June, 2009

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Mirror, Mirror

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18, ASV
Shakespeare famously described the theater in these words: “whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure” (emphasis mine.)i The recently deceased Brazilian stage director, Augusto Boal once commented on this metaphor, saying: “I think that’s very nice. But I would like to have a mirror with some magic properties in which we could, if we don’t like the image that we have in front of us, would allow us to penetrate into the mirror and transform our image and then come back with our image transformed.”ii One can sympathize with his sentiments, for honest introspection reveals many flaws and destructive attitudes within one’s own heart. Man’s rebellion against his Creator has warped his personality and rendered him a slave to unbridled passions and perverseness. Sin scars people, and – if left unchecked – leaves an eternally calloused, distorted soul (Rev. 22:11.) To put the matter in scriptural phraseology, sin brings about death (James 1:15.)
A story about Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the British man-of-letters, demonstrates the human predicament. A newspaper of his day invited its readership to answer the question “What is wrong with the world?” He wrote the following: “Dear sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.”iii Literature’s mirror shows man to be his own worst enemy. This self-destructive tendency was described more recently by the disgraced former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer; speaking of his situation, he said: “… The human mind does, and permits people to do things that they rationally know are wrong, outrageous … We succumb to temptations that we know are wrong and foolish when we do it and then in hindsight we say, ‘How could I have?'”iv Men recognize their moral failings and vices, but they have no concept of anything that can permanently refashion the inner-man. Thankfully, God’s Word speaks of another mirror, and links it with the reality of transforming a sinner into the image of a perfect man.
Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?
2 Corinthians refers back to the story in Exodus of Moses drawing near to commune with the Lord, afterward returning to the people with a glowing face. Being in the presence of God – albeit not being able to look on Him as He actually is – illuminated Moses’ face. So that the Israelites would not see the glory ebb away from his countenance, that man of God veiled himself. In Christ, however, we are able to draw near with unveiled face, for the glory of the incarnate, risen Christ never fades. It does not pertain to that former, imperfect time in God’s dispensational dealings with Israel, but rather to the current age of grace.
The passage holds that the glory of the Lord is the secret to human transformation (2 Cor. 3:18.) The mirror spoken of in this text reveals Christ, rather than sinful man. Looking within oneself will only lead to despair, if it is not coupled with consideration of Christ’s person and work. As the nineteenth-century Scottish preacher, Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote: “For one look at
yourself, take ten looks at Christ.”v The key to the correction of human sinfulness and frailty lies in the sanctifying work of the Lord. One must look away from self to Christ.
“What Would Jesus Do?” He Would Transform Us By His Spirit
Some have the idea that following the example of the Lord’s earthly life is the key to moral transformation. Indeed, some verses do exhort us to imitate His blessed pathway as a man (e.g. 1 Pet. 2:21.) Nevertheless, the contemplation of the Lord Jesus far exceeds mere outward observation. It also entails the power of the Holy Spirit conforming us to Christ’s glorious image (Rom. 8:29; 12:2.) The scholars differ on the proper translation of the Greek word rendered “beholding as in a mirror” in verse 18 (katoptrizomai, Strong’s #2734.) Some translate it as “reflecting as a mirror” or something similar (Revised Version 1881; NRSV; ESVmg.) It is legitimate to translate the word either as “behold” or “reflect.” The question is, which word best fits this chapter? Since Paul is contrasting the age of Moses with the New Testament age, the main issue is beholding the glory of the Lord; thus “beholding” suits the context best.Of course it is also true that through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit believers reflect the glory of the Lord. As the fruit of the Spirit is produced in them, Christians will exude Christ-likeness & reproduce aspects of His moral glory here on earth. In the future, they will be transformed into glorious bodies, so that the outward & the inward agree in their reflection of Christ. Believers are not glorious in & of themselves. Rather, they are destined to reflect the glory of Christ, both morally & physically (1 Jn . 3:2.) Beholding the Lord presents the end of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work; He will conform the believer to the image of Christ.
In James 1:23 the metaphor of the mirror speaks of someone looking into the Word and not paying attention to what it reveals about himself. In 2 Corinthians 3, however, the manner of beholding is accentuated, rather than the object under consideration. As one commentator puts it: “Paul’s emphasis here is not so much on the reflective capabilities of the mirror as it is on the intimacy of it. A person can bring a mirror right up to his face and get an unobstructed view. Mirrors in Paul’s day were polished metal…and thus offered a far from perfect reflection. Though the vision is unobstructed and intimate, believers do not see a perfect representation of God’s glory now, but will one day (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12.)”vi
Humanity’s predicament has been solved by God’s sanctifying work. He is able to show man as he is, and then forgive, justify, cleanse, and transform him into Christ’s glorious image. This amazing transformation is effected solely by His grace and power. It is in beholding the Lord Jesus in the Word of God that the believer is transformed by His Spirit into that same lovely image. Indeed, no more beautiful sight can astonish the eyes of man’s understanding than the Altogether Lovely One, who loves us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20.)
i William Shakespeare, Hamlet 3.2.21-22;A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare, Volume 3, Part 1: Hamlet, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1877), p. 228. Electronic edition: http://books.google.com/books?id=8t46h9efb-kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=editions:0HYPNnyipiLB8Skr#PPR1,M1
ii From a 2005 television interview, quoted in his New York Times obituary on nytimes.com, May 9, 2009.
iii G.K. Chesterton, cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton#cite_note-10
iv Jonathan Darman, “Spitzer in Exile,” Newsweek, April 27, 2009; electronic edition, p.2: http://www.newsweek.com/id/194590/page/2, accessed 6/08/09.
v Andrew A. Bonar, Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson, & Ferrier, 1883, p. 239. Electronic edition accessed at: http://books.google.com/books?id=i_cYAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=robert+murray+m%27cheyne&ei=BsoWSp2YKYW0NKmuxbYH#PPA239,M1
vi John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. 2 Co 3:18

