“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Paul includes himself in the metamorphosis or change from one state of spirituality into the greater. Truly, a converted life is a thing of beauty and should be appreciated by all. Consider three things that the Bible addresses of the beauty of a transformed life.
From Sensual to Spiritual. One of the greatest battles within each individual is between the desires of the flesh and the intent of the spirit of man to want to do right. Paul wrote, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:16-17). If man did not have divine revelation in the inspired word of God, he would be left to his own thinking and fleshly inclinations to live his life. However, such only leads to what Paul would later identify as the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19). Such a sensual life is not becoming of the beauty to be found by following the Spirit’s word to produce the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22). True beauty is seen through the influence of the Spirit’s revelation in the life in contrast to the ugliness of man following his own wisdom. James gave a similar set of contrasts in James 3:15-18. A life lived to the flesh void of spirituality is ugly and destructive. A life lived to the revelation of the Spirit (i.e. the Bible) is wholesome and greatly admired.
From Selfish to Serving. Isaiah wrote of the self-centeredness of man, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Man constantly has to battle the temptation to satisfy self over satisfying God and serving others. It is easy to become self-absorbed with one’s own personal living. There is even a tool invented not too long ago and very popular with people called a “selfie stick” for taking pictures with self in it. How much more beautiful is the life of Christ where it is said of him, “For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Rom. 15:3). The people who belong to Christ should project such an image. Paul wrote to Titus, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
From Sinful to Submissive. Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:12-13). He wrote further, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). A life unto sin leads only to death (cf. Rom. 6:23) while a life unto God is unto eternal life (cf. Rom. 6:22). Eternal glory is far more beautiful now as well as in heaven.
“And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:27-30).
Here is a remarkable account of the jailor at Philippi going from near suicide to salvation. While he was literally shaken from physical sleep, he was awakened inwardly to seek the salvation through Christ. This old world of sin can easily put one into a lethargy of false security if one is not sober and vigilant. Consider three types of “wake up calls” that demand spiritual awareness.
Harm Related. Accidents and acts of violence can truly show how vulnerable human life is. It is written by David, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Ps. 39:4). This is a strange request. Most would ask God to show them where their strength lies, but here David wants to understand the fragile nature of life. Such is truly spiritual-mindedness at best. As a man of war (cf. 1 Chron. 28:3) David was fully aware of death on a battlefield. He knew how quickly life could be gone in a moment while being vigorous in physical strength. War gives a different perspective than peacetime. Accidents also can wake up the inner man. Consider 2 Kings 1:2-4. While people do not always seek the proper source for spiritual healing in times of physical distress, it is still the case that “wake up calls” come.
Home Related. Homes should be places of refuge and peace (cf. Ps. 128). However, troubles at home can cause the inner man to take new perspective. Eli was awakened to the behavior of his sons. “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress” (1 Sam. 2:22-24). How many families have been shaken inside by the religious, moral and/or ethical divergences from the truth by family? It often hurts the most when the damage is being done by the people who are loved the most. King David’s family was racked with spiritual problems (cf. 2 Sam. 13-18). Due diligence is needed in training “while there is hope” (Prov. 19:18).
Health Related. Hezekiah was “sick unto death” (Isa. 38:1) and told to set his house in order. He turns to the wall and prays (cf. Isa. 28:2-3). How many people find that great illness brings great introspection? Facing one’s mortality is often avoided until it cannot be avoided. The recovery of health is to be seen as a great blessing as was the case with Hezekiah (cf. Isa. 38:20-39:1). Keeping that spiritual consciousness when given another “lease on life” is not as frequently done (cf. Luke 10:11-19). Job is a great example of spirituality when losing everything from family and possessions to his own health. Truly, even in death it is better to go to the house of mourning that one may lay it to heart (cf. Eccl. 7:2).
“For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat to offer” (Heb. 8:3).
The writer is making a great case for the priesthood of Christ in the need to offer sacrifices. Such was a major work of the priests under the law and it is equally true of the Christian’s high priest: Jesus Christ. There are several things that the Bible states that Jesus sacrificed in order for man to have all spiritual blessings in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:3). Appreciating what he sacrificed should cause the saved to love him more and give to everything he would ask. Consider three of his sacrifices.
His Lofty Place in Heaven. The Holy Spirit through Paul stated, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus often stated that he came from heaven to do the will of the Father. John recorded as Jesus said to Nicodemus, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). Again, Jesus said of himself, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus left the very place where all Christians seek to go. Surely, such a sacrifice for man should be appreciated.
His Lordly Position to be Served. Paul wrote to the Philippians concerning Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7). Jesus not only left heaven, he came to earth to serve, not to be served. Jesus said to his apostles, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:27-28). He whom God would tell the angels to worship (cf. Heb. 1:6) lived a life of servitude that man might have the proper example to live his own life and see how great a sacrifice Jesus would give in his life and death. Jesus deserved in life all the adoration that the Son of God could receive. Nevertheless, Jesus gave up such a position to humbly do the will of God. Here is the model for all Christians today and forever.
His Life’s Blood on the Cross for Sin. While Jesus sacrificed his place in heaven and his position to serve, man would still be lost if Jesus had not made the ultimate sacrifice. This is exactly what the book of Hebrews addresses when it comes to Jesus and his priesthood. It is written, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing in many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:9-10). Again, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:11-12). His life was “better sacrifices” (Heb. 9:23-25). Understanding what he sacrificed is essential for a proper life response to the service of God.
“Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Eze. 18:29-30).
Ezekiel was told of a people who saw themselves as victims. They used the proverb, ”The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Eze. 18:2). In other words, the blame was put on the previous generation while the next generation claimed innocence claiming unfair treatment. The eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel is a classic explanation of how the Lord deals with sin and righteousness. Consider the three aspects of God’s righteous ways.
