Beholding The Lord Through His Word – Part 1

Beholding The Lord Through His Word – Part 1
2 Corinthians 3:18 • Dr. Jim McGowan • April 23, 2017 • Behold The Lord Thru His Word


Dr. Jim McGowan

Beholding the Lord Through His Word, Part 1

4-23-17       2 Corinthians 3:18

Good morning; it’s such a pleasure to be here with you this morning.  I’m so excited that you’re here and I just want to welcome you.  I also want to welcome all those who are viewing by live stream and we appreciate your regular viewing of our services; we pray that they are a blessing to you.  Just let me make a couple of comments here.  Number 1 I want to remind  you the reason I’m here today is Pastor Woods is actually on a cruise with his wife and they’re supposed to be going all over Europe for a Reformation cruise I think is what it’s called.  And you might be praying for them, that they’ll have a great time of restoration and recuperation. I know he’s going to be teaching two or three times there.

Also let me just mention that yesterday we received word that our dear brother, Jim Hartzog went to be with the Lord and we don’t have any more details about that right now, though it will be forthcoming I’m sure this week.  But I just want to mention that and ask you to please be praying for Darlene and Savannah as they’re dealing with the passing of husband and father there.  And finally I’d just like to quickly ask you to pray for my wife, Sandra, she’s at home ill this morning, got up with a severe MS related migraine and all that goes with that.  So I’d appreciate that if you’d keep those prayer requests in mind and pray for me also, that the Lord will use me.  So having said that let’s go to the Lord in prayer and then we’ll get right started into our study this morning.

Heavenly Father, what a privilege and a delight it is to serve You, to know You, to live for You, Father, and Father as we start this new miniseries on beholding the Lord through His Word my prayer is that You will speak through Me, Father God, and to me also and Father, that we all might be filled with the Spirit, might be filled with understanding and wisdom to be able to discern how important this is for us.  And Father, I thank You for that.  Thank  You for always showing up when we come together as Your promised.  Thank you for being the great and wonderful God that you are and we praise You now, in Christ’s name, Amen.

All right, very good, so this morning as I just mentioned we’re going to be starting a new series, it’s going to be a four part series, it’s entitled Beholding the Lord Through His Word, I was just informed that on my handout I had misspelled a word there so you can correct that if you want to.

First of all, 2 Corinthians 3:18 is going to be our focal verse for our lesson today and this is our starting point and this is what it says: “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.”  So in our session today we’re going to be diving in, digging in deeply on this verse and I’m hoping that this will be a real blessing to  you.

Now just by way of information the purpose of this, Beholding the Lord Through His Word is that we want to see the living Word of God in the written Word of God.  That’s what we need here, seeing the living Word of God in the written Word of God.  And the reason this is important is that when we’re studying the Word of God we don’t want to come to the Bible as if it were just information or data.   You know, sometimes we get caught up in the little details and the minutia and we miss the big picture.  And the big picture in this case is that God wants us to be personally focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, who’s the Living Word, as we come to the written Word.

So in upcoming sessions we’ll be covering some other verses.  First of all let me point out here that in 2 Corinthians 3:18 the most important, or focal point of this passage is that we all are beholding the glory of the Lord.  That’s what we want to focus on this morning.  But in our next session we’ll be looking at John 1:1-18 and believe it or not we’re going to do all those verses in one session; come and see if I can do it.  But the focal point there will be John 1:14, …we saw His glory … full of grace and truth.”  [John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”]

And then we’ll go into our next session and we’ll look at 1 John 1:1-4 and our focal point will be verse 3, we have seen with our eyes the Word of life, and then the last session will be Hebrews 12:1-2 and we’ll be focusing on the phrase “fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

[1 John 1:1-4, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—[2] and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—[3] what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. [4] These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”  Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”]

So what I want you to understand is, if I back up just for a second here, John 1:14, the Apostle John said, “we saw His glory … full of grace and truth.”   Let me just make a comment about that; in all of these passages we’re looking at what we’re going to discover is, especially the John passage, is that what John saw personally as he walked with the Lord Jesus Christ for three  years on planet earth, guess what?  We’re seeing the same thing through the Word of God as we behold the glory of the Lord.  I’m not sure we think about that very often.

