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WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO CHANGE?
What would you like to change? Maybe you'd choose to change your appearance, or find a partner, or have better-behaved children. Perhaps you're seeking one more step up the career ladder, or maybe just to get onto a career ladder. Maybe you'd like to be more confident and witty, or maybe less angry or depressed, or less controlled by your emotions.
We all want to change in some way. Some of these changes are good, others not so good. But the problem with all of them is that they're not ambitious enough. God offers us something more — much, much more!
Created in God's Image
In the opening chapter of the Bible we read, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him" (Genesis 1:27). We were made to be God's image on earth: to know him, to share his rule over the world, to reflect his glory. The idea is probably that of a statue of a god that represents the authority and glory of that god. But we're not to make images of the living God precisely because we are his image. We're God's representatives on earth. We're God's glory, displaying his likeness.
After each day of creation God declared what he had made to be "good." But on the sixth day God's verdict on a world that now included humanity was "very good." God's work wasn't finished until there was something in the world to reflect his glory in the world. We often excuse our actions by saying, "I'm only human." There's nothing "only" about being human: we're truly human as we reflect God's glory.
The problem is that this is now a broken image because humanity has rejected God. So we try to live our lives our way, and we make a mess of things. We struggle to be God's image on earth. We no longer reflect his glory as we should. God's verdict on humanity is: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "Paul's language here," comments Sinclair Ferguson, "is loaded with the biblical motif of the divine image. In Scripture, image and glory are interrelated ideas. As the image of God, man was created to reflect, express and participate in the glory of God, in miniature, creaturely form." We've failed to be the image of God we were made to be. We can't be the people we want to be, let alone the people we ought to be.
Enter Jesus, "the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4):
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3)
And the Word 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. (John 1:14)
Jesus is the glory of the Father. He makes God known in the world. He is God in human form. He shows us what it means to be the image of God and to reflect God's glory. That's why the New Testament sometimes says we should be like God and sometimes says we should be like Christ. It's because Christ is the true image of God.
Jesus shows us God's agenda for change. God isn't interested in making us religious. Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn't interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us. God isn't interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn't interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city. The word holy means "set apart" or "consecrated." For Jesus, holiness meant being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn't mean being set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God's glory in and for the world.
The glory of God is the sum of all that he is: his love, goodness, beauty, purity, judgment, splendor, power, wisdom, and majesty. The earthly life of Jesus reflected the glory of God in the goodness of his actions, the beauty of his attitudes, and the purity of his thoughts. He reflected the power of God in what appears to us a quite topsy-turvy way. He displayed the infinite freedom and grace of God not by clinging to splendor, but by voluntarily giving it up in love to rescue us (Philippians 2:6–8). Jesus is the true image of God, displaying God's glory through his life and through his death.
"At least I can put my feet up when I get home," Colin told himself as he nudged his way through the traffic. But when he walked through the door, his youngest was screaming, and his wife was going on and on about the broken vacuum cleaner. "Give me a break," he muttered, slumping into the chair.
Jamal came back to his desk with a mug of coffee. It was 11:30 P.M. — the graveyard shift. His hand wavered over the mouse. He looked at the in-tray, then clicked on the Solitaire icon. Yes, he'd work. But he'd play a quick game first.
"I'm a grown woman," Kate told herself. But she loved being in Pete's presence. He seemed to understand her so much better than her husband did. Lately her marriage had seemed hollow. She paused, then took the long way to her cubicle, past Pete's desk. She didn't want sex or even a relationship. Just a smile.
It had gone on for three years. Three years of patiently teaching and doing good, with only misunderstanding and hostility in return. He was tempted to say, "I quit — I don't need this." But instead he said, "Not my will but yours be done." A few hours later he hung on a cross, nails cutting into his limbs, lungs struggling for air, crowds spitting venom. He was tempted to say, "I quit. I'm coming down." But instead he said, "Father, forgive them." He kept going until he could cry, "It is finished."
Jesus is the perfect person, the true image of God, the glory of the Father. And God's agenda for change is for us to become like Jesus.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28–30)
Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2; see also 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 2:21)
Whoever claims to live in [God] must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:6, NIV; see also 3:16–17; 4:10–11)
In Romans 8, Paul says that God uses everything that happens to us to make us like Jesus, both the good and the bad. Indeed, the bad things become in some sense good for us because they make us like Jesus. In themselves they may be evil, but God uses them for the good of those who love him, and that good is that we become more like Jesus. This isn't a letdown. We shouldn't be disappointed that the promise of good things turns out to be conformity to Christ. It's not like offering a child a meal deal from McDonald's and then giving them a McSalad. We know salad is good for us, but we'd rather enjoy a Big Mac. Jesus isn't just good for us — he is good itself. He defines good. The secret of gospel change is being convinced that Jesus is the good life and the fountain of all joy. Any alternative we might choose would be the letdown.
