Mirrors III – Reflecting God’s Glory: Spiritual Maturity
To have a truly new heart is a wondrous thing. We cannot thank God enough for this miraculous change within us. It is a change that ONLY God can make within us. No amount of striving on our part can bring about the change that God promises to make in us when we surrender ourselves to Jesus.
In lesson II, we looked at Isaiah 43 and God’s statement that He made us for His glory. We saw how Jesus’ death and resurrection gave to us who trust Him a place in God’s family and the right to call Him Daddy. We saw how sin and hurts turn the good news of God into bad news. And we learned that getting honest with God shatters any walls which we have erected between ourselves and Him.
We are going to look at what the Bible means when it says that we are “created for His glory.” Since this is our whole purpose for existing, it’s important that we know what that means. Let’s look at the word “glory,” both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. He gave His Word so His children might come to understand Who HE says He is. Throughout the pages of the Bible, He reveals Himself to us. The word “glory” is a word often used to describe Him.
Exodus 16:7- In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord….
Psalms 19:1- The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Psalms 24: 7- Lift up your heads, O gates…that the King of glory may come in!
Psalms 29: 9- …in His temple all cry, “Glory!”
Isaiah 6:3 – …the whole earth is full of His glory.
Isaiah 66: 18 – 19 – …the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory.
So what does the word “glory” actually mean? Just these verses seem to indicate it means something big. In Hebrew, word kavodh = weight, honor, esteem. Kavodh actually comes from kavedh = to be renowned…to show oneself great or mighty.
In other words, God’s glory shows who He is. It is the way He makes Himself known – how He shows Himself mighty. His glory is how humans can see Him.
What God Says About Himself and About Us
The word “glory” is important not only so we can understand what God says about Himself but also because of something God says about us! In Isaiah 43:7, God says that He formed us, He created us “for His glory!”
In other words, God created me…He created you…so that we would show Him to the world. We were created to make Him known and honored and esteemed. We exist to make Him recognizable to others – to show His might! Scripture here is talking not only about our using words but of our lives. It is saying that our very beings will show His might. We are made so as to declare His greatness.
How Can This Be?
Right about now, had I been listening to this some years ago, I would have thought, “How can that be? Whatever was God thinking?” Let’s look back very briefly at our human history before going to the New Testament to see exactly how He means for us to show His glory
Creation, the Fall, and Israel
The first humans had hearts that were turned toward God. They trusted Him and turned to Him for relationship. But Satan, who hates God and us because He knows why we were created, came to Eve with a statement that contained a sly inference about God. And part of our sin nature ever since has been both to doubt that God is really good as well as to want to be our own gods.
The fact that this happened was no surprise to our Father God. Because He is timeless, He knew before the Fall happened that we humans would both believe the lie AND want to be in charge of our own lives. He knew these would keep us from the purity of His presence. But because He is our Father, He planned all along a Way to draw us back to Himself – and that Way was Jesus.
But before the time was right for Jesus to come, God gave us a kind of “picture” during history so that humans would recognize Jesus when He came. God made a covenant with Israel in order that they would be able to have their sins forgiven, that they might be able to approach Him, and also that other nations would see His might displayed on behalf of Israel.
In addition to this covenant, God chose to speak with Moses alone in all of Israel. God’s relationship with Moses is an example for us.
In Exodus 33:7-33, we see two important points. First, Moses desired all of God that he could handle. And secondly, Moses was changed by the very experience of being in God’s presence. He did not realize that others saw the change, but Exodus 34:29-35 tells us that Moses’ face shone, reflecting God’s glory.
Glory in the New Testament
Our Father God knew that we would have issues with trusting Him. He knew that even though we had His Word to tell about His love for us, we would still doubt His goodness. So He sent Jesus that we might “see” what God looks like with skin on. Jesus revealed the glory of God. Remember the Old Testament definition of glory? God’s glory is how He shows Himself mighty.
Well, the New Testament word for glory adds to that of the Old Testament. The Greek word for glory is “doxa,” which means “the true apprehension of God.” So God’s glory is also the way He makes Himself recognizable, the way we know that He is Himself! Jesus, the Son, shows us exactly Who the Father is.
Who the Father is can be clearly seen in John 1:14 –
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We find the first of miraculous sign of Jesus in John 2: 11, where He turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. Radiance is defined as light coming from the original; Jesus was literally the shining of God’s glory.
Jesus was the exact representation of the Father – just like an impression made in wax clearly shows what the original looked like. Jesus demonstrates that, unlike mankind’s kings, God’s glory, His might, is not shown by crushing men but in loving and serving them.
Spiritual Maturity and Sanctification
Spiritual maturity is in actuality the process of God’s transforming us. Calvin Miller says in his book Into the Depths of God (p. 14), that when we are born again, “we catch the vision of our significance to God. But the vision leaks out.” In terms of our learning to trust that He is good and that we have high value to Him, it will be a work of God in us over our whole lives.
