Monday, May 02, 2011


11 Corinthians 3:18 is undoubtedly a tremendous verse with much meaning." But we all, with open face beholding 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." I think I'm safe in saying that, among others things, this verse is saying...

1--We all  [All Christians]
2--Are right now  [Present tense]
3--enabled to look upon  [No veil covering us as Moses had to be covered]
4--The Lord  [Clearly and distinctly seen present in the gospel]
5--And we all  [All Christians]
6--Are being changed  [Present tense..right now]
7--To mirror or reflect Him   [His reality expressed in us]
8--All is His work in us through His Spirit.

Locke says this...

"By contemplating the resplendent face of the blessed Redeemer, [Seen present in the gospel] we are changed into something of the same image. It is a law of our nature that we are moulded, in our moral feelings, by the persons with whom we associate, and by the objects which we contemplate. Thus, we are changed into His very image by a continued succession of glory, as it were, streaming upon us from the Lord."

The idea is, according to Locke and others, by contemplating or seeing Him afresh , we become changed into the likeness of that same One we are seeing and we are conformed to that which is revealed there. In simple language, we become like Him and it is obvious to others.

My question is, how does this take place? I want to share something I heard years ago from someone, and I cannot remember who it was,  [Jim Hylton I think]  that I've never forgotten and has been a help many times in my own personal life and growth.

Let's suppose this verse really is saying as we see Him more and more clearly, we become like Him more and more. [I think it is saying that]  So, the question might be,  when do we generally see Him more clearly? For me, it has been when I've been hurting or facing failure in my own life that He graciously reveals Himself anew in His love and faithfulness. Then is when I hit myself on the forehead in recognition that I'd forgotten Him, but He, thankfully, hadn't forgotten me.

This verse may be revealing to us a cycle of experiencing God in this way...

You hit bottom, with failure, or pain, or tragedy, something that takes the spiritual wind out of your sails. You, then, find yourself broken, repentant, or crying out in hopelessness. It is dark and despair is lingering over you. But God breaks through with a fresh word or view of His presence and grace in some fashion. It could be from the Word, a song, a friend, a sermon, or just a contemplative thought on your part. But He's unmistakably there in a fresh way. You see Him present. You recognize His voice in your heart of hearts.

In that moment it is like a mountain top experience almost because He's so real and present with you. How could you have doubted? How could you have forgotten or failed, whatever the case may be? You're strong now. Kingdom living is renewed. Life is good. You're alive again.

But you go on to a bit of complacency because, after all, you're busy or pressed or just trying to live life that has so many demands on your time and thoughts. No doubts about Him...just...well... you know... as I said... busy and pressed. Things that are familiar are no longer seen with Him as the backdrop. After all, they are just normal, everyday things. And God distant...again.

Then it comes...again. Failure or pain or tragedy. The tears, darkness, and even doubts begin their journey across you mind and soul. Where is God in all this? You certainly need something from Him. Or maybe you've settled in your thinking that He couldn't care, forgive, or deliver this time after so many times before. You don't deserve it after all with what you did.

But He does show up. A mountain top again. Complacency...again.  Failure!! You get the picture.

The diagram below, which has been a guide to me for years and graciously put into pictorial form by my wife, might be helpful and revealing. Go through it. My conclusions will come on the other side of the diagram.

1--We will not ever... NOT fail or face pain or tragic events.
2--We will ultimately, by His Spirit, be brought to brokenness or repentance. [Or some form of crying out for help]
3--He will faithfully show Himself present and forgiving, gracious, powerful...whatever the need might be.
 4--We will inevitably get complacent or foolish...again which inevitably lead to failure.
5--We will not ever... NOT fail or face pain or tragic events,

You see the pattern. It is much as the Nation of Israel did seven times in the Book of Judges in the Old Covenant [Testament] where that cycle resulted in seven Judges being raised up to deliver His people from their troubles.

But notice,.. in our New Covenant relational experience, we have hope beyond measure. 
 1--We are never as low as we were. [The upward cycle]
 2--We will always experience Him in greater ways than before. [Higher revelation]
 3--We will always be changed to some degree with those new revelations of who He really is in our lives. [Always different and further in growth than before]

The process, my friend, is called life and growth. Such is our wonderful journey in knowing our Gracious Lord in a New Covenant relationship and will be so until, one day, the work of changing us into His Glory will be finalized as we see Him face to face.

Paul B.


Anonymous said...

Someone said that man's purpose in life was to know God better so man could enjoy God more in heaven.

I think of a Muslim that was saved the first time he attended Tokyo Baptist Church. When told he would be deported and killed if he did not reject Jesus, some Christians asked what would be his greatest regret. He answered: “When I face Jesus, I'll have to say I'm sorry I've known you for such a short time.”

I'd like to think as I grow older I know God better, and yet I think of the old question: 'Does a man have 30 years of experience, or does he have one year experience repeated 30 times?'

