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We Shall See Him and be Like Him Part I Meditation…

February 26, 2007
We Shall See Him and be Like Him
Part I
Meditations on Jesus and the Defeat of Sin

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be
has not yet appeared;but we know that when he appears we shall
be like him,because we shall see him as he is.

I John 3:2

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

In the third chapter of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrims Progress, Christian, the allegorical character representing the believer in his journey to eternal blessedness, has just left the foot of the cross. His heavy burden has been lifted and his rags replaced by a new garment. He has come upon the Beautiful House, where Christian dialogues with Porter, Piety, Prudence, and Charity. Prudence asks Christians about any hindrances that he has had in his journey since he has left the City of Destruction. Christian tells of “carnal cogitations” or thoughts that were of his old nature, and explains, “Now all those things are my grief.” She then asks Christian by what means he uses to fight off these sins (or as he calls them, “annoyances.”) Christian’s reply is at the very heart of what my aim is of my writing:

“When I think what I saw at the Cross, that will do it; when I look upon my broidered coat [his gift of the righteousness of Christ], that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about where I am going [the Celestial City], that will do it.”

The means by which Christian fights off temptation, or “carnal cogitations,” is thinking on the very glory of Christ crucified, where his sins were forgiven and he was given the righteousness of Christ. The glory of Christ and its benefits are the meditations Christian uses to fight for holiness.

Fighting for holiness can be a confusing subject. Scripture presents two sides of this fight: the active and the passive. The active is the tearing out of your eye out because it causes you to stumble (Matt. 18:9), fleeing from youthful lusts and sexual immorality (I Cor. 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:22), and controlling one’s “own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust” (I Thess. 4:4-5). This is the act of canceling your Internet service because you have created deadly habits, the self-control, and disciplining your body to keep it under submission (2 Cor. 9:27).

Scripture also presents the passive side of the fight. Romans 6 says were once slaves to sin – only able to crave sin in our life – but now slaves of righteousness –now desiring righteousness. “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness…. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:20, 22). Nothing in slavery is active, other than what you are compelled to do. Being enslaved to sin, you were compelled to sin and nothing else. Being enslaved to God and righteousness, you are compelled to the fruit of sanctification. The juxtaposition between the two natures of the fight for holiness is hard to reconcile and difficult to articulate in the daily struggle against sin.

There are, however, many books on the subject of sanctification and with it are many readers. The many readers, I am afraid, have the expectation that by the time they finish the book the struggle with sin should be largely behind them. And in the spirit of supply-and-demand, authors attempt to supply the demand, stocking our churches with shallow and trite remedies for sin, like offering cough syrup for lung cancer. The fight to kill sin becomes a frustrating and hopeless endeavor that dangerously flirts with the hardening power of “the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).

The Glory of Christ and the Death of Sin

This effort of mine is pastoral in nature. Every pastor wants his congregation to move from the desperate struggle of sin into the sweet, daily enjoyment of the goodness and holiness of Christ. Every pastor longs for his congregation to move from the imitation calentures of sin to the enjoyment of Jesus and the desire to have Christ as their treasure, delighting in his glory that turns the sun and the moon into shadows. This is the end to which a shepherd should lead his flock: to see Christ as glorious and beautiful. Yet, to treat this end as only an end would go against the testimony of Scripture. Seeing Christ as glorious and beautiful is also, I believe, the means. And thus is my proposition that the consistent, daily meditation on the glory of Christ is a vital and indispensable practice in killing the weight of sin in the life of the believer.

The Apostle John reveals what kind of affect the glory of Christ has on the believer, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2). As children of God, we have a future that is not entirely known to us, but what we do know is that at the coming of Christ, we will be dramatically transformed. John is quick to give the cause of this transformation, “because we shall see him as he is.” The appearance of the glory of Christ will completely destroy our corrosive nature and sinful flesh and be transformed into the very likeness of Christ, himself. We could literally translate this passage as “we shall be of the same nature.” We shall see and be of the nature of the holy, good, and incorruptible resurrected body of Christ. We can conclude that the sight of the glory of Christ kills sin instantly and destroys the nature that desperately clings to sin and destruction.

Yet, it would seem that I John 3:2 is beyond the point of our subject, since this speaks of what will happen at the coming of Christ rather than the daily struggle of sin while in the wait of his coming. This is the famous “already – not yet” paradox of the New Testament. The New Testament teaches us what we are in Christ but have not yet truly attained. For example, Ephesians 2:5-6 says that God has “made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul speaks in the past tense, as if we have already been raised up and seated in glory with Christ. But, clearly, we have not yet attained all that is truly already ours.

2 Corinthians 3:18, I believe, will help sort out the “already – not yet” holiness of I John 3:2, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3, is showing the difference between the hopeful New Covenant in Christ and the damning and joyless Old Covenant. The New Covenant gives us hope (see also part IV), which leads to courage, and we, shamelessly, with unveiled faces behold the very glory of the Lord, Jesus Christ. And, again, the glory we are beholding transforms us to greater and greater degrees of glory.

