An excerpt from ‘Rejoicing in Christ.’
Michael Reeves/ MARCH 25, 2015
Since Christ is our life, the one we are brought to enjoy and the one in whom we live and move and have our being, he must be the secret or mystery of godliness. Only through knowing and relying on him can we become like the living God and share his vitality.
This means that before anything else it matters where we look. Before anything else it matters what fills our vision. For whatever it is that occupies our attention (or, to use Jesus’ words, whatever it is that “remains” in us), that will steer and shape our every thought, motive, and action. You are what you see.
Life, righteousness, holiness, and redemption are found in Jesus, and found by those—and only those!—who look to him. Perhaps I should be clearer: It is not that we look, get some sense of what Christ is like, and then go away and strain to make ourselves similar; we become like him through the very looking. The very sight of him is a transforming thing. For now, contemplating him by faith, we begin to be transformed into his likeness (2 Cor. 3:18), but so potent is his glory that when we clap our eyes upon him physically at his second coming, then “when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
That full, unveiled, physical sight of the glorified Jesus will be so majestically effacing it will transform our very bodies around us. The sight of him now by the Spirit makes us more like him spiritually; the sight of him, then, face to face, will finally make us—body and soul—as he is. Contemplating Christ now is thus rather like seeing the morning star at the break of day: both enchanting and full of hope. It is light for now with the promise of so much more to come. It is a taste of heaven.
The language of light is quite appropriate, for the sight of Jesus is like the eruption of glorious light into darkness: it illumines our minds, it makes our faces shine, and it drives away our darkness. It is grace, and it is gracious judgment. The light of his perfection exposes our imperfection more than any wielding of the law ever could. It makes us see ourselves aright. As John Calvin put it, “man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face.” But it does more than expose: it overcomes our imperfection and so liberates us. And it cures us far more effectively than any effort at self-improvement.
As Paul phrased it, “the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:11–12, emphasis mine). That is, it is the very grace of God, appearing from heaven in Christ, that turns hearts from worldly passions to godly passions. Where self-dependent efforts at self-improvement must leave us self-obsessed and therefore fundamentally unloving, the kindness of God in Christ attracts our hearts away from ourselves and to him. Only the love of Christ has the power to uncoil a human heart.