So this is great Jim, but why do we want to spend our time talking about this?  Well, I think this is an important subject; there’s some good reasons here.  2 Corinthians 3:18 explains what happens when we behold the Lord through His Word.  Notice what it says here, it says “… being transformed into the same image from glory to glory….”  And then look at verse 1:16 here also, he says, “For of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”  We’re going to talk a little bit, again at a later session, what this “grace upon grace” means.  You know, if we want to understand what we have all received, “we all,” that includes all of us, doesn’t it.  We’ve received grace upon grace.  [2 Corinthians 3:18 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.”  John 1:16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”]

In 1 John 1:3 you’ll notice here He says, “…our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.”  [1 John 1:3,“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”]  So there is an aim in this study of beholding the Lord through His Word and the aim is that we would have fellowship with the Lord Himself.

And then in Hebrews 12:1 the focal verse there, “run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  [Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”]  So what we have in this verse is a practical spiritual reason for pursuing this idea of beholding the Lord through His Word.  It’s not just to study a book or study some content; in fact, the reason, the purpose is that these things, as we study these things they will have an impact on our life spiritually.

So as we proceed forward in our verse here let’s do something a little interesting and different.  I’m

going to direct you to our website.  We often get questions from people, well, you know, where’s your website and where can I find this and where can I find that.  I’m going to help you a little bit this morning.  So this is what our main page looks like mostly.  And we’re going to go look at the section of our webpage here that deals with what we believe.  That’s our statement of belief page, so the first thing you do is you go to the About button there and then you’ll get a drop down and when the drop down comes up you’ll see Statement of Beliefs.  And then you’ll come to a whole list of our beliefs.  Has anybody been on our website before and looked at these things?  Well if you haven’t I’d encourage you to go look at these, find out what we believe and stand for here.

So the first thing we want to do is we want to look at what our beliefs are about the Bible, Scripture, and notice what it says here.  “The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are the verbally inspired and inerrant Word of God.  Divine inspiration extends equally and fully to all parts and words of the Bible, so that the whole Bible, in the original manuscripts, is without error.  The Bible is God’s revelation to man and is therefore the final authority for all Christian faith and practice.”  And this is based off of 2 Peter 3:16-17.  So that’s what we have on our website.

I thought I would play with this a little bit and maybe try to reword it, maybe give it a little bit fuller meaning, so I came up with this, basically I’m saying the very same thing, just restating it:  We believe that all the authors of the entire Old and New Testament wrote by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, they were verbally inspired.  And the books are completely inerrant and infallible in the original writings.  They are the final authority for faith and practice.  And notice what I have highlighted here, this is the really important part of this statement, “and the means” what?  The Word of God, is “the means through which believers behold Christ.”

You know, sometimes people say you know, if I had just lived back there when Jesus was walking on the planet, you know, I could have been one of those disciples and I could have, you know, I could have touched Him and talked to Him and all of these things.  And yet the Apostle Paul, as we mentioned a minute ago, revealed to us that through the Scriptures we in fact are beholding the Lord, and what an amazing thing that is because we have a complete canon, we have information that wasn’t fully developed until the book of Revelation was completed.

All right, now that’s not all I want to bring to your attention.  I want to say this, that our Bible is not just we believe this and our Bible is not just some dry dusty piece of doctrine, you know, we in Bible churches are often attacked for that, you know, that we’re just dusty, dry and all that, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.  The Word of God is not merely an ancient doctrine but it is that, right?  But it’s also the means by which, as we said here, we behold Christ.  It’s interesting to me how people find it so difficult to get in the Word of God, to study the Bible.  Many people struggle with that for various reasons and many times when we encounter people who are immature believers maybe they’ve been saved for a long but they’re immature believers as we investigate the reason for that what we discover is they don’t have an actual time set aside on a regular basis where they’re beholding the Lord and His Word.  We simply cannot grow the way that God wants us to if we’re not personally encountering the Lord Jesus Christ through the Word of God.

All right, the next slide that I’m putting up here is not a part of our statement of belief  but it brings up a similar theme and a concept that I’m expressing here are taken directly from the Word of God and it deals with the life and the walk of believers.  So let’s see what we have here.

