Julie wanted a total makeover-hair and skin. She visited a "one-stop shop" that had a "makeover dream team" of doctors, dentists, hair stylists, colorists and other practitioners. The staff begins by mapping Julie's face to outline the areas that will require improvement. Julie will not need dramatic surgery for a few years so the doctors use Botox treatments to smooth the lines on her forehead and around her eyes. Stylists then color, cut and highlight her hair. A few days later, she returns to have the creases around her mouth filled with a newly approved drug and a foot massage. Then she strolls over to the dentist chair for a brighter smile. Finally, a makeup artist put the finishing touches on her and Julie's transformation is complete, well, almost.
She will have to return to the 'one-stop shop' in a few months to receive additional Botox treatments. She does not hesitate injecting into her skin one of the world's most poisonous substances to prevent her wrinkles from returning. The Botox will eventually stop removing the wrinkles and she will require surgery to maintain her youthful appearance. But Julie is not thinking about the future. Her thoughts are captivated by her rejuvenated youthful appearance.1
Manufactured beauty is a trend of the times. People hope to transform themselves from a dull, unattractive person into a glowing beauty whose radiance attracts everyone's attention. They believe that a physical makeover will translate into a better job, an improved self-image and a happier life.
Ironically, this makeover rage is limited to the physical features of the person. Few practitioners require or even include, counseling to treat the related emotional or spiritual issues. Character development is buried by the glittering images of seductive lips, smoother skin, thinner hips and larger breasts.
In his reference to "the Lord's glory," Paul displays a faint reference to another mountain top event when Jesus was transfigured and stood with Moses and Elijah before Peter, James and John. With these two references, Paul reminds the church in Corinth that their faith was not based upon a stale religion but a living experience that transforms.
IMPOSSIBLE TO POSSIBLE
Paul had different vision of the Christian life. He would never reduce the faith to an external array of do's and don'ts but he also would not accept a faith that justified the status quo. When God works in the life of a person, change happens. The old person dies and a new person is born. Human frailty succumbs to divine strength. The weakness of the flesh surrenders to the power of the Spirit. The inner person, once plagued by envy, greed, lust and doubt is change to reflect the character of Christ. Someone once said, "In Christ mankind is allowed to see not only the radiance of God's glory but also the true image of man."2 Calvin stated in his commentary, "that the image of God, which had been effaced [defaced] by sin, may be stamped anew upon us...."3
Jesus is not just God in human form. Jesus is not just the Son of God. All that Jesus was, his character and quality of being, is who we will become, not just in the next life but, in the here and the now. For Paul, spiritual transformation into the likeness of Christ is a present reality.
We will read books about Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Henry Nouwen and Billy Graham and admire their accomplishments and spirituality from the comfort of our living room. We will admire the prayer life of the super saints but struggle to even say a perfunctory prayer before a meal. We are very much like Peter who after seeing Jesus transformed on the mountain wanted to build a sanctuary to preserve the moment. Returning to the hard reality of the valley was not even a consideration.
Spiritual transformation requires a healthy balance of the active and passive. Paul employs the passive, "we are being..." to remind us that God's intended-vision for our lives will be accomplished with or without our assistance. God will set events, guide us through experiences and even force us into situations to bring about our transformation.
Next week we will consider how the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to begin his temptation experience. The action of the Spirit excludes the possibility of choice. Jesus did not voluntarily follow. The Spirit drove him. God wanted him to share our struggle for power, loyalty and obedience. Jesus needed to experience the inner turmoil of the soul before beginning his ministry. He had to prepare himself to face the conflict that would only conclude in his death. Jesus may have passively followed the Spirit's leading but he actively resisted the tempting offers of Satan.
The challenge of spiritual transformation stems from its intend goal-the makeover of an inner core of the person. Liposuction, botox treatments, hair coloring and teeth whitening really only alter the external trappings. The soul remains untouched. Spiritual transformation seeks to beautify the inner person. That is perhaps the most difficult transform of all.
Since the first man and woman stumbled in defiant disobedience humanity has been plagued by a contrarian disposition. Theologians call it depravity. It does not refer to the inability to act properly and obey. Depravity describes the stubborn unwillingness to act according and an inability to earn God's favor. It is that inner core of human nature that God is seeking to transform into the likeness of Christ. Once the inner begin radiates with the glory of God, believers will express that reality through acts of righteousness.
NEVER TOO LATE
The surgeons had lifted her face, given her breast implants, Botoxed away her wrinkles, resculptered her lips and peeled away her skin with chemicals. The treatments required over seven hours in surgery, at a cost in excess of $25,000.
When Diane Sawyer asked Phyllis Porter about the wisdom of having all this work done at the age of 82, the youthful looking Grandma replied "What difference does it make if you're 2 or 82? There was no point in waiting until I got any older - and I'm not getting any younger!"
It does not make any difference when we begin our first Botox treatment or our the process of spiritual transformation. God is ready to take us in whatever condition and at whatever age. It's a process requiring our surrender and participation. We can grind our teeth and endure or we can open our hearts to the power of the Spirit to transform us into a reflection of God's radiant glory.
1 "One-Stop Makeovers", Airdate: Feb. 12, 2004, NBC 6 News Team, Online: http://www.nbc6.net/nbc6specialreports/2844032/detail.html, February 20, 2004.
2 A. M. Ramsey, The Glory of God, 151 cited by Phillip Hughes, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1962), 119.
3 Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries: 2 Corinthians. electronic ed. Logos Library System; Calvin's Commentaries, 2 Co 3:18. Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998.
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