To download the article in pdf., click on: Mirror, Mirror (Revised)

Guest Author: Barry Kirk – Indispensable Truths Regarding The Lord’s Humanity

Friday, June 5th, 2009

A guest contribution by brother Barry Kirk (formerly published in Milk & Honey.)

Every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ guards with great zeal the truth of His essential deity. We love the fact and bask in the wonder that our blessed Savior is truly God. Nothing encourages the Christian’s heart more than the knowledge that the plan to save them from their sin and eternal condemnation was actually carried out to the uttermost by the Son of God Himself. BLESSED BE HIS NAME! Then, too, to reflect on vital truths associated with His complete and perfect humanity thrills the hearts and souls of the redeemed as well. Consider, then, just four of the thoughts that bring out the indispensable importance that the Son of God became, and ever shall be, fully and genuinely man.
I. HE WOULD SHED BLOOD AND DIE. Romans 6:23a proclaims that if sin’s wages are ever to be paid there must be death and Hebrews 9:22 proclaims that apart from the shedding of blood there is no remission. But not just any death or blood would do. The deaths of bulls and goats and the shedding of their blood could never take away sins (Heb. 10:4). Only absolute perfection could ever satisfy all the demands of an outraged Holiness. But, BLESSED BE HIS NAME, when God became a man Who could then shed His own precious blood and die bearing our sins in His own body on the tree all of Heaven’s requirements were fully met in Him.
II. HE WOULD BE OUR FORERUNNER. The principle of the forerunner is this: the manner in which the forerunner is treated foretells the manner in which the one who follows will be treated. Consider for example John Baptist. How was he ultimately treated? He was killed for his message. Then how was the One for whom he was the forerunner ultimately treated? He, too, was killed for His message. Now contemplate that our Forerunner has gone to His Father’s house (Jn. 14:2-3), yea, even within the veil (Heb. 6:19-20). How was He received there? When He had by Himself purged our sins He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3b). Until that moment, there had never been a human being in the Father’s house. But now, BLESSED BE HIS NAME, the Father’s house has been prepared to now not only be populated with human beings but also to accept many sons in glory (Heb. 2:10). Now the earnest of our reception there fully rests on the reality that there is a Man in the glory Who has been exalted to the highest station in all the universe. Now there is neither fear nor question as to how we shall one day be received. There is already a glorified Man there … He is our Forerunner … And His reception foretells ours.
III. HE WOULD UNDERSTAND LIFE DOWN HERE. Regarding this life that we live, we can be sure that God knows. We can be sure that God cares. We can be sure that God is able. But, BLESSED BE HIS NAME, (and we speak as reverently as we can) now that He has become a real man (sin apart) He really understands all of the vicissitudes of this life. No lovelier Resource than the reality that we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Sad? He wept. Financial problems? He became poor. Rejected? He came unto His own and His own received Him not. Tired? He fell asleep. Burdened? His soul was very heavy. Tested by the wicked one? He was spared no device of Satan. Destitute? He had nowhere
to lay His head? It is a marvelous truth that this Man is qualified in every sense of the word to be our Great High Priest. He understands.
IV. HE WOULD BE UNIQUE. So much could be said in connection with His uniqueness but no sweeter than this: this Man because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore, He is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him, seeing that He ever liveth to make intercession for them. And in this, dear brethren and sisters, we come full circle. The Son of God became a complete and real man and He died down here to save us. And, BLESSED BE HIS NAME, this Man … this same Jesus … lives up there in the power of an endless life to keep us saved. There has never been a high priest like this Great High Priest.
Oh, thank God that He never ceased to be what He had always been (God) when He became what He had never been before (Man). And, BLESSED BE HIS MATCHLESS NAME, He will never cease to be what He became (Man).

Click on link to download the article in pdf.:  Reflections on the Lord Jesus Christ’s Humanity