“We believe that every believer possesses the life of Christ and grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ through the Holy Spirit, who fills the believer with the things of Christ. This occurs as the believer beholds Christ in the Word of God, as he walks by faith, moment by moment abiding in Christ. The believer is to walk and rest in the eternally established identity that he possesses by virtue of his faith in the crucified, buried, resurrected, ascended and seated person of Christ (which by the way is your position) and his identification with Him in these things. Christ’s life is then lived in the believer,” notice that, “Christ’s life is then lived in the believer which is evident to those who do not know Christ and to those who share Christ’s life.”

What a wonderful statement that is.  As we said, we don’t want the Bible to be just something we know more and more about.  You know, Andy has said before and I’ve encountered people in the cults, many times, who know the Word of God much better than I do.  They’re able to quote portions of Scripture that I could never quote.  But it’s not just about data, it’s not just about knowing more and more, in fact, it’s the living and the life and the walk of the believer that’s to be impacted by the Word of God.  If all we’re doing is taking in information and it’s not impacting us at a practical level something’s wrong; there’s a disconnect.

All right, so all of that is introduction to get us to the verse and the verse is here.  2 Corinthians 3:18.  So we’re going to tear this verse apart this morning so let’s start with this very first phrase.  The first phrase that comes across here is “But we all.”  This is a very important phase; Paul is including all those who believe.  Of course he’s writing to those who are with him; he’s also writing to the believers there in Corinth because this letter is to the Corinthians.  But he’s also writing to us, so we’re all included here.  And this is good news for us because the rest of what he’s going to say is very important.

So Paul is applying this comment, this statement, this verse to all of us; every believer here this morning is included in what Paul was about to say.  So guess what, it isn’t a matter of, you know, everyone except for one or two, or just a select group; every single believer this morning that’s present and those listening by the way, there are no exceptions, there is no privileged class, some don’t get it and some not, every single believer here is intended in this expression “we all.”  So what is it that we want to talk about here with this “we all”?  He says, “we all with unveiled face,” unveiled face!  What?  What is an “unveiled face?”

Well, in order for us to understand what he’s saying here in this verse we need to go to the extended context which just happens to be a few verses above this, and look what he says here.  The Apostle Paul is writing and he says, “and [we] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. [14]  But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. [25] But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; [16] but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

So, if we back up to our previous verse here, he says, “we all with unveiled face,” he’s telling us something very important here, that we are not under the Law.  This being veiled, that this verse here talks about, having the veil over your face, it is anything that has to do with Moses, it’s anything… listening to Moses, it’s reading the Law of Moses, whatever that you’re doing that you’re substituting in the place of grace is putting a veil over your eyes and over your face.  Having a veil over your head or over your heart of over your eyes is removed, notice, only when a person turns to the Lord in faith.  In other words, calling upon the Lord’s grace and not the Law, not upon the works of the Law.

Notice, the Law does not have anything to contribute to beholding the Lord through His Word.  It’s an unveiled face, it’s without the Law.  The Law has no involvement in this beholding process for the believer.  “…with unveiled face,” “beholding the Lord” does not get improved one bit by bringing in any number of laws or commandments from the old law.  It doesn’t help.  How many laws were there under the Mosaic system?  613 laws, none of them will help us as believers in beholding the Lord.  It doesn’t help.  We all as believers we have an unveiled face.  This is critically important.  The believer’s beholding of the Lord is not enhanced by the Law because the Law is what?  What does the Scripture say?  The Law is a veil, isn’t it?

I can sort of give you an illustration of what Paul is trying to say here, bear with me here, no illustration is perfect but maybe this will help a little bit.  If I said that I have a hundred dollar bill up here, I don’t, but if I said I had one and if I said to you the first person that can identify that hundred dollar bill gets it, all right, so I’ve got that hundred dollar bill up here and you’re looking for it, right.  But then I say to you, put your hands over your eyes.  So you put your hands over your eyes and I say not find that hundred dollar bill.  Well you say Jim, that’s ludicrous.  Well, guess what, as a believer when we try to go back into the Law what are we doing?  We are putting a veil back over our face and we cannot behold the Lord in His Word the way we should.  It’s not going to do any good if I have my hands over my eyes, is it.  So reinstating the rule of Law does not help believers to behold the Lord.  It’s an important point that Paul is making here.