Treatment of the Righteous. The first example is that of a person who strives to follow the will of God. Ezekiel wrote, “But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, . . . Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God” (Eze. 18:5-9). While doing what is lawful and right does not mean sinless perfection in that he would be walking in the statutes that would involve sacrifices for sin, he would not be practicing the sinfulness outlined in verses six through eight. In other words, he would be seeking to walk in the light of God’s revelation. This would be illustrated by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. (cf. Heb. 11:2ff). Ezekiel further illustrated a righteous one in a son who saw his father’s sins “and considereth, and doeth not such like” (Eze. 18:14). Since the son refused to follow the wickedness of his father’s ways and “hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live” (Eze. 18:17). Therefore, following God’s righteous laws brought blessing, not a curse.
Treatment of the Rebellious. Ezekiel follows the example of a righteous father with a rebellious son (cf. Eze. 18:10-13). Though the father practiced the will of the Lord, the son would not benefit such blessings if he did not personally follow the same course. It is clearly stated, “he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” (Eze. 18:13). Following up with a son that sees the father’s wickedness and does not walk in such ways, there is still the emphasis that the father who would not turn from his wickedness “lo, even he shall die in his iniquity” (Eze. 18:18). Therefore, personal sin brings personal judgment (cf. Eze. 18:20).
Treatment of the Repentant. The heart of the message of chapter eighteen is in the emphasis on the need for repentance. If the wicked would turn from his sins and keep the statutes and what is lawful and right, then “he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live” (Eze. 18:21-22). Note also if a righteous one turns from righteousness and pursues wickedness, he shall die (cf. Eze. 18:24). God’s righteous way is clearly set forth to bless the pursuit of obedience and to punish the way of the wicked who will not repent. While sin must be punished where not repented, God does not desire to punish (cf. Eze. 18:31-32).
“My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Ps. 42:3).
“As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” (Ps. 42:10).
Psalm 42 is a song of great emotion. It addresses the deep longing to “come and appear before God” (Ps. 42:2). It addresses the deep yearning of the soul for the only one who can satisfy; namely, God (cf. Ps. 42:1). The soul of the psalmist is suffering from the oppression of the enemy (cf. Ps. 42:9). The enemy is cutting deep “as with a sword in my bones” (Ps. 42:10) with words that challenge the very faith of the faithful. The question of “where is thy God” (Ps. 42:3, 10) does not cause the faithful to lose his faith but only to know that God will answer in the proper time. Consider three types of people who would ask such a question to the faithful.
The Question of the Skeptic. Skepticism is the philosophy that holds to doubt even in the face of evidence. The Pharaoh of Egypt who would not let Israel go until his nation was almost destroyed is a prime example of this kind of thinking. When Moses first approached Pharaoh about letting Israel go, Pharaoh stated, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Ex. 5:2). Such would change in a matter of time (cf. Ex. 12:31) only to bring about more destruction to his army in the Red Sea. The agnostic and atheistic circles of today would easily fit into the thinking of such a questioning Pharaoh.
The Question of the Scoffer. The psalms and the prophets are filled with the question of “where is thy God?” It is written, “We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us” (Ps. 79:4). Then follows these words, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed” (Ps. 79:10). Read also Psalm 115:1-3; Joel 2:17; Micah 7:10 in their contexts. Peter wrote of some like unto these, where he wrote, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Scoffing is a low form of indirectly criticizing God while challenging God’s people.
The Question of the Simple. Here is the bottom line of skepticism and scoffing: ignorance. Ignorance coupled with impatience causes one to ask questions that are foolish in nature. Sometimes people ask where God is when human suffering arises. Sometimes people ask where God is when they do not get what they ask for from God. Sometimes people ask where God is when they are looking for a “sign” as to what direction to go. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, God was in heaven ready to care for his life in the resurrection. When Jesus was hungry in the wilderness, God was in heaven ready to send angels to minister to his needs after the temptation by Satan (cf. Matt. 4:11). The more one has an overview of the scope of the Bible concerning God, the more confident one is in knowing that God does not leave nor forsake (cf. Heb. 13:5).
“And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of my years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen. 47:9).
The word here translated “pilgrimage” is from a term meaning to sojourn. It denotes that there are things about life that are kept in proper perspective. A pilgrimage involves a beginning and an ending destination in a place that is not home. Consider three thoughts about this pilgrim life.
Each Day is a Step. Jacob spoke of “the days of the years of my pilgrimage” and “the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen. 47:9). Hence, each day in a life is a step on this pilgrim journey. The Bible often uses the metaphor of walking to describe living one’s life. It is written in the Psalms, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 119:1). Paul wrote, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1). John wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). As each step leads to the end of the journey then each day leads to the end of the pilgrimage.
Every Difficulty is viewed with the End in Mind. Jacob continued to say, “few and evil have the days of my years of my life been” (Gen. 47:9). Truly, the faithful know that the path of their life is described as “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). Peter wrote to Christians who were suffering for righteousness’ sake, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). Paul wrote of the Christian walk, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” (2 Cor. 5:6-7). The end of the pilgrimage makes all the struggle worth it.
Eternal Destination for the Faithful is Heaven. While there are thousands of people who have walked earthly pilgrimages to specific geographical locations, there is but one destination for the pilgrimage of the faithful. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). This point closes with the words, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:16). This life is temporary like a pilgrimage and leads to the great resting place of the soul: heaven. Being strangers and pilgrims here leads the faithful to long to be in that eternal rest (cf. Heb. 4:9, 11).