I remember sitting on the bathroom floor in mental turmoil. I was a new Christian, and I believed I needed to be perfect before Jesus came back, but I was as far away from being perfect as one side of the universe is from the other. Just like there is no end to the universe, there seemed to be no end to my sinfulness.
I believed in Jesus and that He died and rose again for me. I believed I needed to surrender myself, to die a spiritual death so I could be raised up in Jesus as a new person. But it seemed no matter how much I read the Bible and prayed, the number of times I was asking God for forgiveness was going up and not down. Why? Friend, I cannot wait to share with you what happened! I felt like God turned the lights on for me. If you have been sitting in darkness, I know He can turn them on for you too.
The Bible says God expects nothing less than true righteousness in order to be part of His kingdom.
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:20
But God also has a lot to say regarding how we obtain that perfect character. He says that by beholding Him we become changed into the same image.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Corinthians 3:18
The original Greek of the word “behold” in this verse means, “to reflect as a mirror”. I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression, “your mind has eyes.” It’s true. It is by beholding Him as closely as you behold your own reflection in the mirror that change happens. By beholding the way He treats you with unconditional love, longing, and selflessness you become transformed. Inspired words described the process this way, “Only by love is love awakened,” (Desire of Ages, p. 22). We may say we know God loves us, but if His love is only a theory in our heads, then we will not experience the deep transformation we need in our hearts.
The original Greek from the phrase “open face” in 2 Corinthians 3:18 means “unveiled”. Just like some brides wear a veil over their face until the groom swoops it over her head, we might be facing God with a covering over our face. But He wants to lift it up so we can see Him. Earlier in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul describes how the people of Israel were blind and read the Bible as if with a veil over their eyes:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.2 Corinthians 3:14, 15
Did you catch that? It said that even today the Scripture can be read with a veil covering our eyes—the eyes of our mind.
Often, the veil that blinds us from God’s true character and hinders us from experiencing change is a distorted picture of God. We need to ask God to reveal Himself to us and then spend time with Him. Inspired words say,
Looking unto Jesus we obtain brighter and more distinct views of God, and by beholding we become changed. Goodness, love for our fellow men, becomes our natural instinct. We develop a character which is the counterpart of the divine character. Growing into His likeness, we enlarge our capacity for knowing God.Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 355
Are you tired? Do you feel stuck on square one in your Christian walk? Realize it is not your job to change yourself. You can’t do it!
The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened.Desire of Ages, p. 22
It is by being intimately acquainted with God and inviting Him to change you that you become transformed. Invite God to come into your life and remove anything that is separating you from knowing Him, and from growing in Christlikeness.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.Ezekiel 36:26, 27