The next expression here is “beholding as in a mirror” this is a very interesting word; these are five words in English that are actually translated from just one word in the Greek.  All right, you ready for it; I know we have some Greek students out there.  The verb is kataptrizomai, [kataptrizomai] everybody say that three times, kataptrizomai, and it means to look into a polished first surfaced mirror.  All right, what is a first surfaced mirror?  In Paul’s day they didn’t have clear glass, in fact, the glass was generally bubbly or it was warped or it even had some form of coloration in it.  So Paul’s not alluding here to looking through a clear piece of glass with a silver back like we have today in our modern mirrors.  That’s not what he’s saying.  Instead, a mirror in Paul’s day was a piece of metal that had been polished, and in fact over time it would tarnish.

So because of that it was not uncommon for them to actually tie a polishing cloth to the mirror because every time you came to the mirror guess what you had to do?  You had to polish it before you could use it.  I actually have a couple of pictures here, these are Corinthian mirrors in this slide here and they’re from the British Museum and you can get an idea… ladies, how would you like that mirror on the left there?  If we just put one of those up in your room and you could use those to put your makeup on.  Do you think you’d do a very good job with that?  Guys, how about shaving?  I don’t know about  you, I have a hard enough time keeping from nicking my face with a good mirror, if you put one of these kinds of things up there I don’t know what I’d do.

Did you know that the city of Corinth was famed for its mirrors?  Isn’t that interesting?  Paul, why are you talking about mirrors here when you’re talking to the Corinthians?  I mean, come on, really, what difference does that make.  Well, there was a reason, wasn’t there.  The Corinthians were known for their mirrors.  So Paul was using something that was a part of their culture to bring spiritual truth to them.  I find that fascinating.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12 Paul again uses this word “mirror,” this time it’s not the verb but it’s the noun, and he says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly,” does that make a little more sense to you now, when he says “we see in a mirror dimly,” do you understand what he meant?  You know, it doesn’t mean you’re getting old like me, if I take my glasses off I can’t see anything.   That’s not what he’s talking about; he’s saying… they’re looking at this mirror that has to be polished so they look in that mirror dimly, but then, he’s talking about when there’s going to come a time when we’ll be face to face;  we know in part now, but we will know fully just as also we have been fully known” he says here.  [1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”]

By the way, the word here for mirror, again for you Greek lovers, is ‘ejso”ptrou, and we find it in this verse and notice we also find it over here in James 1:22-24, very same word.  Now let’s see what we have here.  “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. [23] For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;” now look at the last part of this verse, it’s going to make more sense to you now,  [24] “for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”  Well what kind of mirror is he looking in.  He’s looking in that first surface mirror that doesn’t have a good image anyway.

So isn’t it interesting here as we consider this that in all three of these verses, if we back up we have 3:18, “beholding as in a mirror.”  We have 1 Corinthians 13:12, talking about seeing in a mirror, [13:12, “we see in a mirror dimly,”] and we have James talking about a mirror. [James 1:23, “looks at his natural face in a mirror;”]  Isn’t it interesting that in fact in each one of these passages the mirror is actually representing the Word of God.  It’s representing the Word of God!   So, “but we all with unveiled face” what are doing?  We’re “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

The next phrase is “the glory of the Lord,” we need to stop for just a second and ask this question: what in the world is “glory”?  Oh, oh, I know, it’s the Shekinah glory of God that appears on Mount Sinai… yeah, that’s true, but what is glory?  What is it really.  Let me give you a definition of glory.

Glory is the radiant essence of who God is.  Let me say that again: Gory is the radiant essence of who God is.  And then we can tack onto that the fact that all glory is derived from God because He is, in fact, the ultimate source of glory, isn’t He?

Revelation 21:23 and Revelation 22:5 have some interesting things about this issue of the glory of God.  And look what it says here.  It says, [Revelation 21:23]“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”  [Revelation 22:5]  “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

That’s rather fascinating, isn’t it?  Have you stopped to think about the fact that here he’s talking about the fact that the new heavens and the new earth won’t have any sun.  That’s what he says.  Well, the question is everything going to be dark then?  We just answered that, haven’t we?  NO, of course not, because… let’s put this definition of glory in here: the radiant essence of who God is will be a replacement for the sun and the artificial lights that we currently have.  Everything in the new heavens and new earth will be lit up by the radiant essence of who God is.  So that’s a pretty good definition, isn’t it: glory is the radiant essence of who God is.  We’re not overstating that when we say that either.