Making us like Jesus was God's plan from the beginning. God "predestined" or planned for us to be like his Son (Romans 8:29). Before God had even made the world, his plan for you and me was to make us like Jesus. And everything that happens to us is part of that plan. One day we will share God's glory and reflect that glory back to him so that he is glorified through us (v. 30).
I was dropping my daughter off at school on the day of her Easter service (she was playing Jesus, miming as the class acted out the triumphal entry). On the way we picked up Anna, a young Christian girl who'd been baptized in our church a few months earlier. As Anna was getting out of the car she shouted to my daughter, "Be a good Jesus today." "Same to you," I shouted back (though not quite quickly enough for Anna to hear).
Be a good Jesus! Our job is to study the glory of God revealed in the life and death of Jesus. We're to study his character, learn his role, and understand his motivation, so that in every situation we can improvise the part. We'll face situations that Jesus never faced. But if we understand his character well enough, we'll be able to improvise. We'll be a good Jesus.
Re-created in God's Image
I'd like to play soccer like David Beckham. I could watch videos of him in action. I could study what he does. I might even persuade him to tutor me. All this might lead to a small improvement in my abilities, but it's not going to turn me into a great soccer player.
I want to be like Jesus. I can observe him in action as I read the Gospels. I can study the life he lived and the love he showed. I could try very hard to imitate him. But at best that would lead only to a small, short-lived improvement, and indeed even that small improvement would probably only make me proud.
I need more than an example. I need help. I need someone to change me. Trying to imitate Jesus on its own only leaves me feeling like a failure. I can't be like him. I can't match up. I need sorting out. I need rescuing. I need forgiveness.
The great news is that Jesus is not only my example but also my Redeemer.
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you become a Christian, something amazing happens: you are a new creation. The power of God that made the sun and stars is focused down like a laser into your heart. God steps into the world, as it were, and creates all over again. We're transformed, reborn, made new. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). At creation God spoke a word into the darkness, and there was light. He spoke a word into the chaos, and there was beauty. And now again God speaks a word through the gospel. He speaks into the darkness of our hearts, and there is light. He speaks into the chaos of our lives, and there is beauty.
What does it mean for us to be a new creation? It means we're re-created in the image of God. It means we're given new life so we can grow like Christ. And being like Christ means being like God, reflecting God's glory as God's image.
Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9–10)
Jesus came to remake us in God's image. He's the second Adam. Everyone takes their imprint from their father, Adam. We're made in Adam's image. That should have meant we're made in God's image, but in fact it means we're made in the broken image. We all have a built-in bias against God. But Jesus is the second Adam, and all who are united to Jesus by faith are being made new in Christ's image, the image of God as it should have been. Jesus took our brokenness, our hatred, and our curse on himself on the cross. He took the penalty of our sin and in its place gave us a new life and new love. Charles Wesley put it like this in his famous hymn "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing":
Adam's likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
"Efface" means "wipe" or "rub out." God is in the business of change. He's interested in making us like Jesus. He's restoring his image in us so that again we can know him, rule with him, and reflect his glory.
Seeing Glory and Reflecting Glory
[We are] not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 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. (2 Corinthians 3:13–18)
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai after meeting with God, his face shone with the reflected glory of God, so much so that the Israelites were terrified and he had to cover his face (Exodus 34:29–35). Paul says that in a sense that veil remains. People don't recognize the glory of God because they don't recognize Christ. Their hearts shrink in fear from God's glory.
But "when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed." When Moses was in the tabernacle before God, he could take the veil off because he was turned toward God and not toward the people (Exodus 34:34). It's the same when we turn to God in repentance. The veil that hides God's glory is taken away. Our eyes are opened to see in Christ the glory of God.
Moses coming down the mountain after meeting God was a picture of what humanity should have been. Moses radiated God's glory because he'd gazed on God's glory. That's how it should have been for all humanity.
