© Marcelo A. Tolopilo
Growing in the knowledge of Christ = transformation
In part one of “Being Transformed into the Image of Christ” we considered that our spiritual metamorphosis comes about as we earnestly gaze into the excellent and lovely image of the Lord Jesus revealed to us in God’s word. In that article I stated, “As we look intently into the glorious face/person of Jesus Christ reflected in the word of God, the promise is we will be transformed.” This is God’s pledge to us in our feature text.
“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” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Even so, as we discussed in that column, there are times in life when we feel there is a net growth of zero in our spiritual stature. Yet as we continue contemplating Christ, even when we’re frustrated by our own weaknesses and failures, we can be heartened by the reality that the Lord continues His faithful work of transforming us into the image of the One to whom we look.
Exploring our transformation further
Let me elucidate that key principle (contemplating Christ = transformation) with two more truths that arise out of our text. The first truth is easy to over look but it is central to our ongoing sanctification and it is this, our transformation into Christlikeness is God’s doing. We see this clearly in Paul’s use of the present passive participle translated “are being transformed.” Paul didn’t use the middle voice which would have given us the meaning of “we are transforming ourselves.” He uses the passive voice because it is God who is changing us, growing us into the image of His Son. Our change agent is “the Lord, the Spirit.” Our transformation is God’s prerogative attained by His power and person. That’s why it will not fail—even when we do!
The final thought I would like to underscore is that our transformation is ongoing and incremental. It doesn’t happen all at once, in one fell swoop, or with a dramatic, mystical experience. Our change is ongoing (in the ebb and flow of day-to-day life), and while growth may come in spurts, most often Christ-like change happens just a little bit at a time.
Notice the time signature of Paul’s words “are being transformed.” Paul uses a present, passive, participle. That is, our transformation is an ongoing, progressive action, and what’s more, it happens in degrees. It is “from glory to glory” or from one level of Christ-likeness (glory) to the next, to the next, to the next until the Lord Jesus—by His power and will—brings us into perfect conformity with Himself, “who [Christ] will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21).
Picture your kids
“Yes, but sometimes, for extended periods of time, it doesn’t feel like I’m changing into the image of Christ!” Those feelings aside, remember that God is the One changing you because this is His good pleasure for you, and He is accomplishing His will for you over a lifetime.
Think about the physical growth of your children. When you see them day-to-day you don’t perceive physical changes. You don’t tell your son, “Hey buddy you’ve grown four inches since yesterday! We have to get you some new pants!!” Growth does not look like that even though we know growth is most certainly taking place and irrepressible in its progress. We see growth in our children over time. Their transformation is undeniable when we break out photo albums to gawk at their pictures over the years. The changes we see in our kids can take our breath away. Growth in our children is undeniable though it may be imperceptible on the daily stage of life.
And so it is with us in our spiritual journey
Christ-likeness, my friends, happens as we grow in our understanding of Christ through His word. This is a transformation God effects by His pleasure (will) and power over a lifetime. A key take away from this text and article is simply this: if you’re a believer, you are on a journey of growth and change that God will perfect in you until you stand before your God fully transformed into the image of His Son. This is God’s inexorable plan for your life.