The world is looking for freedom everywhere, but the answer is right here: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). There is no freedom on earth like the freedom God gives. Worldly freedom depends on your outward circumstances, which in turn depend on factors beyond your control. True freedom does not come from the outside, but from within. It comes from the eruption of the Holy Spirit bursting through the constraints of the dying world in which we live to bring a life nothing in that world can even remotely match.
But how does this freedom work? Not in the way we might have expected. It doesn’t work through political revolution. In fact, it isn’t achieved by anything we can do in ourselves. It comes this way: “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” (verse 18). Moses entered God’s presence and had to put a veil over his face when he came out. The veil came to stand for peoples’ blindness and inability to see God and to know him. But now Christ has destroyed that barrier. At the moment of his death, the four-inch thick veil preventing people from entering God’s presence in the temple in Jerusalem was ripped apart.
We have only one mission, to behold God’s glory. As we do so, we are transformed. Previously only one man, once a year, could enter the presence of the Lord. Now all of us can! There’s nothing else we have to do. We are transformed by what we see. If you really see the glory of the Lord, if you really understand who Christ is, you cannot help but be changed. Peter beheld the risen Christ, and was changed from a coward to a death-defying hero. James beheld Christ, and was transformed from a doubter to a man of faith. Paul beheld Christ, and was changed from the worst persecutor to the greatest preacher. John beheld Christ, and received the greatest prophetic revelation in history.
God can change the course and direction of a person’s life in a minute, and he often does when people come to Christ. But transformation into the image of God is a process. This process is expressed by the verb “we are being transformed.” There are two significant things about this verb.
First, it expresses a present continuous action. The process of transformation is meant to continue as long as we live. One day we will behold him perfectly and be perfectly changed. But in the meantime remember this: you cannot get stalled at the last place you met God. You have to keep meeting him today and tomorrow and the next day.
Second, it is in the passive. We cannot change ourselves. Only God can change us. That happens by the supernatural energy of his grace. By walking away from God, we can hinder change, but we can never in our own strength produce it.
Each one of us is being transformed into the “same image” (verse 18). God’s goal is to have a people rich in outward diversity, yet each shaped into the inward likeness of his Son. What an incredible witness it is when the same Christ shows up in such radically different people! The world will believe when they see the same Jesus manifested in believers of every race, gender, colour, shape, size, nationality, personality type, political opinion and income group! The Jesus we have in us by his Spirit transcends and renders into utter insignificance every external difference we might have.
In the old covenant, only the Holy of Holies contained the power and presence of God. But what a presence it was! That presence shook Mount Sinai and consumed anyone who approached it without permission. Now, incredibly, that same presence dwells within each one of us. We are mobile Mount Sinais, mobile temples of the dwelling place of God.
All we need to do is to behold him. Get away from everything else that’s going on in your life and just take time to behold him, to be with him, to thank him, to worship him. A moment in his presence will revolutionize your day, lift your spirits, increase your productivity and turn your darkness into light. Do you think it might be worth it?
“All this is from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (verse 18). How is it in the body of Christ that we have treated the Holy Spirit as an extra, almost as unnecessary? Do we not know who he is? He is God in our midst. He is transforming us into the glory of Christ. Let him do his work and set you free!