the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
And all of us with uncovered face are beholding the reflected glory of the Lord and are transformed into the same likeness from one degree of glory to another just as from the Lord, that is, the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18, William Hendriksen translation, BNTC)
To behold the Lord Jesus with an “uncovered face” is to look upon him in worship. It is to meditate upon his person and work. This contemplation should lead to imitation. If we find we are struggling to make headway in going from glory to glory, we should reevaluate how we see Jesus Christ. To gaze upon the Lord Jesus doesn't mean we merely acknowledge and admire his wonderful attributes. It means we contemplate so as to imitate. It means we carefully consider his character, his example and the whole of Scripture in order to discover how he lived so we may discover how we should live.
Contemplation and imitation of Jesus Christ is to live according to God's word. It is a life characterized by obedience to the Bible. So, if we find we are not growing in Christlikness, we must consider the possibility of disobedience on our part. It is disobedient to harbor “little” sins and yet expect God to bless us with victory over “greater” sins. It is disobedient to know what we should do and not do it. It is disobedient to receive strength to overcome sin and not apply it. And a lifestyle of disobedience will not be blessed. The greatest blessing we can receive, aside from salvation itself, is to grow in Christlikeness. We will miss that blessing if we fail to deal with the everyday sins we encounter in our journey. As Jesus told his disciples, If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:17). In other words, we are especially responsible for what we know; if we hope to experience the blessings of God, we must live in accordance to his word.
Nevertheless, we cannot be transformed into the same likeness from one degree of glory to another by dint of hard work. Just as Christianity is not a system of salvation by works, it is not a system of sanctification by works either. What we do in this life must be impelled by Christlike love. Godly love is active but it is not attained in the act. In other words, our love for Jesus Christ shows up in our actions but those actions are byproducts of love. On the other hand, in a religion of works, love is a feeling that we try to prop up by our actions. As Alexander MacLaren wrote in his comments on 2 Corinthians 3:18, “Surely this message-’behold and be like’-ought to be very joyful and enlightening to many of us, who are wearied with painful struggles after isolated pieces of goodness, that elude our grasp. You have been trying, and trying, and trying half your lifetime to cure faults and make yourselves better and stronger. Try this other plan. Let love draw you, instead of duty driving you. Let fellowship with Christ elevate you, instead of seeking to struggle up the steeps on hands and knees. Live in sight of your Lord, and catch His Spirit. The man who travels with his face northwards has it grey and cold. Let him turn to the warm south, where the midday sun dwells, and his face will glow with the brightness that he sees. ‘Looking unto Jesus’ is the sovereign cure for all our ills and sins. It is the one condition of running with patience ‘the race that is set before us.’ Efforts after self-improvement which do not rest on it will not go deep enough, nor end in victory. But from that gaze will flow into our lives a power which will at once reveal the true goal, and brace every sinew for the struggle to reach it. Therefore, let us cease from self, and fix our eyes on our Savior till His image imprints itself on our whole nature.” Amen!