The difference between the full disclosure of the glory of Christ in I John 3:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 is shown precisely at the end of 2 Corinthians 3:18, “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The communion and exposure to the glory of Christ we have now is only through his Spirit, whom he has sent. This is not a physical communion yet. God’s dwelling place is not yet with man. This should not be entirely discouraging. What we have on earth through the Spirit, though it is infinitely less satisfying than what will be in the flesh with Christ, is still richly and abundantly satisfying and should be the chief means by which we fight sin.

Why Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity?

The question may arise, ‘Why the focus on Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, rather than the whole godhead?’ While all three persons of the Trinity are equally glorious and beautiful in measure, it is Jesus Christ, the Son, who Scripture has been designated for us as the avenue to the eternal communion we will have with the Trinity. The Gospel of John is explicit in this designation of Christ.

John 1:41; 18, “And the World became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The eternal Son, Jesus Christ, became flesh and settled with man. God, himself, revealed himself as flesh. Jesus became the explanation of the Father in heaven, the Word of God, “he has made him known.” This passage seems to cry out the truth that if you do not know Jesus, you do not know God. The Father has designated his Son, Jesus Christ, as the means by which he makes himself known.

Philip, Jesus’ disciple, in John 14:8, says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Philip, obviously, still did not understand that God revealed himself through Jesus, to which Jesus says, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Earlier in the passage Jesus explained that he is the only way to the Father (14:6), and if you know Jesus then you know the Father (14:7-8).

In Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples in John 17, Jesus prays not only for the disciples, but also for all that would believe.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:22-23).

Jesus describes his relationship with his believers and his relationship with the Father being linked all together as one, through Christ. We are in Christ and Christ is in the Father. The Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show himself and his love that he has for his children. Apart from the wonderful truth that Jesus Christ has appeased the wrath of Father towards the believer, he is the sent agent from the Father who will include us in the eternal communion between the Father and the Son. The infinite satisfaction the Father has in the Son, and the Son in the Father, we are now partakers of because of Jesus. Jesus ends his prayer by clarifying this wonderful hope: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (17:26)

The Ever-increasing Practice of Being Satisfied in Christ

Jonathan Edwards writes in his book, The Religious Affections:

“A true saint, when in the enjoyment of true discovery of the sweet glory of God and Christ, has his mind too much captivated and engaged by what he views without himself, to stand at that time to view himself, and his own attainments. It would be a diversion and loss which he could not bear, to take his eye from the ravishing object of his contemplation, to survey his own experience, and to spend time thinking with himself.”

This was not quoted from a man who was a perfectionist, but one who knew that the glory of Christ had a transforming power, that in the every-increasing knowledge and discovery of it, sin would become less and less appealing. Not only sin, but also selfish endeavors that would damper the ecstasy of the glory of Christ.

No author has been more helpful to me on this subject than John Owen, especially in his work The Glory of Christ. Owen argues that the center of the life of every believer should be the glory of Christ. Remarking on Jesus’ prayer in John 17, Owen writes:

“The greatest desire that Christ expressed in his prayer was that his people might be with him to behold his glory (17:24)…. He is not concerned that his disciples should merely see how glorious he was, but that the beholding of his glory might bring encouragement, strength, satisfaction, and blessedness to his disciples…. One of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ.” 2

Beholding the glory of Christ is a privilege and it should be savored. The satisfaction that the glory of Christ delivers to believers is like a rapture of flavor that fruit brings to one who has never had the sense of taste before. Simply satisfying the hunger with anything less will just not do any longer. So it is with the glory of Christ. As long as the glory of Christ is set before us, satisfying longings for joy and gladness with anything less will be inadequate.

This, then, is the practice of meditating on the glory of Christ: always keeping it before you. Every morning in my devotions, whatever I am praying for at the time, I always have a list of prayer requests I mention before saying amen. One of them is my request for Christ to remind me of himself throughout the day. When I am reminded of his beauty, holiness, goodness, and mercy [all pertaining to the glory of Christ] I know that anything else that attempts to momentarily replace Christ as my treasure is a lie. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this about the instant sin replaces Christ as most beautiful in our life, “At this moment God… loses all reality… Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.”3 The beautiful, captivating, transforming glory of Christ should ever be before us.

Notes
1 Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, 178.
2 John Owen, The Glory of Christ, 2.
3 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Temptation, 33.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. slstarke permalink
    February 26, 2007 8:49 pm

    very good, I guess passivly fighting temptation dosen’t seem manly enough. Surley there is something I could do by flexing my spritual muscles. phil

  2. Anonymous permalink
    March 4, 2007 12:19 am

    Just fantastic stuff here, John. Thanks for the meat. This had Owens’ Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers” written all over it (I say that as the highest compliment). I’m halfway through Owens’ masterpiece right now and your piece reminds me of his threefold suggestion of how the Spirit mortifies sin: 1) By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh; 2) by a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin; 3) by bringing the cross of Christ in to the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in his death and fellowship of his sufferings.

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