What happened to my youth in thinking I was going to help win the world for Jesus? The WORLD? The world looks at America as a heathen nation.
It's been said that Christianity would be a great religion if it wasn't for the Christians. Jesus said we were to love one another, but I've been in a church where it was said I was full of hatred and lies and wanted the church to decide between two people which one should be removed.

Yesterday, I ran across a three year old letter saying in part: “Bill Walker [Japan missionary] asked us to express to you his thanks and appreciation for all the work you did. Your work, your attitude, and your loving and giving Christian spirit have helped him in the job the Lord has called him to do.”

All Christians go through 'highs' and 'lows', and we hope it comes out as you say.

Paul Burleson said...


Your comment about Christianity would be great were it not for Christians [I tend to agree] reminds me of the saying "Human beings would be a great species if it weren't for people." Same logic. I wonder why that kind of logic makes sense to me? ;)

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I remember the morning at the” little white house” that you and I sat together discussing life. You referenced this concept then. I am glad you brought it up now.

I have always felt that the Christian journey has a cyclical aspect to it. It is not, I think, coincidence that we find ourselves dealing with the same struggles over and over again even with a change of environment or circumstance.

What struck me as a "aha" moment in your post was the idea that "we will never be as low as we were”. The process of growth produces the upward spiral rather than a static or downward one.

A week or so ago I read your son’s post about Bill Zeller and wept. I wept because there did not seem to be any awareness of God’s love and grace (which produced the downward spiral)

I wept because I know from personal experience two of Satan’s greatest weapons is to get you to believe the lie that you are all alone and that things will never change (which produces a static spiral).

I wept because I know what it is like to contemplate suicide and I know what it is like to be terrified of the “darkness” that is inside of you.

But I also cried tears of gratitude because I also know love and light. The love of Christ broke through on that cool spring evening I picked up the shotgun through the words of song by David Meece called “We Are the Reason.”

The light of His grace was expressed to me the very first time I ever told anyone about the “darkness” inside of me by a man who was “a three time divorced and recovering alcohol and drug addict turned chaplain.”

I experienced both love and light sitting in a counselor’s office when almost completely “out of the blue” I was struck with the realization (maybe for the every first time) that though my life was a mess (some of my fault, some if it not) and that all my efforts to fix myself were inadequate.

The belief that I “had to measure up” was transformed into the “freedom not to.” I knew (No! I experienced it with every fiber of my being) that God really did love me…not who I wanted to be… or who I thought others needed me to be…or who I believed God demanded me to be but… ME.

I knew that I might lose my marriage and I might lose my ministry but even if I did, I realized God’s gift of Himself through Christ would be enough to carry me through.

I still struggle with self-centerness, self-protection, and self promotion which is sometimes expressed though my battles with anger, people pleasing tendencies, and defensiveness.

So I thoroughly expect other eminent breakthroughs…that awareness of such expectations are miraculous to me because I remember what it was like to not have them.

It is not pie in the sky thinking or a fatalistic attitude but rather what I call “Christian optimism.” Oh wait…the Bible calls it something else “Hope IN Christ.”

Paul Burleson said...


You, my friend, have written in this comment one of the finest testimonies to the point I tried to make in the post that I could possibly read. Thank you for that.

Your transparency and openness has made you vulnerable in ways that only remind me of our Lord's willingness to face the misunderstandings of those in His day who may have wished for things to be a bit more tidy and neat than the awfulness of a crucified King. It would not be neat and tidy. It could not be. He was bringing a reality of life that was actual rather than pretended.

But we have benefited [Obviously] from His resolve to bring to people a measure of reality that made many of them uncomfortable at the very least and angry and resentful in some cases.

I'm aware of the limited way that any of our experiences, your's included, should and, in fact, could be compared to His. But I place your openness and honesty in that same vein. It is a display of death to pride, ego, and flesh to you and the opening of a window that lets the light of hope in for those who will read and understand what you've said.

You have honored this blog with your comment.

Aussie John said...

Your reference to your own personal experience, beginning with the paragraph, "For me, it has been when I've been hurting or facing failure in my own life that He graciously reveals Himself anew in His love and faithfulness....",is so true for my own life, that I can repeat your very words truthfully, as applying to myself.

The truth of the matter is that in the church in general the truth of Paul's earlier words seems to have escaped their attention. That truth leads to the what you are speaking of, that it is experienced only in true union with Christ as the veil of the law is removed.

We can repeat the Apostles words as applying to today, "Yet even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts".

His next words cause me much thought as to what calls itself "church" today, "But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord's Spirit is, there is freedom".

We still claim to be justified by grace, but demand that folk live by the law! What??

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

To people who still advocate living by the law, your final word is my question also.

By the way, your post at your own blog site on the falseness of the Patriarchal system that is so widespread in the Church today is spot on.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

I had a friend of mine who did a sermon series called "Parasites: The things that suck the life out of your faith" He knew my story and wanted me to write it down (anonymously of course) so he could share it with his congregation.

