“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
One little degree can have a huge impact.
Don’t believe me? Ask a member of NASA. Or a neurosurgeon. Or my wife when I change the thermostat in our bedroom.
- If NASA launches a satellite into space and their calculations are erroneous by only a tiny degree, the entire trajectory of the satellite is thrown off course.
- The results can be catastrophic if a neurosurgeon fails to cut with the utmost precision to the nth degree.
- As for my thermostat,…well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
You see, degrees matter a lot. And not just in the physical world.
They also matter in our sanctification, which is the process of becoming more like Jesus.
Becoming more like Jesus sounds like such an impossible dream. Right? So, we might begin to think, “Why bother?” “Why even try?”
But that’s the wrong way to look at it.
In today’s scripture, Paul explains that genuine, Christlike transformation happens over time, little by little, bit by bit, degree by degree. And this kind of progress, my friends, is well within our reach.
Thinking of sanctification in this “degree by degree” kind of way infuses each step of the journey with hope.
Because a single degree is doable, even for ordinary folks like you and me.
That’s not to say that Christlike transformation is all up to us. If it were, we wouldn’t stand a chance. Rather, this transformation “comes from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The [Holy] Spirit, residing within every child of God, can gradually transform us from the inside out.
And how does this transformation happen?
By beholding Jesus.
To behold means ‘to fix your eyes upon; to see with attention; to observe with care.’
English poet William Blake wisely observed, “we become what we behold.” I couldn’t agree more.
What occupies our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection transforms us until we gradually begin to resemble the object we behold.
So, if we want to become more like Jesus, we better get serious about beholding Jesus. Because growing more like Him is a byproduct of beholding Him.
Now, we can behold Jesus in many different ways, but primarily, it happens as we are in His presence, spending consistent time in prayer and His Word. This liberates us from thinking that sanctification is the equivalent of trying to be a better, more moral person.
Sure, we must put forth the effort, but the effort is in beholding Him more often, not striving more.
But the more we behold Him, guess what? The more He can chisel away at our character, helping us become a little bit more like Jesus – one degree at a time.
Stop and think about the progress His Spirit has made in you.
John Newton, the former slave trader and author of “Amazing Grace,” says it like this, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world, but still I am not what I once used to be.”
Praise the Lord. By His grace, we are not what we used to be. And one day, we shall behold Him face to face, and our transformation will finally be complete.
But until then, by all means, we dare not grow complacent. Whether we’ve walked with Jesus for 1 month or 30 years, we will still have miles – I mean degrees – to go, don’t we?
So, pray this with me:
“Heavenly Father, let me not resist Your work in my heart and life. I yield to how You’re changing me to be more like my Savior a little at a time. I rejoice that my spiritual growth is not the basis of Your love for me, for I am fully loved in Christ. Help me today, by the power of Your Spirit, to make a degree of progress. Amen.”
Written by Jonathan Munson, Executive Director, RFTH