If someone walked into my church on a Sunday morning and told me he or she was there to “manifest the glory of God,” I admit I might be inclined pretty quickly to provide a list of other churches in the community they could attend.
However, the fact is that Paul does make this very clear statement: “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).
Paul is alluding to the experience of Moses, who had to veil his face when coming from the Lord’s presence because he did not want people gazing on the light. But now the situation is different. Our faces are unashamedly unveiled. There is no need to hide the evidence of God’s presence. On the contrary, we are to advertise it! But how we do this is not through an outward light show. Instead, the glory of God shines through lives that look like Jesus.
Why am I so certain about this? Precisely because of Paul’s statement. He says plainly that the glory of God is manifest in our transformation as men and women into the likeness of Christ. It is not beyond God’s ability to perform supernatural signs, but the glory is not in the signs. That is why it I have such a hard time when people report findings of glory clouds, gold dust, angel feathers (?) and the like, and then see in these supernatural signs the true manifestation of the glory of God. When we begin to look like Jesus in our lives, that is when the glory comes.
Three things are important about this transformation.
First, unlike with Moses, it is for all of us. It is the plan and purpose of God for every Christian to encounter the presence of the Lord, and to be changed by it.
Second, it is passive. We do not and cannot transform ourselves. We are being transformed by him. Our part is to yield, to give him permission, to submit, to let him have his way. Only he can bring the change.
Third, it is progressive. This is expressed by the way the Greek phrases it, which means: “we are in the process of being continually transformed.” Manifesting God’s glory in our lives is not a dramatic event. It is not a road to Damascus moment. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, but was still, many years later, in his own words, “being transformed.” Transformation is a process that lasts our whole lives.
At Pentecost, the temple of God fell out of heaven to earth. The same Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost is at work in your life and mine today. His job is to make us look like Jesus. He transforms our moral and spiritual appearance so that it becomes like his. And as that happens, the glory begins to appear.
Paul wrote a short commentary on the same subject elsewhere. It begins with the words: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,” and it ends with these: “the greatest of these is love.”
Signs may come and go, but as Elijah found out, the glory of God did not reach its highest form in them (see my post, “The thin silence of God,” published May 23/16).
To bear God’s image and to show his glory is our highest destiny and our greatest call.