Let me point something else out about this word “glory.”  Look at John 17:24 here, John 17, of course is a part of the Upper Room Discourse, isn’t it, and so what is about to happen right after the Upper Room Discourse?  It’s going to be the crucifixion, isn’t it?  So have you ever noticed that if somebody is about to die and they know that, that we become more interested in what they have to say and share and they become more concerned about what they say and share?  Isn’t that interesting.  Why?  Because you know that this is it, I don’t have much time left, I really need to emphasize the things that are important to me.  And look at what we have here.  This is a prayer, Jesus says, “Father, I desire that they also whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am,” why?  Why does He want that, “so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”

This is an amazing prayer right here because Christ is praying for you and me in this prayer.  He had you and me in mind when He prayed this.  That should give special emphasis as  you read this passage.  It should be more impactful to you as  you read it.  Christ prayed for you and me.  What did He pray?  Well, that our seeing of His glory, what He’s telling us is that that is important to Him.  It’s important to Him, He prays that we would see His glory and interestingly enough isn’t that what we have again in our verse, 2 Corinthians 2:18, that we’re actually “beholding” the Lord through His Word.  We’re “beholding … the glory of the Lord” aren’t we?  That’s actually what He prayed would happen, and it is happening.  That’s an answer to prayer.

The next part of the verse we’re going to look at here is “are being transformed” and I have “beholding as in a mirror” also underlined there because we’re “beholding” and as we’re “beholding” something is happening; the Greek verb here again, we’ve already mentioned, the thing I want you to know about this verb here is that it is a present tense verb.  Why is that important Jim?  Well, because it is conveying an ongoing action, notice now, on our part, “beholding as in a mirror,” who’s doing the beholding here?  It’s the “we all, with unveiled face,” that’s you and I,  you and me.  Right.  It’s an ongoing action on our part. It’s an ongoing process where we take personal, private and corporate time to behold the Lord through His Word.  It’s not something done once and you’re finished.  It always amazes me when I encounter people again who will say to me, and I’ve had this said to me on more than one occasion, well, you know, I don’t really need to study that topic, I studied that two years ago, or I studied it five  years ago.  Well, I attended a class on that, you know, five  years ago.  That always amazes me because God’s Word is living, is it not?  I don’t care how much time you spend in the Word of God you are never ever, ever, ever going to exalt the living nature of the Word of God.  You are always going to find life coming from it. God’s intention is for us, for this process to be an ongoing process, this beholding, an ongoing process in the life of the believer.

The next expression, “are being transformed,” this again is the Greek word that we’ve mentioned but I want to point out to you that in this instance this verb is also a present tense but it’s a present passive verb.  Well what does that mean?  Well, since it’s a present tense again it’s conveying a real on the point action but let’s notice now who is doing the action here.  What does the end of the verse say, it says, “the Lord, the Spirit.”  So the beholding, who’s doing the “beholding”?  We’re doing the “beholding.”  Who’s doing the transforming?  The Lord, the Spirit, right?  So it’s a present tense, it’s an ongoing process that the Holy Spirit is doing as we behold the Lord through His Word.  But it’s also passive, it indicates that we receive that action, we behold, that’s our doing, but the being transformed is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hey folks, I have news for you!  We don’t transform ourselves.  Did you get that? It’s an ongoing work of the Spirit upon each believer as he or she beholds the Lord through His Word.  So we ae being transformed as we’re beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord through His written Word.  Let me ask you a question: Is the written word read different from hearing it?  Have you thought about that?  When you look at this verse it says “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,” that’s the Word of God, and we “are being transformed,” my question again is the word read different from hearing it?  Well, actually it’s not different; you can learn both ways.  Right?  In the beginning of the book of Revelation does it say?  Blessed is he who reads and” what? “hear the words of this” book.  Reading and hearing, both of them are means by which we can behold the Lord through His Word.