The church word for this is sanctification. In the book Conversion by E. Stanley Jones, there is this quote: “ ‘We have conceived of the Christian life as an imitation of Christ. It is not an imitation of Christ. It is a participation of Christ.’ When our deepest self is surrendered to Christ, then He moves in and we participate in Christ – His resources become the spring of our actions.”
Calvin Miller’s also writes, “Our hearts are not chambers but doorways to God’s presence.” God’s intention all along has been to do the work in us that He wants done! If we open ourselves to Him, He WILL come in and change us.
Hannah Whitehall Smith writes about it this way: “Lord, I am yours; I do yield myself entirely to you, and I believe that you accept me. I leave myself with you. Work in me all the good pleasure of your will, and I will only lie still in your hands and trust you.”
Paul says it this way in Philippians 1: 4 –6:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look together at 2 Corinthians 3: 5 – 18, especially verses 17 and 18.
Paul is saying that we ARE becoming like Christ, right this minute. And we HAVE BEEN becoming like Him ever since we believed in Jesus. It is His will for us that we be progressively transformed into the image of Christ, and He will see to it that we are.
The key is that we will be transformed more and more as we look at Him – as we think about Him and fix our gaze on Him and read about Him and put Him before ourselves again and again. As we do so, we are changed by His power. If we try to live in our own strength, we put ourselves back under the law – and that will lead to either rebellion or legalism. But where we let the Spirit do His work, we become free. The words in 2 Corinthians 3:18 show us how this is happening.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
John Piper elaborates on this transformation described in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
“How shall that happen? It will happen, as verse 18 says, by steadily looking to Jesus, the Lord.
“The Holy Spirit — the Spirit of the Lord — has one main task, to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). To help us see him and to show him. Therefore when we turn to the Lord and set our hearts on Jesus, the Spirit works to help us see him. He opens the eyes of our hearts to apprehend and appreciate and savor and cherish and treasure the glory of the Lord. And then by that means he changes our inner drives and desires and longings so that we want what Jesus wants and are free.
“When Jesus says, love your enemy, we are free because the Spirit is working this very love in our hearts as we look to Jesus. When he says love your neighbor as you love yourself, we are free, because the Spirit is working in us this very love as we look to Jesus.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love. When Jesus says love one another with tender, family affection, we are free because, even though this does not lie in our power to do, we can, degree by degree, grow into this freely, because where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. He is in us awakening those very affections as we steadfastly look to Jesus.
“The Spirit is not working this transformation in us without reference to Jesus. Not while we watch endless hours of empty, trifling TV; not while we dribble our hours away aimlessly exploring the World Wide Web; not while we set our minds on things that ignore Christ. No.
“The Spirit moves and works and frees in a very definite atmosphere, namely, where we are ‘beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord Jesus’ (2 Cor. 3:18). The Spirit exalts Christ. The Spirit opens the eyes to Christ. The Spirit applies the image of Christ to our soul.”
Always remember that Jesus IS already making you like Himself and that you ARE showing His glory, His might and His power in your brokenness.
Let’s ask our Father in prayer to give us more of Himself, to show us His glory that we might be changed. Let us choose to be like Moses – not content to stay where we have been or where we are, but asking Him now for more of Himself.
Study and Discussion Questions
The following questions can be used for individual or group study. For group study, it is recommended that copies of each of the three Mirrors teachings be copied and given out at least a week prior to a meeting. At a meeting, it may be helpful to divide into small discussion groups, since the answers to some of these questions are very personal.
Each Teaching can be easily divided by reading two or more sections each day and answering questions that pertain to the corresponding reading.
Day One – Read Introduction; God’s Glory; What God says about Himself and About Us; and How Can this Be.
Answer questions 1 and 2.
Day Two – Read Creation, the Fall and Israel; Historical Picture; and Moses.
Answer questions 3 and 4.
Day Three – Read Glory in the New Testament; and the section titled John ‘s Gospel.
Answer questions 5 and 6.
Day Four – Read Spiritual Maturity and Sanctification; Becoming Transformed; and Conclusion.
Answer questions 7 and 8.
1.) To understand how our lives are to reflect God’s glory, we must understand and experience His Glory. Choose two or more Old Testament scriptures from the list in Day One’s reading. How do they speak to your understanding of God’s glory?
2.) Write out Isaiah 43:7. Invite the Lord to show His glory through you this week. Write down a brief description of how He answers this prayer.
3.) Think of a time when you were tempted to doubt God’s goodness or attempted to solve a problem or change a situation in your own strength.
4.) Read Exodus 33:7-33. What about Moses’ experience speaks to you?
5.) Write down the meaning of the Old Testament Hebrew word and the New Testament Greek word for glory. How does the New Testament word add to our understanding of glory?
6.) List the attributes of God that are given in John 1:14. What is the main attribute that distinguishes God’s glory from the world’s understanding?
7.) Re-read Philippians 1:4-6. How does this passage encourage you?
8.) Reflect on the times God moved in your life and showed His glory by doing that which you could not do for yourself.