If you will indulge me one more time I have included excerpts from that letter below. Some of the content had been edited for privacy purposes.

My greatest fear was that God and people would be disgusted when they found out my secret and that they would not love me. Make no mistake, my sin was dark and disgusting but I realized that that I never really hid anything from God and yet He loved me. Also, there were those out there that would love me in spite of my sin…

Somewhere along the way the healing that I had begged for so long began to occur (God never ignored my prayers that I often prayed…His timetable was just different than mine). Apparently, it had something to do with my renewed understanding, awareness, and application of Grace. The anger melted away. The emptiness was filled. My terror of being “known” was removed…

The healing process is just that… a process! There have been slips and slides along the way but the hope I have comes from the Biblical promise that God is in the process of making me in the image of his Son…

God HAS delivered me. Jesus’ death and resurrection ended the war. But I do not live with any illusions. Until I die, or Jesus comes back there are battles that must be fought. The difference is that the struggle no longer controls my life and I KNOW I am not on my own. Given the right set of circumstances, each of us can find ourselves ensnared in a web of sin…

“My sin” stole a great deal from me. But it has given me at least one gift-the knowledge that self-sufficiency is a lie. Insufficiency to conquer self and sin used to be one of the things I hated the most about my life. For whatever reasons, I believed that love and forgiveness were only available to those who deserve or earn it. How wrong I was. I was not designed by God to conquer sin alone. I need God and I need God’s people…

Redemption and Restoration are no longer just words. I don’t just preach them… I have experienced them. I don’t understand why God allowed me to be exposed to “some things” so early in my life and struggle with it so long. But I know this: The journey has profoundly transformed my understanding of God and His grace... Jesus really does love me. He has really forgiven me, and He has changed me. God redeemed/rescued me from my prison of sin. Then…He gave me back my marriage and ministry…just because He could…

One of most pervasive lies that I used to believe was that my sin was so big that things would never change. It was that loss of hope that made the darkness seem bigger than it really was. My sin was not too big for God. It was too big for me; it just took me years to acknowledge that. There is hope. God is bigger than sin and darkness. Things can change. Hurt can heal. Joy can return. I know because it happened to me.

Christiane said...

There is ONE LAW that we are called to obey that is a law so great that we cannot obey it without Our Lord's help:

Corrie ten Boom's story is an example:

" It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face [Betsie was Corrie's sister].

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. 'Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.'

As I took his hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this man that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."

Paul Burleson said...


I totally agree with her final statement in your quote.

I found the reality of that statement in no more difficult place than sitting across from the one who had sexually assaulted my nine year old granddaughter, and is now in prison for it, and knowing that I was having to learn a depth of forgiveness that was beyond human ability or power.

I'm convinced only eternity will be able to reveal whether the "70x 7" standard is actually experienced by a Christian or not. It may be a journey instead of a moment for us, depending on the depth of the hurt. But wanting to be on the journey to forgiving is half the battle for His power to be experienced I would think.

As always, thanks for for a thoughtful comment.

Christiane said...

PAUL, there is much sadness in the comments on this post that only Our Compassionate Lord has the power to heal.

Paul Burleson said...


Sadness indeed.

It reminds me of that verse that says, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be continuously presently filled." [It is in the present tense here] How can one be hungry and thirsty and continuously presently filled. Only a Christian understands the enigma of that.

So with sadness and joy unspeakable. Both co-exist in real life in Christ, but thanks be to God that the Victory over all is already won. There's that enigma again. Faith really IS the victory.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Paul you wrote:

"So with sadness and joy unspeakable. Both co-exist in real life in Christ, but thanks be to God that the Victory over all is already won. There's that enigma again. Faith really IS the victory."

I call it "hope-tainted heartache"!

Romans 8:22-39

Christiane said...

Hi Rodney,

As Christians, we are called to the beatitudes,
and there we see the promises God makes to us in the midst of our tribulations.

The beauty of our faith is that it leads us steadily towards our final home, of which St. Augustine wrote,

"“There we shall rest and see,
we shall see and love,
we shall love and praise.

Behold what will be at the end without end.

For what other end do we have,
if not to reach the kingdom which has no end? ”

Anonymous said...

With Paul's “boundaries” in mind, what do we do with the scripture that says “by their fruits you will know them”?

This week, I heard a story that happened many years ago. A person reported to the sheriff their golf cart was stolen. Some kids took a joy ride and when the batteries were dead, they hid it with brush. When it was found the kids told the sheriff they saw a neighbor driving it and their mother said the same. The owner told them no charges would be filed if they confessed, but if they didn't the sheriff would take fingerprints and charges would be made. The oldest daughter (not involved) said, “Mother – stop lying, you know the kids took it.”

Once, I asked a person a friendly question, but they wouldn't answer or even look at me because (I think) they believed a falsehood told by the person that did answer with a smile. I though who was less 'Christian' – the one that ignored or smiley.

How long does a lie last? I believe it grows like cancer and spreads like a splash on smooth water.