business. We are the house and He is the Contractor. Our house is a real mess. It's what you would call a "fixer upper." Beginning the day that we are saved, God begins His remodeling project to fix us up!
We are coworkers with Him in this project. So this means that we need to help Him in order for this house to be fixed up. He points out problems, and then expects us to do something about it. For example, you've got a leaky pipe in that bathroom, so here's some pipe putty and a wrench; go and fix it! God is the one who changes us; however, He needs our cooperation for things to actually improve. He is like a Master Carpenter who is walking through our house, inspecting every nook and cranny, and telling us how to fix it. We constantly tell ourselves that this is not self improvement but rather "God improvement," but is that really what is going on here?
Let me give you another example so that this will be clearer. Let's say that I have a problem with my anger. I get angry easily, lose my temper, and then say things that hurt people. So, the first thing that needs to happen is that I need to realize that I have this problem. God has to point out to me the fact that I have a leaky faucet. He will use my wife, friends, boss, or speak to me directly to show that I need help. Then, I should read the scripture verses about controlling the tongue. Then, maybe I should even read a whole book about anger management and controlling the tongue. Then, every time I feel myself getting angry I need to count to ten in order to have a "cooling down" period. I need to humble myself, ask God to forgive me, and then obey Him. One of the problems is that every time I get angry again I feel guilty, condemned, and dejected because I have failed God again.
What About the Cross?
In this "fix-me-up" view, the only purpose of the cross was to forgive me of my sins so that I can get to heaven. Christ died on the cross to "clean me up" so that now (by His help) I can live a godly life and be a "good" Christian. Of course, much of this is dependant upon me. In order to be a good Christian I have to read the bible, pray, go to church, tithe, witness, etc. If I do these things often enough, then I will mature and grow up into His image. This view perpetuates the concept of a weak cross and a weak crucifixion. It also assumes that God even wants to fix us up. Is that really His solution to the dilemma of the fall of man? I say no, no, a thousand times no!
The truth of the matter is that we were so far gone in the depravity of our fallen state that there was nothing God could do to help us. We were too far gone to be "fixed-up." And even if God did fix us, there would be no guarantee that another "leak" wouldn't pop up somewhere. No, my friends, our God's solution is much more severe than that! His solution was not to try and "fix" Adam's race; His solution was to completely wipe it out! It was beyond hopeless, so He decided to crucify the whole race of Adam on the cross. Yes, that includes you! You and I were crucified with Christ. The only thing that was raised with Him was the new creation. This means that in God's eyes, your life is over! The old man has been crucified. You have died and now your only life is hidden in Christ. (See Col. 3:3; Romans 6; Gal. 2:20)
This is what the cross accomplished for the Father. Now, He could begin fresh with a whole New Creation. This new creation would not be dependant upon its own ability to "fix" itself, but rather in the power of the resurrected Life!
Here is the situation as I see it. We have this old man who has been crucified. The problem is that the dead corpse is still there, hangin' around. Isn't it silly to try to "fix-up a corpse? Only morticians do that! The corpse was part of you but now is just like dead wood. The real you is in Christ and is one with Christ. However, this "dead wood" needs to be removed in order for the "Christ in you" to be seen clearly. Christ is in you, but the "waters" have been muddied and so He cannot be clearly seen. The transformation process is in the clarification or purification of the water.
The Water and the Wine
Let's put it another way. You are like a glass of water. Water will take on the characteristics of whatever you put into it. You were created to have wine (God's life) poured into your water, but instead, you took in mud. The water took on the characteristics of the mud instead of the wine. The power of the mud had to be stopped so it was decided that it would be destroyed forever. Now, as a believer, the wine has been poured into your water. However, the mud is still there even though it no longer has any power. The wine has all of the purifying power because it has conquered death! Now, all the water has to do is push the mud particles into the wine and they will be dissolved. The water will become clearer and clearer until only the wine is seen.
Brothers and sisters, our only task is to continually turn ourselves to Him. As we behold Him, the muddy water will become transparent again and He will be seen through us.
I recently saw a movie called "Chicago." One of the songs was called "Mr. Cellophane." Here are the lyrics to the chorus of that song:
"Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane
Should have been my name, Mr. Cellophane
Cuz you can see right through me,
Walk right past me,
And never know I'm there."
"He must increase, but we must decrease . . ."
This subject will be covered in more detail in a book entitled: "The Temple Within."