Monday, October 07, 2013


A few years ago, I used a chart in helping to explain spiritual growth. I wish to do so again.

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.  

Albert Barnes 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 Barnes and others, that by contemplating or seeing Him afresh, we become changed into the likeness of that same One we are seeing and contemplating 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, when and how does this "seeing Him afresh" 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, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. [I think it is saying that]  So, the question to be asked is when do we, generally, see Him most clearly? For me, it has been when I've been hurting or facing failure in my own life. It is those times that I see Him graciously reveal 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. Permit me to explain what I mean.

You hit bottom, with failure, or pain, or tragedy, whatever it is 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 in it. How could you have doubted? How could you have forgotten or failed, whatever the case may be? You're growing stronger now. Kingdom living has been renewed. Life is good. You're alive again.

But, an usual, you ultimately go on to another time 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 seems__so 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, again, with a false and unbiblical view of Him, 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. But on the horizon, complacency__again.  Failure__again.
You get the picture.

This 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__for recovery.
4--We will inevitably get complacent or foolish.__again, which inevitably lead to failure__again.
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]

No one is saying this is the ONLY way for spiritual growth to take place. But it is my reasoned opinion that this may be the more likely experienced way, in the fallen world in which we live, that we are open to seeing the Lord. It is called the process of brokenness. That, my friend, is called life and growth.

Such is our wonderful journey in knowing our Gracious Lord in a New Covenant relationship even while we are in this flesh and fallen world.  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.


Aussie John said...


I am so glad to affirm everything you have written here.

You have nailed,exactly, my own experience of His gracious workings in my life;from A to D, which I think (I hope) is less a cycle and more an aberration now.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Your commenting first, which is not unusual on my blog and for which I'm grateful, has caused me to think about something.

You and I are close to identical in much of life, Our age, experiences, hurts, struggles, and a lot of other things that are very much alike, I believe. So I'm wondering what you think about this.

I'm wondering if the reason so many young people do not/ will not/ can not abide the understanding of the cycle illustrated in my post is because in their youth they lack the PATIENCE of waiting for the cycle to become a reality.

In other words, when they fail, they seem to give up or give in so quickly and just QUIT, OR, they struggle to deny or worse, try to demonstrate a lack of failure rather than live with the reality of it.

Failure seems to be anathema to them and they simply cannot abide it. There is little willingness to admit, adjust, and even align with some new understanding of things that is learned only through failure. Maybe that's because of a need to prove, perhaps to themselves, that they didn't fail or don't HAVE TO FAIL.

You and I [and others] have lived long enough to learn that failure is not just a SURE thing but a LEARNING thing. As I said, I'm just thinking. That's dangerous I know. LOL

ScottShaver said...

This is a very rich article Paul. Extremely helpful for a Christian like me in his mid fifties. Thanks for the work and tears expended on this one.

Paul Burleson said...


Thank you for your comment. As I said in the post, this illustration was not mine originally. I heard it from Jim Hylton back in the early 1970s. But what I've said about it in this post has been my experience and study of it all. I'm more than delighted it's been of some benefit and help.

Stop by often.

ScottShaver said...

May have been Jim's originally but your personal touch on his model is what makes it so meaningful to some others who can relate.

Aussie John said...


Your blog is early morning reading, but, until mid December, when I have cataracts removed from both eyes, the reading is blurry.

I often think of the similarities, which appear to be shared by ourselves.

Your article reminded me of the time, so very long ago, when I attended my first pastors conferences and retreats, from which I came home filled with misgivings about whether I had made a mistake becoming a pastor.

There were two hundred or so fellows there, and to hear their conversations one would be forgiven for thinking they were mostly too perfect to be on earth.

What you have suggested is certainly true, but one sentence stands out to me,"Failure seems to be anathema to them and they simply cannot abide it".

I came to the conclusion that most didn't understand that they were ALREADY failures, according to their theology, and they had not experienced,admitting failure,and "they struggle to deny or worse, try to demonstrate a lack of failure rather than live with the reality of it.", and, as a consequence,they cannot know, to use your words again,"our wonderful journey in knowing our Gracious Lord in a New Covenant relationship even while we are in this flesh and fallen world".

I thank God for opening my eyes to what it truly means to be a child, in the family of a God, who loved His prodigals so much that He became a man, to fulfill all the demands of His laws, and to welcome them into His arms.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Your last sentence is worth becoming the life statement of every believer. Thanks.

ScottShaver said...

Aussie John:

Thank you so much for this testimony. Your description of the spirit of that pastor's conference revives some of own memories and misgivings about the past.

It was not until five years after I exited a 20 year pastoral career that I began to experience what you described as "an opening of the eyes to see what it truly means to be a child of God".

What many would view as "professional failure" in ministry turned out to be the very event through which I realized the sufficiency of Christ.

The book of Hebrews speaks of a need for the children of God to enter into "His rest".

Never really appreciated the spiritual significance of that passage until after my professional demise.

Sometimes when friends or relatives question why I "walked away from my calling" they still seemed puzzled by my answer:

"I'm still on the journey, God has called me to Himself in Christ."

And on this leg of the journey I seem to have a clearer view from the pew than I ever had from behind a pulpit.

Thanks again guys. This exchange has been meaningful for me.

Paul Burleson said...


You've stated that you believe this has been a meaningful exchange, and I agree that it has. Part of the reason it has is your genuine openness. I've been blessed as you've reminded us all of what I came to understand many years back.

It consists of three things that I'd like to share if you wouldn't mind. These three things make up my understanding of the very heart/essence of real Christianity.

One__All believers are called to embrace the Lord Jesus as their Lord and as their very life. That is our "calling."

Two__ All believers are gifted to serve the Organism called the "Church" or "Body of Christ" and those gifts are exercised in many different ways, sometimes even as pastor/teachers, but those ways are not to be seen as "offices" that have a life-calling attached.

Three__All believers are ministers and all of their life is a ministry in whatever venue it is lived out.

This is my firm conviction drawn from my study and understanding of scripture with many traditions in the modern day organization call "church" discarded
because of a lack of biblical foundation, as I see scripture.

Your testimony has reminded me of all this. Thank you.

Steve Miller said...

Thank you brother Paul; I used that phrase ever since you were my pastor so many years ago and asked me just to refer to you as my brother and not get hung up on reverend. Additionally, thank you Aussie John and Scott for such rich comments.

I know I am dating myself but I remember Jim Hylton at a Fulness conference and he was always rich in thought and application. I am coming out of probably the most stressful year of my life, primarily due to the ailing health of my father, selling his estate and then handling his affairs before and now recently his passing last August. The evil one has had a hey day with my vulnerabilities in this time frame. But what I am learning and relearning is what you shared in the diagram is also a picture of being conformed to image of Christ and as a believer (keeping in mind your 3 principles shared in response above) that I may and will fail but I am not a failure or Philippians 1:6 would not be true. I really appreciate the above dialogue.

ScottShaver said...

Salve for the wounded, encouragement for the journey. This is real pastoral ministry Paul. Thanks.

Aussie John said...


One - Amen!
Two - Amen!
Three - Amen!

By the way, the answer to your original question,"..when and how does this "seeing Him afresh" take place?"

For me, and it appears for the others who have commented, when, in the depths of despair, when human agency turns its back, we find He is waiting arms held wide.

What joy to read the other guys as well!

I echo your words," I really appreciate the above dialogue."

Colossians 2:13-15, as well, indeed the whole chapter!

and Scott,
"What many would view as "professional failure" in ministry turned out to be the very event through which I realized the sufficiency of Christ".

If only we had understood that we were already "failures" when we were "met" with open arms by the Father in the Son.