Filled with glory. ME ?

Let’s see a show of hands, please. How many of you would say that radiance, splendor, importance, power, and wondrous beauty … are found in YOU?

Ever since 2 Corinthians 3 finally soaked into my head, I have been in awe of the truth that we who have turned to the Lord reflect the Lord’s glory [and] are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Wow.

He created us in His image to begin with, then we pretty much ruined it, and now His purpose is to restore us to that image that shines with His own glory.

This has completely changed my former thoughts about glory. First, I always thought the attribute of glory belonged to God alone … but there’s a long list of Scriptures that tell us it is meant for us to share, too.

My NLT Word Study System says the Greek word used here for “glory” is a noun meaning “radiance or splendor, with a strong association of importance or display of power. It refers to eye-catching, wondrous beauty, perhaps with a focus on the object shining or reflecting light. Glory means ascribing honor or praise, emphasizing that the person being honored is powerful, beautiful, important.”

Glory. His glory. In ever increasing measure. In us!

Second, my idea of the glory awaiting followers of Jesus was that it was some reward in heaven, when we will be transformed and made perfect. But this is His plan NOW—to fill us with “ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. (Colossians 1:27)

The Spirit of Christ that brought you a new life is the One who is now transforming you into His image. The book of Hebrews says the Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God. And we have that very Spirit of the Son living in us!

Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts, says:

He means to rename us—to return us to our true names, our truest selves. He means to heal our soul holes … He means to fill us with glory again.

In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul quotes Scripture from Isaiah:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him
.

I can’t imagine it. We haven’t seen the complete picture yet, the total fulfillment of this promise. I’m still struggling with the part of the picture that’s here and now, in this world. Those WWJD bracelets seemed like a good idea to remind us who we follow, but I have to admit that often I’m stumped at answering the question. What would Jesus do in this situation? For me, the answer’s not always clear.

So I’m still learning. Scripture assures us that the more we get to know our Creator, the more His power transforms us. I’m counting on that. I’m pursuing knowing Jesus better. His Spirit has come and made His home right here, and He’s working at producing the character our Lord desires.

We can’t see what we will be, ultimately. But God says that He is changing me into His likeness and planting in ME the glory that shines in the Lord of the Universe. He’s continuing to create a new nature in me.

Right now. Even when I’m stubborn or foolish or a slow learner. He’s continuing to create. 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

Give me an undivided heart…
(from Psalm 86:11) 

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More on the promise of a new nature/ new heart:
Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 32:38-39; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 3:26-27; Galatians 5:22; Galatians 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:21-24; Ephesians 5:8-9; Philippians 1:6, 11; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 3:1-15; Titus 2:14; Titus 3:4-5; 2 Peter 1:3-4.

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Created to be like God

Today’s and tomorrow’s thoughts are pretty hard to swallow for those who don’t believe. And even when we have determined to set our course by the Word of God, this is all still a mystery — the mystery of God’s relationship with His sons and daughters. We haven’t even begun to plumb the depths of this hope.

But standing firm in this hope will completely change how we look at ourselves and at our brothers and sisters in Christ’s kingdom.

Spirit, give us a glimpse of what you have planned for us.

Ephesians 4 encourages us to put on the new nature that God created in each of us. This new nature was created to be like God. (verse 24) 

His purpose is to change us, every day, bringing more and more of His own character into full bloom in our lives, until our mortal dust is swallowed up by His immortal glory.

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The Greek word used here that we translate “changed” means “to change fundamentally and completely from one state to another.” Wow. Changed from me to him.

Are you thinking the same things I’ve thought or said myself? “I am so far from being God’s masterpiece. I’d like to think of myself that way, but those old, ugly habits still rise up, too often. I have those days when I am everything but holy. I am so far from what God wants me to be.”

And sometimes we even think, “I’m hopeless. I’ll never get this right.”

Yet this is God’s promise: the old can be gone. The new has come. And the new nature He created in us was created to be like Him. The Spirit is working to make us “more and more like Him.”

Do you know what this means? It means there’s hope for me … even on those days when I feel “hopeless”!

Because the life I’m living now was birthed by God. He’s nurturing it and has big plans for my new life.

Is it so hard to believe that the Spirit of Christ changes us to be like Him? We accept that this happens on a human level. Within hours of a child’s birth, people are looking for Daddy’s dimples or Mom’s eyes or Big Sister’s nose. We take it further than the physical; we say that “He has his dad’s business savvy” or “She’s got her grandfather’s gumption” or “She inherited her mother’s sweet disposition.”

This birth of a new nature in us was a birth from God, and He birthed His character in us. That’s a pretty daring thing to say, isn’t it? Yet there it is in Scripture, in God’s Word to tell us exactly what He’s about.

C.S. Lewis describes our new nature in this way in Mere Christianity: 

God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders—no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings—may even give it an awkward appearance.

The lumps on your shoulders might look and feel awkward. But I am certain they are growing into wings!

I am certain of that, because I believe that God keeps His promises.

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Psalm Prayer:

Give me an undivided heart…
(from Psalm 86:11) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Cleansing

Here’s a word of hope that I am counting on: Cleansing.