Now that’s important to us because there are people all over the country, right now in different parts of the world even, who are listening to this message and if they’re not listening right now at some point they’re going to go out to our archives and they’re going to listen to it.  So they’re going to be hearing the Word of God.  There are lots of people that aren’t as fortunate as you and I are to have a wonderful building here, Sugar Land Bible Church, and to have a gifted teacher like Pastor Woods but guess what?  They can listen and watch our live streaming and our video archives and they too can “behold the glory of the Lord and be transformed.”  Isn’t that amazing.  They’re also learning about the beholding the Lord.  So we said that being transformed is not something that we do; it’s something that is done to us as a ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts and minds and lives.

“…into the same image,” this is an interesting expression, this refers to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ and notice that this is very similar to what we had in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. [29] For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;”  Romans 8:29 reveals one of two ways that a believer is made into the image of Christ.  It refers to God’s conforming processes.

But notice again that 2 Corinthians 3:18 talks about God’s transforming process.  Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together for good but for what good?  Right?  What is the good?  And then the question that we have to ask is does this mean that everything is good.  And of course the answer is no; as a matter of fact, some things are downright horrible.  But here’s the wonderful part of this for the life of a believer—no matter how bad things are guess what?  They are still for the good ultimately in the life of the believer because God will use those circumstances to conform us to the image of Christ.

God’s pretty amazing isn’t He?  So God’s conforming processes, notice, drive us to His Word.  These conforming processes generally are external things in our lives; they should drive us to His Word and when they drive us to the Word then guess what happens?  That activates God’s transforming processes in our lives.  They have the same end, which is being conformed to the image of Christ but they’re different in terms of processes.

Let’s talk for a second on this word “image.”  What do we mean by this?  The Greek word is eikōn [εἰκόν] and it’s the word from which we get icon, if you have a Windows operating system or a Mac they use icons, don’t they.  But the thing you need to understand is that this image here being referred to doesn’t mean an exact representation of something or someone.  We can see that clearly here in Luke 20:23-24 where the very same word is used.  It’s talking about Jesus, it says, “But He detected their trickery and said to them, [24] ‘Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.”’  Well obviously “image” here doesn’t mean an exact representation because if it were then there would have to be a little live Caesar roaming around inside that coin somewhere.  Right?  So it’s a representation but it’s not an exact representation.

So we see in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 8:29, in both cases there’s this word “image.”  So what does it mean, if it’s not an exact representation what does it mean?  It means that God is changing your and my image and He’s doing so as a spiritual process.  It’s a conforming process and it’s a transforming process.  We’re being changed into… now this is interesting, we’re being changed into Christ’s spiritual character, in every respect except for His deity.  Right?  1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;” and what’s this “face to face”?  What’s the significant part about that?  Well, once we see Christ face to face then what’s going to happen?  We’re going to be known fully, right?

1 John 3:2 says that when that happens that “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as he is.”  But the important thing that we have to understand in these passages is that He’s talking here about the character, the image of Christ’s character being formed in us.  It doesn’t mean we’re going to become little Jesus’s; it doesn’t mean we’re going to become little Christs, right?  Because it’s not an exact representation but it’s our character.  We will never be deity; Christ will always uniquely be deity.

But what’s cool about this?  Well, what we know is that we’re going to be like Him physically, aren’t we?  How many can’t wait for that, I’ll be so glad to get my new body, right.  I saw one or two hands out there, for the rest of you, we’ll have a prayer time for repenting for lying later… Yeah, I mean, we all want that new body, don’t we.  A new body!  We’re going to have a new mind, right?  Isn’t that wonderful.  So presently we’re being made like Christ in character through His conforming and transforming processes and ultimately the only way in which we will not be like Him is in His deity.  He will always uniquely have that but we will have a body like His, and we will have His character.  But guess what?  That’s not pie in the sky because we are right now being changed into the image of Christ.

The next expression, “from glory to glory.”  I want to point out to you here that God is already working within us how He will have us to be for all eternity.  We are moving in the direction of full conformity and transformation.  God is not telling us to wait to get ready to heaven and then He’ll fix everything.  He’s telling us that He is at work right now in you and me and as time passes in this life we are being made more and more fit for heaven.  And there will come a day when we will be completely and ultimately transformed and conformed into the image of Christ as we said, with a body like His and that will happen when we face Him face to face.