And that's how it can be again. We can be glory-reflectors — people who radiate with divine glory. When we turn to Jesus, we see the glory of God. We see, says Paul a few verses later, "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). And when we see the glory of God, our faces shine with that glory. It transforms us so that we reflect God's glory, bringing light to the world and praise to God.
When I first studied this passage, I assumed Paul was talking about Moses' pointing to Jesus and Jesus' reflecting God's glory as God's true image. But actually Paul is saying something even more amazing: we reflect God's glory when we see God's glory in the face of Christ.
The message of this book is that change takes place in our lives as we turn to see the glory of God in Jesus. We "see" the glory of Christ as we "hear" the gospel of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4–6). Moral effort, fear of judgment, and sets of rules can't bring lasting change. But amazing things happen when we "turn to the Lord."
First, "the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." On our own, we can't be the people we want to be. We certainly can't be people who reflect God's glory. We're trapped by our emotions and desires. But when we turn to the Lord, Jesus sets us free through the Spirit. Instead of hearts shrinking in fear from God's glory, we receive hearts that delight in his glory. We're motivated no longer by the fear of law but by the opportunity to experience glory.
Second, "we all, with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord." When we turn to the Lord, we again begin to display God's glory. We become like Moses, our faces shining with the radiant glory of God.
Third, "we ... are being transformed into his likeness" (NIV). When we turn to the Lord, we become more like Jesus: people of grace and truth, of love and purity.
Fourth, when we turn to the Lord, we're changed "with ever-increasing glory" (NIV). We're changed "from one degree of glory to another." We already reflect God's glory, but we reflect it all the more as we appreciate his glory in Christ. And one day we will be glorified and will enjoy him forever. The time of Moses was glorious (3:7). The present is more glorious still (3:8). The future is "ever-increasing glory" (3:18, NIV). The Puritan Thomas Watson said that sanctification, the process of change, "is heaven begun in the soul. Sanctification and glory differ only in degree: Sanctification is glory in the seed, and glory is sanctification in the flower."
So whom do you want to be like? What would you like to change? Please don't settle for anything less than being like Jesus and reflecting the glory of God. And what must we do to reflect God's glory? Look on the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Most of us don't live lives that are considered great by the world. For us, holiness consists not in heroic acts but in a thousand small decisions. But God gives us the opportunity to fill the mundane and the ordinary with his glory. We can be radiators of God's glory in a drab world, reflectors of his light in a dark world. Let's hear Charles Wesley again, this time from "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling":
Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
Excerpted from "You Can Change"
Copyright © 2010 Tim Chester.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 What Would You Like to Change?,
2 Why Would You Like to Change?,
3 How Are You Going to Change?,
4 When Do You Struggle?,
5 What Truths Do You Need to Turn To?,
6 What Desires Do You Need to Turn From?,
7 What Stops You from Changing?,
8 What Strategies Will Reinforce Your Faith and Repentance?,
9 How Can We Support One Another in Changing?,
10 Are You Ready for a Lifetime of Daily Change?,
What People are Saying About This
“We are called to be salt and light. Yet often the church fails to live differently. In our busy culture, we rarely spend time dealing with sinful areas of our lives; instead we try to sweep them under the carpet. Tim’s book is a biblical and practical challenge to the very root causes of ungodly patterns of behavior. Read it and allow God to change you!”Andy Frost, Director, Share Jesus International
“A wonderful book for those who are serious about personal change. For so many Christians the gulf between our aspirations and the reality of our daily Christian walk is very large. Here is very helpful material to help us bridge this gap and become the whole people God intended us to be.”Stephen Gaukroger, Senior Minister, Gold Hill Baptist Church
“A book about Christian growth that is neither quietistic nor moralistic is rare. A book that is truly practical is even rarer. Tim Chester’s new volume falls into both categories and therefore fills a gap.”Timothy Keller, Founding Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City; Chairman and Cofounder, Redeemer City to City
“There are few books that are shockingly honest, carefully theological, and gloriously hopeful all at the same time. Tim Chester’s book You Can Change is all of these and more. He skillfully uses the deepest insights of the theology of the Word as a lens to help you understand yourself and the way of change and, in so doing, helps you to experience practically what you thought you already knew. The carefully crafted personal ‘reflection’ and ‘change project’ sections are worth the price of the book by themselves. It is wonderful to be reminded that you and I are not stuck, and it’s comforting to be guided by someone who knows well the road from where we are to where we need to be.”Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries; author, New Morning Mercies and My Heart Cries Out