I need a cleansing, a deep cleaning that I cannot accomplish on my own. I’ve tried scrubbing some things out of my life, but stubborn streaks need a greater power:

…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (1 John 1:9).

(OK, I admit it. Instead of using the phrase stubborn streaks, I should have just used wickedness. That’s much more accurate.)

This teaching from the apostle John may have been one of the first verses you learned as a little child. It promises that God is always ready and willing to forgive us when we confess our failings.

But there’s so much more than forgiveness promised here. I missed it for years, because I was focused on the needed forgiveness. But did you see that last phrase? And to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Wow.

It turns out that this promise is not just a simple little formula for ridding ourselves of the guilt from our wrongdoing. John is not teaching confession only for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness.

As we look further into this promise, we discover that going to God and confessing our sins will actually further His “cleansing” of us – He works at purging and purifying those parts of us that need to go.

We may have created a mess today with poor or outright immoral choices, and when we confess, God forgives that, yes. But cleansing goes deeper: When we live in His light and admit to those things in our lives that the light shows to be wrong, God promises to be at work scrubbing and cleaning us! He is not only forgiving our disobedience and forgetting it, but He is also cutting away our old wayward and rebellious nature and replacing it with something brand new.

When we go to God in confession, He does something we can never accomplish on our own. His power in our confession weakens the grip our old self has on us. He is cleaning the old life right out of us.

This is part of our hope of new creation – a deep cleansing!

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Psalm Prayer:

Give me an undivided heart…
(from Psalm 86:11) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

At work on the masterpiece

The Scripture uses a variety of metaphors to describe how God creates us anew. We’ll look at many of them at different times in this study. Today, ponder a word that comes, not from the Scriptures, but from a comment on a 2014 blog. Below is a condensed version of a post I then wrote in response. The idea has stayed with me, and I think it’s a good description of how God is making me into a new person.

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“Whittling”

In response to my post on being thankful for the difficult in our lives, a friend’s comments included this line: “A whittling down of ourselves to make us what we need to be.”

That’s a fascinating word. Whittle. It immediately brings ups a related word: carve.

Think of the words we pair with those two.

We whittle away or whittle down. Skilled fingers take a piece of wood and cut away a bit here and a chunk there until eventually, they hold a work of art. We even use this phrase to describe working , bit by bit, at a large project. We whittle away at it; and eventually—the finished result!

We carve out. Sculptors are sometimes quoted as saying they see what is in a piece of marble or a slab of wood before they even start their work. Carving is a prying away of the unnecessary, inessential, inappropriate, irrelevant—until the image the creator has “seen” finally emerges.

Isn’t that the way God forms and molds us? He is at work, whittling away the things in our lives that need to go in order for His masterpiece to finally emerge. “Whittling down of ourselves to make us what we need to be.”

We were created in the image of God! (No matter how many times I type that, I am still amazed at the words.) But as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we’ve inherited so much that sullies and burdens and binds and tarnishes that image. We’ve taken on selfishness and disobedience and pride. All of us were trained as citizens of the kingdom of darkness instead of sons and daughters in the kingdom of light.

Yet God’s promise is that we are now His masterpiece, created anew. There are many days I don’t feel like a masterpiece of any kind … let alone a masterpiece of the great Creator. But this word “whittling” has opened a new thought for me: God is whittling away at this chunk of wood I know as Me. He sees the image within; He knows what He has created there (a new person, with a new life born of HIS Spirit!) and He is carving out that image, bit by bit cutting away everything else.

And that is exactly why we can be thankful in all things, even the difficult and trying and painful. God promises that He is at work on His new creation within us–

He knows what He intends to make us.
He knows what needs to go.
He whittles away all the old stuff Self has collected,
so that the new life He has given us can grow and thrive.

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Psalm Prayer:

Give me an undivided heart…
(from Psalm 86:11) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Ask for a new heart

Determination is a requirement for reading through the Old Testament. Many parts — sometimes entire books! — are difficult to get through, especially if one has no idea of the context of certain passages. But when you read it according to a chronological sequence, one thing becomes very clear — God has always been about restoring and renewing His creation and His people.

Countless times, the people with whom the Creator had initiated a special covenant turned away from Him. Usually, that brought disaster, even a destruction of their homeland and exile into foreign countries. Yet the promise of the Father was always the same: If you seek me, I’ll be found. I’ll restore you, heal you.

Here’s His word to His people while they were still living in exile in Babylon:

“I will give them hearts that recognize me as the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly” (Jeremiah 24:7).

Further, He says, He will watch over them (v6), build them up, not tear them down, plant them, and not uproot them.

Whatever our circumstances, even when it seems God is not hearing our prayers or has shut us out of His presence — even then! — He is watching over His children and has plans to restore and heal them. If we pray for a heart to recognize, worship, and love the LORD, He honors those prayers – He has said, “Draw near, and I’ll draw near to you. Seek me, and you’ll find me.”

Here’s one more promise, given to the exiles but also for each of us today:

“They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants” (Jeremiah 32:38-39).

This is God’s long-term plan: To make everything new. This is a promise for each of us, too. He will give a new heart and purpose. And worshipping Him will be “for our own good” — and the good of our descendants!

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Psalm Prayer:

Give me an undivided heart…
(from Psalm 86:11) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015

Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)