So this expression “from glory to glory,” this is an interesting expression.  Paul has a tendency to use this type of expression in others of his writing and that kinds of helps us understand what he’s really saying here.  If we look at, for example, 2 Corinthians 15:16 notice what he says here.  “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; [16] to the one an aroma” and look what he says, “from death to death,” and then “to the other an aroma from life to life.”  So we see we have glory to glory, death to death and life to life.   What in the world is he talking about here?

Well, this is actually a way he is expressing growth so what he’s saying is that for the believer there is more life, we go from life to life, for the unbeliever they’re going from death to death.  For the believer we’re going from glory to more glory, right now that’s happening.  Our spiritual growth is life to life and glory to glory.  It’s growing and increasing and again how is this happening?  Are we doing this?  No, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  This going from glory to glory  that he’s talking about here is not a result of our trying really hard to be glorious.  There’s no value, there’s no benefit in us trying to be glorious.  You can do whatever you want to with your makeup, you can get plastic surgery, but nothing you can do is going to increase the glory apart from what the Lord does.  And by the way, I’m not just picking on you, there are a lot of guys that wear makeup and get plastic surgery too.

We’re not trying to be worthy of Christ’s glory; that’s not the process that we’re talking about.  It’s a process that is resulting, as we see here, from a ministry of the Holy Spirit.  And this is very important because it’s transforming the believer; we’re growing from glory to glory to the next level of glory.  That’s what God is doing in our lives right now as we behold Him in His Word.  This is so fascinating when you stop and think about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who brings the Word of God to us.  Right?  How was the Bible written?  Well, the Bible was written by the inspiration of the Spirit and we understand it.  How do we  understand the Word of God?  We understand it by the Holy Spirit.  And then we’re transformed as a result of it; by what? By the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  But we want to be careful here, we want to recognize the fact that the Holy Spirit is involved in the entire process of bringing the Word to us and us to the Word.

But the question I want to ask  you here is who’s getting the attention?  It’s not the Holy Spirit that’s the focal point, is it?  Even though the Holy Spirit is involved throughout the entire process the focal point is the Word.  So what does the Holy Spirit do?  He directs our attention to Christ as we’re beholding Christ in the Word of God, and He’s transforming us through that.

In Romans 8 we find out that we are in the Spirit but we’re also in Christ.  Both Christ and the Spirit are said to be in us.  And guess what?  These are similar relationships but they’re not the same because the Holy Spirit has different ministries.  So now we come to what I call the expanded and explained part and I’ll quickly say this is not about me because I don’t want to be expanded any further and I certainly can’t be explained, just ask my wife.

But if we take 2 Corinthians 3:18 [2 Corinthians 3:18, “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”]  and if we apply everything that we’ve said thus far, here’s what we come up with.  This is a little wordy but I think it’ll help us.  “But all of us who are in Christ, with a face that is not veiled by the law, having died in relationship to the Law and living by God’s amazing grace are right now continuing to behold as we read and hear the written Word of God, seeing as one who looks in a mirror, the glory which is what? The radiant essence of who Christ (or God) is, the glory that comes from Christ Himself, and we are in fact in the very process of being changed and transformed into the same spiritual character, growing from one level of Christ’s glory to the next and every part of this beholding and transformation is from the God-given ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Wow, all of that is in that verse?  It actually is.  Wow!

This is an amazing passage because growing as a ministry of the Holy Spirit in the radiant essence of who God is is what it’s telling us about.  God wants  you and me as we behold the Lord through His Word to be growing in the radiant essence of who God is and He wants us to be changed.  And we are being changed in the direction, we’re headed in a direction which is going to be who we are for all eternity.  We’re actually catching up with who we are in our position. We’re getting ready for heaven, right now, and this is all God’s workings.  As we behold the Lord through His Word this morning we’re not just getting spiritual data, we’re being made ready for that day when we will see Him face to face.  In other words, every time we’re beholding the Lord through the Word it’s getting ready time.  God is getting us ready.

Now this is very interesting and brings up a contrast.  When we stop and we think about what’s happening in the life of the believer with respect to what’s happening in the life of the unbeliever look at this: if we think of this in terms of a funnel, right, the unbeliever’s life starts out full of all kinds of things and as they progress through their life it narrows and it narrows and it narrows and it narrows and it narrows.  And if they never come to Christ then what’s waiting for them is the Lake of Fire.

