But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see (contemplate) and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. -2 Corinthians 3:16-18 NLT
In my last article I wrote about how our culture is seeking in vain that which is perfect, instead of the Perfect One. Jesus alone is able to fulfill every longing of our hearts and transform our lives, for only He is perfect. His perfection is in fact glorious!
But until we turn to to the Lord and keep our gaze fixed on him, we are blinded to his beauty. His glory is veiled or hidden from us until we look to him in faith. But when we do, we discover the never ending awe and wonder of who He is. This in turn changes us, as God’s Spirit goes to work in making us more like Jesus; producing a life of joyful obedience and eternal worship of the Living God who alone is Worthy (Revelation 4).
If anything is needed in our time it is a turning away from our inward selfishness and a turning to the selfless and sinless person of Jesus Christ; a beholding of his glory that can truly transform us. Therefore, in this article, I want to draw our attention to a few aspects of the character of Jesus. More than ever we need to seek him with all our hearts and learn his life-giving ways, becoming in the process more like Him. We need to fall in love with and gaze in awe of Jesus again!
- Perfect Righteousness
Psalm 25:8: Good and upright is the LORD; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
My pastor preached a message this week out of Psalm 119 that hit on the head the issue within our culture today resulting in the destruction and breakdown we see. We have forsaken the Lord and righteousness. The word righteousness means to not only live “rightly” but to “relate rightly” with others. God deals and interacts with us with perfect justice, merciful compassion and absolute righteousness. But when we break relationship with him, our relationships with each other break down too. When we fail to walk righteously before him in accordance with his ways, Word, nature and character, trouble and distress are the result. Blessing on the other hand occurs when we seek first his righteousness and righteous ways. This was the whole essence of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” teaching in Matthew 5,6 & 7.
While we cannot be perfectly sinless as God alone is, we are called to be perfect in reflecting the character of God in the sense of being mature (God-like) in our dealings with him and one another. We are called to walk in righteousness. But we can only do so by looking to the righteous One. Scripture in fact says, the righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).
This is where “The Gospel” (meaning the Good News of Jesus Christ) comes into play. We can’t live a righteous life in our own efforts and “wisdom.” Rather, the first part of Romans 1:17 shares with us the true power of looking to Jesus, For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed. In other words, by beholding Jesus we see what a righteous life looks like. By turning to him in faith and putting our trust in Him, we are made righteous (made right with God) and shown in Jesus how to live a righteous life (properly relating to God and one another). This is the way of blessing, peace, joy and life! Behold the perfect righteousness of Jesus and allow him to make you righteous too.
Matthew 5:48: Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Gracious Compassion
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. -Exodus 34:6-7
God is just, but if He were only just, we would only tremble before him in fear. But the glory of God is what He revealed to Moses on the mountain, that at the very core of his being He is a God of perfect love. However, for the Israelites below, Moses returned with God’s righteous law (and a veil over his face as the glory of God was blinding). The law reveals the holiness and righteousness of God, but it only convicts, condemns and exposes us as sinners. It cannot save us but rather points to our need for salvation. It reveals our imperfections and unworthiness. It leaves us guilty before God and separated from God. It teaches that we are indeed in need of a Savior.
And so, in the fullness of time, Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:17). Through His perfect life and subsequent perfect death in our place on the cross, He payed the fullness of our debt in full. He redeemed us from the curse of the law. He reconciled us to God. Through faith in Him, our sins are forgiven and we are set free from sins grip, blindness, bondage and destruction. He came not to condemn, but to save the world through him (John 3:17).
When we see Jesus touching lepers (considered unclean), eating with “sinners and tax collectors” (considered unworthy), forgiving the woman who committed adultery (considered condemned), healing the sick (avoided at all costs), offering the gift of eternal life to Samaritans (viewed with prejudice by the Jewish people), casting out demons of those possessed (counted as impure), forgiving even the Romans crucifying him (considered the Jewish people’s enemies), ministering to women (treated as of less value than property), speaking hope to the poor (considered as getting what they deserve) and dying in our place on the cross (despite not deserving it)…we see that the heart of God is full of gracious compassion.
And as we behold his gracious compassion, our hearts are softened and can be filled with gracious compassion towards each other too, despite the pain we inflict on one another. If God deals with us in gracious compassion despite our unworthiness and the pain it cost him, how much more should we be quick to forgive and full of mercy and grace?
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. -Psalm 103:8-14
- Beautiful Holiness
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. -Psalm 29:2
The word “holy” means “other-than” or “other-worldly” or “set apart.” God is “different” than us. He is unique and “not like us.” He is perfect in all of his ways, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He never sins, doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, and doesn’t ever act outside his perfect nature and character. In studying the life of Jesus we see what it looks like to “be holy;” to live wholly unto God. Part of holiness involves a submission to God and his will, something we see Jesus perfectly modeling. Jesus was “set apart” in complete devotion to God and interaction with others.
Likewise, we are called to be “set-apart” unto God. We are not to “be like” everyone else and live according to the ways of the world. We are to walk in accordance with God’s Word and Jesus’ example. This is why we must spend time in God’s Word and beholding Jesus. This is why we must commune with God and “set-ourselves apart” from all that would distract us from God and his will for our lives.
There is something beautiful in the ways of God and holiness of God. There is something special in the life of one devoted wholeheartedly unto God. It’s a beauty not of outward appearances by inward character and heart. But this happens, and we are made holy only as we look to the Holy One. 1 Peter 1:15 puts it this way, But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
God’s purpose for our lives is to mold us into the image of Jesus, just as a potter patiently molds his clay into a work of art, beauty and purpose. Yet this only happens as we gaze upon Jesus, seek him with all our hearts, and come to know him and learn of his ways according to his word.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. -Psalm 27:4