2 Corinthians 3:17–18 (ESV)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Yesterday I wrote,
“We are not reforming ourselves with God’s help. God is transforming us with our participation.”
Let me expand this just a bit. Here’s how I would say it today upon further reflection on this “lifer” text before us:
We are not reforming ourselves with God’s help. God the Father is transforming us by the Holy Spirit into the image (the inner personal essence) of the Son.
Reforming ourselves with God’s help is a behaviorally-managed, activity-based, self-driven approach to change. I like the way Steve put it on the Daily Text FaceBook Group in response to yesterday’s post:
“Reformation changes ‘form’ (behavior, structure, appearance, and/or organization). Transformation goes beyond ‘form’ to presence (“with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord”). It changes the heart–the inner essence.”
Over the centuries, the response to the Law (the 613 Commands from the Old Testament), became a highly structured, behaviorally-managed, rigorously-disciplined set of activities more or less enforced by and on the Jewish people. It was believed to a greater or lesser degree if these laws were kept perfectly, God would make his presence known, answer their prayers, and restore the kingdom to Israel. And for every transgression there was a transactional remedy—ritual sacrifice.
Though the Law was given through a highly transcendent encounter with God, over time it became a super functional and transactional exercise in behaviorally-managed religious compliance. In other words, it was a massive burden on people. Here’s the ethos and essence of it all: If you do these right things then God will bless. Note also the corollary: If you do not do these right things, then God will not bless. Keep going—If God is not apparently blessing, then you are apparently not doing the right things. Keep going—If you are not doing the right things, then you are doing the wrong things (i.e. sinning) and doing the wrong things leads to being cursed by God. It leads to the insane scenario whereby people see a person born blind and immediately want to know, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” This is where a system of reform invariably leads. This system is ever in need of more and more re-formation. This is a brand of righteousness derived from re-formation, which quickly devolves into self-righteousness.
Contrast that with this (another lifer text):
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:16–17).
Do not underestimate the stunning significance of the apostle Paul writing these words. No one was more bought in to the religious reformation program than Paul. And with a few strokes of the pen, he decimated it all. It was Romans 1:17 that upended Martin Luther and evoked his own great awakening and all that would follow.
Romans 1:16–17, and the rest of the New Testament is about transcendent faith. If we are to understand Jesus and appropriate the gospel of God, we must progressively grasp the deep meaning of transcendent—For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—. And we must progressively grasp the deep meaning of faith—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
I am convinced that though we may grasp this at a basic level of propositional truth and in a highly transactional way (i.e. if you believe this truth you will go to Heaven when you die), we hardly get it at all. It is time for a massive re-approaching of the gospel—not the gospel itself, as though it were a series of truth claims we must subscribe to—but the gospel himself—Jesus Messiah, beholding him in all his revealed-yet-hidden, spectacular glory, even becoming transformed into his very likeness and essence.
Now, I know today’s post may be frustrating some of you. Remember, we have let go of the rope. We are now moving with Jesus toward the deep end of the ocean. It will be disorienting at times and disconcerting at others. Why? We are in the process of letting go of ourselves. Everything in us says hold on. Everything in Jesus says let go. This is the way of transcendent faith.
This is the way of glory—from glory to glory.
Abba Father, I want this to be simple and this all seems kind of complicated. I confess I have lived in a way of thinking that says if I can’t control it I can’t understand it. Faith seems to be whispering that I will never understand it until I let go of my need to control it. And once I let go of my need to control, then I suppose I will have to let go of control itself. Here is my simple prayer: Jesus, I belong to you. Jesus, I belong to you. Jesus, I belong to you. I will just keep saying it until I am praying it and praying it until I am meaning it and meaning it until I am beholding you and beholding you until I finally realize I am being held by you. Bring this freedom that is who you are, Holy Spirit. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen.
Is today’s post more helpful or more frustrating for you? How so? Are you beginning to see the difference between transactional religion and transcendent faith?
For the Awakening,
P.S. New Room Conference Reminders– Only a Few Hundred Left
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