But notice for the believer it’s just the other way around.  For the believer we start out… we started out as unbelievers, right, and then we get saved, and as we behold the Lord and His Word, what happens to us?  We’re growing in glory, we’re growing in life and our funnel is getting wider.  And the longer we live and the more we’re growing and the more we’re beholding that funnel gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger until ultimately we’re either raptured or we die and we’re joined with God in heaven.  Isn’t that exciting, to think about that?  For the believer the funnel is growing and it’s getting wider and wider until we go home to see the Lord face to face.  So getting ready, folks, is what we’re doing right now.

That brings us to this chart and this is an important chart.  Beholding the Lord is an essential aspect of our fellowship with Christ.  It’s not just some little separate spiritual process that goes on and it’s certainly not an intellectual one.  It’s a part of our fellowship with Christ Himself.  In John 15 we read of Christ’s call to “abide in Me,” to depend  upon Him and have intimacy with Him,  In other words, have continual fellowship with Him.  [John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”  John 15:7, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”]

Abiding in Christ is also an aspect of the fellowship with Him that conveys our continual dependence and intimacy with Christ.  So when we talk about beholding the Lord through His Word sometimes people want to say well what is this beholding anyway, and it is part of our intimacy and fellowship with Christ.  So in John 15 when Christ says “Abide in Me,” He’s not talking about something that’s wildly different; He’s talking about the fact that this is connected with beholding the Lord.

In Romans 6:11 and Galatians 2:19-20 we see these expressions being alive to God or living to God and being alive to God to God refers to our ongoing fellowship with God based on who we are “in Christ.”  It has to do with fellowship and it has to do with relationship.  A relationship is what we actually have as believers all the time.  Fellowship, however, is the living out of that relationship.  If you’re a believer you have a relationship with the Lord and the fellowship is the living out of that relationship.  [Romans 6:11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 2:19-20, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. [20] I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”]

So when we use terms like relationship and fellowship we want to be very careful that we don’t use them interchangeably; they’re not the same thing.  Fellowship again is the ongoing living out of the relationship that already exists.  So Colossians 3:1-4 says this, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. [3] For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”  Now that’s the New American Standard Version.

I’m going to give  you an expanded and explained version of this.  It’s going to read a little differently because it’s based on the Greek, and so we would read it this way:  “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, you must keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] You must keep on setting your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. [3]  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4]  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”  What a wonderful thing to know.  This keep on seeking things above, where are we going to learn about things that are above?  We learn about that in the Word of God.  Right?  So if we’re beholding the Lord through His Word we’re seeking the things that are above.

So that brings us to our conclusion.  This is all about fellowship, this beholding the Lord.  The purpose is, and it’s going to go on into eternity.  What God is doing in us through these processes is in fact what’s going to happen through all eternity.  Setting our minds on things above, as we said, is not just about location, it’s about fellowship with Christ; it’s dealing with spiritual reality and it’s about focusing on Him.  It has to do with fellowship with Him, beholding the Lord through His Word is personal fellowship with Him based on a relationship that’s already been established.  Our beholding the living Word of God through the written Word of God, notice, is an essential aspect of our fellowship with Him.  It’s essential and I’m going to close with this:  We don’t get closer by bypassing our beholding of the living Word of God through the written Word of God.  It’s not incidental, it’s essential.  So let’s close in prayer.

Heavenly Father, my earnest prayer is that something that was brought out today will peak the curiosity, the interest of my brothers and sisters in Christ here and that it would cause them to want to go further in the understanding of these issues.  My prayer, Father, is that each of us might be more diligent in our focus on the Word of God, that we might understand that as we behold Christ the living Word and the written Word that we grow from life to life, we grow from glory to glory, that we’re becoming more day by day who we already are in our position, and that You’re getting us ready for eternity.  And my great hope, Father, is that we would meditate on these things and that would then take these things out to a lost and dying world, a world that is without hope, a world that so desperately needs to hear  these wonderful truths.  And I thank You for moving in our hearts, I thank  You for what You’ve done this morning in the service and what you’re going to do in the next service.  Thank You so much for those present, Father, just bless them, bless those that are listening and watching and we give You the glory now.  In Christ’s name, Amen.